Shin Sekai Yori Weekly Update – Episode 8

Saki turns to Maria for comfort

We’ve now moved on a couple years. An insightful point by future Saki alerts us to this fact, as well as the relative time dilation: for a 40-year old 2 years is fairly trivial, but for a 12-year old, 2 years is another 20% of their life. They don’t have a longer time frame to compare to, so things are much more immediate. And things change both quickly and greatly. This had quite a bit of resonance for me, since I’m on that far side of 40, and can agree wholeheartedly. It frequently seems like the eyes of youth are irrationally focused on the now, as if the future will never come. With age, a longer time horizon is viewable, and in fact, focusing overmuch on the now becomes associated with immaturity, although one can never stop taking now into account.

Saki is shocked like all of the viewers

The biggest thing everyone is going to take away from this episode is the development of the sexual relationships within Group 1. Satoru and Shun have paired up, and even though Saki loves Shun, in response to Shun’s involvement with Satoru she’s now involved with Maria. And Mamoru is left in the cold, pining openly for Maria, always around her, making portraits of her (Saki even asks if it’s fun for Mamoru, a casually cruel question given the circumstances, but I don’t know if she really knows how cruel it is). I was actually glad to see the implications of the information we all heard from the Library displayed so openly in the show. All around, the students at the Sage Academy are paired up with others. I’m actually somewhat surprised there aren’t any actual 3-person relationships. This is all a direct result of the cultural direction, encouraging and inculcating preference for intimate physical contact as a method of stress reduction. There aren’t value judgments about who you’re intimate with, just how you treat them.

Breaking up

And in that last vein, we learn that Shun is unhappy with the way Satoru treats him, and breaks off their relationship. Would this give Saki some hope? I’ve also read elsewhere people saying that same-sex pairings are somewhat encouraged among the younger children at that age. Remember these are 14-year old children, and presumably not ready to begin a family, in contrast to human history prior to, say, the industrial revolution. So it makes some sense that encouraging same-sex love and intimacy would be a brake on pregnancies too early for the parents to deal with them. We definitely see that there is still love expressed between opposite sex people: Saki and Shun, Mamoru and Maria. I wonder if there has been some official direction from the leaders of the colonies that the children should not have hetero intimate relationships before a certain age?

The reaction that changed their futures

But this isn’t the only trouble Shun has. He’s struggling with his (admittedly difficult) assignment in class to develop his Cantus powers. And when the strongest PK in the community (maybe even among many communities or even the world) comes to visit the class, Shun somehow wards him away, leading to an apparent scandal. Class is canceled, and then Shun intentionally breaks the egg that he’s been trying to speed into a chick. And if that’s not enough, Shun later runs into Saki, as “go home” is played, and says that he has to go to ‘rehabilitation’ and will not be around for a while. And he leaves her with a warning: Watch out for the cats, because even if they thought they got away with their lake trip, the adults knew about it.

Not the look of a stable individual

I think it’s pretty evident throughout this episode that Shun is showing the signs of ┬ábeing a fiend or a Karma Demon. It’s difficult to tell which it is, although given his attitude throughout the past, the Karma Demon (Hashimoto-Appelbaum Syndrome) is more likely. They’re also the ones we’ve been given more background about. But in this context, I think his parting warning to Saki is somewhat overstated. I certainly think that the adults knew about it, probably from the moment they were caught by Rijin. But they weren’t just waiting to punish them. We’ve seen that this society doesn’t wait to punish *anyone* who is known to be unsuitable for the society. I think the case was more that the adults were waiting to see what would happen with the children. Would they be reintegrated? Would they show any signs of asocial behavior? Or would they go back to the way they were, perhaps wiser for their adventures, and realizing the necessities of the society? That Saki, Satoru, Mamoru, and Maria haven’t stepped over the boundaries yet is why they haven’t been taken anywhere. Shun has. And maybe his being stronger than the others played a part in that.

It’s not necessarily ‘ugly’, but there’s another aspect of a possible cultural promotion of same-sex relationships among young pubescent children that somewhat ties in to other aspects of this society, specifically their apparent love-hate attitude towards children. Individual children are precious, as indicated by Saki’s mother’s anguish about their other child they already ‘lost’, but society-wide, they are relatively valueless, because their potential downside to the society is the possibility of societal collapse. So one possible bonus side effect of the promotion of same-sex relationships could be the increasing likelihood that some children might decide they prefer same-sex pairings and never develop feelings for reproduction. In this aspect, the story somewhat reminds me of The Forever War by Joe Haldeman, where the society of humans eventually becomes one where all reproduction is done through cloning, and same-sex relationships become the overwhelming norm. Just something that it made me think of.

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