….Shin Sekai Yori… I’m not sure I was prepared. I don’t know if my review for the series will be published by the time this post goes up. In any case, let me just say, Shin Sekai Yori is one dense show. It’s heavy with meaning, dripping with allegory, ruthless in its judgment and harsh in its assumptions.

Despite being completely devoid of jump scares and traditional monsters, its possibly the tensest horror series I’ve seen in a long while. To me it was more deeply terrifying in implications than a show like Shiki and more difficult to watch as well. This is a big deal, Shiki is wonderfully suspenseful.

Shin Sekai Reiko.jpg
don’t worry it’s go….I can’t do it…

Among the many layers of terror folded around Shin Sekai Yori, is the casual, almost banal way the plot treats the recurrent disappearance of young children. We see kids vanish out of the narrative, never to be seen again, without so much as a mention. It’s almost confusing at first. You could think it’s simply a plot hole, a classic failing of a bad writer, or a script getting lost in rewrites and edits. After all, everyone acts as if nothing happened.

This, like so many things about the series, is misleading. It’s not smart to let your guard down when watching Shin Sekai Yori. You think everything is honky dory and you’re watching a psychological sci fi with some occasionally more suspenseful scenes, nothing you can’t handle… and bam – you’re waist deep in a tar pit of nightmares.

The first real clue I had that I was in more trouble than I thought was Reiko. The series opens on a class of middle schoolers in a indeterminate world at an indeterminate time. We know that humans in this world have certain psychic abilities which are vaguely defined and referred to under the umbrella term “power”. As soon as they are old enough to learn anything at all, children are taught how to use and control their power, just as they would learn math or writing in school.

Shin Sekai learning.jpg
we need more anime characters with freckles!

The story focuses more specifically on class 1A made up of 6 kids, namely Saki, Shun, Satoru, Maria, Mamoru and Reiko. Through the course of the series these kids go through a lot….a whole lot. Once the realities of the world catch up with them and Shun suffers some extraordinary consequences, it became impossible for me to consider this show as anything other than a thriller. It really hit me like a truck. I still need a moment.

In retrospect however, the series tried to warn me very early on, almost from the very beginning really. With the quiet and unassuming character of Reiko. Reiko is a shy but apparently sweet girl in class 1A. She’s a nice kid and a good friend. We see her do her best in school, but she simply isn’t as naturally talented as the others.

That’s all there is to it though. She isn’t rebellious or a problem in any way. She’s in all things obedient, hard working and sociable. A lovely little girl really. And one day, she’s just gone. Completely. Not only is Reiko physically missing, it seems she was never there. At least as far as anyone in the story is concerned. And that’s truly terrifying.

In time, we learn the reasons behind such extreme measures. But you see, either the people of this town are eliminating young children that don’t live up to their expectations and erasing all memory of them for no real reason, or they are doing so for a very good reason. Both options are completely terrifying. And that’s what Reiko represents.

I’m actually happy I found so many pictures of Reiko

She isn’t a character really. We never get to know her at all. We see the few interactions she has with her friends that’s all. In hindsight, she’s almost unnervingly normal. A sweet little girl prototype. That makes it so much worse, doesn’t it? The fact that no one is safe.  The fact that a cruel and unusual fate isn’t reserved for the wicked, the chose or even the special.

If I haven’t made this clear enough, Shin Sekai Yori is a cruel plot. It assaults our core beliefs never allowing the audience to get comfortable for even a moment. But it is equally as ruthless with its own cast. Reiko was a sacrificial lamb, she never had the slightest chance. But her life wasn’t forfeit to advance the plot or impact the characters at all. Her very existence was simply thrown away by the plot, because it could.

This was the type of story that could destroy innocent characters for no reason at all, and then never even mention them again. The type of story so uncaring and monstrous, that if the viewer at home doesn’t make the effort to remember Reiko, it’s like she never existed at all. Such brutality is rare to come by and almost admirable in a way. There’s something gutsy about being so openly heartless.

Time and time again, Shin Sekai Yori will show itself capable of surprising viciousness. However, right at the start, before we are ever given a glimpse behind the curtain, as the world still seems peaceful and beautiful, Reiko clearly told us all just how frighteningly savage the story was, and just like everyone else, I ignored her and forgot about her.

Good job show, you win this one.

PS: I know my header gif is Saki but it’s impossible to find a gif of Reiko. I think this proves my point!

I did however find this piece of Fan art (here)

27 thoughts

  1. Freckles… ah yes. Must find more freckles. They taste good when you eat them.

    Tomomi “Pets” Hetada from FLCL Alternative. Yummy!

  2. I’m still working up the nerve to watch this! Knowing from your post that everything make sense in the end is actually helping!

  3. Poor Reiko. Still, her fate wasn’t the worst in that show… (Imagine living in a big city at the time things escalate. They did go on a field trip to Tokyo, our country pumpkins…)

    [I typed up a post, and then just before I was ready my computer froze. So it goes.]

  4. It feels kind of weird for me to say this…
    But From the New World kinda sucked for me. The opening bits were kinda good, but then the developments from there were pretty awful. All the characters were empty of any interesting traits, which was totally unnecessary considering the expository nature of the arcs…
    Also, I guess because I naturally treat any thinking creatures as people, the “big twist” had less than zero impact on me. In fact, the insinuation that their genetics have to justify their intelligence was really the breaking point where I decided that I disliked the show.
    … well, glad you enjoyed it!

    1. But genetics do directly create intelligence…it’s chemistry.
      I love this change of perception from you. I remeber you once saying that you had no thoughts on dog fighting for entertainment purposes, to now hear that you consider animals having the same inherent rights as humans is actually really great! It makes my day a little.
      Obviously I enjoyed the series more. I found the characters realized and relatable. I could see the logivcal threads of their thinking but it is NOT a show for everyone. That’s for sure.

      1. I was trying to say it in a way that didn’t spoil, but I was angry that it had to be human intelligence. I think it’s bad morals to believe that because the mole rat things deserve rights because they are related to humans. They should be treated ethically because they are individuals capable of thought, regardless of genetically resembling humanity…
        My thing with dogs is that I don’t think they are capable of consciousness, and therefore their rights should not ever be put above that of people. Same thing with social robots. Difference is that I dont like to see animals suffer, so in a perfect world, they wouldn’t, regardless of their consciousness.
        I thought the characters were too reactive and replaceable to be engaging. They had no unique relationships… as shown by Saki SOMEHOW mistaking white rat guy for forgotten mask and boy.

        1. Out of curiosity – why would you doubt Dogs to have “consciousness” but assume moster rats to have it? Not a trick question – I’m just wondering what criteria you go by.

          1. The moment when the monster rats extended their sympathy to the kids who could only reasonably harm them made me believe in their consciousness. So uh…
            As hard as this is to put into words, the rats’ ability to have values that can subsume their rational self interest shows they’re a species capable of consciousness. Show me a dog who is nurturing to a human because of a belief in their capacity for kindness, rather than from expectation, then I’ll believe it. Not really sure any other way to prove something as intangible as consciousness from an external perspective…
            It’s kind of a complicated philosophical question to be thinking about on a Monday.

            1. Well aside from the fact that seeing eye dogs exist. There are tons of examples of not only dogs but multiple species taking care of list children and babies (they also eat them a lot…then again humans tend to blindly eat other species too so that doesn’t mean much).
              Dogs jumping in water do rescue drowning strangers is pretty much a daily occurrence. There are more intricate examples but I think this is the sort of stuff you mean.

            2. Not really. It’s a hard idea to write about.
              Dogs, like a lot of animals, are social creatures right? So they can be socialized to treat humans like they do fellow dogs- as rude as this is, so what?
              Dogs would help dogs because that is biologically one of many habits that would lead to reproductive success. Would a dog fall into depression if they were too cowardly to save a human that didn’t raise them? In other words, can they create emotional attachment to things based on ideas rather than experiences.
              It’s a ridiculous thought experiment from my perspective, and that’s why I don’t believe dogs to be conscious. I can totally see a monster rat fighting for ideals alone, cause screw the idea of oppression, thus I believe them to be conscious.

            3. Dogs regularly fall into depression due to losses of individuals that have touched their lives. Whether human or other animals. Humans regularly brush off the death of other humans. I’m not sure it’s a benchmark for sentience so much as empathy. We know that as a species if we are socialized and brought up to disregard life, we don’t tend to lose too much sleep over it. This is true for pretty much all mamnals really.

            4. Yep, social animals. But the fact that not all people are hyper-empathetic does not disprove our species seemingly unique ability to care for ideas. I have no proof or experience that shows that consciousness in dogs doesn’t exist. From my perspective, it’s a devil’s proof. As far as I know, while many social animals can feel depression and emotions and all that, humans are pretty unique in their ability to have faith in ideals.

            5. I have been assuming you mean sentience. Blind faith in unproven ideals is usually not traditionally associated with intelligence. This said it is still somewhat measurable through brain function – insects are great at it!

            6. Still not on the same page…
              Blind faith- no I dont mean that. In fact, I mean the opposite of that. That can be taught. I dont know how you measure someone’s morality or prove it. As fun as this has been, it’s kinda hard to explain this through text when I got some proofs that are due tomorrow.
              Peace out for now! ✌

    2. I guessed the “big twist” early on and was pretty sure by the end of the first arc. What I didn’t guess until much, much later was the reasoning behind it.

      I didn’t see the insinuation you’re talking about; it’s more about ease of communication than intelligence to me. (Humans tend to think of creatures as more or less intelligence to the degree that they can decode them; which is pretty ironic if you think about it.)

      1. Yep… still don’t agree with the point of the twist. It just wasn’t effective in any way, and subtracted from my enjoyment of the series.
        As someone who read Enders Game, human exceptionalism hardly seems worth a series long buildup.

        1. We seem to have retained different things from the series. It was mostly about traumatic cycle of slavery and the effectiveness of social conditioning to me. The Human exceptionalism (which was mostly portrayed as elitism since it equally applied to humans devoid of power) didn’t really factor in for me.
          Of course like all art, it’s in the eye of the beholder.

          1. Kinda curious about this traumatic cycle of slavery thing. Kinda wish the characters weren’t just bratty kids. Kinda wish it would explicitly show them as adult oppressors if it was going for it.
            But nah, they’re just passive participants in society going “oh, how pitiful”. Some people stop at that finger-wagging, but I wish the show spent time to focus on the ones who don’t.

            1. It’s true that the resolution remains ambiguous and there’s no real happy ending. The kids are adults throughout most of the latter half, before the revolution begins. We do know that there have been at least 3 bloody uprisings before the start if the series and we are left with the notion that another is most likely going to hapoen again (cycle). It’s a little grim, i agree.

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