Shin Sekai Yori - A Post Apocalyptic Fantasy

Like most things related to science fiction and fantasy I have found very few anime/manga buffs. So I had to approach the only two I have been acquainted with for guest posts. One of them, Nethra said she was too busy but she will introduce me to the utlimate anime/manga enthusiast. And true to her word, she introduced me to Vishal, a computer science student from Ajmer, who has professionally worked on an Essel Vision production during his brief stay at Mumbai. He likes to read, watch and game a lot. He has an infatuation with space, time travel, sci-fi and philosophy. He is pretty open and enthusiastic about almost all entertainment mediums. Read his expert review of a wonderful series.

"We ultimately fear what spawns from within us." — Shun Aonuma

Eve of 30th September 2012, It had been roughly three years since i started watching anime. I was sitting on facebook, trying to scroll my boredom away. The past two seasons of anime haven't brought a single good show and my enthusiasm for anime had hit rock-bottom, more like for modern anime. Suddenly I received a message from a familiar name who I haven't talked to much recently, the basic contents of message just said - "Shin Sekai Yori - anime - must watch - first episode out". That recommendation, on that fateful day ended up restoring my faith.

Plot Summary: A millennium from now, in Japan, exists a utopia. The protagonist, Saki Watanabe, lives in an idyllic village barred from the outside world. Her world is ruled by the people who possess the "gods' power" of psychokinesis. After finally obtaining her own powers, Saki enters the Zenjin Academy to train along with five other children: Satoru Asahina, Maria Akizuki, Mamoru Itou, Shun Aonuma, and Reiko Amano.

Not all is as it seems, however. In this utopian village, strange rumors about a monstrous cat that abducts children circulate, and students are said to disappear from the academy. The world and its history are much darker than they appear and humanity is on the verge of collapse.

SSY has been adapted from a novel by the same name by Yuusuke Kishi. It features a post-apocalyptic world, particularly a village and it's surroundings, which is portrayed as an utopian world. Right from the beginning, we get introduced to our six protagonists , their school, their culture, their teachings and their milieu. The trumpet has been blown with full force, the eerie feeling that you have just begin to grasp will strengthen over episodes, the questions will multiply and the tension will become unbreakable.

"Sometimes, the truth is the cruelest thing of all." — Maria Akizuki

As if being true to the quote, SSY doesn't shies away from letting it's viewer know that things are going to get ugly from the get go, as one begins to question "the truth" behind the utopia. In fact when the chips does go down and struggle begins - it feels "organic" and nothing alike a forced development. It really had been a long time since an anime had engaged and intimidated me and with later episodes, I also begin to understand why it got categorized under science fiction, which is hard to explain here without giving out spoilers, though one might argue that it has both pseudo-science and scientific elements entangled with one-another. What fascinated me more, is the mix of spirituality and science, the age-old questions and the controversy that comes along with it.

Typically, SSY is a show of "details", if you don't pay attention you'll be left behind along it's uneven pace and at times, non-chronological execution. There are a lot of elements, quotes and events that mimics and symbolizes our current society and the ideologies behind it very well [the quote I wrote in the beginning on this review, yes the one which you may have already dismissed as a cheesy line - keep it in mind while watching and you may see]. I've been told many times -"Hey! it's just an anime...don't think too much", I'd say it's precisely the result of this type of thought process which doesn't let people to really appreciate and explore a genuinely good series and to judge for what it really is. Instead more and more dumb, wish-fullfiling, "moe" and cliche' shows hogs up the limelight, even get revered as "smart", "intelligent" and "best" by the masses. That's also why most makers take their audience for a fool and we get less good shows.

Another thing to praise here is the music, that resonates within you from the inception. A beautiful, traditional, innovative and befitting set of scores brings out the best in the story. Listening to "Going Home" still creeps me out. The ED sung by Taneda Risa - Wareta Ringo [] is another likable addition, both for anime and my playlist. The VA's have also performed very well. In fact, it becomes an important part of the narrative by the end of first episode, if you can catch the "hint" fast enough.

How can one forget to mention the unique art style of SSY! Not only is it hauntingly charming but the character designs also carry a freshness to them, which is a much required relief from the recent moe-fication of anime industry and ultimately becomes a driving force for the story. One can clearly notice the "jumps" and inconsistency in art, as the result of multiple directors directing different episodes in their own style, not just in art but in story too. Where as it might be frowned upon as "link-breaking", it doesn't defy the logic of SSY and is more aligned with the narrative, so it might not necessarily a bad thing. Also, one of the episode directors, Yamauchi Shigeyasu, whose direction I come to like after watching "Casshern Sins" (which I strongly recommend) brings his unique style to SSY's particular episodes and raises the bar of aesthetic perception.

It's really sad that I can't be much descriptive about the storyline itself since I'm trying my best to avoid giving out possible spoilers and ruining it for you. But as far as character development is concerned, I'm more than happy that this coming-of-age anime remains truthful and realistic towards the events/confabs/relations, that shapes up the thought process of our characters much like how a real person may react. Personality development comes out as natural and "i-don't-know-who-the-fuck-is-he/she" moment never comes, character remains [comfortable] in their skins throughout.

In short SSY is a dark tale of "humanity", twisted moralities, friendship, love, lies, betrayal and of survival. It, however contains some controversial scenes and themes, which although doesn't effect the overall anime, might put off a few people, i advice them to be wise and try to see the broader picture here. The moment I had finished watching first episode of SSY, even the pessimistic and skeptical side of me admitted that this one has promise. And after finishing the last episode i felt sad, i had found a good series that i followed weekly and not it had ended. SSY, in all it's entirety, is a very good series and for me - the best anime of 2012.

Next in the Series: Carried by the Wind: Tsukikage Ran - A jolly tale, a feminist's delight

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  1. Vishal has done a great job of deconstructing this anime within the constraints of not giving out spoilers :) Looks like another interesting theme.

    1. Thanks Suresh. And I urge everyone to give this one a watch, worth every second.


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