Hidden Gems: Shin Sekai Yori

You know I have spent hours trying to come up with something special or clever to say for an intro, but since nothing I came up with was doing this show justice, I’ll go with honesty.  I fucking love this show and whole heartedly recommend, nay demand that everyone watch it.  So what does this little known show have going in its favor for me to be so adamant that you watch it?

Let’s begin with the premise.  Our story begins in a small village inhabited by humans who all have psychic powers.  But while the village looks like it came from the ancient past we the viewers are clued in by the first few minutes that this village came about well after the collapse of the modern world.  So we are in a post apocalyptic setting.  Our story follows a group of five psychic tweens.  And here’s where I deviate from the norm because this show has essentially two premises going on at the same time.  Each arc deals with a major conflict but there is also a persistent secondary conflict going on over the entire run time of the show.  This second conflict is the struggle between the new generation and the former, because one of the few things made abundantly clear early on is that something is wrong with this society of psychics.  People go missing, there are rumors of mythical cat beasts that hunt down bad children, and there is a frightening lack of information and transparency.  This is a story where the people our young heroes should be able to trust most, their parents and teachers, are the people who are hiding things from them.

This is one of the things that I thought made Shin Sekai Yori so special.  In an interesting twist we the audience walk into the series with a better understanding of the setting than the kids we experience the story through, but we only know the big picture, the details are hidden from us as well.  So naturally finding these details is a major part of the story.  This is where Shin Sekai Yori really comes into its own, it controls the flow of information very very well.  It never reveals too much too quickly, even when it appears to be doing just that.  The other aspect of this that makes the show so good is that the details are horrifying.  It’s a show that taunts you, giving you all kinds of incentives to seek out answers to all your questions, then when it decides to answer some of them the answers are creepy enough to drive you away from ever seeking more, before the story demands that you seek more answers once again.  It’s a vicious and even perverse cycle that rewards and punishes curiosity simultaneously, and then does all it can to provoke our curiosity.  But this gets into a different strength of the show.

Shin Sekai Yori is eerie.  It doesn’t try to scare you but it constantly feels creepy.  I’ve never had a show or movie that make my hairs stand on end as often as this show did.  And the eeriness is everywhere.  The music is full of children singing in haunting unison.  The art style is at its strongest when it’s dealing with the dark, the twisted and the wrong.  The art style even changes on occasion to a more expressive style to communicate the horror certain stories are meant to teach.  And to add to it all there are frequent and unexplained disappearances, in a society of adults of who punish harshly and never explain anything beyond the basic rules.  And this only gets muddier and murkier as the main characters discover new information, information that brings with it at least as many questions as it does answers, and the answers we have tend to be deeply unsettling.  I’ll say it again, this show is eerie.  The atmosphere is one of confusion and distrust.  But more than that everything we see just feels wrong somehow.  At some fundamental level that we have a hard time consciously explaining, this place and many of the people in it just feel wrong.

Now the level of atmosphere this show has is something to make it worth a watch on its own, but the atmosphere is just one large part of the eerie package.  Shin Sekai Yori is just plain good at storytelling and more importantly given its propensity for the strange, really good at unusual storytelling.  For example each major arc occurs at a different point in the main characters’ lives, which allows us to see how this world and society changes them as they mature.  Likewise the time gaps play into the persistent secondary conflict as the young people we follow make their way into adulthood, and learn more about what being an adult in this society entails.  But at its core this is story that pulls you in.  Every arc begins a little slow but the episodes get progressively faster and faster, and you want to race to the climax of the arc.  And like I mentioned before the show does a great job with how it dispenses information.  It never dispenses too much but it always gives enough answers to encourage further digging.  And all of this stuff comes together in a series that I consider to be very compelling and very unique, which is a combination I don’t get to see often enough.  Anyway I really have nothing further to add so I can avoid giving out spoilers.  I truly do recommend this show quite highly, my gushing praise alone does not properly convey how much esteem I hold this particular show in.  If an atmospheric mystery thriller sounds like something you would enjoy or if you’re looking to try something  a little bit more on the fringes of the anime medium, I strongly encourage you to watch Shin Sekai Yori.  Hopefully you all enjoyed this and I’ll see you in the next one.

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4 thoughts on “Hidden Gems: Shin Sekai Yori

  1. I agree, Shin Sekai Yori is a very unique piece, and an undeniable work of art. I think my major criticism would be that it is very slow, and the first few arc resolutions may feel a little underwhelming, but if audiences continue there is a strong closure at the end. I definitely liked the complex questions posed by this story. It’s not a perfect happy ending, instead it offers up what seem like harsh and cruel choices, but later it also offers an example of how things can go wrong, which really challenge the audience to reconsider their prior judgements. The last arc in particular was wonderfully potent.

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    • It’s funny because I feel that the beginning of each arc is pretty slow but as they go on they seem to almost accelerate, something I really picked up in the first major arc which probably starts the slowest before cranking things way up with the rat war, especially the episode where the two main kids who survive the entire story are have to fight off like 15 ambushes. As for potency I think the Maria’s letter to Saki about how the adults are killing hundreds of kids in the attempt to destroy the one bad one which might become a karma demon or fiend might be my favorite bit of dialogue in the entire show, though when the kids first discover the truth about how psychics only made up .2% of the human population was pretty big bombshell to drop as well.

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      • I think my favorite episode was when the female lead goes off alone looking for a lost friend, and is faced with the first harsh truth of why “they” do this. That was such a poignant episode.

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