A beautiful world full of so much pain.
For me, this was the most emotionally resonant episode that we’ve seen from Shin Sekai Yori. Using an insert song (I’m not going to call it an OP unless they start using it every week, which I doubt) to underscore the flashback sequence of Saki and Maria’s childhood together, Saki reads Maria’s letter. We see that they became friends at the Harmony School, the shy, alone girl making friends with the striking girl with the long red hair. We see their play together, their history, as Maria’s words talk about her thoughts about the village. And they’re not very positive. She realizes how overly cautious the society is, and deems it broken. Abnormal. Not something to be proud of. And she says she thinks that the reason for this is the adults deep seated fear of the children, willing to sacrifice so many based on ‘premonition and intuition’. And she relays that she just cannot be a part of that, and cannot abide it.
Maria is also concerned that Mamoru could not live on his own, and if he was alone he would die quickly (a perfectly reasonable expectation, given Mamoru). But in contrast, she praises Saki’s resilience, not that she’s more impenetrable, but that she recovers quickly and is never completely overwhelmed, the same qualities that Tomiko-san praised in Saki, and felt would make her a good leader. She wants Saki to return to the village and be a leader, and improve things.
I thought that Maria’s letter was interesting from another perspective: It was completely what I’d expect a 15-year old to write about this society. She sees the problems that exist – the fear, the paranoia, the worry – and concludes that the society is broken, especially their village. It’s not a normal human society. And she’s right. But only as far as it goes. She doesn’t have all the information. Her opinions have been formed, and her letter is written, from a perspective of incomplete knowledge. Does she know how fiends are developed? Not likely. More like her stories have always told of Fiends being an outside force, of something outside the barrier, waiting to be brought in, held at bay. She doesn’t know that Fiends come from within, from the children themselves. She thinks that Karma Demons are a product of the intent of a person, not the subconscious of a PK user taking control of their abilities without their volition. These are both things that Saki has learned, information that hasn’t been shared with the rest of the children, and perhaps Maria’s opinions of her society would change with that knowledge.
Maria’s letter reflects what I think is the naivety of youth, a belief that adults are cynical and wrong, and that things will be better when the young are finally in charge. She attributes the adults fear of the children to a fear that they will be supplanted, that the youth will take over and recreate that which they have worked so hard for. But this to me doesn’t reflect the reality of parenting. Most parents want nothing more than to be surpassed by their children, to have them thrive and succeed and climb to heights their mother and father couldn’t ever dream of. To think that parents are instead scared of this happening is hubris, a narcissism that is only possible to one who doesn’t understand parenthood. The truth is that Maria just doesn’t know the threat that any one person can pose to this society. Her hope is in Saki changing it, and I think that’s everyone’s hope, but I don’t know if I see much room for improvement.
Saki and Satoru finally glean the true nature of Yakomaru (Squealer) and his machinations. They ask him to synchronize stories with them for any future inquiries by the Board of Ethics, regarding Mamoru and Maria, whom Saki and Satoru have decided to report as dead. Yakomaru offers to find some bones to help cover for them, and finally squicked out by his obsequiousness and unctuousness, Saki just tells him to do what he’s going to do. She realizes that she and Satoru have played, yet again, the fools to his cleverness, being used to help cripple the recalcitrant Goat Moth colony this time, like they were used to help vanquish the Ground Spiders before. And realizing this, she also realizes that it destroyed any hope they really had of finding Maria and Mamoru. Yes, they did get the letter, but at the cost of a chance of finding them.
Saki also is haunted by a strange dream. As they sleep the second night, she is caught in a surreal nightmare, eventually facing a character that reminds me of Shun with long hair like Maria’s. His action seems like it says “be quiet”, but Saki’s interpretation is that it was saying to not let Maria go, to not lie to the Ethics committee, and that Maria had to die. Is this influence from Shun from beyond the grave? Or is this some ability Saki has to portend the future? Either way, she goes against this recommendation, unthinkable as it is, and life goes on.
Another jump in time for the show is happening for the next episode, with Saki and Satoru turning 26. And she gets a surprise visit from Yakomaru and Kiroumaru. This could be a bad thing, although we’ve seen really horrible things in previews and they haven’t ended quite that badly.