「雪華」 (Yuki Hana)
Seems like the New Year’s break hasn’t dulled Shin Sekai Yori a single bit. This was as enthralling an episode as we’ve come to expect of the show, a strong game-changing start (but then again, which episode hasn’t pulled some table-turning surprise on us?) to what’s going to be a promising second half.
Contrary to what I’d expected, we don’t linger long in the mountain contemplating Mamoru’s actions. Instead, Satoru heads back to the village to make an excuse for their absence, and a worried Saki follows after him, where upon returning she’s asked to stand trial for her disappearance, leading to one of the more interesting scenes the show’s put out, a psychological battle between the Board of Education and Saki. Shin Sekai Yori never hands out the answers on a platter, but it somehow manages to always drop choice bits of foreshadowing and details which expand its ongoing narrative, just as it did with our first contact with the Board of Education here, and I laud the show for this. We’ve heard so much about these people, formed our own theories and mental images of them, and our first proper look at them was an eye-opener in so many ways. I couldn’t help but think back to what Tomiko said about the paranoia and zeal of the Board as they pressed Saki for her testimony, while our main girl skilfully doles out half-truths.
The show is never one to tell the story in straight manner as well, though I really enjoyed how effectively they interspersed flashbacks of Mamoru and Maria’s decision to tough it out in wilderness midway through the trial. I can’t be sure, but I bet this wasn’t how it played out in the novels. Adapting this a story as complex and detailed as this can’t be an easy job, but the way they’re doing it here, with much of the prelude being interpreted through the ongoing trial, was pretty effective at giving me a solid picture of the plot, and really entertaining in its execution.
I’ve gotta say it again here; I just love how much respect this show pays to every detail and the circumstances of the story. Such as with Tomiko calling the Board out on their paranoia with the very same logical conclusions one would come to, that their meddling has worsened the situation with Mamoru. Or how using some pretty grounded bioscience as a basis, we learn about Tomiko’s ability to regenerate telomeres and stay immortal. Or even the conspicuous allusions to how every human being is now akin to a nuclear weapon that must be closely supervised, and it’s likely this mindset was the foundation upon which society was built upon.
It’s also in this way Shin Sekai Yori takes presumed tropes and address them with a directness I rarely see, however unassuming these points might appear to be. Honestly it’s gratifying for a work to show this much self-awareness to answer for its circumstances. Why is it this particular group of children that keeps getting into trouble? Well, main characters, right? But additionally, group 1 was spared the brainwashing meant for the village’s inhabitants and kept their free will as part of an experiment, a plot detail that would no doubt play strongly into upcoming developments. Why has Tomiko taken Saki under her wings? Well, those leadership qualities and mental fortitude might’ve made Tomiko see a kindred spirit in Saki. But here’s an extra reason that gives an extra angle to these assumptions, where Saki is revealed to potentially hold the same power of immortality that Tomiko possesses. It’s because of these all these details that I find Shin Sekai Yori’s world one that’s stunningly realised, which gives its ongoing narrative some true heft.
There’s just so much to consider about with all the information Shin Sekai Yori has given access to this episode that I can scarcely hope to satisfactorily expand on each raised point. Maria and Mamoru fleeing with their free will intact would make them unsupervised PKers with the freedom and ability to procreate. If anything, two potential nukes in the wild would already set off the alarm bells of the Board nevermind the greater implications, which might explain their impatience during the trial. Their haste in disposing of Mamoru might’ve stemmed from their unease about the unpredictability of his free will, considering how disagreeable they appeared to be about the experiment. But the interesting bit is that though she might be protecting Saki and co., Tomiko doesn’t seem to have any reservations about the Board’s methods, if we consider her words to them about doing a proper job of Mamoru’s disposal. And let’s not forget she was most likely part of the group that ordered the children’s assassinations in the wake of the fiend disaster.
Which brings us to the intriguing point about her age. With two and a half centuries of history and wisdom backing her up, I now see why she’s deemed the most influential person in their society. And her age would mean she’s seen her fair share of disasters and tragedies, hence that unflinching attitude concerning the questionable means the village has taken to survive. But since she can theoretically live forever, why then seek a successor in Saki? Sure, Tomiko did remark that she wouldn’t presume to live forever, and she’s not entirely free of mortality either, seeing as how her powers can only extend her lifespan. It wouldn’t be surprising to have Saki as a backup. But like the reveal of her telomeres replication power here, I get the feeling that there’s still more behind Tomiko’s reasons for guarding Saki, perhaps one that’s related to the group 1 experiment.
With Shin Sekai Yokai continuously doling out the half-truths, it still feels like there’s so much kept from us; The Board hasn’t exactly been forthcoming about their motivations for disposal, especially concerning those with weak PKs, and now it seems the ambiguous queerats are coming into play. But true to the show, like Maria and Mamoru’s disappearance, things probably aren’t going to pan out in a straightforward manner.