Breaking the Rules to find Mamoru
Mamoru has run away! And Saki, Satoru, and Maria are trying to find him, especially given the ominous nature of his note. After Mamoru catches back up with them, they’ve found sled tracks leading away from the town, out through the Holy Barrier and into the mountains. And after only a moment’s hesitation they follow, breaking another of the rules. Eventually, they find him, lying inside a shelter on a bed of leaves, brought there by another bakenezumi we’ve seen before: Squonk, who was saved by Saki in the episode 2 of the series after he fell in the canal. After Mamoru wakes up he tells why he ran away: he’s sure that he is to be eliminated. He’s even fought off a nekodamashi, the night he ran away.
Maria is concerned about Mamoru
The real point of this episode was to give Saki the opportunity to reflect on her talk with Asahina Tomiko about the dangers to the village of Fiends and Karma Demons. We’ve gotten foreshadowing by older Saki that Maria will be involved in the ending of some large number of lives, and the cause of that seems to be approaching. I have no doubt that Maria dearly loves Mamoru, even if she flirts with Saki, even if she was aloof to him before. Mamoru has idolized Maria for years, and while everyone else experimented with the allowed same-sex intimacy prior to the selection of Work-Duty pairs, Mamoru stayed with his eyes only on Maria. Maria rewarded this devotion by selecting him as well, to the dismay of half the class of boys. But where the question of Fiends comes in, it’s hard to determine at this point who will become a Fiend: Maria or Mamoru.
What did this art shift signify? Mamoru’s transformation?
What’s really got Mamoru scared, tho, is that he has had two encounters with the nekodamashi recently. And in the last, he was asked to perform a trivial errand near the courtyard where the cats are kept, and while his memory of sneaking in with Maria and seeing the cats is not clear, he remembers something about it, something about the wrongness there. And alone in the dark near this area, he hears a cat behind him, and is saved only through some effect of Cantus. Was this his action? Or was this his subconscious? It wasn’t Maria, she had been told to go home without waiting for Mamoru to finish his supplementary classes (another point reinforcing the idea they were isolating Mamoru to eliminate him). Does this act of his subconscious indicate that he is turning into a Karma Demon, like Shun? Or does his paranoia, his assurance that they are after him, indicate the slide to becoming a Fiend? Even if it’s not paranoia (just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t out to get you), will his defense accelerate his slide?
Could she handle anything happening to Mamoru?
And what will Maria do if Mamoru is eliminated? Will she snap? Will she get revenge? Who is the focus of her future ire? Or is it even humans? That narration was from Saki, but we’ve seen that Saki considers the bakenezumi to be living creatures. If Mamoru was killed by the bakenezumi in the service of the humans, would Maria fully turn into a fiend, able to attack and kill other humans, or would she just mow through colonies of bakenezumi, perhaps enraged that they could do that to her beloved.
And the real questions are what will Saki be able to do. If things go bad, can she help her friends? Would she be able to pull either Mamoru or Maria back from the brink? Could she do anything to influence the elders of the village?
The world that is portrayed by Shin Sekai Yori continues to be unrepentantly brutal and unapologetic. I still believe that this is justified for the most part, but the one thing I’m not sure about is the reason for culling those who don’t meet a ‘floor’ of PK ability. Is the criteria solely weakness of PK ability? Certainly the complete absence seems to be a reason, but once someone makes the cut to get to Sage Academy and its ilk, it seems a bit much to just condemn them without other factors. Those other factors could certainly be things that we’ve seen. Reiko was showing worry about letting down Group 1 in the first episode. Could she have been determined to be feeling too much pressure, and thus in danger of becoming a fiend? Is that pressure now on Mamoru? He certainly seems to be feeling it.
But how much of that is a self-defeating circle? Does perhaps putting that much pressure on the students mean that it increases the chances of problems? Are there other support structures that can help students who might be borderline cases? That might be the only real improvement I can see. It’s not like the adults don’t know almost everything about the kids. Perhaps they are, but if so, it’s as surreptitious as the observation.
It’s not here yet, but you can tell its coming.