Saki and Asahina-san
This episode returns to explanation of this world that on a basic human level seems similar to ours, yet so different. Saki is called before Asahina Tomiko-san, Satoru’s grandmother and also the head of the Ethics Committee. But far from being Saki’s worst fear, Asahina-san wants to tell her that she would like Saki to succeed her as the head of that same Ethics Committee. And the primary reason for this is not in spite of their adventure during the group trip two years ago, but because of it. Asahina-san explains that the most important quality for the Ethics Committee members is the ability to keep themselves stable when faced with scary, uncomfortable, or even world-changing information.
Psychiatric Evaluations after the trip.
After their encounter with the library, Saki’s psychiatric evaluation metrics returned to normal in a very quick time frame, much faster than those of the other children in Group 1. And it has to be the case that she had been under consideration for this kind of position before then, because there was some intervention on Asahina-san’s part to prevent the School Board, which has full authority to eliminate any children up to the age of 17, from just getting rid of all 5 of them right away.
The face of evil
So we get more discussion about the threats to this society, and as I’ve figured for a while, the only existential threats come from within: Fiends and Karma Demons. Of the two, Fiends seem to be much more of a threat. They’re the anti-social ones, the violent ones, and the ones who, when they break, are going to take others, in most cases lots of others (on the order of thousands), with them. Asahina-san recounts the tale of the last Fiend that was seen, a boy named K who showed signs of anti-social behavior, but due to extenuating circumstances (lack of knowledge about what fiends were like, powerful family members), nothing was done about him. Finally he snapped, and a society that had strong curbs on the use of PK force against other humans was almost powerless to stop him until he was finally taken down by a doctor who injected him with poison, at the cost of his own life. In reaction, the leaders of the society use the bakenezumi to eliminate all other children who show the same signs of anti-social behavior as K, in pre-emptive self-defense. Subsequently, the code of ethics is changed to not grant human rights to children until the age of 17, which frees the Board of Education to eliminate any children they see fit.
Removing further threats
Overreaction? Perhaps. But again we need to examine their alternatives. PK users can pick locks. Fiends can and will kill anyone they see fit, and are driven by paranoia to perceive threats all around them. Once a fiend is unleashed, there’s very little that the other humans can do, as conditioned as they are against attacking a human. And even calling in the bakenezumi or the nekodamashi after someone who has turned into a fiend is likely to result in the wholesale slaughter of those creatures, given that they show no compunction against killing. We’ve seen that nekodamashi individually are no match for a teen cantus, although a pair would have a better chance, nor are an army of bakenezumi. So the only real chance is to use them before there’s an actual threat. The tragic part of that is that because the society needs to be so cautious, it’s almost certain that children who ultimately wouldn’t pose a threat (before K, 80 years had passed since the last Fiend, but they had to have had some anti-social kids in that time) are eliminated. But again, given the alternatives, it doesn’t seem like there’s much choice.
Izumi was deadly to cows… and anyone else around her.
The explanation of the karma demon was much more familiar, since we’d seen what happened with Shun. There was a bit of dissonance, however, as we in the audience knew Saki had seen all of this happen, and the description of what happened to Izumi-san was very similar to what happened with Shun, but of course, Saki now has no memory of what happened to Shun, or even who Shun was. Said to happen to those who are most thoughtful and conscientious and smart, the Karma Demon is someone whose subconscious takes such control over their Cantus that they cause things around them to happen without volition. This so-called ‘bad spill’ can have disastrous effects as well, but seems to generally have less chance to visit wholesale destruction of life. But we’ve also seen what happened to the village of Pinewind and Shun’s house, the lake that was once his home, and see that this is not anything trivial. But thankfully, the Karma Demon still possesses their humanity, and can take volitional steps to end their own life once they realize what has happened, isolating themselves in the process.
As the explanation of Karma Demons is finished, Saki finds herself crying and manages to connect her sadness to her missing memories, which Asahina-san confirms is likely the reason. Saki pleads for her memories back, but is told that because the trauma was too great to the town, it was resolved that they should erase all memories of what happened. But Asahina-san is very supportive and understanding of Saki’s grief and interest, and says that if she does eventually take the spot in the Ethics Committee, she would be able to get the memories back, but not now, when she would likely tell the others, and then everyone would know.
Breaking of the weakest link?
The episode makes good use of the ‘weakest link’ metaphor, since it is so important for this society to not have a single failure. As such, those weakest links must be protected and cared for (and those too weak to even be links must be culled). And an unspecified time later (it is unsure whether it’s the next day or later in the winter), the weakest link we know of, Mamoru, does something he shouldn’t: runs away from home. Gathering Saki and Satoru, Maria is desperate to find him, while Saki rues her raising the issue of changed memories. Did they cause Mamoru to break, or was it his failures in school? And at the halfway point of the series, is this the trigger that turns Maria into the cause of so many deaths that older Saki described at the end of episode 2?
It seems there are two methods by which the memories of people are affected. One seems to be a general forgetfulness that is what leads children to forget about other children who disappear. The adults certainly don’t forget about the children they lose, but the children do forget their former classmates. But there’s also a mechanism by which Shun was removed from everyone’s memory, not just the children. Will we find out there are more ways that memories are changed?
Ryou’s eye twitch
And that memory modification seems to have a lasting effect. When Ryou is thinking about his history with Group 1, his eye starts to twitch. Lasting neurological effect? Or will it go away as he gets more comfortable with his place in Group 1? Although it seems he’ll never really have a place in Group 1, as the others are intent on ditching him to go search for Mamoru.