The present and the future?
Welcome back to Shin Sekai Yori! After a week off over the holidays, the story picked up right where it left off, as Satoru, then Saki, leave Maria and Mamoru and head back home. Met on the dock by her parents, Saki learns that she has been called before the Board of Education, and decides that sooner is better. Brought before the Board for an ‘inquiry’, she is questioned about her involvement with Mamoru, and what has been happening. Facing the board, and particularly Chairman Hiromi and Vice-Chairman Masayo, Saki answers questions about where she was, what was going on, and where Maria and Mamoru are now, and why they didn’t come back.
Saki stuns the Board of Education by knowing the truth
Finally Saki answers why they didn’t come back: Because Mamoru is afraid of being killed by the very board she is being questioned by. And at this point, the proceedings are interrupted Asahina Tomiko-san, Mamoru’s grandmother and head of the Ethics Committee, who intervenes on Saki’s behalf, explaining why she knows so much and asking the Board to once again relinquish their authority over Saki and the rest of Group 1.
Episodes like this one have been my very favorite parts of Shin Sekai Yori. The world building that the show has done has been tremendous, and is the part that sucks me in more than any other. And while we don’t get as much of it in this episode, we do learn more about Asahina-san, specifically her age. Speculation after episode 12, when we last saw her, was that she was anywhere between 40 years old and 70 years old. When asked, Saki guesses she is 67. Asahina-san instead tells her that she is 267 years old, and able to regenerate her chromosomes to prevent telomere degradation, keeping her youthful. She offers this as the reason she is able to have so much power and influence, because she has 267 years of experience and knowledge of history. She’s been the Chairman of the Ethics Committee for 170 years, watching others age and die around her while she lives on.
Time has allowed Tomiko to use her accumulated knowledge.
The question occurs to me: why is she picking Saki now as her successor? Saki inquires about living forever, and Asahina-san says she doesn’t know what forever is. There are many reasons why I think she could be grooming a successor. Perhaps she happens to see the perfect combination of characteristics in Saki. Perhaps she is becoming tired of living while all around her die. Perhaps she tires of working, of making decisions. Perhaps she fears some changes she can see the society moving towards. It’s possible that she doesn’t have any of those concerns, and just knows it will take 100 years for someone to be respected enough to replace her. Or perhaps she’s tried to find a successor before, yet was unable to teach them the essence of telomere repair. It certainly seems that if Saki returns from her current errand, to bring back the others, that’s what her new exercise will be.
The other thing that’s discussed between Asahina-san and Saki is the fear the towns have of a PK user outside of their control. And thinking about it, it’s again justified. If Maria and Mamoru stay outside the district, outside the barrier, their district, and all the others, will become set on disposing of them, and use any resources they have. This sounds, again, horrible, but if we think of what danger such people would pose to the colonies it becomes more clear why. It’s a complete unknown. A major part of the defense against a fiend is the early detection of signs that someone could become a fiend. Once someone is out of sight, it becomes impossible to keep a check on this. Additionally, what danger would a child of Maria and Mamoru, born outside of the influence and upbringing that is so crucial to the societal control, pose? They would be a loose cannon. Asahina-san relates people with PK to nuclear weapons – able to destroy villages quickly and mercilessly. And unlike a single nuclear weapon, a PK user can keep going as long as they wish.
Discussing their past.
The other important thing we learn is of an ‘experiment’ on Group 1. Apparently this group has been special from the beginning, at the urging of Asahina-san. As a group, they were subjected to far less hypnotic conditioning than usual children, with the express purpose of leaving them less controllable, and with more will of their own. For instance, normal people in the village would be “paralyzed with fear” at the thought of crossing the holy barrier. But Mamoru is willing to cross it easily as are the other children in pursuit. According to Asahina-san, the purpose of this ‘experiment’ was to raise a new generation of leaders, ones who would have the fortitude to do things that would be unthinkable by normal members. This is attributed to the freedom of thought being left with Group 1. However, even with that reduced amount of conditioning, Saki visibly zones out and falters at the mention of Shun’s case.
On her way to find them.
The end resolution is that Saki (along with Satoru) is tasked with bringing Maria and Mamoru back to the village, even having their safety guaranteed. They have 3 days to accomplish this, but as they get back to the igloo, it’s no longer there, and nor is any sign of Mamoru and Maria. And Maria’s parting word to Saki mean this won’t be an easy task.
The Board of Education comes off horribly in this episode. In their previous conversation, Tomiko had described Hiromi and the rest of the board as paranoid, not having seen a fiend on their own, yet enacting policies that are so scared of fiends that they make bad decisions. And the decision to dispose of Mamoru was apparently one of these, made rashly and executed poorly. They also handle the interrogation of Saki badly. When Saki says things that should obviously mark her as a serious person, who knows what she’s talking about, they are disbelieving, treating her like a child who isn’t supposed to know anything. They even disavow the idea of the Tainted Cats, even as they know they are waiting in another room should Saki prove to be a problem to be disposed of. Hiromi in particular gets extremely flustered at Saki’s bluntness and calm demeanor, even at the possibility she will be disposed of, calling her repulsive and seeming to disbelieve what she’s saying. It’s like they can’t understand that someone who is close to an adult in their society is talking about adult matters. And when Tomiko comes in and lets Saki off the hook, explaining that they have talked about things like the Tainted Cats, they seem unable to deal with Tomiko as well. I was just struck by their inability to deal with the unexpected.
As usual, the Ugly still seems to be coming in the future. But I’m starting to wonder if the Fiend discussion is a misdirection on the part of the show. I usually don’t watch previews seriously, but in this one, we again see the bakenezumi preparing for war. And thinking back to the previous fighting between the bakenezumi colonies, there was a significant difference in the look of the Ground Spiders large ‘human-looking’ soldiers and the Robber Fly fighters. And we saw that this took a toll on both Rijin and later Satoru via death feedback mechanisms. Is this an effort by the Ground Spiders, and maybe other bakenezumi colonies, to make a force that could fight against the humans with PK? And could that have been what ‘future Saki’ meant about Maria’s future, and the death of ‘untold numbers’?