I’m never one to judge a show solely based on looks; the story, the characters, the music are all integral to the experience, and to my absolute delight Shin Sekai Yori has been tackling these fronts with a great deal of success every week. Especially its score, I don’t think it’s been brought up much how amazing it has been, and really shines at accentuating the peaks and subtleties of the show. But let’s be honest here: this is a visual medium, and the shoddy animation quality seriously detracted from my enjoyment of this episode. The search for Mamoru’s roughly takes up half of the episode’s length, and by all accounts the story succeeded in conveying the tension of the situation, as the children pursues his fresh trail beyond the holy barrier and into the snowy peaks. As they come upon the ambiguous signs – like the queerat footprints and the hidden sled – left in the wake of his tracks, his fate grows ever more uncertain, and that palpable tension Shin Sekai Yori so effectively conveys – one of the show’s greatest strengths – grows alongside. Sadly for all the good the story, music and atmosphere does, there’s an equal number of inconsistent proportions, unchanging expressions and (disappointingly) one of the worst cases of non-sakuga I’ve seen this season. The only saving grace is the consistently spectacular artistic direction; kudos to those unsung background/enviroment artists. But seriously, just look at some of that ridiculously rigid skiing. As much as I love the show these glaring animation flaws really takes a person out of the engrossing experience Shin Sekai Yori has achieved with its presentation. I’m aware the animation quality of the show has been swinging between amazingly good and bad, and this is definitely one of the team’s “off” weeks, but somehow this episode’s poor job stood out to me even more so than usual.
Putting all that aside, this wasn’t really a bad episode. Shin Sekai Yori has never delivered a below-average episode in my books, and for all my complains about the animation it damn sure ain’t gonna stop that trend. As I’ve mentioned the search for Mamoru, especially given the deadly premonitions the show has been making for its characters, was an engrossingly tense affair as the kids – especially a hysterical Maria – contend with their growing fears and leaves us audience to contemplate Mamoru’s fate in light of the information that has been revealed.
But Mamoru’s actual reasons for escaping – that he was being hunted by the nekodamishis – does put to question what Tomiko had withheld about their activities. It was clear what Tomiko told Saki – while convincingly the truth – wasn’t the entirety of it, and there are still many blanks drawn about the excessive paranoia of the Board of Education and which exact triggers will prompt action from these organisations. Simple speculation and the circumstantial evidence points at the personality assessments: Tomiko remarked how the karma demons shared traits of intellect and kindness illustrated by Izumi and Shun, and the Board of Education seems to have been disposing people of particular characteristics. For example, those showing dissent or are rebellious in nature like Manabu back during the competition. But then, what about those with below-average juryoku abilities, like Mamoru and Reiko? The Board of Education is implementing a blunt hammer strategy in its activities no doubt, but the actual reasons for disposal are vague. Fiends and Karma Demon countermeasures seem to be the priority, but they’re also seem to be taking some drastic measures to keep secrets in check. And in fact seem to be pushing the kids into potentially turning fiend, whether it’s Mamoru through his growing fear or the foreshadowed Maria, who has been steadily shown to be highly protective of the boy and might just lose it if something happened to him.
I’m also wary of the queerat that rescued Mamoru. His actions were well-intentioned no doubt, as it had plenty of chances to dispose of Mamoru already, and partly because the show went out of its way to iterate that they were his saviors as well. Recall Tomiko’s words about how the queerats were used as tools of the Board and makes it suspicious as to whether or not this is another ploy by the Board, or if the queerat is just waiting for orders. It’s easy to point these out, but then remember how Squealer and Kiromaru seemed to have acted in defiance of their orders from the Board. The queerats aren’t any less human in thinking and clearly have their own agendas at work to make them take some seemingly incomprehensible actions; take for instance, what was this particular queerat doing all up there alone in the peaks? Shin Sekai Yori has brilliantly established an heavy air of ambiguity surrounding these mysterious creatures, and I believe the story definitely has a plan in mind that this is building towards.
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! Hate to be the bearer of bad news during the festivities, but because of the annual New Year celebrations, Shin Sekai Yori will be taking a break this week and will return after the New Year on 5th January.