「闇よりも」 (Yami Yorimo)
Might as well get my opinion on the animation out of the way first, since it’s going to be the first thing any of us notice on this episode. The return of Yamauchi and Hayama’s trademark style is sure to split opinions the way episode 5 did, and we’ve heard all the points for and against it already, so I’ll give the rerun a miss. I’ll just say that its usage here feels far less intrusive and is a much better fit to the tone of the episode. With Yamuachi at the helm the animation is evocative of a dark surrealism, and this captured Shun’s descent into full karma demon in a way I don’t think the standard style ever could, especially with the way the moody color palette and ambient filters painted Shun’s increasingly uncontrollable powers in a suitably abstract and eerie light. In fact, I’m feeling his directing was a great complement for the depressingly tragic tone of the episode, plus the action scenes here don’t seem to nearly be as janky as what I remembered. While I’m still not convinced on episode 5 this was a far better showcase of his directorial efforts, again with some of the best artistic direction you’ll see this season. Though equal credit should also go to the unsung background artists who have been performing an absolutely stellar job on the series thus far.
The revelations here come hard and come fast. Miss a beat and the Freudian-inspired dialogue about the human subconscious is likely to fly over your head the same way it did mine. That’s not to say things are difficult to catch; the dangerous mysteries of the subconscious is already a well explored science-fiction trope, and what Shin Sekai Yori is doing here doesn’t stray far off the many other interpretations we’ve seen in the genre. Learning that karma demons and the Hasimoto-Appelbaum syndrome was caused people’s juryoku powers seeping uncontrollably through the gaps of the sealed unconscious isn’t exactly groundbreaking, but more an affirmation for the line of thought the show has steadily been directing us in.
What’s impressive, as it always is with this show, is the execution; this was exactly what I wanted the show to deliver on, to see the details of its intricate plot coming together into perfect symphony. Such as having that opening callback to the karma demon tale. Or bringing in holy barrier as a psychological means of directing the unconscious juryoku flow, and then properly connecting the bizarre ecology to it. Because if there’s one thing Shin Sekai Yori hasn’t exactly been lacking in, it’s the details that’s been populating the story, making it immensely gratifying, as it is any good mystery, to see the disparate pieces line up as neatly as they did here. On top of all these, I was also pleasantly surprised to see how much attention went into the small cues across the series. The amount of thought that went to the most inconspicuous or random of things was simply amazing, such as the explanation for the glass balls Shun was levitating episodes ago, or the contrast between normal Subaru and the poor dog’s horrifying change into a mutant, and they add so much more depth to the narrative payout.
But as Saki said, “I don’t really think it matters!”. No, well, yea, of course it does. But you get my point: the heart of this episode really is at the tragedy of Shun’s situation and the romance between the two characters, with the revelations mostly helping to underpin that air of hopelessness surrounding them. Whether or not the two characters managed to strike a chord with you up until now is one thing, but the episode really does a great job in coveying this particular tragic tone, and it’s difficult not to feel the least bit sympathetic for the despair they had to face. (Of course, I expect to be proven otherwise in the comments soon after posting this.) Shun was nothing more but a victim of fate, cursed by the talent he was blessed with. As much as he tried to accept the idea of him being yet another case in human history, we see before long the grief, loneliness and anger he buried in his heart brought to surface when loyal Subaru takes a killing blow from the nekodamashi for him. And Saki, overwhelmed by dashed hopes and her helplessness, can only watch on as she is pushed away by the one person she truly loved. It was positively heartbreaking to see the two be as helpless as they were.
I won’t deny the foreshadowing that’s been pretty explicit throughout the show, but I’ll at least say I didn’t see Shun’s death coming here, only because I didn’t think the show would kill off a major character within the kids’ group before the show’s final stretch. But they did, and the end of the episode was an emotional sucker punch for me in that regard. It’s a beautifully done scene of the tragic final moments these star-crossed lovers had together, and it marks an emotional turning point both for Saki, who resolves to live on, as well as the tone of the story from here on out.