This is the sort of series for which the phrase “The plot thickens” was invented.
The other thing that really jumped out at me this week was that for a fantasy story of this nature, SSY is incredibly believable. As always that starts with the characters, and this show follows the too-rarely used but almost foolproof method of introducing and developing the characters as people before landing them in the middle of the plot. But there’s more to it, and I think it relates to the careful construction of the mythology. The series is seemingly being told as a remembrance by Saki, and the feeling is that we’re watching a historical fiction. There’s no sense than SSY is winging it, tweaking the mythology as needed to kick-start the plot – rather, the sense is that we’re watching the characters live out a story in a world that already existed. That’s a remarkable achievement for a premise like this, where every episode brings us new kernels of information that are, by the standards of “realism”, very far-fetched. Let’s leave aside the symbolic side of the story for the moment – we’ll get to that – though there’s no doubt that helps to ground things in reality too.
Satoru has headed back to the village to try and talk the group’s way out of trouble, and unbeknownst to him Saki follows close behind, leaving Mamoru and Maria behind. The power struggle between the Ethics Committee and the Board of Education has never been more obvious, as the latter takes the lead in questioning Saki, using a standard good cop, bad cop method (as is usually the case it’s the “good cop” – the Chairwoman – who’s the real threat). It’s clear immediately that Saki is in deep trouble, and the B of E has a usual method for dealing with troublesome children.
telomeres, the little tasseled ends of our chromosomes that are damaged every time a cell replicates, which eventually results in death (there’s some good science behind this plot thread). Just why she and apparently only she has developed this ability we don’t know, nor do we know whether she’s unable to teach others or simply chooses not to – and if the latter, why (she strongly implies she’ll teach Saki, so draw your own conclusions as to which is true). Tomiko credits her power to simple longevity, but there’s clearly more to her that’s formidable than simply her age. She also tells us that there are “50-60,000 people in the Japanese archipelago”, and says that each of them is potentially far more fearsome than a nuclear weapon. Again, there’s an implication here that Mamoru is a threat to become a fiend – but at the same time, Tomiko says she’ll guarantee Mamoru and Maria’s safety if Saki can bring them home. Someone is either lying or operating under a false assumption.
Mamoru and Maria will surely die if they don’t return and lays out a pretty unassailable case as to why (given that she’s casually petting three tainted cats as she does so lends her words a certain authority). Saki goes off to try and persuade her friends to return, and Tomiko sends Satoru after her for unknown reasons. It’s pretty obvious that everyone is this group is special – they’re the only children who haven’t been regularly hypnotized to leech the free will out of them (wolves are needed to defend the village too, not just lambs) – but also that even Tomiko’s powers and knowledge are limited, as she refers to Shun as “the one she had highest hopes for”. There’s undeniably as ominous note in Maria’s statement that “There’s no one as kind” as Mamoru, but given Saki’s earlier narration I suspect it’s Maria who’s the dangerous one here – which again loops us back to the question of why Mamoru was targeted in the first place. It’s a fascinating mystery, and it gets deeper as each revelation exposes more questions that demand answers. With its elegant plot construction, fascinating setting and identifiable characters whose interactions are fascinating to watch, Shin Sekai Yori continues to carve a place for itself as one of the most complete – and entertaining - series of the past year.