There’s often a point in one’s life to acknowledge the possibility of another worldly phenomenon that is outside of our collective conscience from where we live in that is in contrast with our own ideals. This has always been a subject of discussion since Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave” that chronicles how our limited understanding of the reality that we perceive may not be what it seems since we’re so entrenched in our own ideological society. Many works of fiction have dabbled this subject matter numerous times with some succeeding and others failing. Unfortunately for Shinsekai Yori, it falls into the latter, but not entirely.
To start out the basic idea of how the story of Shinsekai Yori pans out is the fact that it’s a coming of age story focusing on five different characters and their journey in discovering what the past history of human civilization eventually transpired into pure dystopia. In the beginning it starts off extremely well with building up these characters that are all very unique and distinguishable from each other. There’s never a moment where I couldn’t remember who a specific person was and it’s not just from their appearances but from their well-written personalities and backgrounds. Their childhood arc paces itself nicely in giving an atmosphere for us to take in that’s mysterious and puzzling in a very limited understanding of what the world is actually like because that’s how the childish mindset would actually be like in this scenario. However, once that arc was finished and we get our first time skip it doesn’t get too extraordinary as one would hope.
One thing that makes the time skips really off-putting is how there’s hardly any build up on how these characters’ personalities matured over time. For instance, one of the most controversial things about the show was the relationship between the characters that were of the same-sex. It’s not so much the relationships themselves that I have a problem with, it’s how it comes out of nowhere with hardly any development behind it. In this sense it feels as though there was more to their relationships but for the sake of timing constraints they had to rush it so it won’t feel dragged out. Because of this one might feel inclined to give it a pass, but for me that cannot be forgiven with the given context this show brings on the table in wanting to be this grand epic that ultimately feels lazy from a writing perspective. In fact, the best romantic development in the entire show was between Saki and Satoru because of how long we’ve followed these two together and how strong their bond was in helping each other through the hard numerous obstacles. Alas, the rest of the relationships that are thrown out didn’t really make a huge impression because how weak and lazy they implemented it into the story; if they actually had anything of value for us to see how they got to that point it would’ve been for the best.
While the story itself isn’t something we’ve seen before, it is still a mysterious and very suspenseful drama that manages to pull off some great twists through the course of the narrative. That is until the realization comes to mind when the pacing of it all fails to make it a masterpiece in the writing department. Like I said before about the time skips, they really dumb down the pacing because of how they rush some of the arcs that felt like they could’ve been more effective had they have been done with better intentions such as at least showing us a montage of them overtime. That shouldn’t mean that time skips are unnecessary in any given situation but it takes a lot of care and precise handling to make them work. Time skips aside, the other pacing issues mostly happen in the middle part of the show where scenes lacks clarity in it’s exposition in giving us a clear concise way of what has happened or what will happen to the characters or future events. Too fast to even comprehend the over-arching conflicts that arise from the protagonist feel muddled and disorganized for us to piece together on what will transpire. This could come into play with the fact that the show skips over some of the important details in the novel, but for the sake of reviewing the show itself there’s no need to go over that aspect.
How Shinsekai Yori handles its world-building through expository dialogue receives a mixed response from me. It works like a pattern where one of or all of our heroes are journeying or trying to find answers and eventually they’ll talk to someone who will explain everything to them in no more than ten minutes either the dark history of Japan and how it eventually became a grim dystopia or what the ethics counsel is really like underneath. While the history itself is really thought-provoking at times that bring into question human nature and how society structures itself into chaos, I can’t help but feel that it could’ve been done more better with less tedium and not feel like a lazy attempt at being profound.
It’s not just the writing that feels off, but the technical side of the show feels very limited and looks really shoddy in the process. That’s not to say all of it looks bad, there are definitely a lot of beautiful set pieces drawn into the backgrounds and the character designs look very unique and fit well to the tone of the show. However, there are a lot of problems with the designs of the monsters that inhabit Shinsekai Yori where they don’t look really well-drawn and their animations look like if a low-budget studio was hired to animate them. There’s even one episode where the animation took a complete nose-dive where the queen of the queerats looks like a huge blob that wasn’t drawn fully of what it was originally supposed to look like. I’m not saying that all shows have to look extremely high-budget or in order to be called good art/animation but it doesn’t really strike my fancy when there’s nothing significant to gaze at to begin with.
Now with all of the negativity I’ve had for Shinsekai Yori, there are still a number of things that are really good and even fantastic that are worth watching. It is without question that the amount of suspense and heart-pounding tension that Shinsekai Yori has to offer is astonishing to say the least. The first three minutes of the first episode alone garners some needed praise for it’s really well-directed atmosphere, right down to the music and editing of all of the events that happened in present-day Tokyo. It’s tone is not pretty and it will nonetheless make a lot of people feel uncomfortable to sit through in some instances, but that should warrant a lot of credit to the show in giving us a very mature tone that comes in full-swing. What makes the suspense amazingly good and imposing is the amount of mystery that we are given through the children’s perspective and how we can never see how the adults’ see the situation that goes on in the world. Often times you don’t see stories handle mystery this way and make for an intense experience to go through. The first person narrative through Saki gives a distinct feel to how we see her grow into this person who is fully aware in later life that feels undeniably human to me.
As many have told me about the story in all of its faults is that the ending makes up for it, and it definitely does provide to the story a satisfying conclusion. There were definitely no predictable outcomes that were present in the narrative’s end and that guarantees Shinsekai Yori some much needed acclaim for at least not giving us a story that isn’t inherently generic in a predictable sort of way. There’s no Hollywood gimmick that severely tarnishes the gritty tone, it handles itself in a very realistic fashion that feels very satisfying to see first-hand.
Musically, it mostly consists of really bombastic chanting music that is very haunting and intimidating from the style of tone it tries to set. There are very few questionable choices of songs that Shinsekai Yori has that feel out-of-place in any scene. Intense orchestration that also borrows from some minimalist influence in some ambiance tone it gives with light electronically ambient mixes in-between scenes that are inherently quiet and simple in their nature.
Ambitious though it may be, Shinsekai Yori just doesn’t cut it fully as a supreme masterpiece that has come out in recent years with the problems it possesses in giving us a badly paced story that can’t really give a concise narrative that’s hard to get around. Character development feels good in some areas, but due to the poorly put time-skips, their relationships felt contrived with inconsistent expository problems that feel as though they wanted to make the same-sex relationships so that it would seem more progressive when it really comes off as just lazy development. I wouldn’t classify this show as completely bad in that the amount of suspenseful tension makes for a really intense experience to behold in showing us the one great development of Saki into a full realized character. After all, a worthwhile experience with many faults in its technical aspects is at least more tolerable than a show with great technical prowess with no added value to the experience whatsoever.