If you had to set yourself on fire to survive running into a heavily-defended fortification, would it be worth losing your skin to look so fucking cool for a brief few seconds? At what point would doing so for survival turn into charging cities miles away just to see the frightened, confused looks of the poor souls inhabiting them, even if it was a life threatening move? Evidently, Shinsekai Yori chose to both pose and answer the question a smarter, slightly less bizarre fashion, something that I’m begrudgingly in favor of since it still involves fire and a kid using his latent psychic abilities to wreck shit up en masse.
I know that I’ve said before that the most important part of living in SSY’s somewhat dystopian idyllic world is maintaining a sense of control over one’s destructive ability. It’s a system that takes away the point of childhood, for children to test the limits of their abilities in relation to the society that they grow up in and find a way to temper them to the point of compatibility. Instead, stern authority figures glower at children who dare to bend the rules, and make those disappear who they deem to be threats to the current order. This is the kind of totalitarian control that breeds psychopaths and rebels, something that the first half of the episode is happy to show a few times with Satoru indiscriminately killing anything that gets in his way, often in an unnecessarily dramatic fashion.
Unfortunately, the momentum of his decline into a haphazard murder spree doesn’t keep up its uncomfortable, methodical pace, even as his own methods involve inflicting slower and more significant pain. Eventually, the focus drifts slowly away from the characters to show the creatures (or are they?) that want them dead in all their varied glory, and snippets of the plot that they have to assume control of the forests outside of the village. While it’s nice to see the bevy of critters that want Saki and Satoru dead, it feels slightly contradictory to what was shown before when Satoru exercising his abilities becomes an unquestionable necessity for their survival, rather than something that could likely be avoided if they were careful; after all, the invaders were shown to be more suspicious than outright aggressive. There’s still the element of him lacking the ability to temper his cantus, but the fact isn’t quite as unsettling when it’s the one thing standing between him and a spear through the gut.
It plays into a new set of interesting dynamics, and hints at the possibility that the invading creatures have been directly wronged by the present day people inhabiting the village, but the transition is too sloppy and meandering for my taste. There’s no doubt that Satoru getting to flex his cantus without limits just this once will play into the story later (if he survives), but the way that it’s going about showing this metamorphosis is a tad inconsistent; not enough to be a deal breaker mind, but it’s not as strong as it could have been.