Shin Sekai Yori is winding up for the finish, and the penultimate episode keeps it’s pace measured and at a steady buildup. After her encounter with the memory of Shun, Saki finally is found by Kiroumaru, who then reunites her with Satoru who has been a bit more injured, but nothing too serious. Throughout the rest of the episode, they are alternately chased and chasing Yakomaru and his forces, as well as the human child. But with Shun’s avatar’s help, Saki has realized that it isn’t a fiend, because it’s not a human. Apparently the bakenezumi aren’t big on mirrors, and when Satoru tries Saki’s idea to show the child (it’s really not clear if it’s a boy or a girl) what he really looks like, the reaction is surprising. Is it truly that this child has never seen what they look like? Or put together that they are similar to the people they’re killing, far more similar than to the bakenezumi?
Another of the concerns, that Kiroumaru is actively betraying them, is dealt with in an ambiguous manner. Even though he seems to have spells where he is trying to get them killed, he is eventually asked why he has been to Tokyo before. And he answers honestly: To try to find weaponry that would allow the bakenezumi, specifically his colony, to resist the humans and gain supremacy. Saki is initially horrified, because weren’t they allies with the humans? But Kiroumaru’s answers are straightforward and pragmatic: Yes, but what does “allies” mean? Bakenezumi colonies had been wiped out completely and mercilessly for reasons that were unfathomable on the part of the others. When your ‘ally’ is seemingly arbitrary and capricious, you do what you need to do to protect yourself from them, should they ever decide to not be an ally anymore.
Kiroumaru also excoriates Saki and Satoru, and all of the humans along with them. When things look bad, they get defeatist. They get beaten. And the bakenezumi never do, they’re always looking to try to win, even if it’s a long shot, even if it’s a seemingly hopeless case. This defeatist attitude has permeated the entire human society: through the culling of children, the extreme fear of the unknown, the myriad rules they live by, and their lack of trying to change how they are. Held up to such a figurative mirror, Saki develops a plan to try to win, to not give up, AND to not kill the child. This may be the thing only she can do, having been able to keep the freedom of thought that most of the humans do not have. What does this portend for the future of humankind?
Saki, Satoru, and Kiroumaru are never on top at any point this episode. They’re always the hunted, despite Kiroumaru’s idea that they become the hunters. And the chance that they came all the way to Tokyo for, that they’ve gone through all this hardship – to use the PsychoBuster to kill the red-haired child, is thrown away when Saki, in perhaps her most human moment in the series, realizes that Satoru will be caught up by it as well and burns all the powder after Satoru had thrown it. After watching everyone else she’s ever cared about be killed or otherwise slip away from her, she’s not going to let Satoru go.
Yakomaru even offers to negotiate with them. But he’s burned any credibility he’s had, and there’s no way they’ll negotiate with him. So the question is what is Saki’s plan? And will it work? And might it even have farther reaching consequences?
The ugly is that there’s only one more episode left of this excellent show. It’s truly been a masterful story, well told, airtight from the beginning. This might be a consequence of it being a completed novel prior to the anime starting. If you are interested, there is a translation project that is looking for pre-orders (if I find the link I’ll update this post). And something that I find excellent about the series is that it’s just so uncertain. We have one episode left. And I don’t know if anyone will be alive at the end of the next episode (I don’t even think the “future Saki” narration guarantees Saki’s survival from here). And whatever happens will probably be excellent.