Shin Sekai Yori – 20
「冷たい日だまり」 (Tsumetai Hidamari)
“Drenched in Cold Sunlight”
You know how in a show, there’s always that one, incredible moment that just completely amazes? To illustrate using a recent, popular example, I cite the insanely ambitious airplane sequence that opened The Dark Knight Rises, which enraptured me with sheer panache. So where am I going with this? Right here, where for Shin Sekai Yori, the entire sequence with giant kamikaze waterslug thingamie is what easily stands as that moment, for me anyway. And that’s supposed to be a queerat? I still don’t know its name, and I’m still going to keep making stupid stabs at it based on the design, but its introduction nothing to scoff at. From the deliberate, suspenseful reveal as Saki and Satoru crossed its path to their slow realization of its morbid purpose, the sense I got was altogether a brilliant mix of dumbfoundedness and creeping tension. Even a slight bit of wonderment, which I’m thinking in part can be attributed to the fantastical, instinctively gross design of the creature, and the twitchy, disturbingly organic animation of this surprisingly detailed creature. It’s a design that kinda reminds me of Evangelion‘s angels, to be honest.
I don’t even know why I’m liking the sequence as much as I am. The animation’s pretty standard and all, so I guess it’s the incredible camerawork of the hasty escape and Saki’s freefall that really had me going. A1 might not be giving Shinsekai staffers the time of their lives with the budget, but damn, they really know how to work what they have into making this look and feel like a proper cinematic experience where it counts. And this was definitely one of those moments, as was the protracted, almost deliberately painful look at the devastated village near the end of the episode.
Alright, enough mad raving. I’ve been writing about the same point on humanity’s arrogance in my last few posts, and I swear I was gonna avoid it this time, but when the episode comes right out and shoves it in my face directly, well, I don’t think there’s any (easy) way to write around it. Though for all our sakes, I’ll keep it brief. This human-queerat war, and the basis of the show by extension, seems to rest on a rather philosophical outlook not just of the arrogance towards the queerats, but of blind arrogance of humankind. I’m sure there are points to critique about this singular perspective, but most ways, I cannot deny that humanity is somewhat defined by its arrogance. After all, we are conquerers not just of land and our environment, but also of the laws of science and nature, subjugators of our reality in our attempts at playing god. Someday, humanity would perhaps have to pay the ultimate price for all that has in wrought in our name. Shin Sekai Yori took us to the tail end of this to watch as humanity struggle on its last legs, performing all sorts of absurdities for their desire – whether or not that’s arrogance in itself is the question – to survive. For the humans of Kamisu 66, it’s looking mighty like their judgement day for this arrogance has arrived, and in the most direct manner. Seeing the downfall of Kamisu 66 from their underestimation of the queerats was like watching a wreck in slow motion: it might be inherently tragic and disturbing, but you just can’t tear your eyes away. Which I guess is a statement that pretty much applies to the entirety of this series. Doesn’t help that they had to make it look all so convincingly devastated, with the village’s destruction strongly eliciting images of the immediate aftermath of a warzone or natural disaster.
What was especially brilliant was the way the episode sets up the unfurling of the queerats’ war stratagem with the puzzling flashbacks. Shin Sekai Yori often favors misdirection and ambiguity in its storytelling, and the sequence of conversations on infrastructure problems played on this tendency very effectively. There definitely was a general sense of disjointedness with the flashback inserts, but I found myself less critical when it later became clear that every point raised by Saki with the village heads figured into some part of Yakomaru’s plans; the aquatic attack forced the village to drain waterways, bringing out the lack of alternative transportation. Lack of communications was exploited by queerats’ guerrilla attacks, and led to the friendly firing of juryoku. And I’m betting that lack of electricity of the library will play out in some manner as well. It’s a simple but brilliant touch of storyboarding detail, that the issues be raised before the consequences play out. Sure, I’m treading close to double standards here, because as it stands it could also be seen as easy justification for the queerats simple tactics. But why I find it works isn’t just because of the typically jumpy pacing in the show, but also because there’s no significant leaps in logic or magic mumbo jumbo, just simple exploitation of the unpreparedness and loopholes in the human’s infrastructure. The one thing about the queerat tactics is that the realism in their cleverness, as if Yakomaru’s merely lifted from some book like Sun Tzu’s Art of War, and it made clear how extensively planned this invasion was. Yakomaru and the queerats must have been very well-informed with their contingencies upon contingencies. Those were weaknesses known and overlooked by the leaders of the village, but whether due to bigger “priorities” or the vain belief in their powers, I can only guess.
This is the show at its very bleakest. The village is a smoldering pile of ruins, most are dead or injured, and along with the queerats, the fiend is also bearing down on the remaining humans. It’s a hell of a time for Saki to pick up the matriarchal baton from an incredibly wounded Tomiko, and now it’s up to our resourceful protagonist to defuse the situation. But you ask me, I just don’t see any clear way out for the villagers, even if Kaburagi’s posse does manage to stamp out the queerat threat; the death-feedback’s pretty much sealed any chance they have about the fiend issue, and I doubt this one will stop in its rampage the way Boy K did. At this point, I honestly don’t have a clue which direction the show might take this in, even if I’m banking on Saki’s survival based on to her recounting narration. There are a couple of interesting speculations to throw out though: the preview hints at the involvement of a karma demon, and I’m half-convinced it was a different individual that threw Saki out of the blast radius during the mutant’s explosion, (plus following up with a surreal recollection of the night Shun died? Take that as you will.) which would throw a single, unpredictable factor into the situation. And is that a red-haired girl I spy in the preview?