What a great watch.
Shin Sekai Yori / From the New World (REVIEW)
(THERE ARE NO SPOILERS)
NOTE: This review does not meet my standards any longer and will be updated sometime in the future.
After going through Sword Art Online, Accel World, two fairly sizable series for the last two seasons, I thought that I came to blog about anime at a great time. The former is a hype-train, and for one reason or another, I was glad to have joined it. The latter is something I enjoyed blogging about greatly. However, I can safely say that having the pleasure of blogging Shin Sekai Yori while it is airing makes me truly delighted to have picked up this hobby at such an opportune time.
You know, I approached reviewing with a very cautious attitude, laying out setting, characters, story, plot and even theme to outline what to go over. Such a structured approach is by no means ineffective, but I feel that a review, for me, should be something that I should communicate with others from how I feel from subjective and objective standpoints, and should flow from my heart (as cheesy as that sounds). I have to give Shin Sekai Yori credit because it became impossible for me to review everything in such a structured manner as so many elements, characters, setting, and theme conflicted with each other and knit with each other tightly enough for reviewing in such a structured way something meaninglessly difficult. As a result, I changed how I approach reviewing anime, and I will probably stick with something similar as I find it much more fluid and fascinating to write. Without further ado, let’s get started.
I was introduced to Shin Sekai Yori when I was browsing around trying to find some anime I could do episodic reviews for. As I browsed the previews for the Fall 2012 season, the cover art of the anime stared at me in the face, and I didn’t think much of it. The cover art isn’t extremely appealing, but the novel won the 2008 Nihon SF Taisho Award which gave me more confidence in following it right from the beginning. While I can’t say the first impressions blew me away, I realized just how much of a journey we were going to be taken through after a couple of episodes and decided that I would stick with it. That was a fantastic decision.
Firstly, let’s talk about a couple of obstacles that will undoubtedly block people from watching the anime as that’s what I’ve been seeing lately. Apparently, people aren’t too interested in the anime as the beginning half is fairly “uninteresting” or “dull.” While I can understand as some of my friends dropped it until I basically forced them into it, I don’t feel that anything is “uninteresting” as there is plenty of foreshadowing, atmosphere and tension even in the beginning few episodes. Some people may find the lack of exciting moments or action to be “boring,” but look a little bit deeper and be taken into the flow of the story. There is plenty of symbolism, and interesting dialogue to be found.
The second “problem” people have is the yaoi and yuri in the anime. Alright, I can understand. Who in their right straight mind would want to see two guys getting it on? I get it, you don’t want to see it. You know what? That’s fine. However, people have dropped this anime because it had it in one episode. Why didn’t they even bother checking the next? Or the one after? It never really happens again. By the way, what homosexual elements are presented are not randomly inserted; they pertain to the context of the story very well. So, if you are stepping into this anime and you are homophobic or just don’t like those things, you can rest assured that it basically only happens in episode 8. You have been warned so don’t punch your screen when it happens.
Enough of that. Let’s get to the heart of this gem. What exactly is it that makes Shin Sekai Yori great? I would say that it’s a combination of atmosphere, tension, and fantastic storytelling. Even in the first few episodes, one can probably feel how dreary and dark situations are. The setting is definitely something that assists in creating the feeling of being suppressed by an unseeable force that screams dystopia. However, as the story progresses, it’s not as clear cut and we begin to question almost everything. This leads to the major point that Shin Sekai Yori excels at, storytelling.
You can’t have atmosphere and tension without storytelling that compels viewers to feel that way. To this extent, the anime does a marvelous job presenting itself in different occasions that keep me in awe. Without spoiling anything, the pace quickens quickly and every episode has something to present. It could be moral dilemmas, mental conflict within the character’s minds, personal conflict between characters, the setting itself that forces characters into tense situations, and so on. The lack of an opening is indicative of how A-1 Pictures is using the time given to them to portray as much as they possibly can. Even in the endings, of which there are two, there are plenty of symbolism and foreshadowing.
The characters are another strong point. Even if some argue that the main character, Saki, isn’t necessarily that great, I would still say that the other characters that appear throughout have their own unique traits and quirks that make them easily likable. Characters are not limited to humans; there are these strange creatures called Queerats that play critical and intriguing role. As the series progresses, everything becomes more serious and grand as a result. With what’s on the line, it’s easy to be at the edge of your seat while watching this anime.
Sometimes, I can’t help but cheer for one side only to realize a short while after that things aren’t exactly what they seem to be. Shin Sekai Yori easily twists the perspectives around and questions the foundations of society and what’s “right” and “wrong.” Sure, we had plenty of anime questioning these common philosophical questions, but the execution is spot on in Shin Sekai Yori. It’s not just a character vocalizing these questions, but it’s just the way that the story is told which makes us think in that direction. In this respect, the setting also plays a vital role that supports the suspicion viewers may have towards certain elements of the story which, in turn, creates a great amount of atmospheric tension.
To add to the storytelling is the soundtrack. I have to give credit to Komori Shigeo for giving such a marvelous soundtrack that really adds to the atmosphere of this anime. At the right times, the right soundtrack is played and the right emotions are conveyed. I have no qualms to that extent. The animation might be a touchy one for some as it’s not the best. However, A-1 utilizes what they have fairly well and while it’s not horrific, it’s definitely not superb. But who really cares? If you’re watching Shin Sekai Yori for the visuals… go watch K or something instead.
Do I even need this section? Just try it. If the first few episodes do not captivate you, do not worry, keep going. I can’t guarantee that you’ll love the anime, but at the very least I believe this is an anime that deserves a run through by anyone. I’m not going to say it’s the best anime ever made or whatever, but I can say that most people will appreciate what SSY has to offer.
Shin Sekai Yori Review Conclusion
I’m definitely overlooking some aspects as that would spoil things for new viewers, but I have my thoughts on the episodic reviews so it’s not a problem. Anyways, Shin Sekai Yori tells a tense, interesting, and captivating story that people should definitely watch at least once. It’s smart and doesn’t spoon-feed everything to the viewers. We have to think and put things together ourselves, and in the end, people can come up with different conclusions with valid points on each side. With all the fantastic storytelling, atmosphere, soundtrack, and interesting characters, it would be a shame not to go through this journey.