I love post-apocalyptic stories. Part of it is seeing how the world is destroyed and how humanity deals with the stresses of survival. I like it even more when there's a massive jump in time and we see how humanity has evolved in order to survive the decimation of modern society. Those are the types of situations you'll get some good looks at what makes people tick. That or you'll at least get some nice set pieces for people to either fight or explore.
Shin Sekai Yori definitely has some good potential with its post-apocalypse. We see a brief glimpse of what could be the start of the end and we jump ahead a thousand years to see that humans have somehow gained telekinetic powers. However, there are some troubling issues in the first episode that may hinder this show from reaching its full potential. Hit the jump to see what I'm talking about.
The opening shot shows modern Japan in all its normal hustle and bustle. All of a sudden, you see a couple of creepy kids freak out and turn the people around them into bloody soup. One kid stands in the middle of a busy intersection and we see the air around him warp. Before we can see the aftermath of this, we jump one thousand years into the future and see a group of kids finishing up a game in the fields around Ibaragi, the 66th town of Kamisu.
The first character we're introduced to is Saki Watanabe. Saki has come into her "cursed" psychic powers, which seems to be a major part of growing up in this area. She goes through a Buddhist purification ceremony and is promoted to the next level of school. Saki is placed in a group made up new acquaintances and old friends. At this point, we get the first hint that something is amiss when there's a reference to Saki being the last person to move on when she knows that there were still a couple other people left. The kids kids are quick to change the subject. Hmm, that's not mysterious what so ever…
We get some glimpses into Saki and her group's education, including a story about a child going past the boundary of his village and nearly bringing a demon called and Akki back with him. We see that things are probably pretty messed up outside of town past the boundary ropes. While competing between groups in class, we see that the group's weak link is a girl named Reiko. This factors in when the kids start talking about kids that were unable to graduate from lower levels disappearing. The share several ghost stories, including a bunch of graves in the courtyard of the school and something called the Faze Cat. It freaks out Saki enough for her to yell at the group of kids to stop it.
The rest of the episode intercuts with Saki overhearing her parents after dinner. They express relief that she got her powers and fear about the actions of the education board. Oh, and Saki did see some sort of shadowy cat and that particularly freaked out her parents. Saki's mother also mentions that she doesn't want to lose another child. There definitely seems to be something awful that happens to the weaker and less skilled children of this society. This is driven home when Saki mentions that Reiko's presence disappeared from the school a few days later.
I had zero expectations of Shin Sekai Yori going into it. When we were going over which shows we'd cover for the Fall season, I picked it because I saw the word apocalypse in the description. I knew nothing else about it or the novel its based on, and that should really matter for a review. The show should be able to speak on its own merits without requiring previous knowledge of the subject matter. I say this because I feel like I'm missing something vital. I don't quite get what's going on besides that some psychic kids started mercing kids a thousand years ago and it's somehow tied to the current state of the world. There'll probably be answers in the next couple of episodes, but I feel the lack of knowledge hurts Shin Sekai Yori more than helps it.
On the positive end of the spectrum, I am digging the tone that's been set. The music, sound effects, art style and voice acting have done a lot to create a melancholy world that seems to be surviving years after things went wrong. The way the kids are interacting reminds of the Higurashi and Another casts and how they went about their lives before the death began. Hell, we can already tell that something is very wrong with this world and it took Higurashi a couple of episodes to get their horror ball rolling. Based of the description of the show, I'm expecting action and adventure instead of horrific discoveries, but aping atmospheric gems is a good way to keep me watching.
Despite the problems with the initial story telling, I'm going to stick with Shin Sekai Yori for now. There's enough promise of a good world and story that a weak intro isn't enough to deter me. However, it's going to have to pick up in the next two episodes or it risks losing me. Much like Fractale (reviewed), it can squander its good ideas pretty quick. You can keep up with Shin Sekai Yori, known as From the New World in the states, over at Crunchyroll.
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