「破滅の足音」 (Hametsu no Ashioto)
“Footsteps of Ruin”
Have I ever told you before why I love time jumps so much? Needless to say, Shin Sekai Yori’s daring leap 12 years forward into the future, where the characters we’ve been following have matured into adults, had me positively giddy with excitement at the potential developments. Of course, it was easy for something to screw up or get lost in this major transition. Anyone who followed the three-generation epic that was Gundam Age should already be well-acquainted with narratives dropping the ball on consistency when spanning across large gapes of time. Thought to be fair that was probably least of the problems I had with that show. But anyway, where was I? Ah yes, as was the case with the previous time jump of two years, my worries for narrative consistency were thankfully unfounded.
In fact, I’d say that almost nothing feels like it’s changed with our characters in the 12 years from the previous episode. The episode throws us for a loop when it opened up with Saki and Satoru having a feud for some time now, but this self-confessed “petty” argument gets resolved within the first few minutes of the show and they’re as close as they’ve ever been. Simply Saki playing hard to get? Don’t fret Satoru, it’s a rite of passage all guys have to go through with! But I guess it makes some sense we aren’t seeing the same major emotional changes, because the 14 year old arc was sorta their maturation arc itself. The onset of puberty and adolescence brought about the major changes in characterization we saw, and their emotional development was a major focus throughout, shaping them into the character we saw at the end of last episode, and as adults now. In fact, the whole scene between Satoru and Saki’s back-forth exchange only goes to show how little has changed emotionally. Their involvement with the village, on the other hand, seems to be something else altogether. Saki is now employed by the department of exospecies control, and Satoru is working as some kind of scientific researcher for the village. Which really doesn’t seem all that surprising, given the amazingly persuasive scientific bullshit he conjured up as an excuse those episodes back. It almost seemed like their feud had something to do with their disparity of roles in contributing to the village, though it’s unclear if they’ll ever expand on this given the heavier subjects we’re quickly moving into. I’d do say this though, and it’s pretty interesting to see how well-adjusted they’ve become to the workings of the village. Considering they had very special circumstances to them throughout their lives (were spared the brainwashing) I was inclined to think some kind of adaptability issue would be brought up, but nothing that obvious here. Adapt or survive, this is something pretty much close to the central theme of the show, and I think I was just reminded of it again. But the new arc doesn’t dwell on this long, instead thrusting us headfirst into a queerat political stalemate that’s is poised to be the first of many foreboding events to follow.
I don’t think there’s any other character quite as brilliantly twisted as Yakomaru, in this show. He is the Tyrion Lannister, the Machiavellian figurehead of Shin Sekai Yori, and every time he appears he brings an edge to the show that’s unlike any other characters’. He shows up here in disturbing flamboyance; clothes that resemble a feudal noble’s, with gold collar linings and all, which alone puts me at unease at just how highly he’s starting to position himself. Behind him, figuratively, is his coalition that has grown 300 hundred thousand soldiers strong, a force that now nearly rivals the originally dominant giant hornet alliance. As the two major queerats powers remaining, both with conflicting ideologies and at the brink of war because of a seemingly accidental killing, I’m sure I don’t have to point out the incredible parallels the situation has to the various ideological conflicts in human history, right down to the conflict between the new age democratic ideology and the traditionalist feudalism that the giant hornets embody. The mental warfare of the trial between the Yakomaru and Kiromaru got this off to a great start, introducing to us the strains and tension between these two factions. They make no attempts at hiding that the Kanto region is only big enough for one of them, pushing blame and forging excuses that undermines the other party’s stand. But then comes a point where Yakomaru came up with an excuse that even humans couldn’t come up with, and that singular point I think is something to watch out for. We’ve already got the hint that the queerats are cunning and intelligent enough to manipulate and outwit children, but this display amongst adults makes me wonder if the queerats are not already seeing themselves on par with the best of humanity. Of course, he gets shot down almost immediately by Tomiko, but this particular display was telling about the queerats’ changing mentality. Not to mention that fact that they’re edging ever closer in civilisation to humanity’s forsaken past, what with their bamboo shields and musket rifles.
No, perhaps I do know what it’s about already, when Saki’s colleague from the Department of Pest Control described themselves as Gods of Death. It’s seemingly casual statement that only goes to show just how much power humans wield over queerats, and how insignificant the species is to them. This is power on a level where humans can impartially oversee a war between queerats as if they were gods, and if things go awry can step in and literally stop any war with their limitless juryoku. In fact, remember those Planet of the Apes vibes I got before? That feeling is stronger than ever with the obvious disparity between the species, showcased by the extent of control in all matters queerat that humans have, from their territories to their conflicts. It made me realize just how much the name queerats called them, “gods”, really fitted. Humans are practically playing at god in their management of the queerats, and it seems to connect to Yakomaru’s ambition of seizing “equal rights”, first from the Giant Hornets, and possibly later from humans. There’s even that interesting metaphoric parallel made to the molerats in lab cages that Saki was observing, and this probably translate to the two species by large. Note that at the start, the “queen” molerat throwing its weight around, and during that final scene where Satoru reveals the annihilation of the Giant Hornets, it was noticeably absent among the molerats in the cage. Again, one of those moments that Shin Sekai Yori captures my wonder with these interpretive details in its storytelling and cinematography.
Except like the apes, the queerats are also getting to a point where their intellect is empowering them far too greatly. Through the episode we see hints of the queerats ploy at work, from the missing Robber Fly colony at the war, the excuses to shift blame to the Giant Hornets, and the Goat Moth’s defection. And this all culminates in Satoru’s last shocking statement: the Giant Hornets are eliminated. Not a lot of question as to who’s responsible. Yakomaru’s coalition now has power, or intelligence, to completely eliminate a colony the same way a juryoku user can, and his quest to “for equal rights” leave little to imagination about where this power will be directed next. The preview seems to hint at Maria’s involvement, and it would make sense with easily they managed to eliminate the Giant Hornets, likely weakened by the earlier war. In any case, expect a non-stop thrill ride for this arc; the stakes are steadily being escalated towards a climax, and I just don’t see the show putting the brakes on it this time around.
ED2:「雪に咲く花」 (Yuki ni Saku Hana) by (花澤香菜) Hanazawa Kana