18 CommentsShinsekai Yori / By Inushinde /

Shinsekai Yori Episode 5: Sentient Mole Rat Awareness Through Changes in Animation


A slightly chilly wind has scattered most yellowing leaves from trees, and little ghouls are going door to door panhandling yet again. That’s right, it’s Halloween, and what better way to celebrate it than with a five day old Shinsekai Yori post about how a change in animation changed the aesthetics for the better? On the positive side, we finally have a coherent plot that isn’t adhering to a formula of (Insert Bratty/Incompetent Child here) Disappearing From Village With Nobody Caring. While I think we can all get behind shows that make annoying child characters disappear regularly, Shinsekai is one that has higher goals in mind. Gone are the days of blurrycam and entire episodes dedicated to exposition; the era of mole rat tribal conflict and expository glowing gelatin goat horse things now reigns supreme, and will not tolerate anything as silly as giant cats snatching children.

I don’t know if I’ve just been selectively blind up until this point or something, but the style seems to have morphed in this episode from A-1 “we know how to make this look good but not distinctive” brooding unease to a slight resemblance to Casshern Sins with more of a budget. The oppressive, dark environments are replaced with something a bit more fitting for a forest that hasn’t felt the touch of man in a long time, rather than the heavy saturation of the village. Wild, untamed, with subtle hints of bloom washing out the colors creates something that feels more like a fanciful dream than a realistic nightmare. Surprisingly enough, the change works in its favor. Unlike the stifling confines of A-1 unease, Sort of Casshern Sins lets the world breathe, crafting a setting that’s more mysterious and unknown than outwardly terrifying; it mirrors the mix of terror and wonder that the kids have when being chased by mole rat people through dense forests, and in a sense their own turbulent emotions.

What solidifies this slight shift of art style is a slow second half in a darkened cave, where light shows in visible gradients on and around the characters, creating a stylized, appealing look that makes for a less creepy, but no less dangerous environment for Saki and her friends to traverse. It sacrifices one kind of atmosphere for another, and the end result is engaging at the very least—something I can’t say for many shows.

Unfortunately, the content itself is relatively dry as far as potential objects for analysis goes, when compared to the effect achieved with a difference in animation. Yes, it’s kind of neat that bonobo monkeys are upheld as the peak of conflict revolution that mankind should reach for, but past Saki and her guy friend pawing at each other in a bed of suspended leaves for a few minutes, nothing’s really come of it yet. That’s another time when the new direction in animation sets the mood better than anything that doesn’t look stylishly washed out.

I’ve seen some bitching about the animation, but this post shouldn’t hide my thoughts on the matter one bit. It’s a change, but it’s one that ultimately fits the mood better as the show strays from its classic horror roots. Apparently it’s going to be a bit of an animation showcase from here on out, so I’m eager to see what other directions it goes in with the aesthetics. Thankfully, a show as reliant on eye candy as this leaves me with tons of specifics to write about each week, something that I’m 100% in favor of. So dammit folks, give slightly offbeat animation a chance this Halloween.

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  1. Posted October 31, 2012 at 11:20 pm | Permalink

    Complex narrative, daring artistry, and the demonstrable competence to put it together and make something greater than the sum of its parts. Not only is Shinsekai easily my favorite show of the season, it reminds me what I love about anime and its possibilities as a medium of fiction.

  2. Sarif
    Posted November 1, 2012 at 5:48 am | Permalink

    Can’t believe it took an animation change for you to notice this show is not a horror.

    • Posted November 1, 2012 at 11:57 pm | Permalink

      It bore several hallmarks of horror that the previous animation style(s?) brought out extremely well. Yes, most of the show didn’t really aim for scares, but the setting and mood were nonetheless eerie enough to make the audience feel slightly uncomfortable. It isn’t HORROR per se (damn I hate saying that), but it’s always been foreboding.

  3. anon
    Posted November 1, 2012 at 9:05 am | Permalink

    lol, most people here has been calling it another another anime.

    When i saw the animation change, i was expecting it to be some kind of dream sequence. I guess I was wrong, they really just changed the animation halfway through the series.

    • Posted November 1, 2012 at 11:59 pm | Permalink

      And that’s apparently what they’re going to keep doing from here on out. I’m eager to see what it does and how well it’s done.

      • Sarukah
        Posted November 2, 2012 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

        But if you watch the preview for the next episode, the animation has returned to exactly how it was before. Where was it said that the animation change will be permanent?

      • Sarif
        Posted November 2, 2012 at 4:22 pm | Permalink

        I question if this is just a one episode thing aswell. Alot of anime tend to do this for one episode. Ones that come to mind are big hair Michiko and Hatchin episode, Special A beach episode. Weird alternate universe Aquarion episode(original), Sailor Venus back flash episode in season one of Sailor Moon).

        I loved the art style, but the camera was way to zoomed in the entire episode.

  4. Posted November 1, 2012 at 9:33 am | Permalink

    The change in the style is a good change IMO. The cutesy, bland, pure look that seems to seep most anime since whenever doesn’t help itself in being a mystery horror thing anime.

    i did read a bit about this episode before I watched it that the animation has gone to shit, and prior to watching this, I’m already halfway despairing that such a series with a very interesting world would go down the gutter. Throughout the episode, I thought that either I’m half-blind and insane, or did the animation just changed for the better, and more fitting of the overall feel of that episode.

    it just doesn’t make sense to say this kind of style is a degradation. it just fits! Maybe people are too used to the well defined, distinct-yet-bland colorful style of feel-good anime.

    • Posted November 2, 2012 at 12:38 am | Permalink

      It’s no longer an A-1 Pictures clone. The style is good for creating beautiful environments with that have subtly wrong elements, but for something that conveys children stepping out into a wider, unknown and significantly more dangerous world, this episode just works better.

  5. Son Gohan
    Posted November 1, 2012 at 9:53 am | Permalink

    This was indeed the work of director Shigeasu Yamauchi of Casshern Sins fame. However I disagree with you that the change was for the better.
    The characters were often off-model, the action was confusing, there were inconsistencies in the lightings and the extreme close-ups of the characters sometimes showed smiles during tense moments. I hope that this director is never allowed to work on the show again.

    • Onliest
      Posted November 1, 2012 at 10:33 am | Permalink

      My thoughts exactly. At one point, I thought the girl with the straight bangs was some mastermind behind the whole rat gang because of the concerning lack of fear on her face. Plus Shun looked awfully smug and sarcastic.

    • Rait
      Posted November 1, 2012 at 12:29 pm | Permalink

      I too agree. The animation and quality were pretty bad. It almost felt like they had ran out of budget already. Also characters looked a lot older than they should have been.

      Fortunately we get the old animation back next episode.

    • Fulluphigh
      Posted November 2, 2012 at 7:48 pm | Permalink

      This exactly. The smiles! My first thought on seeing the animation was positive, I thought it would be a wonderful change of pace and was happy they were getting creative.

      Then five minutes in you get the first inappropriate smirk. And the storytelling and directing were frankly just not good. It was incredibly off-putting. All of the characters felt and behaved completely different. It felt more like a completely unrelated series than something I had already seen four episodes of.

    • Scamp
      Posted November 3, 2012 at 11:35 pm | Permalink

      Really you guys? You didn’t notice that their designs changed at that bit where they were all feeling each other up? The older character designs and moodier lighting was to make the scene appear more sensual. I thought it did a fine job of doing that myself. It was weird and offputting, but it was supposed to be

    • Inushinde
      Posted November 6, 2012 at 5:34 am | Permalink

      It didn’t look as great as it could have, that’s definitely true, but I think this suits the series a bit better.

  6. Anonymous
    Posted November 1, 2012 at 12:56 pm | Permalink

    ‘bonobo monkeys […] the show strays from its classic horror roots […] give slightly offbeat animation a chance this Halloween.’ Inushinde you’re even more disagreeable than Scamp sometimes, really If you guys weren’t so darn entertaining I’d have stopped reading this blog many moons ago.
    Also I don’t get the people who were supprised and put off by this little shift in animation (it was there in the preview, and let’s not forget le blurrycamz) SSY has been toying with it’s style since day one. Sure this is the first time for it to actually affect the kid-protagonists but it wasn’t much better or worse than the animation for the history lessons and the parables.

  7. Fumoffu!!
    Posted November 1, 2012 at 5:00 pm | Permalink

    The thing is, not only did they change the animation, they also spent less on it. It wasn’t as good a quality as usual, I do prefer the art of the backgrounds more, but I dislike off model characters, who looked older this episode than previously, maybe matching the tone the series is taking.

    Still my favourite show of the season, and even with Psycho Pass following it closely, I think it’ll remain my favourite.

  8. Lanf
    Posted November 1, 2012 at 10:46 pm | Permalink

    I found SSY interesting before this episode, but after, I was left rather… confused? It wasn’t just the animation that was a change, the change in pacing and story telling was a mad contrast I was barely able to keep up. Last episode was quite an info dump which made this episode feel like quite a stark contrast; after episode 4 I guess I was being pulled into Another mentality – expecting 20 minutes of talking and one minute of brutal death.

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