「弱い環」 (Yowai Tamaki)
“Weak Link”

I had a very interesting conversation with a friend on Shin Sekai Yori the other day, where he noted how he knew well beforehand, but was still surprising to him that the show had another season’s worth of episode to go. Of course, we all should know the show’s barely done at any rate, with a great deal of questions and character arcs to work through in the storyline; but all the same I found myself with similar feelings. It was a revelatory moment where I finally had some sort of understanding of just how strongly Shin Sekai Yori has been driving its narrative forward, that even at its halfway point we’re getting these immense, strong climaxes to the story almost every other episode. Events like Shun’s death, that I wouldn’t have imagined have taken place this early in the story had it been just another show. And if what I’m hearing is true, the scale’s only about to get larger. With each event, the current state of affairs and the fragile peace Tomiko speaks of become even greater of a powder keg, one that’ll be set off by just the tiniest spark. And if this episode’s hinting at anything, it’s that the spark’s about to be lit.

I’d be quick to label this episode as the calm before the storm if it wasn’t for the fact that even as an expository episode the content was surprisingly intense. I’m having a hard time trying to organise my thoughts, because with an episode as dense as this it’s hard to figure out a good starting point. So let’s take things from the top, where Saki is summoned to a meeting with the surprisingly amiable Asahina Tomiko, head of the Ethics committee. The previews dropped the hints, but the kids aren’t there to be punished. In a twist, Tomiko wants Saki to succeed her as the leader, a decision that’s actually pretty grounded from what we’ve seen of her character. Saki is uncannily perceptive, smart on her feet, and has a strong mental fortitude despite the tragedies she confronted; traits Tomiko sees in a leader fit for their world, and more interestingly have been measured by the authorities who judged her a genius in these traits. The personality assessment test is another intriguing example in the ambiguity of their society, which I’ll get to in a bit.

The meat of the episode is where we finally learn of the truth behind fiends and karma demons, a truth far more horrific than the tales told during their younger years because of its tragic nature. We’ve learned the fate of the karma demons before through Shun, and the story behind fiends is equally depressing; people consumed by uncontrollable fear that they break through the conditioning and gene manipulation to turn in an unstoppable psychic berserker, destroying everything in their path.

What I’m really liking this here is the breadth of perspective that the series is showing. Their actions to rectify the problems aren’t any less twisted, but it’s hard not to sympathise with the “sinister” Ethics Committee and Board of Education. Not after we’re given a first-hand look at the magnitude of the disasters wrought by fiends and karma demons, courtesy of Tomiko’s experiences. The flashback to the fiend Boy K was horrifyingly visceral, and that every villager is biologically restrained from attacking him – hence fox in the henhouse syndrome – meant a rampage that saw nearly the entire Kamisu village decimated. And it’s made clear Boy K would’ve been unstoppable in his destruction had he not miraculously calmed down to consult the doctor, giving the man the chance to inject a poison under guise of penicillin, in a brilliantly tense scene. We’ve seen what karma demons can unconsciously achieve from Shun’s destruction of his entire village, as well as here where the farmhand Kutegawa Izumi pollutes and kills everything around her.

The circumstances of these events makes it a tragedy for all parties, but doesn’t make the inflicted individuals any less of a danger. Which again begs the one question the show’s been asking for quite some time: Were the ethics of the means taken to ensure society’s survival justified? We’re talking the most basic of instincts and of what makes us humans, survival, against human rights. The show’s treading on some great philosophical grounds here, with the measures taken by the Ethics committee and Board of Education bordering on the ethically absurd: Lack of any human rights until age 17, leading to secret personality assessments and the Board of Education having the jurisdiction to dispose of anyone showing even the slightest signs of turning. Certainly, it’s hard to agree with their extreme nature – Tomiko even remarks on how the Board of Education is ruled by its members’ paranoia, and minutely criticizes the blunt hammer approach to the problem – but the story does a very good job at portraying the ambiguity and necessity of their actions. There’s a dire lack of alternatives when dealing with a human of mass destruction. (Yes, the nuclear connotation was intended.) When the only cure to the syndrome is death at a significant cost to those administering, prevention takes the focus. No matter the means, it would seem.

I guess the subject matter from here on will be taken into Saki’s hands as she comes to her own conclusions on the machinations of their society and its justifications. But before that comes what this entire episode has been foreshadowing towards: Mamoru. When Tomiko started mentioning about the weakest links in the group, thoughts are bound to immediately turn to the fearful boy. And this episode with its explanation on fiends, has been a sort of revelation; we’ve been seeing Mamoru slowly grow into that submissive, introverted personality that’s now being connected to the characteristic of fiends. The signs certainly aren’t bright for him with his escape from home, and I probably won’t be as surprised if something similar to what happened with Shun should happen to him too. Furthermore, with Maria overhearing Saki’s wayward remark on the weakest links, character relationships are bound get further strained. And here I was thinking the signs looked bad before.




  1. Several episodes back during the camping trip.. there was a bit of narration from an adult Saki’s perspective regarding Maria and her having been born premature and such and how it would’ve been better for her not to have survived.. could be foreshadowing of some very heavy things to come.

    1. Well, Shun did actually read his own story of the Karma Demon… and the one who read the fiend story was Maria. I’m guessing she, or someone who owes her his life, will become a fiend. That’s in my mind one of the limited option for someone from this society to be responsible for the death of other human beings.

      1. i never even noticed that foreshadowing at all. i definitely think the fiend will end up being maria though because of what saki said back before the camping trip. to me, boy k just seemed like a normal kid, but he had some sort of pressure to be good with his mom being in the council and all. i think that maria fits more into what boy k was than mamoru because she has this kind of expectation to be one of the better pk users now that shun is gone. i think that in that sense, maria is most likely going to end up becoming a fiend. but thats just my guess im still not completely sure of what i think yet…

  2. I noticed something about Saki’s last line in the river: the frame cuts off right above her mouth. We knew she was speaking out loud, but when it’s handled this way, we’re kinda put into Saki’s seat where she “accidentally” voices her internal thoughts out loud. In other words, we, like Saki, are thinking over Tomiko’s line about weakest links, but are also unaware of Saki’s mouth voicing it aloud. It’s kinda an artistic touch, isn’t it?

    And this all goes back to Tomiko’s initial worry that Saki might reveal her restored memories, yet look at what happens when nothing was restored: a subtle slip that Mamoru is weak enough to incite preventative Committee action. I’m calling it now, guys: Maria’s gonna do something rash to save Mamoru.

    But even if I’m wrong, I just love this show for how subtle it is and how detailed everything seems to be. I think this is a contender for AOTY, seriously… if it didn’t end next year. orz

  3. Up until now I’ve had the impression that the whole “selection” and “preventative measures” thing has been going on for several decades. I did not expect that this system had been implemented so recently.

  4. I’m pretty sure Ryou’s right eye twitched several times when the rest of group one was about to leave to search for Mamoru, and because it didn’t seem terribly important, it stood out a lot to me. I’m not sure why they would include a small detail like that, even if it’s suppose to be a side effect from the memory manipulation. Also, couldn’t help but notice the cleavage .

      1. Ah, I thought that might be the case, but I didn’t notice it last time. I’m still curious about it though. If it’s something from the novel, then I’d understand why they have it here, but I can’t imagine how the author would have included it.
        Also, since its obvious that they had their memories manipulated, one would not usually bother with a detail to show it. I can only think that it will be used later on to indicate that memories have been altered where it is less obvious. But still, only a twitching eye seems a bit too subtle, so it’s still bothering me.

  5. awsome episode probably the best of the series…

    but there’s this thing bothering me, since the ethics committee have placed a “death feedback” to prevent PK users from harming other people, (understandable in karma demon’s case but) why are the fiends able to overcome it…???

    1. I read the books a while ago, so my memory might be a little muddled, but regardless: If I’m not mistaken, “death feedback” is a function woven into the DNA of mankind. And it turns on if a PK user uses PK to harm others. In fiends, that “death feedback” DNA segment had failed in some way (missing, broken/mutated, etc.), permitting the fiend to kill others via PK without being killed by the feedback.

    2. Who said they overcame it?

      Just like what happened to the monk it isn’t an instant death but a slow shut down. When you’re on a psychopathic PK killing spree the adrenaline rush probably helps over look the pain/discomfort.

      It was only later that the effect started kicking in enough that he ended up at the doctor not feeling well.

    3. Since death feedback only kicks in when the attacker thinks they are hurting another human, I thought that fiends simply couldn’t properly recognize that the people they killed were human, or something like that. I don’t actually know though.

    4. thanks for all the replies guys.. it seems that u all have different opinions on that one… ;p

      well the one “qwert” mentions looks the most promising outcome for me… i guess we will have to wait till we get some more exposure on this topic…

    5. I’ve thought about this question, and I remember Shun said that his Cantus subconsciously keeps himself alive. So even when he ate the poison that the Board of Ethics/Education gave him, his Cantus automatically converted the poison to harmless substances…
      I thought that it was similar in Fiends, in that their Cantus is constantly protecting them too, even from their own death feedback.

  6. huhuhu. It’s good to know things in advance. I can just relax and watch things unfold weekly while also enjoy watching people making up all sort of stuff whether they are remotely (or quite) close to the truth or not.

  7. Eliminating complete usage of PK from a person is the problem. If you don’t want another case of fiends murdering everyone, then allow humans to use defensive psychic force. You don’t necessarily have to kill a human to use defensive PK, such as maybe a force field to protect oneself or create a wall of rock to physically separate that person so that you can escape? The scientists should implement the death feedback to allow the use of PK in self defense.

  8. Asobi already answered many questions above, so I’ll keep it short.

    Good animation. No dreaminess this time, even with Asahina Tomiko’s stories.

    So we have a two-tiered “hidden enforcer” system. The Education Committee, who, being the teachers observing the students every day, can arguably judge the children the best. And they are the most paranoid, since a Fiend would turn on authority figures like themselves first. The Ethics Committee is more broad, judging whether a person needs to be neutralized for the good of the community. We even have a reason for culling the weakest of the herd: a chain is only as strong as its’ weakest link. Apparently weak PK-users are judged liabilities to the community. (Note: I don’t agree with the policy, but we now have an explanation.)

    So the quiet ones become Fiends or Karma Demons? Sounds like anti-Goth prejudice to me. 🙂 Have a bad week at school and all of a sudden cats are appearing in the shadows.

    This is parallel to today’s gun control issue, where, if only one person has a gun in a room full of non-gun users, then there is a potential for massacre, unless that person is trained and authorized by the community. We accept adult law enforcement but not children with weapons. The same goes for a PK-Fiend.

    Karma Demons are different, and the two cases we have seen both resulted in assisted suicide or just plain suicide.

    Now Mamoru is a potential problem, not the “hello, I’m the substitute in your memory for Shun” boy. Who is as much a victim as the others.

  9. Episodes like this are what make me love this show.

    We finally get to see a face of the “antagonists” so to speak, and things are a lot of more complicated than before. There is no stereotypical villain, Satoru’s grandma is just a normal elderly woman who looks like she’s seen hell. After all her stories its hard to judge the adults anymore. In the end they’re all effectively victims of society, where every single person is a ticking time-bomb of destruction.

    It looks like Mamoru is next on the chopping block for character death. Interesting how he’s the extreme opposite end of Shun, meek and timid as opposed to being the strongest of the group. There’s still the foreshadowing of the fact that Maria will cause a lot of deaths still lingering about though.

  10. You know whats sad. That animes like SAO have over 200 comments. While this anime (which is clearly better than SAO) and other animes have less than a hundred…….This reality is truly sad.

  11. I have to say, considering the events of last week in Connecticut, the issues in this show that are being explored and the questions raised by this society’s methods of ensuring their survival are incredibly relevant. The question of how to ensure the safety of our children and general public from those who are mentally ill and have access to firearms has been raised again. In this anime, it isn’t guns but psychic powers, something that is also hard to react fast enough to when taken by surprise. And the fiends and karma demons could be considered ones with mental illnesses.

    What the Board of Education has done to prevent such massacres from occurring again like Boy K and the other girl was to systematically monitor and condition people from birth on the “right” paths and modify their very DNA to prevent abuse of their powers. In the event that a child showed the signs of becoming a fiend or karma demon, they were disposed of to protect the rest of the population. It definitely is a case of survival vs human rights. I don’t think there’s really a right or wrong answer with such a dilemma. Sure, people should have rights, but we also have the natural right to live and when something threatens that, what do you do? If you take away their powers, that doesn’t necessarily solve the problem for the fiends. They’re so paranoid and inherently violent in their thoughts that I’m sure merely taking their powers wouldn’t deter them from trying to hurt someone. Especially if people are still inhibited from harming other people with the “death feedback”. So he grabs a knife and starts killing people. What then?

    Relating this back to the question of guns and the mentally disturbed, which is the more pressing issue? The fact that he has a weapon at his disposal or the fact that there is something wrong with his mind that makes him feel the need to use that weapon against others? But then how do you go about fixing the mental illness? Dispose of him? Medicate? Therapy? Some people are intelligent enough from their illness to feign better mental health just to get out and then they’re triggered again. What if everyone was carefully monitored and conditioned from childhood in order to weed out guys like Adam Lanza? Actually, technically teachers and doctors are supposed to monitor children and they do have some form of personality assessment, but nothing is really done like what the Board does in Shin Sekai Yori. Human rights vs survival. It’s definitely an interesting conversation and one we will most likely continue to have for a very long time. Again, I don’t know if what the Board of Education’s method is “right” but in terms of “effectiveness” I think it has been so far considering they haven’t had a fiend incident in a long time. Well… until probably the next couple of episodes. Mamoru is beginning to shape up into a real paranoid guy, much like a fiend is described to be. A disposed of child, a karma demon, and a fiend in their group? Can’t be a coincidence.

    1. I appreciate and commend you for the questions/comments you’ve raised, but I’d like to point out that the term “mental illness” in of itself is a very broad term that sweeps across a vast majority of disorders, including Parkinson’s, ADHD, to maybe even Agoraphobia (based on the DSM and ICD). While Adam Lanza has been speculated to have been autistic or Aspergers’ syndrome, there has been building evidence recently suggesting that the act committed was more premeditated and less a vile reaction from him having a mental illness. Also, while the idea in of itself of “fixing mental illness” sounds wonderful, it’s difficult to realistically implement in practice due to the inadequate system we currently have in place to monitor, treat, and care for those suffering with (debilitating) mental illnesses. I’d personally welcome a better system rather than having everyone carefully monitored and conditioned, to preserve some sense of freedom.

      Some people are intelligent enough from their illness to feign better mental health just to get out and then they’re triggered again.

      While this may be true for some, there are also cases where the mental illness isn’t “triggered” all the time. Depending on many factors, people can go through phases where they’re seemingly “normal” and then something happens and they lapse right back into an abyss.

      Apologies for weighing in too seriously and perhaps a bit off topic, but I know several people suffering from uncontrollable mental illnesses (including myself, SAD for example) and I’ve talked with others who now believe wholeheartedly in a witch hunt to control the mental illness population. It’s a tragic affair, but I wish people wouldn’t associate this horrible premeditated act to mental illnesses, because not everyone suffering from mental illnesses (again, this term is too broad) actually would go out and perpetuate this sort of violent behavior.

      1. I guess what we really need is a system for scanning brain activity on several levels .. the conscious level (current thoughts and reactions to various stimuli .. i.e Rorschach cards), and also the subconscious level (usually manifests itself during sleep), the issue is beyond just mental illness, actually the most dangerous people are those who show no sign of illness whatsoever and are seemingly 100% healthy but deep down in their minds subconscious they have some screwed-up ideas and thoughts-set-in-stone waiting for the right moment to manifest, they aren’t ill in the typical sense .. and that’s why no one sees it coming when they pull a knife/gun/bomb and kill numerous people in a flash for seemingly no reason.

        With regular scans and psychological profiling in schools/collages/hospitals/work-places it will become possible to detect anyone who is having such ideas and see where they stem from and figure out whether this person could use some therapy and psychological help or he should be put in an asylum (i.e he is convinced that killing people from a certain race/religion/gender) is a holy mission and nothing ever is going to change his mind about it).

        It might seem intrusive and totalitarian to pull off such regular mandatory brain scans (which we really don’t have the tech for, at least the teacher from the Fiend boy story managed to detect an anomaly with his attitude using what seemed like Rorschach cards), but the pay off will be worth it, sure this takes us to a future similar to shows like Psycho Pass but with how things are going it seems like it’s going to be become inevitable that we will need a system like that to scan people’s brains and detect any anomalies of any kind hidden deep down there … not necessarily as restrictive and controlling as “Sybil” but as efficient maybe.

      2. You’re right, it is a pretty broad term. And while I agree with you on many of your points, you have to also remember that these disorders and whatnot are never clean-cut-and-dry for everyone. What I mean is people who are diagnosed autistic, for example, are on a spectrum. The “intensity” varies, but they all exhibit very similar behavioral patterns and thought processes. Yes, many do not go out and commit violent acts and many people live perfectly functional and normal lives. I have two cousins that fall in that category. But then there are many who have exhibited violent and destructive behavior since they were children and parents typically don’t know how to manage that sort of thing, nor do they have the resources. So I don’t think it’s really accurate to say that people are seeking to control the mentally ill population or instantly associate premeditated massacres with them. It’s helping prevent those the kids who have a mental disorder and has violent tendencies from becoming a harm to themselves and to others. That’s what all the talk (should be at least) is about. I don’t think anyone is saying everyone with a mental illness/disorder is violent and will snap like that. And if they are, they’re truly ignorant and ought to be ashamed of themselves. But I see where it definitely feels that way because the way the media sensationalizes every horrible thing that happens in the world.

        @HunterWulf : Haha, I totally forgot we have another controlling/montioring anime. The Sybil System would be interesting to see mildly implemented. But then with Sybil we saw right off the bat that the human brain is fluid. The first episode they were going to kill the girl too because her psycho-pass became too cloudy with everything that was happening to her, but when they spared her, it went down again. It would have to take some really serious artificial intelligence technology to allow scanners and whatnot to differentiate between someone who has a long-standing mental condition and someone just having a shit day and is fantasizing about pushing their boss out a window. Like I said before, it’s an interesting conversation that I think will never have a right or wrong answer. It all depends on how far people are willing to go to be effective about solving these complicated moral issues.

      3. I don’t think anyone is saying everyone with a mental illness/disorder is violent and will snap like that.

        @Axel: I apologize for partially misconstruing, but it isn’t hard to infer such a sentiment when a parallel between fiends/karma demons and those with mental illnesses is raised. However, I now acknowledge that statement was perhaps, merely poorly worded.

        And while I agree with you on many of your points, you have to also remember that these disorders and whatnot are never clean-cut-and-dry for everyone. What I mean is people who are diagnosed autistic, for example, are on a spectrum. The “intensity” varies, but they all exhibit very similar behavioral patterns and thought processes.

        I fully agree with you on this point, and I am very aware that a specific disorder can affect people on many different levels. I just wanted to make the case against over-generalization, so as to be careful that we should look at this on a case-to-case/person-to-person basis instead of looking at it in a collective manner (hopefully this is clear).

        But then there are many who have exhibited violent and destructive behavior since they were children and parents typically don’t know how to manage that sort of thing, nor do they have the resources.

        Although I’m not more learned to actually propose the backbone for a better system, I don’t believe that the solutions proposed by SSY and Psycho Pass would work in the long term. Psycho Pass’ system limits free will and also promotes violent behavior, since Sybil basically has removed any available stress outlet, as far as I can tell.

        I do, however, believe that addressing the lack of resources and the insufficient knowledge prevalent in today’s society regarding mental health should be the first step toward improving the existing mental care system. Unlike in SSY, I believe that not only parents and teachers but also children themselves should be more knowledgeable and educated on mental health (in SSY: their powers and what can it do). Such knowledge and education should be reinforced as they’re growing up. Whereas in SSY, the children were kept ignorant and once they learned the truth, it came all too fast and emotionally difficult for them to process. Had it been a slower process with a support system, I believe Mamoru might have not reacted as he did. If mental health and the education was fostered in children, the greater awareness may lead to more children realizing that they do in fact have a disorder (also teach them that it’s not necessarily a “bad” thing worthy of any stigma) and taking steps to treat themselves whenever appropriate (like how Shun tried to isolate himself once he discovered what he was becoming).

        Teachers having a better knowledge of mental health can also help to monitor the children and detect warning signs while they’re in school, which their parents may not be able to see at home. So when the child does display any warning signs, appropriate help can be given, but, yes, there needs to be resources available for all those seeking help or guidance.

        Naturally, there will be those who will be afraid of pursuing treatment (when they really should) and those who go unnoticed and another tragic event on this scale or greater occurs. I wish I could think of a better system that would be nurturing yet non-intrusive, but there is no perfect solution.

  12. I couldn’t breath throughout the entire episode.

    Enough said. Now I need to catch my breath with GuP though I think I won’t be able to breath again until I watch something truly light hearted.

    Nonetheless, Shin Sekai Yori is definitely shaping up to be one of the forerunners for top anime of autumn 2012

  13. https://randomc.net/image/Shin%20Sekai%20Yori/Shin%20Sekai%20Yori%20-%2012%20-%20Large%2012.jpg
    Hmm…. I noticed tht back then the fashion/school uniform is totally different from the current shrine maiden inspired one… Not to mention the buildings back then is more closer to ours one…. Maybe they changed it to the current one to make it look more religious??

    Wow for a grand ma Tomiko looks quite young lol XD

  14. After this episode , it is realy hard to think of the disposal of the children as “Evil.” Infact , there isn’t really any “good” or “bad” sides in this anime…and I like it so much better like that since it really makes me think , and involves me more emotionally in the anime.
    And as for Tomiko wishing Saki to take over her role…I wonder if this is what she is doing , as she records/dictates the events that we are seeing (I’m saying records or dictates judging by the older-saki voiceovers we’ve had so far.)

  15. Boy, and they thought that they’ve listened to the uncensored versions of the stories back in middle school.

    I wonder how that Izumi girl managed to poison herself, while Shun subconsciously cured it with his Cantus. Is it because Shun didn’t want to die, while Izumi could do nothing but accept it even on the subconscious level? And does that mean that Shun can still be alive after escaping death in a similar way?

    And I’m a horrible person for laughing at this screenshot.

  16. I like the fact that during K’s time, there were actual buildings and hospitals, there were even windows and “proper” chairs. What the people were wearing looked old-fashioned, like early 1900’s. Even the kids’ uniforms looked almost modern. It just goes to show how much their village recessed from technology.

  17. Does anyone else see an analogy between the SSY’s theme of “drastic tragedy –> extreme repression and denial of human rights” and the post 9/11 anti-terrorism measures? Though it may be a coincidence than a deliberate comparison depending on when the light novels were written…

    Dylan Zhu
  18. Absolutely phenomenal, gut-wrenching episode. Fascinating, gripping, and emotionally powerful to no end. There may have been some ups and downs for me so far, but overall From The New World is proving to be one of the most engaging, smartly written, and immersive anime I’ve seen in awhile.

    A naive part of me wishes there was some way Shun could return to life, or even that it turns out he never died, but given the weight of the series so far I feel even more compelled to pray for the ultimate survival of our dwindling quartet of friends (which seems ripe to become a trio).

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