7 CommentsFirst Impressions, Shinsekai Yori / By Inushinde /

Shinsekai Yori First Impressions: A Second, Sexier Take

Psychics have been a common fixture in the annals of cartoonish anime hyperviolence, and for damn good reason. As we all know, it’s a small step from bending spoons and guessing cards to smearing people all over the hot pavement like jam on inedible toast. Shinsekai Yori is well aware of how psychics in fiction apparently don’t like internal organs to remain firmly in place, and so makes pavement jam out of innocent bystanders in just a few minutes. It’s practically nauseating, though that may be the result of the persistent shaky-cam blur making me wonder if my glasses malfunctioned for a few minutes. But they didn’t, and the lush visuals and even lusher setting came in clear as a bell.

At this point, describing a show as gorgeous often comes across as disingenuous praise, but it’s not just the animation that’s been lavished with loving attention, groomed for the world to gawk at. The setting itself, though not the first to feature a small town after civilization’s Big Crunch, manages to give an eerie vibe without compromising the normalcy that it has for the characters. To coin a pretentious, seemingly contradictory term, Shinsekai Yori’s setting is a Benign Dystopia that appears strange from our perspective, but exists for the safety of the villagers.

The psychic powers themselves are also portrayed surprisingly well, divided into separate categories beyond simple telekinesis. There’s something delightfully unsettling about mental killing potential being treated as the norm, even more so that the village discourages exploring both those abilities and the world beyond the village’s boundaries; despite being barely in their teens, these children are expected to have the restraint of adults, or they’ll be considered problems in need of eradication.

While the transition from psychics smearing pavement with people jam to the world reverting to a more localized lifestyle isn’t elaborated on, it doesn’t feel as abrupt as it could have. The reversal doesn’t have the blatant social criticism of Jinrui either, lending itself to horror that builds in a slow boil. The closest comparison in terms of setting would be Shiki, whose start was also a bit underwhelming. It requires patience and somewhat of a keen eye, but there’s a lot simmering under the relatively benign surface beyond the feline-esque Black Shuck stalking the underperforming psychic children. It’s a world full of people that encourage paranoia, with dangers lurking beyond the boundaries of the village and subtle problems plaguing the townsfolk.

This is what I love in horror, and what gives it a special place in my heart; however, I’ll acknowledge that it might not be to everyone’s taste, and I don’t mean that in a backhanded “you just don’t get it because you’re not smart enough” way. It’s a damn slow start with little to no payoff and a few directorial quirks that show signs of some potholes; many will be put off by this, but I sure enjoyed it. However, my positive response doesn’t change the fact that only time will tell if this becomes just as good and atmospheric as Shiki, or a meandering, pretentious slog like Kamisama Dolls, though I’m banking on the former based on how there seems to actually be some semblance of originality here.

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  1. Black Dalek
    Posted October 2, 2012 at 4:37 am | Permalink

    first part remind me a little bit of “Scanners” by David Cronenberg, the second part, an old scifi short tale (Sadly, I have forgotten the tittle and author) where the age you can “abort” a child is 14 years if he/she can past the school and Gov. test. As you said, we need to see more of the story to find wich path will follow. i like this first episode anyway.

  2. Brick
    Posted October 2, 2012 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

    I don’t think that Shinsekai yori has a solid horror element to it. I’m leaning towards suspense and a few others when it comes down to genre. Though further episodes may say so otherwise.

    • Posted October 2, 2012 at 5:53 pm | Permalink

      One of the defining elements of Horror is the depiction of the body to elicit a visceral reaction. The splatter in its prologue, along with the focus on psychic powers as an extension of physical being (an idea enforced by the fire ritual), places it in the genre. Science Fiction is also prone to borrow from or blend with Horror, so the label appears to be apt.

    • Inushinde
      Posted October 2, 2012 at 10:35 pm | Permalink

      It’s atmospheric enough and dependent on setup to elicit some (hopefully) subtle scares, so I’d call it horror. Then again, I said the same about Another, so it’s not necessarily a hallmark of “good” horror.

  3. appropriant
    Posted October 3, 2012 at 5:44 am | Permalink

    I mentioned the possibility that Shinsekai Yori is aiming more towards suspense in Scamp’s take, perhaps thriller now that I think about it. I believe presentations like this to have the purpose of engaging/compelling a viewer about what happens next rather than outright scaring them. The execution is not perfect in this regard, I admit, but to mirror what I said earlier this anime does not seem to be planning on thriving in the creepiness and trepidation of the present atmosphere for long.

  4. Billish
    Posted October 4, 2012 at 9:43 am | Permalink

    I felt that the underlying paranoia and horror in this first episode were kinda standard. Also, the creative artwork in that story scene was the only animation that stood out for me in this episode.

    As you say, however, this may not be to my taste, rather than it just being nothing special. I’m more of a dialog person, and this episode really had some staggered, blanketing dialog.

    Despite my criticism, I am looking forward to see what changes and what becomes intrinsic with this series.

  5. Chipp12
    Posted October 4, 2012 at 6:39 pm | Permalink

    If that’s what you like in horror then you should read this:

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