Will we finally find out what the cats do?
Much of a person’s life passes ‘normally’, and at a speed that seems like it’s slow in the present and fast in the past. And then there are the crisis parts. The times where everything seems to speed up, and you feel like you can’t catch up. For the children of Shin Sekai Yori, one of those times is upon them again. Unable to forget about Shun leaving town the way she’d been able to forget about the rest of her classmates and friends had disappeared, Saki talks to the others in Group 1 about his leaving, and his parting words to her, and they decide to investigate where he’s gone and why. The only dissent is from Mamoru, and it’s not his usual scared non-answer, but the sensible “If they’re observing us, isn’t this the time to lie low?” But even he doesn’t believe it.
How can you deal with the loss of a child through their own actions?
We know this society exerts a huge amount of control over the actions of people, and it also exerts a huge amount of influence over what, and even how, people think. On top of that, there is a huge amount of communication between adults that apparently goes on without the children knowing it. As a result, even Saki’s parents know what’s going on, and won’t tell her, even when she breaks down and asks them point blank. Their response: “It’s forbidden to discuss such things.” And that’s followed by pleading from her mother, that Saki stop asking questions, because she “doesn’t want to lose ano… [She] doesn’t want to lose Saki.” But that’s enough to allow Saki to finally remember her older sister Yoshimi, and connect the dots of her name, which means “younger child”.
A crater where Shun’s house was. We have to wonder who did this.
And what else to the children find out? That Shun’s village of Pinewind is cordoned off, and as Saki and Satoru cross the barrier and investigate, they find a huge crater where Shun’s house used to be. And Maria and Mamoru find out that all the children from Pinewind are absent from school. Even more than that, Maria and Mamoru infiltrate the school’s courtyard, where as expected they just find some storage containers, but listening to them, they hear ominous growling, and then hide as the adults come to take two large cat-like creatures out of them and carry them off, while talking about “What a shame”, “Karma Demon”, and “Aonuma Shun”.
She may not be able to fly like Maria, but that’s a long jump
Upon hearing this from Maria, Saki decides she has to go find Shun and runs away in the middle of the night. And arriving in the ruined village again, ends up face to face with exactly one of those cats…
At 1/3 through the show, I only have wild guesses about where it will be going now. We’ve had foreshadowing by future Saki about high death tolls, about strife, and about horrible things to come. Will this group of 14-year olds bring the society down? It certainly seems plausible to me, and it’s definitely a fear that the adults in the show have.
It felt at least a little contrived that the two groups investigating were able to use the same skills that the children had been practicing in class. Satoru conjures a mirror to allow Saki to see into the crater, and Maria flies herself and Mamoru into the courtyard to investigate. Of course, that could also be explained by “Doing what you know how to do”, but it just seemed a little too coincidental.
A lot of discussion about this show, understandably, centers on the society depicted. On the one hand, we can’t help but look at it through the experiences we have ourselves. And from that perspective, the highly controlled, information poor society that is shown, where secrecy is rampant and the breaking of rules seems to result in the removal (by death) of children, is unjust and borders on evil. We have a hard time understanding how a society can be so seemingly callous with the lives of children, casually sentencing them to death (apparently) for what seems to be minor infractions, or single instances of major infractions. Or even removal from society for not being up to a standard of strength. This seems unconscionable and unjustifiable.
A means of control
But the show has actually given us quite a bit of justification. 600 years of increasingly cruel empires. Another 300 years of creating a stable society. And most important, the high stakes involved. As the library (as close as we’re going to get to an unbiased source in this show) said: The realization was that a single error, a single person not suited for the society, could destroy the society. I don’t think that we can really understand this threat. Yes, we can have groups of people involved in wars. We can have some people who kill other people. But destroy a village, town, or even a society? That’s outside of the realm of possibility for us. But in this world, it’s possible. Kurigama last week was believed to be able to split the planet in half with his Cantus. Shun has been thought to have equivalent potential. Is a society not justified in making as sure as possible that someone who possesses that sort of power adheres to tenets of society that make them answerable to others?
Would I want to live in this sort of society? No, not at all. But that’s not really a choice people in the world have, is it? I think it’s very difficult for us to condemn the order of this society as unjust or, worse, as inherently evil without being able to comprehend the existential threats they face, which are completely different from the existential threats our society faces.