Huaha. I promised myself I would write a review after letting my giddiness simmer down. So! Here I am, doing exactly that. Still a bit giddy, though. Well then!
With the original author's imagination and seemingly plausible scientific facts coupled with the direction and pacing of the series, the show pulled this off with aplomb. I must admit, I was kind of worried when this started, because anime of this genre can seem really good at first but fall flat by the ending. Shin Sekai Yori started slow and strong, building up solid foundation and groundwork for its characters, and finished strong, with little loose strings left hanging. It pains me that I can't write anything too specific, for fear that it may spoil all of you, but I can tell you to pay attention to the story -- stick with it. You won't regret anything.
I have a love and hate relationship with the way Shin Sekai Yori is animated. But it's possible that my OCD is interfering with my judgment. Simply put, the quality of the animation isn't exactly... consistent. Some episodes, especially the ones right in the middle of the series, isn't exactly up to par with what I've seen on earlier ones. Characters' eyes would sometimes find themselves in weird locations, and sometimes body proportions were a bit off.
But! I still give this category a high score. The series's greatest weakness is also one of its strengths. With the way it was animated, it really felt like you're viewing something From the New World. If the character animation wasn't consistent, the background art was. In almost every episode, there is at least one "wow" scene that makes you pause and just admire how beautiful it is. From landscapes to villages, each background is unique.
The animation would sometimes change to fit the overall mood of an episode. It is manipulated in a way that light-hearted feelings would change to one full of darkness and uncertainty. Childishness would be replaced with the thought of being mature. And with the way the story goes, it happens quite often.
Of course, there's also the design of the different types of "animals" present throughout the series. They really took the time to accurately depict the different characteristics of each specie, each embodying their own role. The queerats, earth-dwellers, look like earth-dwelling moles. The minoshiro, mystical and untangible, has been depicted as such.
Let me take this time to applaud Daisuke Namikawa for his amazing work as Squera. You would think that voicing a mole-like character would bring your dogs barking, but in this case, it was surprisingly good. It may sound weird, but his almost nasally voice fit Squera's character perfectly.
Shin Sekai doesn't have an OP, but the ED songs are enough to get me to listen every time. Background music almost always fit the mood of a scene.
Ah, woe is me. One cannot talk about the characters without spoiling a little. But! Try I shall, for the characters deserve the highest amount of praise one can give.
There is, however, a special character that deserve the highest amount of praise more than anyone else.
Saki, Saki, Saki.
I loved her development throughout the series. Troubles would throw themselves at the main cast, but she remained headstrong and resilient. One might call her stubborn. Another might say she just keeps her ground. Either way, Saki might be the most interesting female lead I've ever had the pleasure of knowing, and seeing her grow and become more mature, dealing with all sorts of otherwordly problems and how she reacts to them, it was an amazing experience.
Shun, with his calm demeanor; Satoru and Maria, both special to Saki in their own way; even Mamoru and his cowardice--Everyone played a part in helping the story move towards its goal. Each character had their own specific role. Even side-characters that I have forgotten at some point contribute to how the story plays out in its grand scheme.
Imaginative and thought-provoking, I've never watched (or read) anything quite like this. I just wish I could do it more justice - hence why I wrote this review. Stories like this should not be overlooked.
Also, would like to share this with you guys:
Remember, Squera is moe.
Image credit to BokuSatchii.
Shinsekai Yori really surprised me by developing some pretty heavy themes throughout the last two seasons. If you're a sci-fi fan, read on.
Story: Set in a utopian/dystopian future (depending which species you belong to, I suppose), it is about a girl named Saki growing up, being confronted with problems of her society's own creation, and then piecing together the truth of her people's history while solving the various issues that crop up. The issues start small and ramp up, and the foreshadowing and doomsy, creepy vibe seeps into every nook and cranny of the story as it progresses.
The storyline is notably complex--which I actually thought was its main downfall. The first few episodes lacked what I like to call "signs of a coherent narrative" (ie a clear objective for the main character) and I very nearly dropped it around episode 4. That's my biggest criticism though, and if you stick with it long enough for the plot pieces to start falling into place, it's very rewarding.
Animation & Sound: I have no complaints here, but then, I favor pretty art over gritty art. I did think, though, that making everything pretty enhanced the sense of utopian peace love and happiness--so that when the darker parts came out, it enhanced the sense that they'd really tried to sweep all forms of badness under the rug and failed. Music was great.
Characters: I thought they were a little weak. Saki isn't overly complex, just your basic do-gooder. Nothing that happens to her is actually of her own personal making, which weakens her development. None of the other characters were particularly remarkable, but they weren't bad either. Just kind of average.
In the end, Shinsekai Yori is not for anyone with a short attention span. It offers some very heavy themes, almost hard to watch at times, and doesn't shy away from any topic. It is a very thought-provoking watch, and well worth your time.
I generalized this review to contain no spoilers for those who haven’t watched but are curious. However, you don’t need to read my review for me to tell you to go watch this anime right now. Just go.
Yes. This is what stories are supposed to be about. They are supposed to dig deep into the crevices of the world, exploring topics that are sensitive to human nature and will never stop being discussed. The stories that make you think and make you want to talk about things that mean something are the best. The setting and circumstances of this anime’s world are genius. It takes a few episodes for the story to pick up because at first, reflecting the main characters’ cluelessness, the viewer isn’t sure what’s going on even though many things seem suspicious and mysterious. By the time you realize what you’re in the middle of, you’re wallowing in so much brilliance that you can’t crawl out until everything is finished. This anime picks up quickly after the initial journey, swooping you into a world that might just be insane. It is a wonderful experience. I don’t usually watch many episodes in a single day, but I just about marathoned the second half of this anime because I physically could not stop watching.
Vibe: Animation + Sound [9.5/10]
Erratic, but perfect. At times things are solemn and dark, with drab colors and simple animation. Then the next episode may be filled with flashes of vibrant dreams or visions, crazy animations of forces and beings dancing across the screen. The animation and colors change with what is necessary to translate the current message, which works perfectly with the disorientation of most of the characters. I often don’t pay much attention to music, but during the last few episodes I instinctually had chills run up my arms during some of the intense pieces of sound. That is rare. The vibe of the anime says a lot and paying attention to it helps you stay in tune with what the characters are experiencing.
The characters are somewhat secondary to the story. They play an important part and they’re pretty fleshed out, but a few of them could easily be replaced with somewhat similar people and the anime wouldn’t take a hit. The story drives the characters and they play their parts. That doesn’t mean they are only props, but the progression of circumstances is mostly the thing that shapes them rather than their individual personalities and decisions. This process works well for this anime, given what it was going for. I still found an attachment to the characters, especially our main girl Saki.
This was a great ride. I was not expecting such brilliance when I first began watching and I was continually surprised by each turn of events. In the beginning it seemed a little slow and I wasn’t quite sure where things were going, but it paid off to be patient and let the anime take its path. I enjoyed this story thoroughly, my fascination only increasing with every episode. Even at the very end, I took a big breath, smiled, and thought about how great the whole series had been. It activated my brain and raised some deep questions about life, some of which I still don’t have a concrete answer for. Watch it, no matter who you are or what you like. I feel like this piece of work is universally Good.
Shinsekai Yori has an amazing start, the first 7 episodes are magical and intense, beautiful and stunning. While it's drop off point is earlier than others, it too suffers from a problem in anime where the story goes off quite quickly. The story takes several turns and so it's hard to give an overall synposis but since there isn't one provided by AP...
Shinsekai Yori is set in a small village that practices psychic abillities called Cantus, which are taught and studied by everyone who lives there. However when students who underperform or break the rules start disappearing, Saki and her group become suspicious, when they themselves become targets for removal they have no choice but to investigate why children are disappearing and who is the cause.
I need to vent my frustrations with the anime in this review but its possible people who haven't already watched it won't find it interesting to read, if so just skip this part.
The most frustrating element of this anime is how drawn out the story telling becomes after the first relatively fast-pace episodes. I wouldn't say it's slow paced but many episodes consist of nothing really happening, if anything whats happening is more likely to confuse you than teach you anything. Leaps in time which make no effort to explain anything but have so much new stuff going on that it's very easy to just give up trying to figure out whats going wrong. While there are explanations for why something is happening the HOW DID THIS HAPPEN part is ignored. I'm being vague so i'll just come out with it and say that in the first leap of time there are a few episodes dealing with yaoi/yuri relationships that weren't even hinted at before. I understand and it is explained why these relationships might be desirable but it's hard to care about them for that same reason and without knowing how they came about.
There were many characters who did not show any character development at all yet we continually went over them, even very minor characters such as Saki's parents. I found these episodes very boring to say the least.
(Queerats are humanoid creatures that are less intelligent and look like rats) The humans dealing with the Queerats also frustrated me, throughout the anime human cruelty is constantly demonstrated - to the point where if humans thought the same way in real life as in this anime, I doubt Japan would even exist as the Allies would have destroyed it or enslaved it after WW2. Yet despite this, Queerat cruelty is always emphasised and characters are horrified by it. In almost every example, the Queerat cruelty is more humane and reasonable than the Human's cruelty. I felt like I had to do justice by the Queerats by consciously acknowledging how stupid and unempathetic most of the characters were when judging the actions of Queerats. I'd like to think that this is purposefully done as it could be a smart plot point but I doubt it.
Sometimes the scenery is quite pretty but otherwise not much to be said, I also liked the Queerats appearence although it's difficult to understand how Kiroumaru is a Queerat when he looks nothing like any of the others.
Whenever the story line was getting boring, I could always count on the OST to make dull moments seem incredibly epic. While there wasn't an OP, the EDs were fairly nice. Voice acting wasn't that great, but I can't really articulate why, their voices just got annoying after a while.
"Saki you are strong, you give up easily and you are weak-willed, you aren't phsyically strong and you are easily discouraged, however you are strong because even if you are disheartened, you will stablize quickly and move on". If we exclude suicidals and those suffering from depression, this could description could pretty much fit anyone if you want to interpret it that way. Yet Saki recieves this "compliment" like five times throughout the anime like it's some major character point, I can not understand any of these characters at all. There is nothing special about them, they don't change and their stories aren't particuarly interesting. Their perspectives are boring and they never have anything interesting to say. Every time I learn something new about them, I dislike them more. There is really nothing to say here, this for me was the weakest point in the anime as it's hard to care about any drama when you don't like the characters. After all they went through, some character development was defininetly necessary, even just for the point of realism.
I haven't made much of an effort in this review, for me there are two kinds of reviews and this was the kind where I vent my frustration. That doesn't mean that I think 5.5 is an unreasonable score because I really did dislike many elements of this anime. Although the twists throughout it are quite clever and thoughtout. For me if the OST wasn't as good as it was, I wouldn't have watched it until the end, I can't really recommend this but unlike most of my other reviews this was more my opinion than an attempt to be objective and analytyical. I think in order for you to enjoy this anime you have to be a big fan of romance and you have to be able to love and relate with the characters. I didn't find any of the romances convicing or moving and that really killed the anime for me, but if you liked some of those more... childish? Romances.. like Kimi ni Todoke or Honey and Clover then I can see you liking this anime a lot.
- Animated by studio A-1 Pictures, which always has good production values and very interesting premises in all its works but has otherwise never managed to produce something exceptional. This is for me their first great show but even here it has the usual problems of not being gritty enough.
- Directed by a… designer. This is his first work as a director, not bad as a debut work.
- Based on award winning novels, which means better than shitty light novels.
The only hype this series had before airing was about the several gay and yuri softcore sex scenes in the manga version. As it usually happens in the anime community, nobody talked much about its serious aspect, that of a very promising mystery/dystopia series. I expected to see a shitty ecchi slice of life with lots of shallow sci-fi ideas in the background for flavor. Instead of that, I faced a most interesting setting that combines occult with magic and slice of life. It is a weird combo of Akira meets Higurashi in a Princess Mononoke setting, with the philosophical and mysterious backdrop of Haibane Renmei. It also has a proper budget, nice visuals, spooky music, and an art designer at the helm to present all that right. There were a couple of gay/yuri scenes but they were really short and far more toned down compared to the manga; anyone who is going to start watching or refuse to watch this anime for that reason is a complete idiot.
Now let’s clarify a few things regarding the setting and the story. They are presented subtly and in small quantities with each new episode. It has flashbacks and slice of life scenes whose importance is not obvious at first. They foreshadow events that portrait the way their society works or how it came to be as it is now. I must say I loved this formula right away as it offers indirect exposition and progress in each step of the way. This is exactly what makes it a hard series to get into for most. Viewers who are accustomed to having everything described to them right away will most likely be confused in the first quarter of the series. Nothing makes sense for awhile and the characters are quite blunt and un-relatable, which caused many to drop the show in a couple of episodes.
Of course this is exactly what makes this show far better than the average anime out there; it doesn’t use infodumping all the time. It eventually does of course; three episodes exist just for that. In-between of those you are left to connect the dots on your own. It is also not trying to show huge amounts of gore and boobs in a cheap attempt to attract the casual viewers with cheap thrills. It has its share of gore, death, and some gay scenes, yet it is never presented as purely shock factor or brainless entertainment for the superficial viewers to run towards it. Kids being tormented in anime is a pure win after all; yet the show doesn’t head for that. Those who are too accustomed to boobs and explosions will most likely find the show boring and tiresome for having to think while watching instead of masturbating. This is not a show for that brood.
So let me make clear that there is also no pointless fan service to attract the mindless audience, and it is not a light show to spend your time feeling fluffy inside. The characters are drawn in a borderline moe style and there is some sex, yet none of that are there just for kicks. They are part of the plot, a very crucial part of the setting and not something thrown in just for the heck of it. It simply wouldn’t work without it.
On a superficial level, the series looks at first like a boring slice of life show about some kids with superpowers doing school activities. Gakuen Alice anyone? Anyways, I have long lost my appeal for series that include schools and superpowers just for the sake of familiarity with the teenage audience. They almost always have nothing to do with the main plot and are just fancy extra. Some examples include Gunparade, Regios, Freezing, and Lagrange. Not in this case though; they are vital to the plot for once. If you pay attention you may spot all the creepy details, such as the seemingly innocent school activities are in fact tests for the adults to see which of the children don’t use their abilities properly. Kids who don’t perform well enough are removed from the school and brainwash the rest so they won’t mind it.
So what exactly is the story about? People in our time have gained superpowers, which led to a major catastrophe. This leads us to a thousand years later, where all children are trained to use their mental powers properly. The protagonists are a team of junior high kids, who try to have a normal carefree school life. Well, they don’t exactly get to enjoy much of that, since there are a lot of things kept secret from them. They know close to nothing about the past, other than fairy tales that are mostly distorted events that aim to indirectly teach them not to go astray with their powers. They are also mostly lies about the real nature of certain objects and animals, so again this makes the show to have a flavor of mystery. The plot is basically about the kids gradually realizing the truth.
Which leads us to yet another interesting aspect of the show. There are no clear-cut good guys and bad guys, despite the fact there are those who misuse their superpowers or use them to manipulate the minds of others for the greater good. Everybody feels gray and simply reacts to what he knows and believes. If you have too much power, you get too cocky. If you are not good at using your powers, you feel scared and insecure. Even the limits to how far they can move in their world are gray. There is no security to stop them from going past them if they so much feel like it. They are just told there are monsters past certain borders and that is all it takes to keep them at bay. It’s a lot more interesting and cunning this way than having an oppressing state with a huge wall and armed guards or something as corny as that.
Keeping your dystopian setting grey and viable is a major plus in terms of emersion, and this is exactly what makes SSY great, while others that aired along with it, such as Psycho Pass and Zetsuen no Tempest are just random imbalanced bullshit. If you try to cross the limits in those shows they send assassins after you in broad daylight and everybody knows it, but here you are allowed to freely break the rules and then forget it or be disposed of in secrecy.
Another great part is that even when they finally go past the limits and start to realize things are not as great as they thought at first, the series still remains mysterious for constantly revealing more aspects of the world, past the society they are living in. So don’t think the show will lose its excitement after a major revelation happens. It has lots of those and far apart from each other.
In terms of atmosphere, the series is majestic. The setting is a civilization a thousand years in the future, when mankind has given up most of its technology, returned to a more rural way of life, and lives in harmony with nature. Said nature is hardly as simple as the one we have today, as it is full of creatures with all sorts of weird shapes and abilities, giving off an aura of mysticism about them.
The production values are good enough to portrait the above very well most of the time, but there are still many scenes that feel sloppy. Sometimes the transition from one scene to another happens in a lazy way. Sometimes a scene is not as dark or scary as it is supposed to be. Sometimes the very artwork changes completely to something too bizarre to like. A-1 Pictures is simply incapable to do dark shows; they are good when it comes to school life and moe but when it comes to horror and thriller… YUCK! Do I need to remind you of how terrible Another or Fractale were? So in a similar way there are lots of episodes where the heroes are running away from hostile Queerats or insane Fiends and you feel very little about all that. They are not exiting or scary and end up being dead time.
The lowest part of the show. The characters lack charisma and relatability; their genes and brains are so alien compared to that of an average person of today that it is impossible to feel sympathy. Sometimes they don’t even seem to have the proper emotional reactions to a situation. Their personalities are also quite basic and their mentality is based on cynicism. They are simply too alien and straightforward to like. Not only that, but there are two major time-skips in the story that change the character dynamics considerably and out of screen, making them feel like they are different people without letting us know why. All that aren’t really weaknesses since later on it is revealed they are all results of elaborate mind control but it still makes it hard to be appealing.
Truth is I hate brainwashing as a plot devise since it makes everything feel like it can happen any way the scriptwriter wants, regardless of the free will of the characters. In this case though I will make an exception since it is not simply a plot devise but rather the way their whole society works. It is as vital as the air and the sun to them; they can’t exist without it. So it’s not like in all those other shows like Code Geass where it happens because the author wants to advance the plot regardless of what is going on. Plus, as I said you never know it is brainwashing at first. It is revealed later on, so not only it maintains the mysterious backdrop of the show but it also creates exciting plot twists that are REALLY foreshadowed and you just didn’t see them coming because everything in this show is as I said already SUBTLE.
The show barely got the attention it deserved from the fandom exactly because it’s subtle, lacks fan service and gore, has un-relatable characters, and many were biased against it for the various sex scenes of the manga. At the same time shows full of crap like Sword Art Online got deified for catering the majority’s wish-fulfillment. This once again proves how the fandom is unable to appreciate good shows and keeps telling the industry to produce shit instead of grilled steak. UP YOURS FANDOM!
It is kind of unfair for a series to be unappreciated for such a technicality; especially if one is aware how badly written are most premises and settings in anime. In all honesty even this one kind of messes up after the second time skip where a lot of things don’t make much sense anymore and the final battle of sorts is quite dull and stupid. I was very disappointed with the finale, even if it was solid and tried hard to be sad. The beauty of the anime lies in its world and not in its characters or the plot; a thing which is a problem for most anime fans who always favor eccentric personalities over the setting. If you are one of those fans who expect zany personalities and overblown dramatization that hammers relentlessly your emotional side, then no amount of amazing concepts or unorthodox settings will convince you to like Shinsekai Yori.
I personally liked the series in overall; it is one of the best subtle in heavy themes anime ever made. It deserves to be watched by all fans of mysticism and mystery with its problems being mostly about aesthetics and not about plot holes. And seriously, anyone who scores this lower than that piece of fan service crap that is Sword Art Online, is a total idiot.