It’s another episode of atmospheric world building, blurrycam, and psychic-themed Aesop’s fairytales used as a tool for keeping children under control. In short, it hasn’t strayed much in terms of content from last week’s rather ponderous introduction. It also has several solid minutes of kids using their minds to move hard objects into holes, so I guess if that’s your thing you’re in luck, you sick bastard.
The beginning of this episode, though something that I’m sure was supposed to be horrifying, was so over the top and borderline pointless that I couldn’t help but laugh at the sheer absurdity. What didn’t help was how both the announcer and the apparent emperor both talk in that same “balls in a vice” voice that’s so ubiquitous in anime villains of notable high stock or depravity. I like the idea of Shinsekai Yori gradually piecing together how its world reached its current condition by showing various massacres in the first few minutes of each episode, but some degree of subtlety wouldn’t go amiss. There are plenty of interesting things to glean from these opening vignettes, but they tend to be drowned out by the high-voiced villains of dubious morality and the nausea resulting from incessant use of blurry cam, often together.
Something curious struck me as I kept watching, and I had similar thoughts with Another anime of similar structure: I couldn’t for the life of me remember any of the characters’ names until I looked them up. Unlike Another anime of similar structure though, where the characters were the focus and somehow managed to be the blandest sentient life forms in the universe, the real darling of Shinsekai Yori is its world, and boy does it show; it’s like ARIA in this regard, but with blissful appreciation for life substituted with a world apparently always bathed in ominous mood lighting. So I can forgive somewhat bland characters as long as their gradual loss of innocence is portrayed as the result of an immeasurably fucked up world.
On this note, what I found most interesting in this episode is the repetition of the school curriculum, and how it amounts to little else but honing psychic abilities for reasons that haven’t been explained, beyond simply trying to keep kids from accidentally snapping each others’ necks in the morning. Every day seems to have similar lessons: general psychic aptitude tests like card stacking, and tales with morals that don’t extend past “don’t stick your nose where it doesn’t belong, kids, and sacrifice yourselves to save us from having to put up with whatever shit you bring in.”
When children do disappear, either for breaking one of the village’s rules or for simply being too weak, the occurrence is barely acknowledged and not looked into. In the context of the stories that keep getting jammed down the kids’ throats, these are equivalent to those tales of self-sacrifice for the good of the community. It’s not anomalous for children to vanish, which really adds an element of fear and paranoia that the village wouldn’t otherwise have in such abundance.
So yeah, Shinsekai Yori is much more of the same. It’s creepy without doing explicitly creepy things, and this never ceases to amaze me when it happens. Though on the other hand it’s hilarious when it’s explicitly aiming for shock value, so I’ll call it a wash in terms of horror thus far.