The big climatic bit of Shin Sekai Yori 25, the finale, was so quick that for a moment I thought I had missed an episode. But even with all that time left over they had plenty for denouement and a few shocking but comprehensible discoveries.
The big confrontation with the Fiend, as she (I THOUGHT she was a she! I don’t know why everyone was calling her he, including me, because everyone else was) was called until the end, lasts less than a minute in terms of events, slightly longer with the flashbacks and cuts to this person and that. And the trick was very clever, not to mention the reason for the Fiend’s death-feedback not kicking in when she kills humans. And, writing this now, it occurs to me that it gives the big info-whammy we get near the end some extra weight, especially after Satoru asks Saki if she considers queerats “one of us.” And let’s not even get into Kiroumaru’s sacrifice and what that says about him and his kind, and what it means to be human. But it all happened so quickly!
After that and some more voice-overs we come to some moments many of us had been hoping for: the humiliation, trial and completely inhuman torture of Squealer. Unfortunately for those of us with pure blood-lust, Squealer had plenty of recriminating speeches to throw at the humans as well, almost all of them deserved. I’m a little amazed that apart from Saki they all on deaf ears, or maybe I’m just naive. Squealer and Kiroumaru are exactly right in their accusations toward the humans, and their attempts to find weapons in order to gain autonomy are perfectly understandable. Squealer tried for genocide instead, unforgivable as it would be for humans to wipe
out an entire race … oh, wait. Well, he made his point: the queerats are just as intelligent and therefore worthy of dignity and life as any human. All the more reason to kill ’em, I guess. Well, for those of us (I include myself) who wanted Squealer punished, heh, you’ll get your wish.
And while we’re still chewing on these ethical questions we get another jump forward, not to mention a final whammy that suggests that humankind will naturally try to dominate and enslave anyone weaker than themselves, and makes me wonder if Squealer’s outburst at the trial meant he knew more than the humans did. It also makes me wonder what would happen to me if I was born in that world as I am now, i.e., without cantus. Would I be in one of the not-really-autonomous queerat colonies, or would I have been discretely killed off in school? Well, now that Saki has taken on more responsibilities we can only hope that future is brighter for the powerless. After another ten-year jump we see that she and her now-husband Sakoru are still working to that end. After that it’s more Dvorak, a shots of all her old friends, and the quote “Imagination changes everything,” though for good or bad the scroll doesn’t say, a lovely way to end the series.
Though I wouldn’t call the series as a whole “lovely,” it was complex, elegant and often grotesque. It raised questions about humanity’s ability to cope with itself and its environment without feeling the need to give answers. Yet I don’t know if I want to watch it again. The last handful of episodes, when Squealer began his attacks, seized me emotionally in ways I didn’t like. It wasn’t just the hard questions it presented, it was the human hate and disgust I felt when it looked like these augmented mole-rat/humans were going to exterminate the people who created them. The show did an excellent job at button-pushing, at least for me. Do I want to go through that again, even though I know how it ends now? Well, maybe yes, maybe no. But kudos to the show for getting those emotions out of me in the first place. And to put it together in such a beautiful package with its glorious visuals and powerful music. Well done.
Just some quick notes on Shin Sekai Yori 24. There’s only a couple of things to discuss, really.
First, Kiroumaru doesn’t betray Saki and Satorou. I was so sure that he would that I watched everything from that viewpoint and so was surprised over and over when he continued to bravely pull them away from gunfire, tell them when the fiend was coming or going, and talk about his old motives. It’s a brilliant twist for the story to have him admit that the reason he first came to Tokyo was to find WMDs to use against humanity. And his reasoning was sound. He didn’t deny that some of his people might have gone for genocide. But I’m willing to believe that his personal reason was detente. Now, if we could only figure out what his motives for helping them now are. It might be for bloody revenge against Kiroumaru. What else is there?
Plenty of other questions, too. Why the hell is Squealer down there in the shitty caves risking his own neck when he could be miles away and safe if he wanted to be? Right now it’s put him in an embarrassing position of being unable to move against the good guys because they might collapse the whole cave system. It’s possible that he’s the only one who can give the fiend orders, though that doesn’t really hold water since we’ve seen the fiend working on his own. Maybe he’s concerned about the psychothingy killing it off. And as for Saki’s decision, how many of us didn’t see something like that happening? You knew that the psychokiller wouldn’t be used (though they did an excellent job of leading us in that direction even after the vial was thrown, even using Saki’s flashback voice to set up what would have happened), and the epic “not being used” scene led to the episode’s best eye-candy. We knew it a couple of episodes ago when Saki first brought up the ridiculous notion that the fiend wasn’t one. And even though it gave us the current plotline and the powerful moment when Saki decides that Satorou, the last of her group, was too important to die, even as a noble sacrifice, it was still a recognizable red herring from miles away. Happily, now they have no salvation weapon pretense and we can get the Saki/non-fiend scene they’ve been promising for weeks. Though I wonder how the fiend’s going to react when he sees the woman who burned him?
Shin Sekai Yori 23 continues to set up a big climatic finale with telltale comments. When they’re not being chased by or chasing away various monsters in that underground hell-hole, they’re dropping not-so-subtle hints about what’s going on.
And that hell-hole is indeed spooky. I suspect the creators were sitting around with grins on their faces, thinking of things that will wreak havoc with our panic buttons. My favorite were the black widow spider mites that attack in swarms. But if you have a thing about centipedes, cockroaches, bats, whatever those orange slugs were, this episode will give you the chill you want. And we don’t even see all of them. Kiroumaru and that little bot rattle off a half-dozen more. So we watch as one horror after another is conjured and our gang make its way to get that Psycho-whatever, with the so far assured help of Kiroumaru.
But for how long? It’s clear after this episode (and especially the preview) that Kiroumaru’s got some unpleasant plans of his own. But what are they? Is he in league with Squealer? Then why doesn’t he just walk them straight to the Fiend? Because he needs them to get the Psyho-killer (which Saki finds in the oddest-looking vial that looks more like a charm to ward off spirits), the last defense against the Fiend? That is about the only thing I can think of. Still, it’s a roundabout way of doing it. If he and Squealer just killed off this party of humans it’s highly unlucky any other humans will try again. At the moment they’re too busy not dying … which makes me wonder how things are going back there with the Fiend (who travels like any other creature, i.e., slowly) off on this mission. Have the humans regrouped?
We’ll find out next week exactly how Kiroumaru’s played Saki and the others. The most powerful moments of the episode come at the end, when certain events underground (and a spiritual visitation by Shun earlier) break the barriers in Saki’s mind and she remembers Shun again. It’s a hell of a scene. The chanting and guitars and orchestra blaze away more intensely than they ever have, as she comes above ground and sees the sky (with its feel of release), flashbacks, morphing rocks, and, at the end, at the music’s most powerful moment, Shun. … Actually, thinking about it, it’s a little confusing. He shouldn’t be actually there, you know, in the flesh. But in a moment as powerful as this I sometimes don’t think so clearly. I don’t know how the series is going to top it. We’ll find out next week what’s going on, I hope. As for my prediction, I have no idea how the Kiroumaru moment will play out, but Saki will not use the psycho-pass, er, killer, I mean, buster, I think, because whatever that Shun she sees outside is, the one in her head says the Fiend isn’t one. I trust that Shun more.
Shin Sekai Yori 22 has our heroes going on a little field trip.
But first there’s some exposition to get through. The letter Saki’s mom left her tells of a fiend-killing agent, though to me it sounds like it’ll kill just about anyone who inhales it. Well, it’s a convenient weapon to have. Now that they know of their method of savior they have to find it, and thus we meet another false mino-whatever, a cute little one. Oh, and Kiroumaru, in spite of being chained up as a reward for helping that one guy (really, if they get out of this alive they better stake Kiro’s tribe some land of their own, at the very least), is willing to guide them to the location: Tokyo. Road Trip! Sorry, river trip!
About the only thoughts about the larger political picture are asides tossed out by Kiroumaru that demonstrate that the exospecies are all aware of how human society works. It will come as no surprise to us but the shock from the priest shows just how cloistered and naive much of humanity has become. There’s not much else in the episode except for attempts to scare us. They go underwater and still nearly get clobbered by the fiend (who is tracking them, though I wonder if it’s really not her but the queerats doing that), until they reach .,, well, they say it’s Tokyo. They sneak into disgusting caves while the little convenient tracker tells them their progress and Kirou tells them how dangerous it is with the giant falling bloodsucking slugs and, by the way, the fiend is still tracking them, and so is Squealer. And it ends for the week. We also get a speculation on how the fiend actually became one, leading to an interesting comment by Saki that maybe the fiend isn’t one, and a comment from that other guy about how he evaded the fiend by using queerat language. Based on those two moments I’m willing to guess that the odds of the good guys using the Psychobuster are actually about 50/50.
Shin Sekai Yori always raises as many questions as it answers. Last week I wondered how the queerat’s plan could really work on a large scale. But now that we know about their master plan it’s as Saki’s voice-over at the end said. They could actually take over the earth.
And it makes me wonder just how he got to be so smart to not only plan all this out but to do so on such a large scale. Some of it I can understand. He and the other queerats have observed human society for years. They’ve seen how the towns operate and they themselves have been growing the food. But still, they’ve been busy the past ten years. They’ve got their entire race to buy into Squealer as a great leader (well, actually, he is, he just has no morals) and the fiend as a “savior.” I had suspected that they were all brainwashed, but a nice, succinct scene with a captured queerat soldier sums up their position well, and I can only say that the humans had that aspect of it coming to them. They also bred those fire-fish we saw last week, bred that one human (who Saki is calling the child of Maria and Mamarou, so I’ll accept it, though I thought at first it was Maria herself … problem with the character designs is that it can be hard to determine age), and probably a few other things I don’t remember now. Squealer’s had a busy ten years.
Most of the episode itself I predicted: things went from bad to worse. There were few moments where you could breathe easy; the visit to the temple of purity maybe being the only one. And while there was less direct threat in the second half, the talk we got instead was all more bad news. And that also hurt the episode. For a while it seemed to be nothing more than a bunch of reports about how bad everything is going. We KNEW that already. And unlike some scenes where the words plant a plot seed for later, I don’t get that feeling here. It’s just bad news after bad news in a show that rarely cracks a smile to begin with. Well, the previews show Kiroumaru will reenter the show. So while I never expect a laugh from this series, maybe we’ll get a few rays of hope instead.
The biggest thing I’m getting from Shin Sekai Yori these days is the theme of old “gods” being supplanted by creatures they brought to life in the first place. It’s often hard to watch, however, when those old gods are basically like us and the new race are people like Squealer. So there’s a tug of war in my mind, that I believe I mentioned a couple posts ago, between wanting to see queerats pay for their treachery, and making faces at the humans for their silently killing society.
So I suppose in the end I want both sides eradicated, or at least their populations diminished by nine-tenths or so. More importantly, I want Saki to be one of that ten percent that make it through (and being a narrator in no way guarantees your safety). And while we’re on the personal level, I want to know if Satoru got blown up or not, and what all those visions she had while flying through the air thanks to the gunpowder monster mean. Is Maria still around on some level? What about Shun? We can take some hope in Maria’s line that she will protect Saki, though I suspect the town itself can turn into compost for queerat breeding for all she cares. Where is she calling from? It’s a credit to this show that while I’m fascinated by this concept of human extinction via their servants, that a closeup of Maria or the masked Shun’s face can divert me temporarily.
The episode itself never let up. We got a terrifying escape from the Fiend (and he raises some questions of his own, like why he has to travel by boat when he has such supreme power at his command) only to encounter Maria (in some form) in the forest and then that bizarre gunpowder fish. Then the hallucinatory scenes, fucking flying boulders for chrissake, and then a depressing visit to what’s left of the town where we see just how successful Squealer has been in wiping humanity off his part of the earth. Nothing felt superfluous and it flowed from terror to calm and back again (before a final plunk into despair) seamlessly. Excellent episode, if a rather depressing one.
So after that I chose the opposite. Gju-bu is a pretty dismal show, but ep5 has such a charming ED that I’ve watched it over and over. The ED, not the episode.
Shin Sekai Yori 19 doesn’t really answer any questions from last week but instead concentrates on upping the intensity level; no better way to do that than a haunted house.
Saki and Satarou join the remnants of another group and go investigate a hospital where a friend is recuperating from an undisclosed ailment (hmm … nah.) But the queerats got there first and the place is pretty much trashed, and there are still plenty of the little buggers around. We get an early clue as to what happened when a nearly perfect hole is found where the front door was. They speculate gunpowder, but, come on, they should all know what a hole like that signifies. Then we go into horror-movie mode when one of the new guys goes ahead to check the building out. A lot of “stay here!” and “where did he go?” Which is about the only time the interest in this episode drops. If everyone stays in the boat we get nothing happening unless more queerats show up, so get off and go into the hospital, already! The plot’s waiting for you!
After that it’s more horror movie stuff. queerat traps, survivors trussed up like mummies hanging from the ceiling. When the fiend shows up we even get a tense closeup of a door handle turning while others watch in terror. And while it’s tense enough the questions remain from last week. Who exactly is the fiend? Is it doing this for squealer on his/her own volition? If so, why? So while this was a typical solid episode it only moved the plot forward, not our understanding of it.
What a relief to watch an episode of Space Brothers that didn’t have a life at stake. With Hibito rescued by the Brianmobile last week all we need to watch is the other astronauts to show up, find out what happened to the other guy, and have Mutta and Hibito have one of those odd talks where they seem to be talking about something mundane until the big moment (“Thank you”) comes up, to get Mutta nearly overcome with emotion so he can recover and end with a cool closing line. We also get some more reminiscing about Brian Jay and a pointless flashback about where he got that doll in the first place. Oh, Azuna was the one who took Mutta’s advice and sent the Brianmobile to that spot in the first place, so he gets a rare bit of action and some praise. Now we can move on to what appears to be non-deadly story arc.