Shin Sekai Yori Final Review [Excellent]

Squealer is appointed the jesterSquealer stands ‘trial’

Shin Sekai Yori finally finishes its exciting and interesting story of a future of humanity. First I’ll talk about the final episode, but if you’d like to skip to the Series Review, click here.

TheGood

The distance between human and bakenezumi

I was somewhat surprised that they dealt with the finish and final battle so quickly in this episode, but it was the right choice. After realizing that the girl (it seemed to be confirmed this week) was not a fiend, but just didn’t consider herself human, Saki’s plan involves Kiroumaru essentially sacrificing himself in order to trigger the death feedback. When he revealed that he was a bakenezumi, the girl’s genetic death feedback, believing she had killed one of her own kind, kicked in and killed her. It was a bit disappointing, because one of my hopes had been that they could have saved the girl, but that doesn’t turn out to be possible.

Talking to Squealer

After the death of his ‘Messiah’, Yakomaru is taken into custody and taken back to the village to face justice. Prior to his ‘trial’ (basically a kangaroo court), Saki and Satoru talk to him in custody, to ask why he started this war. After rejecting his given human name and reverting to Squealer, he states his rationale: it was the best chance he was going to get, with his “Messiah”, the child of Maria and Satoru. And once it started, it was win or bust. And in the end, he busted. But his real reason for it? Because the bakenezumi are humans: They’re just as smart, and just as worthy of respect, a respect that never comes from the capricious ‘gods’ with their PK powers. He even uses this as reasoning when facing his ‘trial’, loudly proclaiming “we are humans!”

Squealer's punishment begins

 Unfortunately, what he faces is much more like naked vengeance. The bloodthirstiness is disgusting, both to me and to Saki, who can’t stay in the court and watch. The sentence pronounced reflects this: “Eternal Hell”, a punishment where they won’t allow his body to die, but constantly keep it in pain. Truly a vindictive punishment, and the crowd howls in approval.

Satoru in light, Saki still in darkness

But the work isn’t over for Saki or Satoru. First she has to keep her promise to Kiroumaru, that if nothing else, she would save the Giant Hornet queen. She actually does much better than that, saving multiple colonies from the wrath of humans. But Satoru is also doing some investigation, at times forbidden investigation, and while running a chromosomal investigation on the bakenezumi, he realizes that they have 23 pairs of chromosomes, the same as only humans. And he realizes that after humans put death feedback into the genome of PK users, they would be at the mercy of non-PK humans. So the answer was to make the non-PK’s into non-humans. Satoru realizes at that point that they’ve been indiscriminately killing these ‘people’ all the time, people intentionally put under the arbitrary rule of the ‘humans’.

The choice to not have the final ‘battle’ take long also gives us time to see what happens in Saki’s and Satoru’s farther future. As they become more influential, they also become a couple, finally marrying and having a child. I thought this was an important symbolic part of the show, in that while the commentariat on the show has been split over whether their society is worth continuing, they think it is, and they think they will contribute to its continuation. And not only contribute, but attempt to make it better. They are both in a position to do so, and hopefully they will have an impact.

Putting Squealer out of pain

There is one final act of mercy from Saki as well. There has been a museum set up to commemorate the war with the bakenezumi. Using a ruse to be alone in the museum, Saki approaches the glass vessel that contains what is left of Squealer. And then she ends his life, and his suffering.

Saki's insightfulness

In the end, not much changes in the world for Shin Sekai Yori. And if you had asked me early in the series what could change, I would have said (and did say) “Not much”. Hopefully the biggest change is in how the bakenezumi are treated. But without the wholesale destruction of the PK society, there just isn’t much room for change. Maybe a bit less paranoia about children. Maybe a bit less control over the individual. But that would have to be a gradual process. And it’s always important to remember that they’re just trying to live, as everyone is.

And now on to the final review. (Episode 25 screenshots at the bottom of the post)

Title: Shin Sekai Yori
TV Series; 25 Episodes 
Genre: Drama, Supernatural
Produced: A-1 Pictures

The story is the strongest part of Shin Sekai Yori. Based on a novel, the world that is constructed for us is airtight. There are almost no retconns or walkbacks or exceptions. And in building the world in the story, they do it in the best possible way: showing us. Going through multiple time skips, we follow the story of Group 1 from their early teens to their mid twenties, through school, troubles, and eventually war. In addition, the show uses scenes from hundreds of years before the setting of the story to build the foundation of the world they live in. There are a couple episodes with long expository sequences, but they fill in information in such a way as to not overwhelm.

And throughout, the show is continually setting up the judgment of the society depicted in the show. It is not a friendly place. It is not admirable. You wouldn’t want to live there. Humanity is barely holding on to itself, and seems to be in a slow decline, held down by ruthless culling of children and extreme controls of hypnotic conditioning. Through this almost defeatist world, we are constantly evaluating whether their methods are justifiable or too extreme.

Rating: Excellent

The characters are another strong point of the show. Following someone through such a large portion of their life is always going to bring a connection with the audience, and we have characters who make it to the end of the series, while other important characters play key roles, even after their deaths. The show could be a bit more character driven, as at some points it feels like they’re being dragged along in the tide of the story, but overall, they are well characterized and relatable.

Rating: Excellent

Production is the one area that Shin Sekai Yori falls down on. It’s obvious that this show didn’t have a large budget, and it also didn’t have the most consistent direction.  The lack of budget seems to be justified by the terrible home version pre-orders, but it results in the show having some pretty static animation, fairly low detail characters, some off-model scenes, and low quality action scenes. But a particularly good part of the production is the backgrounds, which are frequently stunningly beautiful. All in all, tho, the animation quality was never poor enough to pull me out of being immersed in the show.

The audio portion of the production is also well done, with the use of Dvorak’s New World Symphony (fitting for the name of the show From the New World) used as a key piece of music throughout the series. The remainder of the background music is unobtrusive, and fits well with the show. There is no OP song throughout the entire series (the one time a song is played early in the show is an insert song that later becomes the ED), and the first ED song, Wareta Ringo sung by Saki’s VA Taneda Risa, is perfect for the tone of the show, stuttering guitars and layered answering vocals. The second ED, Yuki ni Saku Hana sung by Maria’s VA Hanazawa Kana, doesn’t fit the part of the series it’s used for nearly as well. It is good for a few episodes when the story focuses on the relationship between Saki and Maria, but kind of gets out of phase with the show. It might have been better to use the intro from the single version, which has a haunting sequence of chords to open, rather than one that opens with Maria’s singing.

Rating: Great

Overall, Shin Sekai Yori is a show that is well worth the time. It’s enjoyable as a well told story as well as being enjoyable as a vehicle for exploring the morality of the world presented. One of the amazing things about the show is how short every episode felt. There were many times where the show would show the title card, followed by the jarring opening of Wareta Ringo, and I’d realize that the entire episode had gone by, when it felt like it should be the break in the middle. Frequently engrossing, it always entertained, and never had to resort to a filler episode or a side story. The show made inexorable progress from beginning to end, and never felt like it had to rush or fill. Overall, an excellent show.

Category Score
STORY Excellent
CHARACTERS Excellent
PRODUCTION Great
ORIGINALITY Great
ENTERTAINMENT Excellent
OVERALL Excellent

Screenshots

One thought on “Shin Sekai Yori Final Review [Excellent]

  1. SSY really is a great show. As you say, part of what makes it work so well is how it’s presented as a complete package. Unlike certain other shows this season, SSY actually wraps everything up very smoothly. And then it proceeds to turn everything we thought we knew on its head, while posing the classic question of “which side are the true monsters.”

    Definitely, the current situation isn’t all too different from the very beginning. With the final revelation, we now know that PKers still kill non-PKers without so much as batting an eye. The only real “advancement”, if you can even call it that, is that PKers can no longer turn on each other. After all this meticulous planning and genetic alteration, nothing has changed. One wonders if they could have gone about it a better way, but I guess that’s what Saki’s question is for.

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