Shin Sekai Yori Episode 11: Winter’s Distant Thunder

“Sometimes the truth is cruelest of all. Not everyone can bear it.” -Maria Akizuki

Summary: Saki, Maria, Satoru, and Mamoru realize that something seems amiss with their happy school lives, and as they start to question their memories and the reality of their world, their actions come to the attention of the shadowy Ethics Committee.

Impressions: Dear Shin Sekai Yori, why must you only be on once a week? And end in cliffhangers all the time? You’re not doing my heart any favors, you know. This weeks episode was a bit of a breather from the emotional rollercoaster that was episode ten. Although it didn’t really let up for very long (the ending!), this episode does serve to show us a bit more of our heroes, and the ties that bind them together. It also concretely answers some questions that up until now have been speculation.

Things start off with Saki and the rest of the gang back in school. It’s obvious some time has gone by (we don’t know how much exactly, but I’d guess a couple of months?), and the seasons have shifted to winter as shown by the icicles, class room heater, and the change in wardrobe. We’re introduced right off the bat to Ryou, a new character, who for all intents and purposes, is Shun. And by that I mean that he’s taken Shun’s place in everyone’s memories, as well as having taken his place inside the group. Ryou’s memories have even been altered so that he thinks that all the things that Shun did (like going on the summer trip together, and dating Satoru) were actually done by him. Shun has been completely erased and replaced.

Up until now, I’d only been speculating that people’s memories could be altered, like with Saki and her sister, and how at the very beginning no one seemed to remember the kids who would go missing, but this week we get the hard proof that, yes, some how, someone is changing people’s memories at will in order to keep up the facade of a safe and happy environment (I’d probably put my money on this being done by the Ethics Committee, but you can never be too sure with this show.) That’s not to say that it works completely, as Saki more than anyone else, has the distinct feeling that something is not right. Satoru feels it too, as well as Maria and Mamoru, but they only really realize it when they concentrate very hard on their memories.

All of this is first brought up when Ryou asks to talk to Saki alone, in order to ask her to be his partner. This is tantamount to a love declaration, as these “duty partners” often go on to have relationships or get married (at least that’s the feeling I’m getting from it.) Saki, who even without remembering the reason why, knows to stay away from the courtyard, and that same subconscious feeling makes her question Ryou, and just how “real” her own memories are. After dreaming about Shun (though she can’t remember his face) and a mirror imbedded in a gravestone, Saki wakes up and searches for that same mirror. She finds it, and when she uses it to reflect the sun’s light, writing appears in the reflection. The strange dreams, uneasy feeling, and doubt all combine inside Saki, making her very sure that Ryou is not really the person she’s remembering. When she questions him further about events that he should remember, it becomes clear to her that Ryou is not who he says he is, and she rejects his proposal of being partners.

Could you be any cuter? I think not.

It’s Saki’s feelings of uneasiness and her questioning nature that leads her to talk to Satoru about Ryou. Satoru has also been feeling the same subconscious uneasiness about Ryou, and when Saki says that he can’t be the one that they both fell in love with, Satoru seems to be incredibly relieved that he’s not the only one that has been feeling that way. Armed with this, they discuss it with the rest of the group, and decide to go investigate where “X” (as they decided to refer to Shun, since they can’t remember his name) lived. They go to the village formerly known as Pinewind, now known as Withertree, which has abandoned and the landscape around it altered by a massive amount of PK. As they approach the area where Shun’s house would have been they find…a lake. OF COURSE it’s a lake. Just like the story of the Karma Demon, Shun and all tangible evidence of his existence have been sunk to the bottom of a watery grave. Not only does SSY make clear connections between the Karma Demon story and the present, but as the group struggle to remember Shun, they also start to remember the sixth member of their team, Reiko, who disappeared in the very first episode. Bet you didn’t think she’d every be mentioned again, right? I sure as hell didn’t, but it shows that practically everything is somehow important, and nothing is left to chance here.

As everyone tries to remember more and more, Mamoru has a bit of a break-down, and Maria insists they change the topic. They go back home, and after seeing Mamoru off, Saki reveals her theories about her sister Yoshimi and how she might have been deposed of by the school because her powers were too weak. Satoru and Maria, upon examining the mirror that Saki found earlier, both are more inclined to think that Saki is missing a lot of evidence to back up her theories. Maria in particular warns Saki about causing too much trouble, saying that not everyone is as strong as her and can deal with facing the dark truths that are hidden under the surface of their society.

Mamoru in particular, is brought up as an example of someone who isn’t mentally strong enough to deal with such a harsh reality. He needs to believe in the way their society works, because a betrayal of that magnitude would probably break him. While Maria might act high and mighty at school, and rubs her relationship with Saki in Mamoru’s face, deep down she really does care for him, as we see this episode. She comforts and protects him, to the point where she’s willing to tell Saki to not mention any of this around him again. We all have guessed at Mamoru being the weakest of the group, and this week we see just how fragile his is (and if that isn’t an open invitation for horrible things to happen to him, then I don’t know what is, poor little baby.) It is nice though that instead of cutting Mamoru out, they decide to protect him and not mention any more of this while he’s around, even though Saki says she’s not going to stop her inquires.

Friendship in action guys!

If I were being perfectly objective, I’d say that the episode probably should have ended there, because the last part felt really tacked on. I know they did it to end the episode on a note of suspense, but it felt a little unnatural, like the episode had already come to its conclusion but then wait! here’s some other little part that could have just been the beginning of the next episode. Two adults show up and request that Saki, Maria, and Satoru all come with them to see the head of the Ethics Committee, Tomiko Asahina. Since the identities of the members of the Ethics Committee are secret, not even Satoru knew that his Grandmother was the head of it. When it turns out that she wants to talk to them all individually, it set off some alarm bells in my mind. I find that generally when characters are purposefully described by other’s as “kind and friendly” they turn out to be anything but. Tomiko obviously has some serious business to discuss with Saki, as the previews hint at, so I’m looking forward to another episode full of plot twists and interesting reveals next week (can’t say I’m looking forward to how much typing I’ll probably have to do though.) Will we find out what exactly the Ethics Committee does? What’s their grand plan? What exactly do Saki and the rest of her friends have to do with it? And just who is that wandering around covered in blood in the previews? The suspense is killing me!

Final Thought: I know I’ve mentioned this previously, but hat’s off to SSY for its constantly changing wardrobes. This is probably one to the only shows I can really think of off the top of my head that has so many different outfits for each character. Everyone’s winter cloths this episode were really nicely done. I really wanted the big scarf/neck-warmer-thing Mamoru had, and Maria’s outfit was really cute as well. It’s just one more thing that shows the level of detail in this series, and makes it forgivable that sometimes other aspects of the animation aren’t as well done (like their faces sometimes look really strange) because I’m sure that it cost more to have your characters wearing a bunch of different things (especially as detailed as some of it is) than it is to have them wear the same outfit over and over again.

Final Final Thought: I though it was interesting to note that every time someone was having trouble remembering something clearly, their eye would twitch and they would then rub it or kind of hold their eye like they had a headache. And it was almost always the right eye. Just another fun little detail to point out.


Just another anime nerd with above average taste.

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14 Responses

  1. I felt the same way you did where it should have ended at that moment and it felt odd that it continued (but I’m not going to complain too much because I love the show so much)!

    I also thought the kiss scene was also really random too and I don’t mean the little peck that happened at the beginning of the episode.

    Also remember last week I said I wish they would fast forward time a bit? Well wish granted haha. Hopefully new love plots will begin to form soon.

    • Tenderfoot says:

      Yes! That kiss was so weird. Like Satoru is just standing there hugging them, and their making out. So basically Satoru = Pimp master.

      • HAHAHAHA! Ya it was totally awkward… The hug was nice enough and then they just had to cross that line again.

      • Vantage says:

        Maybe it’s just me, but I didn’t mind it xD I’m very supportive of Saki x Maria. I mean, a few episodes ago I was completely for Saki x Shun, but then…yeah. =/

        At the start of the episode I was actually thinking that the show had introduced Ryou earlier and I’d just forgotten about him – gradually it dawned that something wasn’t right, and when it clicked I was pretty impressed with the shock value. Props to you SSY, as per usual.

        • Tenderfoot says:

          Well for what it’s worth, I bet Satoru was really enjoying that kiss too. He was probably all like “Awwwww yeah” I think Saki x Satoru is what I’ve personally been rooting for as an end game romance, but I liked Saki and Shun together too. Too bad that got shut down really quick ;_;

      • Prost says:

        I didn’t find it weird. When people are good friends (and i mean really good friends), there is much less distance between them. Normally, this means more trust and confidence. Not forgetting that the only real couple not messed with has has been Maria and Saki. It seems very normal that they would share a kiss. I find it very probable that Satoru and Shun, Maria and Saki share more than a couple touches and kisses in those past few weeks. At that time Satoru does love Maria, Saki and Mamoru. But that is simply a different kind of love: one surrounding bonding and friendship.

        On a side note! Man! I’m really in to this anime. The only other animations I’ve been able to mentally digest this well have been Ghost in the shell, Ergo Proxy, Maddock Scramble, and Paprika. If anyone has recommendations on films, animations, shows or books that i can savor like these please do let me know! It’s pretty tough starting different shows only to get bored halfway!

        Thanks for reading! Would like to hear back from everyone!

      • MrDerp says:

        Considering how their society works… It was merely stress relief thing for the two, nothing more.

        • Prost says:

          You might be right, however. In episode 11, Saki says, “He isn’t the person we fell in love with,” when speaking to Satoru about Ryou’s role as Shun’s replacement. It could simply be a genetic code to curb stress. Personally, I want to think it was more than that. Otherwise, if there was nothing greater, why were both Satoru and Saki motivated so much in sorting, parsing and understanding their memories?

  2. Prost says:

    Some unsupported speculation here. I think Maria will die or something horrible will happen to her. At the end of the second episode Saki mentioned, “if Maria hadn’t been born so many people wouldn’t have died.” Chances are, something bad happens around Maria and while we are at it: around Mamoru. Maria seems to have Mamoru’s at heart more than the others and since it seems the bonobo effect is wearing off and the students are gradually moving towards hererosextual coupling. It’s likely that Maria will end up with Mamoru and Satoru with Saki. Especially after the episode concerning the two and the bakemono nezumi teritorial battles. Personally, I’m more concerned with whether the group of four will restore their memories of the camp, the information divulged from bullying the library and what the next time skip will hold.
    Because I assume the occasional voice narrator is saki in maturity, I really want the developers to have an episode where they show her. Why is she narrating this? What is the point of recollecting so many memories that seemingly are unsettling. Wouldn’t it simply be easier to forget? What happen to the observer scientists? What did they do in their first intervention to create the current world? Did they intervene again in saki’s world to change things? Why is it okay for children to be eliminated because they face an obstacle in their power development or because they happen to be a little rowdy? Why has there been no remedy for the conditions named ogres and demons?
    Why is it so messed up?
    I’ll stop there with the questions.

    • Tenderfoot says:

      You raise a lot of really good questions, some of which I’ve had too, and I’m hoping that all of them will be answered over the course of the show. For the time being it is really fun to speculate thought! I think you’re probably right about Maria and Mamoru. He seems very, very fragile, and like the smallest thing would set him off and since Maria cares about him a lot, I wouldn’t be surprised if that ended up being the reason that she starts to kill people (or whatever it is that future Saki hints at.) I do think though, that they all remember what happened during their summer camp, and all the stuff with the queerats and the library. Saki is able to remember Rijin and how he died, so I think that it was only the memories of Shun specifically that were affected. I don’t think who ever messed with their minds knew every thing that happened during the trip, and that’s why they couldn’t change Ryou’s memories to fit exactly what happened, which is why he couldn’t remember Rijin’s death at all.

      As for recommendations for other things like this, oh god that’s tough. I’d say (for anime): Revolutionary Girl Utena and/or Mawaru Penguindrum are similarly complex, deal a lot with symbolism, and have some of the same themes that Shin Sekai does. The animation is a little more colorful and less “horror” though for both of those. You might enjoy something by Masaaki Yuasa (I’d recommend Mind Game or The Tatami Galaxy) since those are crazy and have a lot of things going on narratively and visually. The animation is very (very) different, and takes some risks like SSY episodes 5 and 10 did. Or a movie like Angel’s Egg or Night on the Galactic Railroad. Those will either really get you thinking about what they’re about, or bore you to tears (you kinda have to be in the right mood for those.) And I’d be remiss to not mention Brave New World by Aldous Huxley as a book that definitely influenced this show. I know there’s probably a ton more, but those are the ones I can think of off the top of my head. Let’s see if anyone else has any ideas, I’d be curious to see what other people would suggest as well.

      • Prost says:

        Before I start, I want to say thank you for the recommendations. Mawaru Penguindrum looks really interesting, the coloring almost reminds of Paprika or Spirited Away & Howl’s Moving Castle. I can’t believe I forgot those two.i googled Mind Game for more information. It’s really tantalizing! And I got other fantastic results. Just to share a few: Genius Party, Millennium Actress, Cat Soup, Memories and Perfect Blue. I read a little about Tatami Galaxy Wikipedia didn’t seem to have much information on it. But I’ll still give it ago.

        After reading your reply and rewatching episode 11;I think you are correct in mentioning, “Saki is able to remember Riin and how he died, so i think it was only the memories of Shun were affected.” Definitely good points. Yet, I still feel as though something is not adding up. I’m not sure how i should put this but will do my best.

        The library was the false minoshiro. It was able to explain to them what the medical cases known as ogre and karmic demon actually were, and it speculated on the possibility of karmic demons manifesting again. The false minoshiro are also not particularly rare. There was one in episode 1, another in episode 3 at night by the camp fire and another episode four, the one they caught and bullied into explaining some history. Then there was another in the following episode. If Saki and the remaining four remember about the false minoshiro, why did they not go searching for solutions to correcting their memories? Surely, the library would have had information on such cases. Here I am assuming, the ethics committee/education committee used hypnosis once more. On the point of hypnosis, if they do recall all the events from the camping trip (with the exception of memories concerning him) wouldn’t one of the four have figured they were under hypnosis?
        Further, considering how curious Saki is, wouldn’t it have been a good idea to grab some cool glasses, and solo hunt some false minoshiro to understand why children were disappearing? Because of those points, i was questioning their recollection capacity concerning what they had learnt during the camp.

        And you are right again, whomever interfered with their memories didn’t know enough or at least was not careful enough in changing them to make sure the task was seamlessly completed. But, I have to give them credit. It took Saki a while, a strange dream, a mirror, the half present memory of her sister before she confided in Satoru, and then the rest. I’m really glad someone remembered Amano Reiko. She seemed like one of those who would have made a kind instructor or nurse. Someone less abrasive. I miss Shun already.

        Moving on.
        – I noticed that Satoru’s grandmother appeared rather young, especially after seeing the two who escorted Maria, Satoru and Saki. I wonder if this is a side effect of using power, I imagine as the head of the ethics committee she must be quite skilled at using it.

        – The child we saw walking around covered in blood. I hope that is not Mamoru. Either way, I’m getting angry at their lack of compassion and pathetic use of their cat exercised death penalty. Especially since it’s so easy to qualify for. Sigh* I have so many questions, they disappear before I have a chance to note them.

        – The fashion, like you mentioned is quite something! I remember in episode one I got hooked by Saki’s dinner dress. It looked simple but so well tailored. In this episode, both Maria and Saki had some cool winter wear. Oh! and great catch on the right eye twitch, and the rub. That was pretty cool!

        – I guess I’ll really get out of hand now by saying, it would be nice if some aspects of cantus power were true. It would like lighting birthday candles through visualization. Or moving my brothers toys and listen to him laugh. I think there could be many small uses for pk in real life. Since my thoughts are starting to get unfocused, I’ll go do some meditation.
        Thanks again! XD

        • Riegel says:

          I thought since what happened to Shun was related to the story of the karma demon, maybe Maria’s future was foretold in the story she read in episode 1 – the one about the boy who was about to bring the Akki to the village, which would have caused many deaths. Now that you mention it, however, maybe Mamoru will have a part in the story as well? Maybe he brings the monster and Maria stops him from killing himself like Shun did so the monster kills many people in the village? We shall see…

          As for recommendations, I’m more into psychological stories so I’d say you should try watching Paranoia Agent and Habane Renmei (this one seems very peaceful and not not much seems to be happening up to a point). I heard Serial Experiments: Lain is also very good, but I haven’t watched it yet.

    • “if Maria hadn’t been born so many people wouldn’t have died.” I have been wondering the same thing after every episode! I wonder how Maria plays out in all of this!

  3. Prost says:

    I know, i know the suspense is so bitter sweet. I hunger to know what Maria does and what happens to her. But frankly speaking. I’d rather not rush it. I want the developers to create an onion of a story. This means I get to stay up till 3am. Turning the rocks, trying to figure out what happens next.

    I’ve not been this into a show or film for such a long time. Prometheus ran its course after only a week. I’ll probably pick up Brave New World for winter reading.

    Finally, my zeal for life is starting to boil back up!

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