8 CommentsShinsekai Yori / By Inushinde /

Shinsekai Yori Episode 21: Through the Eyes of Madness

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I have never been so confused by a show before. Make no mistake, Shinsekai Yori is hardly overflowing with needless complexity. The context behind every action is fairly straightforward, and everything that can possibly be vague or perplexing is explained at the audience in a cooing, motherly tone with accompanying illustrations; the fact that it continues to be a strong indictment of humanity’s shortsightedness certainly wins a few brownie points as well.

I’m baffled because it’s rare for a competent, if not exemplary episode to not hit any right note whatsoever, every meaningful action or timely callback to previous bits of exposition languishing above an underlying sense of listlessness and indirection. Yes, neat stuff’s going on and people are getting incinerated into nothingness by a fiend that sees them as nothing but easily-eliminated obstacles. That’s all well and good, but the whole episode is way less compelling than it should be, not helped by the fiend’s goofy facade possessing all the tension-killing power of Midget Napoleon from Resident Evil 4.

Really, and I can’t stress this enough, there’s very little outwardly wrong with the episode. The artistic direction and atmosphere are fantastic, the characters function well as reactionary elements, and it ties everything that we know about the queerats into a neat, digestible package that gives some insight into Squealer’s plan and psyche. It’s the more intrinsic flaws that gnaw on me here, the ones that have been ignored for some time now, and given time to gestate into unavoidable abominations that completely check anything good that the show has going for it.

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For how well-paced and directed the past few chapters have been, it’s surprising how aimless and cluttered this final arc feels. Everything before this was fairly cut and dry in execution, with kids running into trouble that’s out of their control, often with their very lives on the line. There was hardly any room for misinterpretation, yet it still titillated with tiny promises of mystery that, even when the show was hardly doing anything interesting, kept me hooked from episode to episode.

Ironically, the world is so painstakingly detailed that it’s become the series’ undoing in terms of pacing, dispelling that all-important ambiguity in the process. Shinsekai Yori is a world-building series above all else, yet there are a ton of problems with its insistence to view events from Saki’s perspective when she simply can’t become the repository for all this information. Any other character has to deliver their observations to her, and thus the audience, through clunky bits of exposition that take up precious time, limiting their effectiveness more than if it cycled through a regular stable of wildly different personalities. Saki still just isn’t able to carry this by herself.

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Ultimately, the sense of intrigue and wonder has long since dissipated. Shinsekai Yori’s figurative Scooby Doo villain has been unmasked, and under the desiccated, leathery skin of his disguise is the liver-spotted, desiccated, leathery face of a loving grandparent that’s looking for a roundabout way to teach its poor grandchild that it’s okay to be gay, and sic mutated cats on kids who don’t behave. It’d be fine if it didn’t tether itself to Saki without developing her much as a character, but we all make bad choices in life, and Shinsekai Yori is not above doing the same.

These are problems that obviously don’t bother everyone to the same extent that they do me, and I can understand why some people think it’s the best episode of the week, even if they’re completely wrong because JoJo’s is still airing and that’s just in another league altogether. It’s a fun episode while it lasts, but it’s paradoxically hollow while boasting a bevy of content. What should have been a grand buildup to the even grander, soul-crushing finale kind of fizzles because it tries to cram too much without making anything of it.

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8 Comments

  1. Posted February 25, 2013 at 4:43 pm | Permalink

    Can someone explain how Shisei died? I’ve discussed with a few people but I’m still left unsatisfied with the explanation.

    Other than that, I can’t really see eye to eye with you on this though, but not because a lack of explanation from you though. I don’t feel this is the best of SSY too (maybe, since my memory is a wee bit sketchy. ) but it is quite entertaining and very suspenseful.

    Also some tips while watching this episode (or any other horror/thriller IMO): if you think watching this with headphones is good, try using in-ear headphones. Better since it’s beamed into your brain.

    • TheVoid
      Posted February 25, 2013 at 6:09 pm | Permalink

      Fiends like Karma Demons leak cantus. The child’s leaking cantus is what killed Shisei

    • Inushinde
      Posted February 26, 2013 at 1:06 am | Permalink

      I will vouch for it being entertaining, but I’d hesitate to call it suspenseful. Just wish it’d handle itself a bit better.

  2. Anon
    Posted February 25, 2013 at 6:11 pm | Permalink

    hmm, either he knew that harming the fiend will kill him through that death feedback thing, and yet he still did it, or he was just bluffing as satoru said and did nothing and the fiend killed him.

    IDK what part you’re not satisfied with though.

    • fEast91
      Posted February 25, 2013 at 6:46 pm | Permalink

      Ehhhh, I don’t know. I feel like it’s too sudden how Shisei died, I guess.

      • Fumoffu!!
        Posted February 25, 2013 at 9:02 pm | Permalink

        Yeh, I can understand that, if you’re going to die, I get the feeling Shisei should have least taken down the fiend with him. I think it was a pretty large case of arrogance as well.

        More on topic with regards to the post, the execution is sadly underwhelming, but I hope it manages a strong ending.

      • TheVoid
        Posted February 25, 2013 at 9:56 pm | Permalink

        It’s not arrogance. Thanks to their mental conditioning they can’t even think of harming someone. Especially if the person they wish to harm is in front of them. He was only trying to stall for time by facing him and he knew he would be killed eventually thanks to the kid’s leaking cantus.

  3. AG
    Posted February 26, 2013 at 8:26 am | Permalink

    Am I the only one to think that Yakomaru is now the star of the show? I mean you knew he was a sly guy from the start but it was entertaining to see him from being a lowly servant to full James Bond mastermind villain. I really didn’t see this plan coming (but maybe is due to me not speculating on it much).

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