Shin Sekai Yori Episode 10: Than Darkness
“All problems stem from the human heart.” -Shun Aonuma
Summary: Saki continues to make her way through the forest in search of Shun, and after fighting off one of the Cats, she finally does succeed in finding him. As Shun tries to control his PK, he leads Saki to the house where he has been staying. Truths are revealed as everything comes to its tragic conclusion.
Impressions: It’s getting kinda repetitive to say, but it bears repeating that every episode of Shin Sekai Yori takes what I expected of it…and blows it out of the water. The animation, the mood, the characters, everything about it is…yeah. I don’t even know how to handle the level of happiness that this show makes me feel. Okay, before I start gushing a bunch of silly emotional crap all over the place let’s move on to the review of this very, very excellent episode.
So. The animation style from episode 5 is back. I think it’s working even better in this episode than in episode 5, since Saki and Shun are older than they were back then. Saki especially looks amazing this episode, from her body movements to her expressive eyes that shift from scared and confused little girl to focused and scary badass warrior. The colors, angels, surreal visuals, everything was just working together really well and very effectively to make one great looking episode. It made it very hard for me to take screencaps of (as you can probably tell by how many there are), since literally every scene was gorgeous and important. On a side note; I wonder if they’re going to keep doing this every five episodes? Because I would like that.
Saki starts the episode right by taking the Cat (I’m just going to refer to it as a cat, because it’s unclear to me if it’s a Copy Cat or a Tainted Cat, or if those are the same thing, or two different things like the Minoshiro/False Minoshiro) and literally wringing the life out of it after it tries to bit her head off. Thank god for Shun’s collar charm, which stops the Cat’s teeth from sinking right into Saki’s jugular. After defeating it, she continues to work her way deeper and deeper into the forest, as the scenery becomes more and more like something out of Salvador Dali’s head complete with strange mutant animals. She eventually comes to an area that is completely white and filled with exploding Mentos-like candy things. This is where she finds Shun.
He’s dressed in what look like some kind of white ceremonial garb and has to now wear a white mask that is very reminiscent to one you might see in Japanese Noh theater (actually, just doing a quick browse through of the Wiki page on Noh, I’m pretty sure that there are some very direct parallels that could be drawn between that and this episode.) Saki begs him to let her stay and talk to him, and after she tells him about the Cat almost killing her, he agrees to let her stay for ten minutes. He leads her to the “bungalow” he’s been staying at, which is in reality, a strangely warped house in the middle of a lake that comes fully equipped with its own amazing light show/private aurora borealis.
This is when things get a little crazy in the “Woah-nelly, Shun, you’re dropping a little bit too much knowledge on me right now” kind-of-way. Shun is obliged to tell Saki about what is happening to him, and this is about how it breaks down. Okay. Imagine an iceberg. Now, your conscious self is the tip of that iceberg, the part that is above the water. This is what Freud would refer to as the “ego”. But, if you know the story of the Titanic (or has seen the movie), you also know that the tip of the iceberg is really just the smallest part of a bigger whole. The largest part of an iceberg is the area that’s underwater, which here is the “subconscious.” In Freudian theory this is called the “unconscious” (not that big of a difference, really) and is divided into two parts, your “id” which controls your instincts and drive, and your “superego” which is your conscience (you know, like Jiminy Cricket.)
Now, as a human you can’t really control your thoughts and feelings 100% of the time. This is especially true of the unconscious, which is basically a giant reservoir for “suppressed feelings, automatic skills, subliminal perceptions, thoughts, habits, automatic reactions, and may also include complexes, hidden phobias and desires.” In terms of Freud, it’s your id, which is only concerned with getting what it wants, when it wants (think of it like a baby, it just wants, but is neither good nor bad) and your superego, which is mainly concerned with perfection, ideals, and the feeling of guilt when these are not abided by, having a constant battle between each other. It makes for your subconscious to be a very murky and dark place, full of thoughts that if you said out loud people might stare at you like you had a third eye. That’s where your ego, or conscious thought comes in. It acts as a type of filter, and takes thoughts and actions that originate in your unconscious, and either makes them social acceptable or vetoes them entirely. For example: you need to pee. Your Id tells you so because it’s a basic need. But instead of just peeing outside, or in the middle of the street, or someplace where you might be given a ticket for public indecency, your ego takes that thought and tells you “Alright, let’s find a bathroom.” Your superego is happy, because you did the right thing, and your id is happy because you fulfilled its wants. Without your conscious mind, things would be a little out of whack, as you can see.
To relate this back to SSY, Shun explains that the way their Cantus works is different from the way that their minds works. With their PK, the time it takes between the original inception of the idea and the execution of that action is almost non-existent, so there is no time for correction. Imagine it like a Freudian slip, you know, when you accidentally type “erection” instead of “selection” or “election.” Except these Freudian slips are much more dangerous, because they actually have power behind them. All those dark thoughts you have, which we (your everyday average humans) might only see in dreams or nightmares, actually slipping out as forces that act upon the world. That’s what it’s like in the world of Shin Sekai. Even though the PK users try to control it with mantras and seals and hypnosis, sometimes that slippage of unconscious power still manage to get through. While it might not have much power on its own, when a build-up of this power leakage occurs, that’s when things can get very dangerous. Because this power actually can change things when there’s enough of it, living in a village with a bunch of other psychics would potential be like living with a ticking time bomb. All that dark power building up, influencing and twisting the world around them. Yeah, that would be scary. And that’s where the Holy Barrier comes in.
It’s not actually keeping things bad things out, in a sense, so much as it’s keeping things in. PK users fear the most the things that spawn within themselves (Karma Demons and Fiends and the like) so they’re raised thinking that those things originate outside of the barrier. They’re conditioned to fear the “outside” world from a very young age so that subconsciously the two become linked. Because all their uncertainty, fear, and any other dark thoughts are linked to an area past the Holy Barrier, all of that leaked subconscious power is directed towards “outside.” So instead of that power accumulating inside the village or being directed against people or whatever, it all flows outward. And that is why the outside world is so affected and different from the one we know today. That extra power changed the world, especially the animals, resulting over time in so many new and mutated species. Like the Minoshiro, which Shun hypothesizes as having at one time been a sea slug.
You might be asking yourself “Okay, that’s all well and good, but how does this have anything to do with Shun?” This get’s us to the heart of all this conscious/unconscious mind stuff. What’s happening to Shun is that he can no longer control his subconscious. And since he can no longer control his subconscious, his PK has gotten out of control. To go back to our good friend Freud: His ego is no longer able to control his id or his superego 1. What might in other people be a controllable amount of psychic leakage, has in Shun developed into a unstoppable flood. Shun’s powers have grown so uncontrollable and so intense in fact, that not only did he destroy his whole village, but he also was the one who changed all the trees and things surrounding it that we saw with Saki and Satoru last episode, as well as being the one that has so affected the area surrounding the cabin, which was full of mutant animals and wild landscapes. His powers have even affected his poor dog Subaru, who now looks like a dog/snapping turtle hybrid. In short: He has contracted Hashimoto-Applebaum syndrome, better known to use as a Karma Demon.
After this lengthy explanation, during which Saki does a bit of crying (I mean, you would too, if the boy you were in love with basically told you that he’d contracted an incurable disease and was going to die), Shun tells her that she needs to leave. The whole time they were having this discussion, he’d been focusing his powers on keeping a bunch of (what look like) marbles spinning in the air so that he wouldn’t harm her with his powers as well. But now that he’s reaching the end of his rope, he can no longer control himself, and doesn’t want to see her die by his hand like his parents. It’s a terrifying thought; not being able to control your body or your mind, hurting those around you, unable to even kill yourself, as Shun tells Saki he tried to by swallowing a variety of poison pills left to him by the elders when they took him into the woods.
The other Cat shows up, and is briefly dealt with, forcing even poor, loyal Subaru to lay down his life in the end to try to protect his master. Shun destroys the cat, but losses his last bit of control in the process, as he sees one to many loved ones die in front of his eyes. He half flings Saki out of harms way as his powers work to slowly engulf him. Before he is completely destroyed, he tells Saki that he loved her and goodbye, and then he is no more. The last we see is his mask as it shatters into pieces (just like my heart.) As the climax of the episode it was absolutely stunning, everything from the animation, the script, the music, even the voice acting, made for an incredibly emotional scene (and probably one of my favorites of the show so far.)
The episode ends with Saki, flying off, and instead of crying, she seems to have found a new inner strength and swears that she will stay alive. It’s nice that the episode ended on a vaguely positive note, instead of with Saki crying her eyes out. I think that just about wraps things up here. I’m not an expert on Freud so please forgive me if I made any mistakes up there. It’s been a while since I studied him in school so I tried my best. Also, I’m sorry that this is so much later than usual. I spent most of yesterday with the feeling that Satan was personally trying to open a portal to hell in the space between my brain and my eyes, so I was curled in the fetal position most of the day. Anywho. Next week: a mysterious stranger appears! School life returns but is everything really back to normal? What about Satoru, Maria and my baby Mamoru?
Final Thought: Something I forgot to mention. Apparently, the village library has a store of books that should have been destroyed and that pertain to the transformation into a Karma Demon (and I would think a lot of other topics that are “forbidden knowledge”) Saki’s mom has access to them, and Shun was even made to add to them in an attempt to learn more about the “disease.” Shun mentions something about having to add his name to a list of people who have turned into Karma Demons, which makes me wonder if someone else’s name might not be on that list? Saki’s sister perhaps? I wonder if in the future we will see our protagonists (or even Saki’s mom) breaking the rules to get at that information…
1.It’s interesting to note that Freud believed that the id was, at it’s most basic, the inherent desire to create (he thought that the id was one giant pool of libido, and sex=wanting to procreate.) And with Shun’s id unchecked, create he does, not babies, but a whole new world of his own making. Freud also believed that along with an instinct to create, there was also a so-called “death instinct” or the need to destroy, through acts of aggression directed at the external world and its organisms. We can also see that in what happened to Shun’s village. His id, without anything to tell it otherwise, acted violently towards the world outside of Shun, and because he had become so powerful, that destructive impulse ended up taking out his home. Even though he might not have consciously ever wanted to do that.↩