1 CommentShinsekai Yori / By Inushinde /

Shinsekai Yori Episode 14: A Question of Free Will and Giant Murder Cats

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As loathe as I am to start yet another post with “The world is Shinsekai Yori is dangerous because (blank)”, it’s kind of difficult to avoid using this phrase when the show is centered entirely on world-building and putting its characters into progressively more dangerous situations. In this case it’s somewhat different though, because the thing that most endangers Saki’s little group is no longer every elongated shadow that looks like a murderer huddled in some bushes, holding a giant predatory cat barely restrained by a leash made of children’s tears. Nor is it their innate abilities that, at any time, could become uncontrollable and eviscerate the nearest living thing.

While those are all terrifying in their own rights, it’s always the most subtle that have the largest impact—in this case, the outwardly friendly Tomiko, who seeks to mold Saki into the society’s future leader due to her outstanding pottery repair skills that will surely mean the difference between life and death. In all seriousness though, Tomiko is bad news for Saki, a nugget of poison coated in a candy-shell of understanding and patience.

At first, it’s somewhat difficult to figure out just why Tomiko would upset Saki’s life more than razor-sharp teeth snapping her spine, or ESP-induced brain scrambling. When first introduced, she not only presents herself as aware of Saki’s misdeeds, but completely accepting of them as a part of her and her friends’ growth. Hell, she convincingly rationalizes the frenzied paranoia of the townspeople with anecdotes involving their fears actually having basis in reality. In short, the monsters from their myths are not only real, but Tomiko has seen them firsthand.

In a town full of people for whom deviation from societal norms is held on much the same level as murder, somebody who actually understands the method behind Saki’s unique brand of madness provides a welcome respite from what would otherwise be a death sentence, were she to step out of line again.

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Very soon, the pieces start to fall into place, explaining why Tomiko seems so reasonable compared to the rest of those in authority. While the others, including many of Saki’s classmates, have been brainwashed to the point of habitual compliance, Tomiko is one of a select few who retains her free will. Not only that, but she extended that gift to Saki’s group, due to what’re perceived to be extraordinary abilities, thus creating Saki’s special brand of madness. The suffering of her entire group and their wiped memories are a directly result of Tomiko’s interference, who sees the good of the town above that of its citizens—especially that of Saki’s runaway friends, who she’s willing to potentially throw to the wolves (cats?) to keep those below her in line with her own goals.

What I like is that when Tomiko is explaining this, in the calmest and warmest manner she can, she’s surrounded by crouched murder cats that blend with the background as they observe her and Saki’s conversation with marked disinterest and passivity. It’s a small detail, but it complements the scene well, an ominous reminder that Tomiko is the one who truly pulls the strings in town, the only person with the freedom of thought to persuade others into doing her bidding.

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Everything about Tomiko, said or not, is a threat of some kind, and this episode solidifies the fact that she’s both the most dangerous aspect of Saki’s life, yet the sole reason why she’s even alive. And in a town where the slightest misdeed can mean an unfortunate end, that’s saying something.

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One Comment

  1. Posted January 9, 2013 at 2:31 pm | Permalink

    I loved that sequence–the presence of the pack of tainted cats was surprisingly unnerving, since it contrasted so much with the idea that Saki was safe now. I worry that Tomiko is taking the current situation and is orchestrating a way to force Saki into a difficult situation–i.e., molding Saki into the type of decision-maker Tomiko wants her to be. I think it’d be naive at least at this point to believe that Saki will bring Mamoru and Maria back and everything with the village will be just fine and dandy. I’ll be curious to see which direction the series goes for Saki, in regards to whether she’ll ultimately accept the village’s methods or desire to do away with it/rebel against it entirely.

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