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Friday, October 26, 2012

False Minoshiro / Bloodstained History: Shin Sekai Yori 3 & 4

Spoiler Warning: Post contains spoilers for episode three and four of Shin Sekai Yori. Read with caution!
Episode 3: The group has rowed past their designated safe place in search for monsters. What they find is much worse.
Episode 4: As the library continues to explain the history of the world, a danger looms in the background. (Source: Crunchyroll)
And Shin Sekai Yori said "let there be plot development", and yea, so it was. And it was good. Thus is the third and fourth episodes, in which questions are answered and then asked and then answered again, and a bit of young romance gets a chance to spring to life. Saki even gets to pretty much prove how she is the most competent person in her group despite her parents' earlier trepidations over her skills.
Plus, the first two minutes of each episode continue to be rather "what the hell just happened?" in nature. Talking libraries! Killing emperors! Other stuff! All together, it's more of that same great flavor SSY has come to be known for.

So these two episodes of Shin Sekai Yori take place mainly during Saki's school trip during their summer camp trip out in the wild. Something about sending young children off into possibly demon-infested woods without supervision seems questionable but whatever. Naturally, they decide to go past their safe point to look for ogres. Oh, you kids! One of you is going to die horribly and I won't be surprised when it happens (not a spoiler, just mindless mean speculation).
And because they are young folks in canoes by themselves in the forest, sparks begin to fly between two of them. Damn hormones. Saki and Shun seem to have some chemistry going on, although the series isn't making it the main focus - thank goodness. It does add some needed levity to a series that so far has been serious in nature to a point. The trick of stilling the waves so that Saki could see the stars reflected perfectly in the water was pretty darn slick; all right now, Shun, try not to use your powers to impress girls too much.
Naturally, Saki's group decides to hunt down one of the most infamous stars of their stories: the False Minoshiro, despite its reputation for bringing the death of those who cross its path. I suppose if they had been the cowardly type, this series wouldn't get very far. 
This leads to them capturing and - let's be real - torturing the poor thing until it gives up its secrets. Saki is the one who does the capturing since her sunglasses make her the only one immune to its hypnotic light.
Interestingly enough, it's Saki who is most at ease about threatening the False Minoshiro with violence, like plucking out its catfish-like whiskers. Never mind that a few episodes, she was using her powers to save some Monster Rat workers at the riverbanks. Now she is stretching living libraries' outer membranes out with her mind, like tugging at a floating Stretch Armstrong until it pops. Luckily, the False Minoshiro doesn't tend to go pop as it is a wealth of information for Saki and her classmates.
We learn the identity of the young man in the first episode: Boy A, someone who used his powers to kill others and commit horrible crimes. Less highlighted but just as important, we also learn that the phenomenon of a human killing another human is virtually unheard of in Saki's time; they have a hard time believing that such a thing would happen, period. 
Naturally, PK turned the world to shit because we can't have nice things without going psycho. Depressing, but ultimately true. Thus the Dark Ages fell upon Earth and the Slave Dynasties began, thus explaining the other episode openings that looked to be Heian Era-style.
And what did we ultimately learn from the False Minoshiro's history lesson? PK kills. It is a horrific, dangerous weapon - in the wrong hands. The world is not ideal but bloody and violent and sits on a massive history of warfare thanks to the powers now instilled in the bodies of these young people. You can't blame them for wanting to break down and cry. This goes against most of what they have been learning their entire lives. In its matter-of-fact neutral voice, the False Minoshiro is telling them their world is based on lies.
Oh, and did I mention the schools are traps, too? Yep. Think of all those kids who vanished off the roster because they were deemed potentially dangerous. God knows if they are alive now. And everyone has been programmed not to kill another human - or else they will die themselves. Involuntary genetic manipulation! As if this world could not get more Orwellian. 
Seriously, I could rattle on about all the screwed up shit the False Minoshiro reveals - y'know, right before it bursts into flames. Probably the best way to cut off someone mid-sentence in this world - and the flashiest.
Naturally, it seems that ninja priests enforce the rules now. It's still Japan, after all. And thus, they lost their Powers, having broken a major rule by listening to demons. So if the demon had just said 'spooky butts' over and over again, it would have been the same thing? Typical bureaucracy at work.
And then - Monster Rats! Everywhere! I don't understand how that mutated out of the Dark Ages, but I'm sure SSY will explain eventually. Mamoru floating in the air and crying makes me incredibly sad for him. He just wanted to go on a school trip and then . . . . these episodes happened. Yikes.
So the priest takes on the rats and his magic is truly terrifying. His powers in action look like a woman with a scythe, beautifully mowing down everything in her path. For Saki, it is like looking into the face of death itself. Nothing is certain anymore. Who is the enemy? - that seems to be the lasting question in their hearts right now. They had lived for so long believing the cautionary tales of their elders only to have their life's foundations torn apart by a talking library. Naturally, the episode ends on a cliffhanger. No definite answers for you!
Even as mysteries are solved, so many still loom and continue to form in this series - and things will only get harder now that Saki does not have her Power at the moment. That certainly complicates the fact that there's a swarm of vicious Monster Rats along with another mystical beast looking to start a fight. Holy crap, there is just so much going on right now and so far, Shin Sekai Yori is doing a fabulous job holding it all together. If they keep it going, I can see Shin Sekai Yori being a smash hit long after it is over.
(And to think, I was going to regularly blog about Little Busters this season. Ha! Sorry, Key fans, I've only got time for Saki and friends - for now.)
You can watch subtitled streaming episodes of Shin Sekai Yori/From TheNew World at Crunchyroll.