Shin Sekai Yori Episode 5: A Sweltering Night On the Run
“So some creatures really evolve just to kill?” -Mamoru Ito
Summary: When the Blowdog explosion kills Rijin, the kids are forced to flee from the foreign Queerats. As they run through the forest they split up, leaving Satoru and Saki on their own. They’re captured by the Queerats and imprisoned for a short while, before some quick thinking on Satoru’s part gives them a chance for escape. They hear a voice telling them to follow it and are eventually led to a cave, where we’re introduced to Squealer, a Queerat who can speak the human language as well as that of the Queerats. He introduces them to the Queen, who is a horrifying creature, and who almost kills him when he exposes her to Satoru and Saki. Saki ends up saving his life, and afterward he gives them a bit of a lesson on the current state of the Queerat world. Not quite sure they want to get mixed up in a war between Queerat colonies, Saki and Satoru try to escape during the night when suddenly everything goes horribly wrong.
Impressions: Coming off of last week’s denser-than-your-grandma’s-holiday-fruit-cake episode, this week presented us with something very different, in both its content and animation style. Before we get into what actually happened in the episode let me just briefly address something: in case this wasn’t clear to you by now, this isn’t really a show that you can watch mindlessly. It requires that you put in a minimal effort to think about the events that are happening on the screen. So for those people who were confused over if Rijin had died or not in the first scene, please kindly switch your brains into the “ON” position, and try again. Actually I want to have a mini-rant over a lot of things specific to this episode, and mostly related to the reactions of people watching it, but I’ll save that for the end. On with the episode review!
The episode literally starts with a bang, as Rijin get’s taken out with a blowdog to the face. Not only does it explode on you, but it’s bones are scare razor discs of death that will cut you up into tiny pieces. Shun’s comment about species doing anything to survive was scary and seemed to harken back to what we learned last episode. Humanity has survived, at great costs, and while doing some pretty terrible things (like killing off children) so in a way humans and blowdogs are on the same level. That line also seemed to me to be foreshadowing for the lengths the kids will have to go through to get out of this whole mess alive. There was also Maria’s creepy smile during this scene. Now, a lot of people have been saying it’s the fault of the animation and that it’s inappropriate, but the way I see it, and this is probably just me, is that it was a hint at Maria’s dark side. Remember back in episode 2 or 3, when future narrator Saki talked about the difficulties of Maria’s birth and that if only she hadn’t been born, thousands could have been spared? Yeah. So we’ve already got the hint that Maria is not as wholesome as she might appear. What I got from that smile was that some part of her actually enjoys seeing suffering and death.
After Rijin’s untimely demise, our little group is forced to run away from the remaining Queerats, who are hesitant to attack at first, since they’ve never seen anyone use PK before. Shun tells everyone to split up, to make it easier to run away, and Saki and Satoru end up together and captured, while we can only guess at what happens to everyone else. The two of them are imprisoned in a very strange thorny tree, and then things get a little (I really hate this word but I’m going to use it anyway even though it makes me feel uncomfortable) sensual. Because both of them have been raised in an environment where sexual intimacy is used as a way to release anxiety and aggression, and I think we can all agree that they’re both probably pretty anxious about being held captive and possibly being killed, so it seems natural that they start to act on those conditioned reflexes. Satoru is really into it, but Saki is having second thoughts. She can’t help but think back to what the Minoshiro said about how they have sex not because they want to, or are in love with the person, but because they’ve been trained to use sex as an emotional valve to release pressures that might build up inside of them. I feel weird referring to this as a “sex” scene since there wasn’t any sex obviously, more like Satoru was making out with Saki’s neck, and I think at one point his had is definitely up her shirt, so it’s more like good job kid, you got to second base. I think the main thing to take away from it is that they acted like they’d done this before, and knew the drill, so I think we can safely assume that the relationship between all the kids might be what we, by our relationship standards, might call “more than friends.”
So we come to Squealer, our newest character. Almost killed right from the get go, poor…dude? Side note: How fucking scary was the Queen? A giant, pale, eight breasted, worm thing that could squish you or bite your face off is something that might be nightmare inducing. Back to Squealer. He calls the kids Gods and can clearly speak the human language, unlike other Queerats we’ve seen so far. He’s the kind of combination of cute/hideous that I love, so he’s already my favorite, other than Mamoru of course. He also begs Saki and Satoru for their help in the war that is raging between the invading Queerats, called the Ground Spiders, and the native colonies, with the one that Squealer belongs to being called Robber Fly. I wonder how they chose those names?
Anyway, this war seems to be the backbone of the conflict that the kids are going to have to deal with, and as such I’m glad we finally are starting to see it come up in the story. The only thing is, that no matter what excuses they come up with, both the two kids are useless since they don’t have their powers anymore. And I get the impression that once the Queen knows that, she might not be so welcoming to them any more. Squealer owes Saki his life, so I don’t think that he would betray them even if he knew they were powerless, although with a name like that…you can never really be sure.
I guess I should talk about the animation for this episode *sigh* A lot, A LOT, has been said about the change of animation style in this episode. It’s obvious from the first minute that something is really different. The colors are more blown out, the characters look a smidge older since their eyes are often not so round and child-like, there are a couple of scenes where it get’s this strange faded, old-school look (in the vein of Kids on the Slope), and this episode had a lot more close-ups (of everything really, not just the characters faces). It’s not due to budget restrictions or laziness or anything along those lines, but rather (from what I can gather from various sources) a different director and animation team who were in charge of just this episode. They wanted to give it a little bit of their personal style, and this episode definitely reflects that. The backgrounds and scenery continue to be awesome, the colors and lighting really reflect the different moods and environments, and most of the time Saki and Satoru look like the normally do. Sure, there are some moments where their mouths or faces or whatever are a bit not right, but come on. Let’s be honest for a minute. Has the animation ever been 100% flawless all the time up till now? No. There have been some scenes with some pretty derpy looking faces in the past four episodes.
As for the close-ups, I think it was a very conscientious directorial disicion. Close ups are most often used to show a characters emotions and take us into their mental state. The overuse of close-ups is used to create confusion about what the character and the viewer are seeing. Seen from Saki or Satoru’s point of view, and even from our own and the viewer, this was a very emotional episode. Let’s not forget that these kids have basically seen their whole world view turned on its head, had their powers sealed, and just saw the one person who could maybe keep them safe in a wild world they don’t really know blown to pieces. They don’t know what’s going on, they’re scared and uncertain, and the close-ups reflect that by showing us their faces. None of us knows what’s going on, what’s real and what’s not, who’s good and who’s bad.
Even the scenes with Satoru and Saki in the tree. That’s about as emotional of a moment as you can get, and showing us their faces, reflecting passions and hesitancy, with those close shots help convey that sense of intimacy between the two and also the sense of unease that comes from that kind of voyeurism Not to mention that close up shots help create a very claustrophobic and uneasy atmosphere and this episode (this whole show really) is nothing if not uneasy and jammed into small spaces (underground tunnels and a the tree prison.) I for one, actually really liked the episode, and applaud the fact that they even attempted to do something vaguely experimental and different. If you didn’t like it, that’s fine. This episode was a one-off style-wise. It’s not the end of the world. Next episode will go back to normal.
Speaking of next week, which can’t come fast enough after that cliffhanger of an ending, I guess we’ll be exploring Saki and Satoru’s relationship some more, with some focus on how they came to be friends and who things were before this whole crazy adventure started. And I’m dying to know what it was that Satoru was stabbing at. What was the mysterious white slimey stuff (…I’m not going to go there)? They both recognized it so what could it be? And did the tunnel really collapse on them? Are they both going to make it? WHY CAN’T IT BE NEXT FRIDAY ALREADY!
Rant Though: I was going to post a really long rant here about how 98% of people are idiots but then I though to myself, why am I getting all upset about what a bunch of morons who probably couldn’t even screw in a lightbulb without a step-by-step instruction manual are saying on the internet? Do I really need that stress in my life? No. No, I don’t. So instead I’ll say that this episode was really lacking in the Mamoru department. My sweet prince was only in this episode for like 2 minutes! That’s not enough, gosh darn it! Also: Satoru was a complete badass this episode. Feeding that egg to the Queerat, escaping, blowing shit up, yeah. He proved that he’s every bit as capable as Shun.