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Let’s talk Shinsekai Yori 新世界より

Let’s talk Shinsekai Yori (From the New World) [新世界より]


Been meaning to write about this, and hopefully with near 2 years in between I can look back without being influenced by the emotional rush of the moment.


If I were forced to rank animes in a list it’d be very near the top, perhaps amongst my favourite top 5. It’s certainly amongst the first few I recall when I think about animes (though that’s partly because it’s still relatively new).


It is undeniably unique, both in art, theme and directions. The artstyle is reminiscent of a ink painting, flat with few highlights even for animes, this unique style makes it hard to be grouped with any other animes or any preconceived notion of its setting or genre. Actually it is quite hard to put any labels on Shinsekai, while it would be sci-fi in other mediums (as its original book is), inside the wider world of anime where some amount of mystic and special powers is practically a given, this is hardly a distinguishing feature.


Usually by the end of an anime’s first episode I have a good idea of what kind of show it is. School drama, shounen hero, slice of life, comedy, mecha, harem…etc, usually all this is fairly laid out in the first episode, both in terms of world setting, art style and OP/ED. Shinsekai has none of these (doesn’t even have an OP, just ED), which both works for and against its favour.


The good thing is I have no idea what to expect, the bad thing is I also have no idea what to expect and don’t know whether to keep watching or not. Not giving hints of what to expect is great in a book or movie where time required is short and small and you’re probably already invested in finding out what the story is when you bought it. Giving no hints of expectations is not so good when you’re competing against all the other animes in the season and asking for investment of attention for the next 3 months (or in Shinksekai’s case, 6 month). If it weren’t for liking the artstyle and stubborn dose of curiosity, Shinsekai would have been dropped within the first 2 episodes (when animes either makes my cut or gets dropped).


As it is, Shinsekai was relegated to be “watched on the side” anime, something to be played on the second monitor as background while I’m doing stuff on the web.


It was not till maybe the 9th or 10th episode (almost an entire season over) when the second story arc begins to play out does it fully grab my attention and I go back to rewatch the previous episodes. Shinsekai’s incredible scope and world building presents a huge problem where most of the 1st arc is just foundation building. That is a huge ask in anime, to ask the viewer to invest a good part of 8 episodes just to get to the real story. The way it chose to start the early episodes with a sort of prologue, telling the story of some earlier era that seemingly did not have relevance to the current timeline certainly did not help, especially when these prologues will prove to be of utmost importance later down the track.


The early section is Shinsekai’s biggest fault. Once past that the seeds planted from the very first moments begins to bear fruit, threads intertwine and forms the most stunning displays, even some you weren’t aware to have been woven into the fabric. Aspects of world setting once seemed irrelevant and mentioned as after thoughts, becomes cornerstones upon which towers are built. Small mentions by various characters that did not quite fit becomes clear when the full implications of their words are revealed. Things that felt wrong and gnawed at you from the deepest recess of thoughts comes to the surface. From climax to climax, the story unfolds at a pace that leaves me holding my breath, almost suffocating in its intensity.


The forbolding disappearance of Maria, scenes of the two girl’s long friendship and bond, sung in the voice actress HanaKana’s saccatrine voice, was one of the most haunting and heart breaking moments for me. It was innocent, sad, and most of all resigned, a calm acceptance of the cruelty of it all. It was only several weeks later did I gather the strength to pick Shinsekai back up.


Shinsekai’s brilliance lies in how its world, told through Saki’s eyes, all comes to intersect in ways that were cleverly foreshadowed, in ways that were not immediately obvious but plain as day after the fact. It’s one of the best example of show not tell. Even today I’m still finding new interpretation of events based on various hints shown. While sometimes I fault other works for being obtusely vague for the sake of creating a facade of depth, that Shinsekai allows this level of ambiguity is something to be appreciated, that things are told through Saki’s point of view means there are events that we do not bear witness to but can only fathom with imagination, horrible events that dares us to explore and put together in order to make the pieces fit. It almost forces you to face the terrible themes and messages, even if subconsciously the mind screams to escape such dreadful thoughts.


Shinsekai questions morality, of good and evil, the concept of us and them, the question of necessity and sacrifices, of individuals and society. It’s not a pretty story, there are few moments I’m not gasping with shallow breaths. Different from Urobuchi’s works where tragedy of circumstances are forced upon the characters, where protagonists end up in the wrong place at the wrong time, or are forced to witness terrible acts and have things dear to them taken away, Shinsekai is simply a tragic telling of society. Where many other tragedies have you feel for the characters, for the unfairness of their misfortune, of the cruelty of fate, Shinsekai’s tragedies are just is.


There’s no unfairness to speak of, no wrongs being committed and no injustices to correct. There’s no moment of redemption, no cartharsis, there’s never a moment where you can cheer for the main characters. Even when they finally win the weight of it is too heavy to bear. There are few moments of hope and even fewer of joy. Almost, a reflection of the real world, and perhaps that is what makes the whole show so chilling.


There are no villains, no bad guys, if it weren’t for Saki being the main character there wouldn’t even be sides. Just different actors acting the best they can given the positions they are in. Some stories are about characters drowning in despair. Shinsekai is about drowning you.


It’s an SA- show, marred by its initial pacing, even though I do not know how the world building could be presented better.


Thoughts on anime: Mirai Nikki (Future Diary)

Or, It’s literally Deus Ex Machima.


Having just binged Mirai Nikki over the last fortnight, I come away somewhat mixed feelings about it.

It’s a good show, no doubt, and a special one at that. Billed as the yandere show, spawning its own pixiv memes and following the good tradition that pink hair is always black on the inside. It certainly lives up to its reputation, even if I come away feeling a little bait-and-switched at the end (in a good way).

It has a protagonist I hate even more than Shinji (EVA), which is no small feat by itself, but thankfully this story isn’t about Yuki, much like Angel Beats isn’t about Otonashi. Instead they serve as a narrator for the true main character, Yuno and Kanade respectively. At what first seem like a one dimensional character with only yandere as her only trait, Yuno’s emotional range and motive quickly expands and begins to resonate.

It was pretty clear very early on there’s some kind of twisted timeline or rebirth scenario, what I couldn’t quite be sure is which one. I’d leaned on a rebirth ghost scenario for the most part and there’s certainly some elements of truth of that in the end. I choose to ignore any plot holes caused by this as  I consider them acceptable trade-off in creating a jumping off points for the story’s theme. Basically, I ignore paradoxes or manipulated timeline holes as long as they’re not stupid and deliver their purpose, much as I did for Steins:Gate.

Mirai Nikki cannot be viewed other than as the sum of its whole. Of course, that’s how most show should be viewed, however in this case Mirai Nikki can be compared to Shinsekai Yori in that it absolutely cannot be judged in disparate elements or plots, while for say SAO you can quite strongly make the case of looking at it based on each virtual world arc or A Certain Magical Index/Scientific Railgun judged on its current antagonist. Mirai Nikki is one continuous running story with a singular pay off just like Shinsekai. How desirable it is to have a long journey to get to the goal will be up to each’s taste, I certainly feel Mirai Nikki did the journey in a much more entertaining way, but in doing so sacrificed the end impact, conversely Shinsekai had a stupidly dull start in world building but had the ultimate payoff.

I cannot fault Mirai Nikki for choosing this route, I came really close to giving up on Shinsekai on multiple occasions and never felt the same while watching Mirai Nikki.

To bring to topic back to the character of Yuno. She’s twisted, fragile, unhinged, possessive… basically everything a yandere is. I must admit I’m partial to yanderes, perhaps because I myself have some obsessive streaks, and initially that’s all I expected out of the show, some good fashioned bloody stabbing and hacking by a girl gone mad. What makes Mirai Nikki special is how gradually the reason behind Yuno’s insanity is laid out and gives a compelling foundation to her character far beyond what would otherwise be ‘cause yandere in some other show.

Abused by her adopted family, she finally snaps at some point and prisons them in the cage they used to keep her in, accidentally starving them to death. This by itself would be good, but not amazing, if not for the contrast with the 3rd world Yuno, where we glimpse at Yuno’s innocent mind before she descended into madness. As a sweet young Yuno professes her love for her parents and belief that her mother is just a little ill and that one day they’d be a happy family, I cannot help but feel for Yuno and imagine the terrifying horror as she goes over the edge to find she had killed her parents, then having to transfer that hope and dependence onto Yuki, then in a twisted fate find she cannot revive him and make everything whole, betraying their promise and her salvation at the same time.

I would like to believe Yuno isn’t quite as mad in the 1st world. Who while unhinged by her parent’s death still had hope in Yuki and that there’s a happy end for her, who is still a sweet girl that saw the world with light and had a heart that cared for those around her, who still had friends and joy and happiness, and shed a tear for the first opponent she had to kill. Whatever she had been, that was all gone by the 2nd world. She had lost everything, and knew with no uncertainty that she and the world was destined for destruction, and what little bittersweet she was allowed was the few months she could still spend with the one she loves till the end.

What endgame Yuno had in mind when she started 2nd world is not certain, I don’t think even she herself knows outside of the vague notion of  possibly killing Yuki and restarting again. Throughout various points she certainly seemed sincere that she was willing to let Yuki kill her, if nothing else but to free her from the prison she must now be realizing she has trapped herself in.

It explains her lack of care for other’s lives, which initially appeared she’s just selfish (which she still is, but at least now is quite rational in a tragic way) and dispassionate, in light of her knowledge that everything was going to end and everyone was going to die, it makes sense that she would sacrifice all to stay with Yuki, since her frame of “meaning” was no longer grounded in this world. She had no hope left. She’s like a more broken version of Homura (Madoka) who unlike Homura, had no means or chance of escaping (however false they are in reality). Indeed I wonder what Homura would have done had she not had hope of defeating Walpurgis Night, would she also be content to just repeat the cycle to be with Madoka? Madoka: Rebellion (which should or should not be considered cannon depends on which fan you ask) certainly hints that this is not beyond Homura. A side note, the Rebellion BD box contains a special first recording of Homura’s lines and the end she takes on a very yandere voice.

Overall there’s little to fault on Mirai Nikki (arguably some nudity and perversion, I consider them just setting the tone to unsettle viewers). The diary mechanic and their owners at times did not feel very well executed or utilized, however at the end I felt this was secondary given Mirai Nikki is really only a game show superficially.

While not mind shattering I do think Mirai Nikki excelled and punched above the common yandere trope and cast a new light on the stereotype. Yuno’s character is highly complex and interesting, more than sufficient to overcome Yuki’s annoyance (which is not something I can say for EVA’s other characters for Shinji). Yes, I’d say that I quite like Yuno. And yes, I’m aware that doesn’t bode well for myself or my health.

It’s also worth mentioning the excellent ED songs which gave fitting insights into Yuno’s state of mind, drawn into her depraved insanity with her chilling anguish and clinging perverted love.

It was hard to decide on a rating for Mirai Nikki. I think probably a S*A-2 (two minus). It didn’t have quite as deep or as meaningful a story as some others in the A rank, its premise and execution puts it generally above other B rankers. Overall I think I would still puts it in the must watch category. The Special is for Yuno’s portrayal that makes it one of the more memorable anime for me.









Tiv 負責的新漫畫! 好萌啊,果然Tiv的畫風就是獨有特色,恰到好處