Shin Sekai Yori – 21
“Fires of the Apocalypse”
Gods, I can even see the resemblance.
Talking about the abstract art of storytelling always comes down to personal opinion. (Which I seem to have a lot of in this series) But if this episode’s any indication, Shin Sekai Yori’s direction is at once both its greatest strength and, as I’m finding here, one of its biggest weaknesses when it comes to recommending this show.
I think it’s no surprise by now that I have a soft spot for how the show carries itself. The style of direction here feels unique to this show, full of experimental elements like the constant reliance on misdirection and ambiguity to purposefully confuse, such as with the various dream sequences. There’s the complete shifts in animation style to complement episodes like Shun’s death, and a heavy utilization on auditory and visual cues to build interpretative details. And not forgetting the erratic pacing that constantly keeps the audience on their toes. Yet many a times it doesn’t quite work out as intended. How many of those dream sequences or those small, interpretive details really connected meaningfully back to the plot, in retrospect? Were you, like me, wondering just what was going on with Kaburagi’s death in this episode through the vague display of, in the words of Satoru, “cantus leakage” by the fiend? Maybe like me, you also felt a sense of disconnect during the flurry of disjointed scenes when Niimi-san broke off to make his warning. The erratic pacing in the show which would otherwise serves some greater storytelling purpose just becomes simply erratic, making the flow of the episode feel disjointed. It has been getting stronger as of late, this feeling that the story was just too big for them to fit into a 24-odd episodes series, that there obviously were too many minor but essential details in the original story. It felt as if the lack of sufficient exposition between the twitchy pacing of the show is wearing down on it, and the explanations behind events like Kaburagi’s death somewhat lost on me. Another example: I’ve seen many people asking why the humans don’t attempt some self-sacrificial attacks on the fiend, because the death feedback never had clearly laid out rules to it. (My guess is that the death feedback, or some version of it, kicks in at a subconscious level when humans begin to think about attacking.)
But if the way out they sought was through this wild, erratic direction that places so much of the cut content into the background, or otherwise leaving to interpretation; and if they do so in a way that keeps the emotive and philosophical subtexts of the content in, how can I truly fault them? This is a show that rewards your constant engagement with it by actively challenging its audience to understand the breadth of its scope. There are few other shows that encourages interpretative thinking in such a manner, and the lengthy discussions Shin Sekai Yori invites is proof of that. And even doing so the show keeps its emotive side running high, with very effective usage of its visuals and music, kudos to the amazing soundtrack. Watching this episode the first time around, I didn’t know exactly what went down with Niimi-san when he went his separate way, but the poetic music and its abrupt cutoff was more than enough to tell his tragic end, and by extension, the fate of the village itself.
On to to the episode, this is pretty much your standard endgame revelations episode, starting with a proper look at the fiend that’s been hounding the characters. More likely than not, that’s Maria and Mamoru’s child right there, (the show doesn’t even want to give a clear answer on this, but there’s that resemblance to both) who just defeated the biggest badass this side of Kamisu 66 and effectively destroyed the last rays of hope the village has for it. Kaburagi’s unexpectedly swift demise (another thing about this show, it never holds back in offing people with extreme prejudice) came as a bit of a small shock when he went down this easily, without so much as putting up an fight. But the message comes across loud and clear: Kaburagi was the embodiment of their power, and his death signifies that the humans do not have the means to retaliate. Man can only wait for death, be it at the hands of queerats or fiend. Inui’s tense recount of his encounter with the fiend only just reinforced just how terrifying of an existence it was.
Squealer’s grand design was pretty much what we’ve been banging on about, a classic rabble-rousing of the race to break free of their tyrannical human overlords. To be fair, while it didn’t quite nearly have the impact I desired, the show had already been nudging in this direction since the start of the adult arc. What we learn here feels little more than solid affirmation of the themes that’s been fueling this human-queerat war, with little doubt Squealer has kept the extents of his true ambitions to himself. Likewise, the explanation behind the methods of the queerats to control the fiend come as little surprise, but I liked that they tied the explanation of the fiend back to the war tradition of the queerats to raise the young as their slave workforce. I’ already had some inkling of what was going on with Squealer’s plan to control and build a fiend army from the childbirth, but there’s an interesting point to be made here: While I barely felt anything back when the queerats were enslaving their own race, once we bring human babies into the picture, the act takes on a much more disturbing and personal image. Guess I’m not too different from those dastardly humans in the show!
So how do you follow up with this episode when the characters are all facing a completely hopeless situation? The preview seems to hint at Kiromaru’s return which, as the wildcard he supposedly is, should stir up couple of twists alongside the False Minoshiro that shows up.
Interested in the Shin Sekai Yori novels? I recently found there’s a movement calling for Vertical Press to TL and publish an English Localized Version of the novels. They’ve responded but need the interest, and want to know if they’ll be able to sell at least 4.5k copies in the US, UK and Canada. I know we’ll all like to see this happen, so what can we do? Just like/repost this tumblr article or bug the editor-in-chief with your emails to show your interest! Spread the word! Vertical also published another translated work by Shin Sekai Yori author Yusuke Kishi called The Crimson Labyrinth, so checking this out would be another way of showing support! - Thanks Zephyr for the tip!