「夏闇」 (Natsu Yami)
While I’ve been greatly engaged by Shin Sekai Yori’s narrative over the last few weeks, I don’t think I’ve been this engaged by it emotionally until now. It wasn’t until that brief moment of respite when the kids finally reunited that it hit me just how well the show gripped me with its tense atmosphere in this latest few episodes. And the intensity never really lets up here, throwing Saki and Satoru into the midst of a harrowed retreat from the Ground Spider armies, then a triple-cross betrayal from Squealer (who I’ll get to in a bit) and finally into the arms of a queerat army that might very well kill them after saving them. So much of the show has been fraught with tension that when Saki and Satoru finally reunited with the rest of the gang, the sense of relief really connected with me. And the moment when they learned their juryokus could be returned was a small moment of triumph in a show where the emotion rarely appears, and the jubilation of the kids was infectious. It’s a moment where I realised just how well Shin Sekai Yori had me immersed, when I could feel that same uplifting joy they did. (However short-lived it was.)
On the narrative side, the twisting motives of the queerats were the main draw of this episode. Squealer and the Robber Fly queerats have already been painted in ambiguous light before, and his triple-crossing behavior comes as little surprise, especially when it’s later shown that his desire might’ve been the larvae and captives of the defeated Ground Spider tribe taken as slaves. Why he continued to follow Saki and Satoru after accomplishing this objective is unclear, but his stalking presence takes on an unnerving quality here, especially after seeing his nature in the episode. We’re also introduced to the Giant Hornet tribe, said to be the largest tribe and the most loyal to humans in the region, as well as its commander Kiromaru. (Hirata Hiroaki) They are purported to be the lapdogs of the Ethics Committee, and it’s inferred that they were ordered to hunt down the kids. Kiromaru finds them using his scouts and instead of killing them, tows them back to the safety of their village region – which according to him is reason enough to have him executed, possibly for defying the order – but it’s not made clear why he took such a risk. Perhaps it was out of nobility, which seems to be the kind of characterization Kiromaru is gunning for, or perhaps even gratitude, specifically to Satoru for shielding Kiromaru against the Ground Spider commander’s suicidal blowdog attack. (Again, I’m thrilled by how creative and visceral these attacks are carried out.) But one thing’s for sure: This won’t be the last we’ll see of the Queerats and their ambiguous motives.
As the first act winds down, I feel now’s a good time for a small retrospective, in anticipation of where the show will be taking us next. These first seven episodes did a remarkable job in establishing a solid foundation for Shin Sekai Yori’s story to take off. If there’s one thing I’m really loving about the show up until this point, it’s about how much time and effort went building its world, from the history and the lore to the minute details of the PK society. Hell, it isn’t that far of a stretch to say that the world is more central a character than the main cast. The cinematography and script has been brilliant in this regard, introducing us to the intriguing premise of a cryptic prologue and cloistered village, before going on to tease and unravel details in equal amounts every episode, making every morsel of world-building and exposition something to anticipate and savor. With every new bit of information, the narrative is framed in a slightly different light, and I’m loving how the show constantly keeps me on my toes in this regard.
On hindsight however, the constant teasing has definitely led to some very haphazard foreshadowing. Among these was one that caught my attention especially after watching episode 7, where Saki and Satoru had a sudden realization about the missing children. The show barely acknowledges nor connects the details in previous episodes, such as of the 2 close classmates disappearing, or when Saki brought up a similar question about her elementary classmates and was met with shifty glances from Satoru. Then there’s also the issue of the death feedback on why Rijin was affected by attacking the Queerats but not Satoru. (It might’ve been the False Minshiro’s effect, but again the show’s ambiguous on this point.) The thing is that with its consistent and (largely) watertight direction Shin Sekai Yori has made it seem that everything was planned from the get-go. I’d like to think that’s the case especially since this is adapted from a novel – which by convention are typically well-structured stories – but this is where the second act must step up and show me that there’s coherence to this setup I’ve seen, if it’s not revealing the entire plan already.
There’s also been quite a bit of discussion on the cinematography and scripting of the show as well. There are plenty of praises for the atmospheric and creative presentation on display here, but I’ve also seen criticisms of poor pacing, awkward scene transitions, and of a generally disjointed story in the latest few episodes. Yet personally speaking, I’m not seeing these faults to a great degree. Putting aside the controversial stylistic changes of episode 05, some of these complains only became apparent to me in a few moments of the latest episodes. Pacing is something I felt the show’s been excellent at, with me being completely immersed in every episode from start to finish. And while the transitions in the last few episodes – and especially episode 07 – have been excessive, there are only a few moment where there was any awkwardness about them, such as with the trippy dream sequence last episode, or the snapshot reunion of the kids. Otherwise, the cinematography generally gives me the impression of a smart, snappy production that keeps the audience immerse. I’m no cinematography expert, but I’ve little complain about the way the show’s being presented so far.
If you’ve been following the news on this show for a while now, the timejump next episode shouldn’t come as much of a surprise at this point. It does leave us again with the interesting question of where this episode’s cliffhanger – where the kids arrive back to a group of grim adults – will led to if the kids are still alive and well. It’s clear that the adults and Ethics Committee know about their doings to some degree, and actions will clearly be taken. But in any case, a timejump would bring a new level of maturity to the group of kids, and I’m looking forward to seeing how the dynamics of the group as well as the characterizations are going to change.