I don’t think I’m going to hear too much dissent when I say that man’s relationship with nature in Shinsekai Yori is kind of fucked. The excess of psychic energy that people produce is leaked into the environment on a regular basis, mutating plant and animal life into grotesque mockeries of their former selves. And, rather than living in fear or attempting to hunt these abominations, humans not only coexist, but outright intentionally create them with the sole intention of utilizing them to keep their society in order. Unfortunately, this usually means killing those who’re deemed to be problem children, including Mamoru, better known as Saki’s friend with the soiled mop on his head.
The weird stalker cats that have served as an ever-present threat to underperforming children were kind of creepy to imagine with the tiny details that were given; stalking their prey just conspicuously enough to be sensed, but not quite found, making the target paranoid and fearful before finally pouncing, snuffing out their life in an instant. It’s one of those perfect ideas that don’t seem so plausible during the day, but at night makes one think that walking down a dark hallway to bed will guarantee obtaining a new lease for residence in a panther’s digestive tract. The fact that the cats are obscured during these sequences only makes them worse.
Actually seeing a character followed in this manner, malign shadows creeping in from the corner of their eye accompanied by a purposeful scuttling noise, is enough to understand why they’d feel paranoid at all times. I’ve mentioned before that the environments in Shinsekai Yori are well-designed, often incorporating twisting, dark corridors and dim lighting to create a hostile atmosphere, but they really do a superb job of making getting stalked by ravenous hellbeasts as harrowing a watch as possible. It’s a small payoff on an even smaller plot detail surrounding an even smaller character, but it really works.
Unfortunately, when you have half an episode of three teenagers repeating the conversation of “Where are his tracks?” “Over here, see?” “Oh, okay,” before psychically propelling themselves onward through snow drifts, there isn’t a bevy of subtext to pick up and mold into a post. In Shinsekai Yori’s defense though, at least this episode didn’t shove blurrycam where it doesn’t belong.