Like any good anime did to me, watching Shin Sekai Yori (aka From the New World) gave me lots of things to write about. In this post, I am focusing on the elements that set this anime from most other science fictions.
The primer: Shin Sekai Yori followed the stories of five characters (Saki, Satoru, Maria, Mamoru and Shun) born and raised in the peaceful Kamisu 66 district of futuristic Japan. The world as we knew was long lost and the anime slowly guide the viewers deeper into this new world which was filled with all kinds of surprises.
Breaking the traditional image of futuristic world!
World building was always one of the most crucial requirements in dystopia science fiction. At its core, Shin Sekai Yori set in the futuristic world where we were able to control almost all aspects of human’s mind and body, down to genetics and memory, in order to maintain an ideal peaceful society. Generally, I would expect this world to be full of complex machineries, people in strange costumes, gigantic structures in dark metallic colors or city in ruins. Shin Sekai Yori had none of those.
In contrast to traditional image of futuristic world, the anime looked like it set in historical Japan; wooden houses, traditional clothes and superstitious ceremonies were a few obvious examples. The glowing creatures or the impure cats and monster rats even push the anime further away from traditional sci-fi images. Despite its looks, Shin Sekai Yori was every bit a science fiction depicting humanity’s quest to achieve ideal society through psychic and genetic manipulation. It challenged the viewers to choose between freedom and peace. The anime told us that science fiction was never about how it looked but rather about the questions it raised and how the story was told.
When the mind, instead of technology, grew out of control
In most science fictions, humanity usually suffered from powerful advanced technology created to obtain more power, convenience or other advantages. Then the plan usually backfired. But in Shin Sekai Yori, people were gifted with power from the mind. Nevertheless, the results were the same. Equipped with power, the beasts inside were released and the world fell into Dark Age for a long time. Telekinesis was quite common in stories but I rarely saw its dire consequences explored so thoroughly. Be it technology or mind power, they were all products of human minds. Essentially, human is the worse weapon and we kind of brought the troubles upon ourselves.
Rebellion told through the eyes of the oppressors
It was refreshing to see the revolution stories told from the oppressors’ perspectives. Struggle between people of different social classes was a common theme in science fiction but in this anime, it turned out that humanity was actually the slave masters and the monster rats were the slaves. The change of perspective was really interesting. Throughout most of the show, the human characters, except Saki, never felt guilty about killing monster rats. The way the anime portrayed monster rats as rather hideous looking creatures made them look like villains. People always cheered for the pretty looking ones, sadly enough. And it was like a punch in the gut to me when Squeara told the committee why he rebelled against human. I supposed that most of the oppressors never realized that they were oppressing others in negative way, especially when the targets were something or someone different from them. We usually saw our own sufferings but not others’. We were always fooled by prejudices and appearances.
None of the features of Shin Sekai Yori mentioned above were found exclusively in this anime. But I was under the impression that these features were different from typical sci-fi anime overall. It was clear that Shin Sekai Yori did not try to conform to traditional ‘formula of successful anime’ and would rather pursue its own goal. For that alone, I thought the anime was worth giving a try.
Author’s note: I was going to write one review post for Shin Sekai Yori but at this point, I knew that the post had grew too long. So I decided to turn this post into stand alone editorial and moved other contents to the actual review post in which I would provide my level of recommendation for this anime. The review post will be published soon.