-aaaave a fair amount of material to parse, completely at odds with the past few episodes that seemed to focus exclusively on tribal mole rat awareness. It was a decent display of world building that showed our characters two years after returning from their ill-fated voyage in the throes of same-sex relationships with each other and other classmates. The various trials that they’re put through as their emotions mature are portrayed from several angles with a sufficient amount of depth, their collective emotional stability not helped by an environment that exudes quiet hostility from every shadow and smiling authority figure; unfortunately, it doesn’t do a great job of explaining itself. It’s a shame, because there’s a wealth of interesting topics to broach here regarding societal pressure, puberty as a whole, and same-sex relationships, but I just can’t see the sexual spectrum forest for the poorly rendered trees.
Make no mistake, no matter how Shinsekai tries to dress up the students’ gay-lovin’ with ominous music and dark, grungy interiors, there’s nothing particularly off-putting about all the guys making out against walls and girls walking and holding hands. It treats the whole thing as a normal day in the world of Whatever Village This Is, no different from eating a normal breakfast, walking a familiar, normal path to school, and doing normal class things like levitating and incubating eggs with psychic powers.
Thanks to not explicitly treating it as anything out of the ordinary in any circumstance (so far, anyway), it deftly avoids falling into the same unfortunate trap inhabited almost entirely by Glee and PSAs from the time when homosexuality was classified as a mental illness.
At the very least, this episode of Shinsekai does a fantastic job of acclimating the audience to its world, the end result feeling like a comfortable case study of various relationships more than a retro-futuristic, good Japanese retelling of “I Know What You Did Last Summer”. Not everybody is entirely comfortable with getting together with others that share the same kinds of genitalia, while others embrace it wholly. It isn’t treated as anything special or strange, it just /is/, and it’s as normal a part of growing up for them as it is for us.
Unfortunately, it’s when looking at how it got to this point that all sorts of questions regarding the Bonobo Instrumentality Project pop up. In order to achieve what would in essence be an internally conflict-free society, at least one without significant emotional distress related to romance, dedicated relationships would have to be discouraged by those in power. Expecting humans to have all the emotional investment that bonobos have in their relationships (especially teenagers) is impossible without some serious and grievous mental reprogramming; isolating affected individuals from the outside world when they show signs of being troubled is just counterproductive.
I’m not going to go so far as to call this an inconsistency, since that could very well be what the story’s driving at in this segment– that expecting adolescents to be in complete control of their emotions while exploring the uncharted waters of sexuality is asking too much– but it doesn’t gel as comfortably as it could have. If the purpose is to guide the young’ns through adolescence while tripping as few emotional landmines as possible in order to raise them to have a firm grasp on their innate powers, a firm grasp untainted by emotions, the village either needs to lower their standards a bit to allow for some wiggle room or discourage potential heartbreak of any kind. Yes, in an ideal world, teenagers would have the good sense to not let their emotions get the better of them when it could mean the lives of others, but giving that tremendous responsibility to people barely on the path to adulthood is pretty damn silly.
I guess my problem isn’t with the logic behind raising children into productive, obedient members of a society that relies on willful ignorance and sexual freedom to sustain itself, it’s that the methods that they’re using to make it happen seem to be making less sense as the show continues, especially seeing as emotional problems can apparently interfere with students’ ability to project their cantuses (canti?) as they desire. It’s a satisfactory enough episode, but it leaves quite a few hanging questions by the end. However, there are boobs framing a sunset, so I guess that makes up for any confusion.