36 CommentsFirst Impressions / By Scamp /

From the New World episode 1 – Not ‘Another’ Horror (Scamp’s take)

This may sound like a damning statement, and I’ll admit it’s partly intended as one, but From the New World (or Shinsekai Yori if we feel like being weeaboo) reminded me an awful lot of Another anime whose name I can’t remember. What was it called…horror anime, PA Works…oh whatever, I’ll just give it Another name instead.

Shinsekai Yori has that same slow start where something horrible is clearly up, but what exactly this horrible thing is hasn’t been revealed yet. We know that this dreadful thing is going to happen though because they keep playing eerie music over shots of characters staring frightfully at not much at all. It’s not as obnoxious about it as Another anime might be, where the music goes all “oooh scaarrry~” when a character does nothing more than simply shut a door, but they still play eerie music over almost everything that happens in the episode. What ever happened to contrast? I don’t necessarily think that Higurashi is the greatest example of a horror story, but at least it understood that you needed some contrast so the eerie parts actually appear eerie. Then you can actually start building tension.

The animation is fantastic. I feel I may have been a bit hasty in my complaints about A-1 in my season preview where I said all their anime look the same. From the New World shows they’re really starting to give each anime their own distinctive style. OK they’re not quite at Madhouse levels or anything, but credit where credit is due. I’m less confident about the directing though. The fuzzy camera at the start of the episode made my eyes hurt, to the point that I started to genuinely worry about whether my eyesight had suddenly gone to shit. That may have been the point I guess. More worryingly, the twists of the episode where there should have been tension were played poorly. Particularly the twist at the end of the episode where the girl disappeared. Instead of having the lead character start asking everyone where the girl went and they all look at her blankly as the slow realisation sets in, they just have some stupid narration saying  “AND THEN SHE DISAPPEARED FOREVER”.

I feel like I’m being overly harsh, but at the same time I can’t really say anything positive about this first episode either. Simply saying “it looked nice” is doubly damning when I remember that’s how I ended most of my Guilty Crown posts. I’m sort of interested in the world they inhabit, although they haven’t done a good job of making it compelling so far. In the current day, everyone suddenly exploded and then whoosh it’s 1000 years in the future and now there’s psychic powers.

I know with these sorts of slow-burn horror stories, you’re supposed to give it time to build up the scenario and the tension. Patience is something I’ve never been particularly good at though, especially when there’s nothing else to hold my attention in the meantime. No interesting characters, no humour, no interesting setting, pretty animation. Maybe this will be a Shiki where people suddenly start going nuts for it about halfway through. Maybe it will be like Another and everyone starts laughing at it halfway through. From what I’ve been hearing about the source material, it may end up being the latter.

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34 Comments

  1. Anca
    Posted September 30, 2012 at 9:59 pm | Permalink

    It reminded me more of Ghost Hound than that other anime, for some reason. Possibly because children + jargon + ESP.

    • volt9
      Posted September 30, 2012 at 10:05 pm | Permalink

      This episode felt an awful lot like Ghost Hound meets Another. And I’m not too fond of this.

    • Scamp
      Posted October 1, 2012 at 4:39 pm | Permalink

      Haven’t seen Ghost Hound, so can’t really comment on that

  2. Posted September 30, 2012 at 10:00 pm | Permalink

    Your version of how they would realize that Mariko was gone sounds just like the way Another anime would do it.

    • Scamp
      Posted October 1, 2012 at 4:40 pm | Permalink

      True. I’m not a writer, but I also don’t think having a narrator go “and then she disappeared” is a preferable alternative

  3. Moomba
    Posted September 30, 2012 at 10:26 pm | Permalink

    I’ll be honest in that I haven’t really heard much about the source material so I have no idea where it’s going – is it actually going to be a ‘horror’ anime like Another? I mean, there were definitely very obvious horror vibes in this first episode, but the premise itself suggests that it might be headed towards something which isn’t entirely focused around horror.

    I didn’t really get quite the same sort of feeling I got from the first episode of Another which seemed to be trying much harder to scream ‘I’m a horror, be scared!’ than SSY’s first episode did. At least, the attempts at scary music felt a lot less obtrusive in SSY than they did in Another and there was actual substance to some of the stuff SSY tries to spook us with. Just the presence of a shadowy cat-monster thingy that’s probably actually really d’awww was a far step up from Another’s ‘Oh my god he closed a goddamn door the end is coming!’

    Did I imagine seeing whatshername who vanished at the end of the episode in the next episode preview with everyone else?

    • Scamp
      Posted October 1, 2012 at 4:42 pm | Permalink

      What I’ve heard of the source material is lots of violent deaths and graphic underage lesbians. So yeah, expecting subtlety might be a bad idea. I agree that it’s not quite at the level Another was, but it’s still pretty obnoxious when they’re just sitting around in class talking

  4. Posted September 30, 2012 at 10:42 pm | Permalink

    I did rather like the setting and the music, even if the latter was overused. I assume we’re supposed to make the connection that the “cursed power” that children have in the new world is what made all the people blow up in the present day, and all this stuff about blessings and paper and school is about keeping that power under control. And also there’s some scary monsters out there somewhere. Not the most interesting thing in the world, but it’s enough that I’m willing to give it the benefit of the doubt for a few episodes and see how it develops.

    As pretty as the animation is, though, the character designs bug me. They’re too… I dunno, what is it? Doe-eyed? Cute? Anime? Whatever it is, they keep yanking me out of the atmosphere the show is trying to set up. Actually, a lot of horror anime seem to have this problem, where the character designs are too… I guess sterile is the word, and I think Higurashi only managed to avoid it by having a messy animation style that allowed them to distort the faces when appropriate.

    • Scamp
      Posted October 1, 2012 at 4:44 pm | Permalink

      With Higurashi, the cutesy designs were deliberately trying to contrast with the graphic violence. I don’t really get that with Another or From the New World. It bugged me a bit at the start, but I got used to it fairly quickly

    • Posted October 2, 2012 at 2:31 am | Permalink

      Oh, whoops, that was poorly worded. When I said they bugged me, I didn’t mean they succeeded in achieving an unsettling contrast. I meant the opposite – that the designs are working against the tone the show is trying to set and that I find the inconsistency grating. My point was that it seems like a lot of horror/atmospheric anime make their characters too pretty and sterile (presumably attempting such a contrast) and it robs them of a lot of their potential for… well… horror.

  5. Adrian
    Posted September 30, 2012 at 11:30 pm | Permalink

    I’m hoping the “horror” is just the first part of the story and they don’t expand much further into this aspect. Your post made me realize that I’m actually worried about the direction the show is gonna take. It’ll eventually tire me out if they stay in that setting too much. Kids are usually boring in both anime and real life (unless you are their parent), so I may think we don’t get much character development. Unless they suceed in adding tension to the plot or come up with some kind of psychological warfare. Kids are only cool when they’re suffering and/or making other kids suffer.

    • Scamp
      Posted October 1, 2012 at 4:46 pm | Permalink

      Pretty sure this is going to remain entirely on the children. Not strictly a bad thing mind you. Anime like Dennou Coil and Noein are still good with an all-children cast. Mind you, even in those cases, they were good in spite of having all children casts

      • Adrian
        Posted October 1, 2012 at 6:19 pm | Permalink

        Can’t comment on these shows as I haven’t watched them. I didn’t mean that it couldn’t be good (well, maybe I overdid it a little in retrospect), just that a children’s cast is often simplistic and needs to hang on the plot to work. Like in NATHAT, Shadow star and Ghibli movies in general. But again, I haven’t watched the shows you listed. Maybe they have a different aproach to the matter in hand.

      • Adrian
        Posted October 1, 2012 at 8:35 pm | Permalink

        *approach

  6. Erif
    Posted October 1, 2012 at 12:33 am | Permalink

    If I watched this I’d gladly prove all your opinions wrong. Sadly, I haven’t watched this.

    I’ll be back.

  7. appropriant
    Posted October 1, 2012 at 4:33 am | Permalink

    Though the children do tell the scary rumors amongst each other (which I’m assuming is where you get the “horror” vibes from), I’m not sure that necessarily means that the anime itself is of the horror genre. Maybe suspense, since it does inform about exactly how off the seemingly tranquil setting is, but not all the way towards horror.

    • Scamp
      Posted October 1, 2012 at 4:47 pm | Permalink

      I dunno, I feel it’s veering more towards horror than suspense. Hard to make a distinction though, because they share a lot of traits. I felt like From the New World was deliberately trying to creep you out, which is why I say horror

      • appropriant
        Posted October 2, 2012 at 1:02 am | Permalink

        I do admit that hearing Dvorak’s “New World Symphony” for at least half the episode was kind of overdoing it.

  8. fathomlessblue
    Posted October 1, 2012 at 7:29 am | Permalink

    To be honest, the show this most reminded me of was Dennou Coil. Most of the ep consisted of a bunch of kids trying to discover the mysteries of the world around them, with a heavy fixation on hearsay and urban myths.

    Ok, replace the odd semi-digital universe/underworld with a straight up post apocalyptic landscape and psychokinetic abilities, with possibly a more brutal touch, but many of the same touches seem to apply. I certainly didn’t such see any particularly heavy hints leading to an Another/Blood C style of horror show, but rather something that focuses more on atmospherics and tension. Christ, I hope I’m right about this! I’m seeing a lot of potential here.

    • Posted October 1, 2012 at 9:46 am | Permalink

      This is more along the lines of what I got out of the first episode. There was a bit of eerieness to everything that may have been pushed a little too hard, (I also noticed that the spooky music was playing over everything, but it wasn’t the comically bombastic “BE SCARED NOW” silliness of Another) but I can’t put Another even in the same genre as this.

      There’s world-building, myth, doubt, and mystery here with aspirations for much more than just aping a terrible horror film like Final Destination. Another had no grasp of subtlety and left absolutely nothing to the imagination; New World makes more nuanced use of rumours, folk tales, and unreliable information to keep us guessing. I wasn’t too fond of “AND THEN SHE DISAPPEARED” either (just showing an empty place against the sunset where she was standing before would have been so much better!), but it’s leagues apart from random pictures of dolls and tactless, meaningless deaths being thrown at the viewer in soberingly un-ironic attempts to scare them.

      I’m not getting horror vibes from New World so much as spooky folk tale/alternate timeline ones, which are fine by me. If anything I’d liken it to something like No. 6, only I sincerely hope it’s nowhere near as terrible. I don’t think I can take another magical rainbow bee.

      • SENSEISHUN
        Posted October 1, 2012 at 12:30 pm | Permalink

        I agree. I do not think this is horror, but if it is, they are truly wasting its potential. The world they live in is actually interesting and I actually prefer they stick to the eerie vibe because it would probably suck if everyone was incredibly nice to each other all the time. Just by no means whatsoever should they try to get into the scaring business, it would be a fail and an absolute waste.

      • Anca
        Posted October 1, 2012 at 8:25 pm | Permalink

        Nr 6 wasn’t terrible, it just had a terrible ending. Not the same thing.

        And I don’t remember that series having spooky vibes at all.

      • Posted October 1, 2012 at 9:36 pm | Permalink

        And I don’t remember that series having spooky vibes at all.

        Which is sort of my point. To me what stands out is the alternate future setting and the religious/superstitious spin on society rather than the fact that it wants to be vaguely creepy about it. It has far more in common with No. 6 (far future; society works totally differently after some major event; mankind survives on genetically engineered animals and other future-tech; the new society is rigidly structured, secretly corrupt and cruel; the main character questions its norms and discovers the truth) than it does with Another (tries to scare you, people die a lot).

    • Scamp
      Posted October 1, 2012 at 4:50 pm | Permalink

      Except Dennou Coil had stuff like humour and an interesting world to explore. Maybe it’s just me here, but I haven’t really found anything particularly interesting about the world in From the New World as of yet.

      I still do think it’s veering more towards horror. Slow start + gradual mystery + people disappearing = eventual graphic violence. Watch me as I’m proved correct mwahahaha

  9. Posted October 1, 2012 at 2:05 pm | Permalink

    Overly critical with shows that are gonna be probably good Scamp is back. Or just plain ol’grumpy bitchy Scamp that likes complaining at utterly minor things but whatever, both are fun to read.

    • Scamp
      Posted October 1, 2012 at 4:52 pm | Permalink

      Closer to the former. It wasn’t a bad episode. I just realised when I started writing about it that I didn’t have much positive to say about it

  10. Posted October 1, 2012 at 3:41 pm | Permalink

    I believe this is in the Shiki corner of the Horror spectrum. The formal qualities it uses – low-key lighting, use of silhouettes, playing with elements of the uncanny, discordant bgm, side-of-face focus, camera grain and color gradients – are advanced techniques that effectively signal what genre it places itself in. The technical skill presented here is obvious.

    What do you mean there’s nothing interesting to say? There’s plenty to chew on. The ritual cleansing with the big fire; the visit to the farm with mutated bugs and animals; the use of parables and ghost stories to teach kids the rules of survival in this world; the secrets the parents are hiding about the phantom cat; how that early scene of children playing on a hill is transformed into feelings of unease by the use of twilight and black outlines. Other than sharing the same genre, how is this anime anything like Another?

    What is a first episodes supposed to do? Introduce characters, show events and elements important in this setting, establish atmosphere, and hint at possibilities of things to come. From the New World did all those things in demonstrably skillful ways.

    Sometimes bloggers, especially of the episodic sort, lose perspective when a show doesn’t instantly scratch their itch. This isn’t an indictment of you specifically, Scamp, but parts of the anime blogging culture in general. But there are times when shortcuts don’t suffice, and payoff only comes from investing time, thought, and effort into a creative work. I for one am intently anticipating more of this anime.

    • ZabiLegacy
      Posted October 1, 2012 at 3:59 pm | Permalink

      I’m with Kaiden on this point. The directorial qualities of this episode were excellent. Consider the way that the parable scene only uses colors and abstractions to represent the story. The fact that nay one of the cast members could just as easily have been that silhouette enforces the uniformity of it.

      Look at the lighting in scenes like the one on the hill at the beginning. The sense of uneasiness it adds in the wake of the frantic beginning. Another was something more akin to final destination. Where the horror is all laughable and the real draw of the precedings is watching grisly murders. This is slow and deliberete taking time to charachterize and putting the setting first.

      Another thing I actually heard lots of complaints about is the art style. This is almost jaw dropping to me, considering the way that the art style sets it so far apart. The wide eyed children give them a more innocent and unaware expression, making them seem even more helpless in the face of an uncertain world. The example of what the show seems to take from that I like best is a little number called, Noein. Noein is simply one of the greatest anime I’ve ever watched, and the first episode of Shinsekai seems to know what to steal from.

      Scizophrenic opening, mysterious sci-fi setting where a group of boys and girls are the key to everything. Subtle, ever present horror almost laced into the skeleton of it. Even the oddly cartoonish character designs built over more photorealisticlly designed backdrops.

    • Scamp
      Posted October 1, 2012 at 4:59 pm | Permalink

      OK I hold my hands up: I liked the bug farms. That was cool. That was the one part of the sci-fi that actually felt sci-fi-ish rather than just some boring world where people have psychic powers.

      Where I disagree is the ‘skill’ of the directing. The different techniques used are still incredibly in-your-face and also constantly nagging at you to feel scared. Again, there’s no contrast, it’s constantly trying to make you feel uneasy. Not as obnoxious about it as Another was, but it still got overbearing. I have to laugh at people using the word ‘subtle’ to describe anything about this episode.

      Also introduced the characters? That’s what every single first episode does. My problem was that they’re all boring.

      • Posted October 1, 2012 at 9:03 pm | Permalink

        The different techniques used are still incredibly in-your-face and also constantly nagging at you to feel scared.

        Maybe you just had that feeling because you assumed from jump, that this’ll be a horror anime (which it won’t be at all, assuming they will adhere to the novel source, which is more like a sci-fi adventure with fantasy creatures and doesn’t have any horror vibes from what I’ve read about it). I didn’t have the feeling, that this episode was trying to scare me in any form, it just tried to set the mood for showing us later on, what a “fucked up” society they live in (which will probably be shown in the next episode).

        By the way, to those not expecting any character development, because the characters are children: In the novel they grow up during the storyline – and from what I’ve heard, there’s a lot of (interesting) character development in the novel source. Also, this show will be 2-cour (25 episodes), so there’s plenty of time for that.

      • Scamp
        Posted October 1, 2012 at 9:27 pm | Permalink

        I didn’t go in expecting a horror at all. I got the horror vibe because the music kept playing “ooooh creeepy” stuff and showing characters looking scared and there being a general air of unease.

  11. Posted October 1, 2012 at 7:19 pm | Permalink

    Kadian said most of what I would have said. I do want to say, though, that this reminds me more of the not shit portions of Kamisama Dolls than Another, which is why it surprises me a bit that you didn’t dig it. I don’t have a huge problem with the characters not being super compelling because the whole point is clearly to contrast their relative innocence with the bad shit lurking beneath the surface. If it’s like three or four episodes in, and they’re still boring, then sure, that’s a problem. I can let it slide here because the setting is established decently well — you can tell the kids have grown up accepting everything as normal, but the viewer can see clearly that there’s weirdness going on with the propaganda, Saki eavesdropping on her parents (though I think it might have been a bit early for that — the mom’s reaction to Saki developing her powers already says a lot about how the village operates), etc. I do agree it’s a bit heavy-handed, but not so much that it’s grating.

    Also disagree a bit regarding the intent of the directing. The beginning seems to aim more at being disorienting and chaotic than scary — the powers we’re seeing in developing stages later are being unleashed on innocent people, though we don’t why. Everything else is more aiming at getting under your skin than scaring you, so I don’t have a problem with it.

    • Scamp
      Posted October 1, 2012 at 9:31 pm | Permalink

      I can see the Kamisama Dolls comparison, but the parts that were not shit in that show were precisely because the characters were slightly psycho, not just their surroundings that were making them so. I know you’re supposed to give it time to make the characters interesting when they’re all innocent and everything, which is why I barely mentioned that in the post. But without that, I don’t have much else to grab onto at the moment

  12. Sarif
    Posted October 6, 2012 at 6:22 pm | Permalink

    I think it is kind of weird that you think this is going to be a horror anime. To me it looks clearly like a distopia sci-fi suspense series. The first episode gave me the impression it will be like Toward the Terra or Neoin. I wouldn’t consider much of all that happened in this episode horror even if it did have a fair amount of blood.

    There may be a little Bokurano in there too.

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