Shinseikai Yori is one of those shows that clings to you, uncomfortably, after its conclusion. The story is as sly as its characters, teasing you with answers to the world’s dark mysteries.
It’s only when you’re trapped deep within the series that you find you might not want answers after all. Like the fragile group of friends at its core, you can’t help but wonder if ignorance could’ve kept you safe.
Watching the last few episodes felt akin to falling off a meadow path, hurdling down a craggy mountainside, breaking both legs and then collapsing in a bloody heap at the bottom.
Shinseikai was actually a great ride. It doesn’t use its mature themes to preach; it puts a syringe against your neck and pushes ever so slowly until it suddenly breaks skin.
The good news is that the syringe holds a cure. Shinseikai doesn’t needlessly torture your conscience without offering redemption, but it’s bitter medicine all the same.
A Review of Shinseikai Yori
AKA The Brutal Commentary on Society that Will Make You Hurt, but Also a Better Person
It’s tough boiling down the narrative, but Shinseikai Yori is essentially a sci-fantasy thriller about the boundaries of humanity and societal injustice. It explores systems of oppression, genetic engineering, religious fervor and sexuality. There’s a lot to unpack.
Considering the show functions as one big, gnarly “what if” scenario, its success largely rests in excellent worldbuilding. The story takes place 1,000 years into the future of what appears to be an agrarian utopia called Kamisu 66.
The district contains seven villages organized under an administration, composed of the Ethics Committee, Board of Education, Library and Mayor. These units function to guide the district’s youth in the hopes of controlling their cantus.
Cantus is telekinesis/psychic ability that manifests around age 11. After their power awakens, children are taken to a temple where their ability is immediately sealed to prevent misuse. The kids are then placed in school so they can train to use their cantus safely like good little worker bees.
Shinseikai Yori hones in on “Group 1” at Sage Academy, composed of Saki, Shun, Satoru, Maria, Mamoru and Reiko. The students end up stumbling across old secrets the administration desperately wants to keep buried, no matter the cost. Let’s just say an uncontrolled cantus leads to bad things happening.
There’s some priest telling her to control flames, a paper figure gets stabbed and then she’s in school learning how to draw with her mind.
Beyond the villages there are also external factors at play. Queerats are a sentient race that serve humans while dealing with intertribal conflicts of their own. As the kids move further away from the town’s boundaries, they learn about their society’s ugly history and how queerats play into the world.
Keeping You Off Balance
This summary is clearly laid out. The show, however, takes a different approach and immediately throws you into the middle of Saki’s sealing ritual. There’s some priest telling her to control flames, a paper figure gets stabbed and then she’s in school learning how to draw with her mind.
The series has a way of disorienting you like that. I pieced things together as time went on, but certain plot points were presented in a haphazard manner, making me feel like I was scrambling up a slippery slope.
On the plus side, you learn things around the same time the characters do, which allows you to share in their feelings of terror and surprise. But the show also uses several time jumps to push the reset button on your plot data bank.
Be prepared for an emotional, unsettling, but ultimately fulfilling ride.
I understood the necessity for these, though it’s still disconcerting. You want to feel a sense of continuity and growth among the characters’ personalities, but compared to the worldbuilding, that aspect falls short of the book.
Shinseikai Yori faithfully sticks to the novel’s plot despite its 25-episode run necessitating some skipping around. The only downside is where the book has time to foreshadow events and give context, there are only a few sparse lines narrated by “Future Saki” in the show, making it more difficult to connect with her.
In a way I think it works. You’re supposed to feel uneasy, and by the finale most of the blanks were filled in. Be prepared for an emotional, unsettling, but ultimately fulfilling ride.
The Home I Never Wanted
I wouldn’t watch this show with young ones due its violence, sexual situations (not explicit, but definitely present) and subject matter.
The main characters themselves progress from youths to 20-something adults throughout the show. Although character development is Shinseikai‘s weakest point, I was particularly pleased by Saki’s portrayal.
She makes for a standout heroine, being brave, resilient, intelligent and loyal, all while retaining a stubborn streak. Far from a Mary Sue, Saki has her faults but is continually shown as more open-minded than her community.
It has a similar feel to Battle Royale, The Hunger Games and other kid-centric dystopias that deal with topics well beyond what their young heroes should face.
Her companions are mostly made of similar stuff, meaning I was never yelling at the characters to get it together—a relief amid all the freaky situations taking place. The “villains” are varied throughout and can’t easily be labeled or condemned despite horrible acts of violence.
Shinseikai sets the standard for blurred morality and will leave you wondering how much freedom anyone really has.
War. What Is It Good For?
If you’re tired of mindless entertainment that doesn’t offer a meaningful message, Shinseikai Yori will make you think. It has a similar feel to Battle Royale, The Hunger Games and other kid-centric dystopias that deal with topics well beyond what their young heroes should face.
What sets Shinseikai apart is its innovation and complexity. Kamisu 66 feels unsettlingly “good,” and doesn’t it seem more realistic that way?
What we consider evil is hidden behind the friendly face of big business, the wary smile of a neighbor, even within ourselves when pushed far enough. Is evil still evil when violence is justified? What if there are no other options?
Shinseikai has an eerie, dreamy quality to it that hits with the strength of major dramatic films.
You can’t point to a clear group of bad guys, unlike the government in Battle Royale or the Capitol in The Hunger Games. This evil is personal, perpetrated by both sides. You can root for one team or the other, but you’ll end up feeling dirty either way.
Shinseikai has an eerie, dreamy quality to it that hits with the strength of major dramatic films. It’s not something I’m eager to see again, but I’m inspired by its creative storytelling, thematic strength and intelligence.
It forced me to look at the ugly parallels in our own society and ponder how (if?) we can lead a different future.
Sometimes there are no heroes, only winners.
Change the Course of Humanity with Shinseikai Yori:
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