A tale From a New World, kick-starting a promising Fall season.
|I had absolutely no intentions of watching Shinseki, but then Kyo said that it looked pretty good. …And after watching the first episode, here I am. Telling you to watch it. I wasn’t expecting much, but Shinsekai was a pleasant surprise.|
|Shin Sekai Yori confused me, scared me, intrigued me. I don’t know exactly what is going on with this series or in what direction its trying to move in but I want it to take me to dark places it promises. After a summer of sunshine and love, I’m ready for a romp on the dark side once again.|
|Welcome to Metanorn’s first Fall Impressions. The last two months were so tough for most of the writers that even when we tried, we couldn’t compile the Fall season review to our liking (in-depth detail and meat). However, that doesn’t mean it’s going to be a trend. So, without missing a beat, let me present you one of the promising shows of this season, which almost sets its tone with its haunting welcome massacre.|
Production Pats to the Staff
//Kara: Animation Shenanigans – Before we get into anything plot-wise, I’d like to take this opportunity to say that A-1 Pictures has done a marvelous job this first episode. They’ve done really nice things animation-wise like Occult Academy and UtaPri (for the most part), and this too looks really nice. I like the fact that the animation style has it’s own unique feel and despite the character design falling into the ‘moe’ category, it kind of fits and makes a contrast with the darker things going on in the plot thus far. …Kind of like Higurashi, only WAAAAAY better looking. The special effects look really well done too. They didn’t stick out too much and fit in nicely with the animation. As Kyokai would say, anything better than Darkness/beam-kun. Sure, it totally has the opportunity to turn bad anywhere in it’s run, but looking at the recent A-1 track record, it seems as if Shin Sekai Yori would continue to look good throughout.
//Sushi: Director & Screenplay – Ishihama Masashi only has Kamichu! and Night Raid 1931 to his directorial credit. Both shows didn’t make much of a splash but their unique visual aesthetics were of note and you can see that he has a long line of Key Animation under his belt. Similarly this series uses various cinematography tricks to build the atmosphere of this show. The combination of the film grain effect with washed out colors actualizes the supernatural elements at play. You can feel Saki’s paranoia just from the subtle visual cues. His interesting use of cutaways to collage to together past and present events really keep you on your toes as you piece together the events of the first episode. All in all, this series shows the signs of being this young directors breakout hit.
//Kyokai: Seiyuu cast & Music – The two most prominent names out of the cast has literally been getting too much work since last one and a half years. Yes, I am speaking about the very busy and popular Hana Kanazawa and Yuki Kaji, joined by a motley crew of rising seiyuu for whom, this title can be make or break. Shigeo Komori doesn’t have a lot of music finesse under his belt but then add K-On! theme songs along with Itsuka Tenma no Kuro Usagi and Arcana Famiglia – you have some semblance of promise. An interesting fact about the music is the fact that the title comes from Dvoark’s 9th Symphony. Kishi Yusuke (original novel author) was inspired by this performance and even incorporated it in the novel plot. I’m really interested to know how it would affect on the Original Soundtrack of this series but can already hear it seeping in the BGM and that haunting OP sequence (if that was the OP sequence).
A Dystopian Premise
//Kara: The New World – They kind of just threw us into this future Japan after showing a bunch of random slaughtering in what I assume is modern day Japan. It was confusing at first, but they did a pretty good job of explaining what the new world is like (…provided you paid attention. I know I missed things on first time watch). From what I understand, Japan now consists of small villages that probably don’t really interact with one another (though it’s still to be seen). Also, everything looks like something out of the past (since they seem to rely on agriculture and lack of industrial machines), even though it’s the future. I assume this is because of whatever happened in the first 5 minutes of the anime, but more on that later. There’s also a concept of protected by boundaries. This Japan seems to have some sort of supernatural creatures called ‘fiends’ roaming about and the boundaries seem to hide humans from them or something. If the story about the boy cutting off the bridge to prevent the fiend from finding his village is true, I don’t think people would want to risk that by visiting other small villages. In any case, the village they focused on seems self-sufficient enough.
//Sushi: Meet this Small Town – Ibaragi Kamisu 66 is in an interesting beast indeed. Much of the architecture present harkens back to an era of feudalism in Japan. Technology itself seems to have been scaled back, replaced by an intense form of mysticism that permeates every facet of this small society. The name of the town itself is a direct reference to the town of Kamisu in the Ibaraki prefecture of Japan. It’s strange considering that even after a thousand years and an upheaval of all the social norms we are used to, the name of the place has remained the same. Take note of the number 66 in the towns name. The numerical denomination of this village states that there is some sort of structure to Japan as a whole. Whether it is controlled by some sort of larger organization that is trying to isolate certain populations is still up to speculation. If anything it seems like a very mechanical naming device in a world that evokes the ideals of natural order from Heien era.
// Kyokai: Concept of Juryoku – As Kara and Sushi elaborated, this future Japan seems dodgy because everything is not as it seems. The surviving humans seemed to have developed Telekinesis or Psychic powers called Juryoku (form of evolution perhaps or via an external stimuli needs to be seen). But the cherry on top is that they are not free to use these powers rather as soon as teenagers develop them, a certain ritual/mantra is invoked to shut off this curse. I presume it’s like taking most of the mojo off their backs but I’m not sure that sealing deal with blood and pins is actually effective. Seems more like hypnosis to me but we shall find out with plot progression. It was interesting to see how they could seal Juryoku partially but the teens could still use it for drawing pictures, playing with cards and such. Selective brainwashing, anyone? There’s something more than fishy going on here.
The Mystery of Ibaragi Kamisu 66
//Kara: School or Human Zoo? – Despite the countryside looking peaceful, everyone having kickass psychic powers and seeing the children having fun at school, it already looks like there’s way more to this village than it seems. Saki compared her school’s atmosphere to a farm, which is interesting considering the pressure on the students to do well. Good students progress, students that don’t do so well like Reika, well…. who knows yet. Anyways, back to the farm analogy, it’s kind of like animal productivity and such. Chickens that don’t lay eggs, or who lay eggs of less quality and quantity than the majority who do obviously aren’t going to be around for long. Keeping them around would be a waste of money if you could just replace them with ones who could keep up better with the others. That being said as well, they probably won’t live long enough to breed either since their DNA could be considered inferior. Think natural selection. …Which is kind of disturbing to think about when you come out of the farm analogy and start talking about human children. Of course, I don’t know if that’s entirely what Saki was trying to say about the school seeming like the farm, but it’s an interesting comparison anyways.
//Sushi: Story of Akki and Gouki – Fiends are repeating theme throughout the entire episode. At first the idea of copy cats and demons are just stories told to children to keep them within the boundary field. But this is an actual subject taught in schools. In class, Maria reads the story of the boy who destroyed a bridge just so no fiend would ever find his village. It’s a basic myth of the creatures living outside the restricted boundary, which serves as the foundation for why one of these ghastly beasts never find their homes to begin with. Again, this narrative sounds exactly like a bedtime story about things that go bump in the night, or hide underneath a closet. It all sounds a bit too convenient…
// Kyokai: The Friends in Need – Everything seems hunky-dory with smiley teens and parents who dote on their kids. But, is this really a utopian future? I’m not afraid to say, it isn’t so. Beneath the happy faces of adults lurks hundreds of secrets and no wonder Saki, our main protagonist has gleaned some stark realities even if it needed some eavesdropping in her part. Saki seems an earnest main character, who is intelligent enough to at least notice her surroundings. Maria, Satoru, Mamoru seem like the kids from next door but Shun has the potential of being Saki’s counterpart in observing his surrounding closer than his carefree classmates. The progress of episode one clearly raised the red flag for Reika in group one, who is the weakest link. However, that shouldn’t be making her classmates into that Another bunch. Whatever is her end her mother should be shitting out like Saki’s mother, while my heart goes out to Saki’s sibling that we would never find out about). I’d be looking forward to how this group bands together in argument/agreement for whatever will be Reika’s end. Though, before more speculations, let’s enjoy the ED “Wareta Ringo” by Risa Taneda:
Speculation and Impressions
I absolutely loved this first episode and I’m still not entirely sure what this anime is even about. Whatever it is though, it has my attention. Just due to the small, secluded village atmosphere, the cute and innocent character art style, and the fact that something feels terribly, terribly wrong, this seems like a winning formula to me. This is probably largely due to my love for Higurashi, but the setup seems even more intriguing to me. Why do they have psychic powers in the first place? Why are children disappearing? Why isn’t anyone saying anything about any of this? The culture in this village fascinates me already and the customs it did introduce us to this first episode seem interesting as well. From the folklore about the Nekodamashi and fiends to that fire scene at the beginning, this world seems really well established.
From what we’ve seen, everything wrong in this village just seems like its commonplace and that everyone just accepts the way it is. Saki’s classmates don’t seem to think that anything is out of place. Saki herself though, has proved that she doesn’t quite fit in with her friends. Not only because she’s a late bloomer to join the class, but also because of that Nekodamashi she saw. Now as far as I can tell from a quick google search, a Nekodamashi isn’t actually from any Japanese folklore (aside from being some sort of sumo wrestling move), so the sky’s the limit pretty much on what it actually is. Apparently it also means something along the lines of ‘deceiving cat’. Now as for how this fits into the story, does this mean that Saki is going to disappear as well? She’s proven herself slightly different from society and as far as this first episode has proven, anyone who doesn’t fit in mysteriously disappears. I’m sure there’s some secret reason behind all of this and hopefully this anime can coherently explain all of that (as well as what happened to the world to make it like that in the future). I’ll be sticking around to see how this develops.
I’ll start my speculation with the Board of Education & Ethics Committee. The government seems to split into two halves. Instead of it being reminiscent of anything like feudal fiefdom, it more closely resembles a theocracy. The Board of Education, which oversees both the Harmony and Sage schools, seem to carry some authority over the coming of age ceremony for children and when it can last be administered. Of course the ceremony itself is tied directly to the Temple itself. The interplay between the two doesn’t exactly mean they are one in the same, but Saki’s mother does tell us that the principle for the Sage school is the old priest Saki meets at the shrine. The Ethics Committee might be a separate arm of the government that overlooks traditional executive roles such as the enforcement and creation of laws. Its tough to glean what exactly is going on from the first episode but seems like we will find out.
Now that we’ve been introduced to the character and have gotten our first taste of the world, I hope the series takes its first steps to put an actual story in action. Saki has the seeds of doubt planted within her, now it’s time to water them. With the disappearance of Reiko on horizon, and her own fate in question, it pushes the plot in an interesting direction. Does Saki find out what exactly happens? If and when she does, what does she do with that information? The scene from the past serves as an interesting primer. It tells us that society has changed because of the individuals with telepathic powers. Is there something more to this world of psychics? My feeling is we get the first taste of the dark secret in the next episode. Not enough to solidify any speculation, but to send them off in wild and fanciful direction. My prediction is that psychics have been isolated in several locations, while the rest of the world has continued to live peacefully.
I remember thinking of Ghibli’s Princess Mononoke when I watched the first trailer and it looks like I wasn’t the only one. However, this anime is far from expansive landscapes and morale-filled stories; just look at that cover art featuring a Bakenezumi. Shin Sekai Yori is filled with darkness that reminds me of Satoba from Shiki. First episode is too early to expect much but I can only hope that this series keeps me on my toes unfolding its mysteries slowly. I’m not saying this episode didn’t have any faults of sometimes being disjointed and even transitioning without any meaning. Though, it’s too early to say that because we are just at the door; let it open up and wait to discover the place before making up your mind about it. A friendly suggestion, if you haven’t read the MAL summary, I’d tell you to lay off it because it has too much spoilery information.
Now, what to make of these highly monitored children, who are literally being prepared like livestock by the adults (Sac cows, seriously?). For what? I don’t have the foggiest… Maybe, it’s to protect them from what’s out there as the sacrifice of technology that their race has made must be for a reason. I really want to know more about how humans ended up having psychic powers and the culmination of it all. Something like Matrix comes to mind but whenever you try to stop something, that something always finds a way to get out. So, I’d like to join these kids to do just that and see their growing experience of finding more about Kamisu 66, its surrounding areas and the veiled decision makers.
Seems like veiled moral stories are going to be thematically repeated in episodes and our next lesson is about ‘arrogance’. My mind goes back to the first scenes of episode when unidentified teenagers massacred people. Was it out of arrogance from their power or something different altogether? I guess, we’ll learn soon enough. So, readers, what you thought about this episode and what are your theories about the next episode? Let’s hear them!