The outside world shines into their small world, and is a disruptive force.
This episode follows the previous episodes’ pattern somewhat in that we get our historical look back, this time 570 years from ‘now’. Accompanied by a much more cartoon styled art shift, we see what appears to be the fall of the rule of the “PK” (guessing psychokinesis), as we’re told their numbers have dwindled. A band of assassins have come to the palace, intent on killing the Emperor of Merciful Light (who you know didn’t live up to that name). And with a daring multi-level attack, they manage to pierce him through the heart, apparently killing him.
The end of an empire
We also finally get our first pinning down of when the ‘current’ events in the show are happening, as we’re finally told it’s 1000 years after ‘now’. No parable this week, we continue with the kids on their group canoe trip that was started at the end of the last episode. I have to admit I’m a little confused by the idea of this apparently unsupervised trip, given what we know about the society. Yes, the children have to submit plans of what they’re going to do, but then they’re apparently just let go, outside the barrier, with no adults around. This is a society that tightly controls information and access, especially to children, so it seems somewhat odd that they are willing to let this happen, unless of course we find out there was surveillance on them all the time, and it’s really more of a test. And if it is a test, to see how obedient the children will be, then our group is failing big time.
Unlike before, when they would ‘probably’ get in trouble for bending the rules of the ball pushing game, or ‘could’ get in trouble for interacting with the Bakenezumi, this time they have been explicitly forbidden to land on the other side of the river. Yet, given the opportunity, they decide that since this might be their only chance they’re going to do it, and at the same time look for ‘minoshiros’ and ‘blowdogs’, two mythic creatures. And in their search on the far shore, they actually do encounter a minoshiro, which hypnotizes and immobilizes all but Saki wearing her red sunglasses. So they come up with a plan to counter the defense mechanism, using two huge crabs that they leash and send into the cave. As they pull out the creature, it again dazzles 4 of them, but Saki fights back, demanding that it stop affecting her friends, or she’ll continue destroying it. The creature relents, and then proceeds to tell them that it is actually a library, and stores 980 petabytes of data in holographic memory (which apart from being huge words the kids don’t know, is probably FAR more data than the world they live in actively uses, probably in orders of magnitude, given the simplicity of the lives they seem to lead). What will they ask to be told?
This episode really highlights the group effort of flaunting the rules of society. Satoru is the one that comes up with the stories that spur on the group. And the rest pass on the torch of egging each other on to different things and Shun in particular repeatedly takes on a position of “we’d get in trouble if we did it, but I want to anyway”. He also uses Saki’s position as a middle opinion to bolster his own, perhaps taking advantage of their mutual feelings for each other, which he seems to confirm by grasping her hand as they’re alone on the water at night. Are his feelings actually genuine? Or is he using her, much like he uses his power and apparent ‘voice of reason’ status?
Saki and Shun get away, was this his reason for suggesting the night rowing?
Shinsekai Yori is one of those shows that makes you start questioning whether anything in their world can be taken at face value. As I mentioned last week, we’re learning things the same way the children in the show are: as young adults experiencing this stuff as they grow up, and generally at the same place. The small bits of exposition, generally given by the ‘future Saki’ voiceover, merely serve to fill in the gaps in our knowledge that the kids already know. But everything raises questions. Is the barrier truly there to keep the fiends and demons out? What happens to the people who disappear? By what standard are people truly judged? The question has come up in discussion about this show: Is the barrier there to protect what’s inside from the outside? Or is it the other way around, and the world needs protecting from these humans, the ones who show Cantus / juryoku / PK ability?
Through three episodes, this show hasn’t put a foot wrong. There’s nothing bad to speak of in how they’re telling this story.
There also isn’t any ugly to speak of. The questions I raised last week are still applying, about the society that’s been constructed. How stable is a society like this? And what will the punishment for the kids in our show be, should their indescretions be found out? I fear that will be the way we find out how this society is dealing with these culls.