Shin Sekai Yori Weekly Update – Episode 4

Saki and the others listen on the way to their downfall.

Well, this was the episode where all the elements of the past came together in one explanation, helpfully provided by the library the children caught last week. After an initial bureaucratic hassle (of course, registration, 18 years old, blah blah blah), the kids get the library to spill, basically, the history of the world. Starting from the Golden Age (yes, our time), the rise of PK abilities became acknowledged, and then touched off a world wide apocalypse. The first notable use of PK was a boy who used his ability to pick locks and presumably do other stuff to go on a rape and murder spree. The ensuing unrest between PK and the rest of the people became a bloodbath, and while the PK users only ever amounted to 0.3% of the world population at most (given an estimate of 7 billion for the Golden Age of 2011, a mere 21 million people), the resulting strife seems to have had grave consequences. No figure is given for the world population in an intermediate step, but it is mentioned that in the children’s world, total world population is 2% of Golden Age levels – 140,000,000, which means that even if large areas of the world have been completely abandoned by humans, the village we’ve seen the children living in is typical of the higher population areas. For comparison, after the Black Plague pandemic in the 14th century, world population is believed to have been somewhere between 350 and 375 million, 2.5 times the number in the show’s world.

Symbolic of the darkening of the world

Eventually, we’re told, regions stabilized with the North East Asian region becoming 4 competing groups: Slave Empires ruled by PK, Roaming PK bandit gangs, hunter-gatherer tribes without PK trying to live outside of empire influence, and scientists who wanted to preserve knowledge. The slave empires lasted for over 600 years – as we had seen, the Holy Cherry Blossom Emperor was killed 570 years after the Golden Age, and since succession was based on basically taking the throne (94 emperors in 570 years is fast turnover), the Emperor of Merciful Light had been removing threats to his rule (and plenty of other people) for years, even indiscriminately killing people in his sleep.

Then the scientists stepped in. Wanting to preserve the potential of PK while limiting the damage rogue users would cause, they used every trick in the book to make a calmer stable society. From inculcating the strong physical intimacy similar to bonobo colonies to gene manipulation to induce endocrine shutdown when one’s subconscious believes they are harming a human (“Death Feedback”) to the extreme culling that we’ve seen throughout the series so far, the resulting society rids itself of members who would violate the rules of society.

Nicely framed

As to the effect of learning this information for the children, they are caught talking to the Library, and taken into custody, with their Cantus sealed, by a roving monk. As they’re traveling back to the shrine, trouble arises in the form of an army of invading bakenezumi. The roving monk Rijin, who is apparently suffering from death feedback (due to the image of a human projected by the library when attacked), sends Mamoru up to observe from high, while he walks with the children. ¬†Why Mamoru, who has obviously been the least capable and most emotional of the children throughout the show? Maybe he doesn’t know, or maybe he realizes that there’s a reason to send the weakest out of the action. Either way, no good information is given, leading Rijin to construct a walled canyon for them to walk in. This has to end sometime, and at the end of the canyon is an army of bakenezumi. Rijin obliterates them, but then has a severe death feedback reaction. But there’s another threat, as from under the pile of bodies a blowdog emerges…

What are the implications of what has been found? Well, we know that the children are on their way to being outcasts, as Satoru says they’re probably now going to be set for removal. But can they get that far, even back to the village? It doesn’t seem so from the current health of Rijin and facing more threats.

Rogue bakenezumi

More than that, we’ve found out quite a bit about this world. It certainly does seem that people who are removed from society are killed (the only other seeming possibility is that they are somehow mutated into the bakenezumi). But more questions are raised. Where did the bakenezumi come from? Are they the descendants of the non-PK hunter-gatherer societies (I feel this to be likely, especially since they have common speech)? We’ve already heard about the rapid evolution of animals in the years since the Golden Age, why wouldn’t that affect human animals as well? And what’s the meaning of the presence of a bakenezumi army in this area where the children were? Given the foreshadowing we got a few episodes ago, about Maria being the cause of many deaths, there’s definitely conflict on the way, and the prospects aren’t good. Finally, Saki screams in protest of the killing of the bakenezumi army. When Satoru presses her, she says that “They aren’t the real enemy” but she doesn’t say who is. Does she know, or is the idea just forming in her mind?

How will the children deal with the sealing of their Cantus? Saki is right, it’s not gone, and they could get it back. But what form will that take? Also, how much hypnotic suggestion has been built into this society that they are able to make people forget their mantra with only a suggestion?

The ugliness of the history outlined by the library didn’t really spare anyone, did it? No group covered themselves in glory, and while the society they live in now is certainly functional, it’s not really something that I’d call idyllic or pastoral. There is definitely an undercurrent of fear, of control, and of secrets.

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