Whosaliddlecutie? You are! Yes you are. Seriously though, look at all the ways that poor thing is warped beyond repair. It was hardly a doggy Adonis (Adognis?) when he first appeared in episode eight, but now the universe has just stopped pulling the punches and decided to inflict it with a full case of ugly, a nasty side effect being ineffectual teeth that do the opposite of what teeth are supposed to do. It’s like if a shoggoth decided that it wanted to slobber on people as a dog, rather than as a ravenous interdimensional being, so it wanted to become cute and lovable without quite grasping the basics. Not only is he an adorable abomination, but he serves as the crux of the episode’s most poignant themes regarding isolation and control.
As good as Shinsekai Yori is in terms of visuals, it isn’t exactly a paragon of diversity in regards to its themes or characters, both of which remain fairly static from episode to episode. So while this episode didn’t bring anything new to the forefront past what the audience already gathered from the context of prior situations, Shun’s exposition serves a secondary purpose of expressing his loneliness, something that was truly driven home by the three constants around him: The wasp balls levitating around the room, the patterns in the wood warping whenever Shun loses control of his emotions, and poor Subaru laughing in the face of natural selection with each ruff, the unfortunate result of cantus-induced mutation.
Even more so than before, the visuals truly bring out elements in the story that would be otherwise lost or buried in dull exposition. At this point, praising the show for looking pretty and crafting an effective mood is about as revolutionary as declaring that the earth rotates around the sun, but to its credit, this is by far one of the most sublime visual experiments that I’ve seen. It isn’t the SHAFT style of quirkiness for the sake of being different, which I admittedly love, instead having a purpose to it that it never quite achieved earlier. It’s the first time since Nisemonogatari that I was awestruck with how pretty an anime was and had a genuinely hard time choosing screenshots to insert into a post.
Every scene exudes loneliness and darkness, Shun’s actions reflecting his despair and displacement in the grand scheme of his world in a way that his stiff-faced dialogue with an equally inexpressive Saki just doesn’t. I’d go so far as to say that depicting this entire episode would be extremely clunky in written form, not having anywhere near the impact that it does here; actually being able to visualize the turbulent emotions swirling behind his expressionless mask through the (often unintentional) manipulation of his surroundings tells a more sorrowful story than any amount of dreary dialogue ever could.
Up to this point, I’d have hesitated to call Shinsekai Yori great. For all its strengths, it doesn’t have much faith in the audience’s ability to reason out the events, nor the capability to understand when to move on, two things not helped by characters who, aside from Shun and Saki, are pretty dull. Hell, even those two don’t have enough chemistry to make their relationship that easy to invest in. This is/was definitely a less meandering arc than Tribal Mole Rat Apocalypse though, pacing itself extremely well; not slow enough that it feels like it drags, but no details feel overlooked.
A sizable effort was poured into here, and it sure shows, to the extent that if somebody asked me about the advantages of visual media over text and music, I’d point right to this episode to explain why.