“Hey…is it fun?
Being alone and chasing after Maria?
Is it fun?”
-Saki Watanabe to Mamoru Itou, Shin Sekai Yori Episode Eight
ajthefourth: The most telling moment of this past week’s Shin Sekai Yori episode is the conversation – if one can call it that, considering the fact that Mamoru only responds in shocked gasps and grunts – between Saki and Mamoru. Amidst the constant public displays of affection that his classmates participate in, Mamoru is noticeably an outlier. He chooses to not participate, setting his heart on one person instead. Saki isn’t meaning to shame Mamoru with her questioning; however, the implication is that Mamoru could not possibly be happy chasing after a person he cannot be with.
One could believe Saki to be overly harsh in this situation, purposefully rubbing salt in Mamoru’s wounds. However, when one takes a step back and observes their society it’s easy to see that Saki is struggling to come to terms with her own feelings for Shun. In having strong feelings for Shun and choosing to be with Maria regardless, Saki has unwittingly chose the most miserable path, as the participation in sexual activity will only serve as a reminder for the one she cannot have. Additionally, it is her own social expectations that have ill-prepared her to deal with the feelings that she is experiencing. As alluded to here, one can hardly expect a society of humans to adhere to the same emotional detachment that bonobos have with their sexual relationships. A more radical method would have to be used, in order to ensure that these stronger feelings wouldn’t occur.
Interestingly enough, while the society examined in Shin Sekai Yori found it necessary to genetically alter human DNA in order to prevent intra-species lethal violence, they don’t seem to have a similar attitude towards sex and sexuality, long-having shed the conservatism of their predecessors. One could argue that this takes away a key piece of what makes one human. However, more interesting is the question that arises from this examination: what exactly does this society value? From their actions, it would appear to be the erasure of nearly all conflict between humans, a reasonable goal following 500 years of bloody violence. And yet, the removal of nearly all conflict comes at what cost?
vucubcaquix: There’s a subtextual theme of quiet riot emerging here. In addition to our adorable outlier Mamoru, Shun and Saki are both affected by what occurred two years ago, but it manifests in differing ways. Saki suffers in silence, as the words of the library reverberate in her mind as she cavorts with her paramour in Maria, wondering how much of her affections are affected or organic. Shun rebels in secret, feigning difficulty at complex tasks set before him, while covertly creating abominations as an outlet for his growing resentment and paranoia.
The paranoia does not seem to be unfounded, as his reference to the “cats” seems to call back to the urban legends of the first episode that may be used to cull children, and his assertions of institutional surveillance don’t seem too far-fetched given that the leader of the Giant Hornets admitted to being given orders to execute two of the children those years ago. The weight of his suspicions and assertions mounted over time, his only recourse being covert acts of defiance in the guise of protective charms meant to ward off the increasing societal gaze upon them. These tiny rebellions were carried out in isolation, as he intentionally warded off his association with his former comrades in order to, in his mind, protect them from the recompense due from him for his transgressions against society several years ago.
As the narration of the story advances, the events unwind with a sense of passed tense. Shun is not long for the world, and the mise en scène of the final moments proved to effectively communicate Shun’s exeunt despite the generally poor quality of the animation. This story is being presented to us from the perspective of someone who has lived it all already, chronicling a period in their life where everything seemed to go wrong. There is a heavy regret laced all throughout, as the inevitability of the horrors unfold with a sense of iron-wrought determinism. What could have gone differently? What was beyond one’s control? How can we best meet what lies in store for us?
Shin Sekai Yori asks a lot of questions, but none of them directly. The answer to any of them still seems likely to be ahead.
If it answers them at all.