Shin Sekai Yori Episode 15: Afterimage
“Should not all intelligent individuals be given equal right?” -Squealer
Summary: Saki and Satoru head out to search for Maria and Mamoru, and after Saki has an accident skiing, they both land in the Robber Fly colony where they become re-acquainted with Squealer and the rest of the Queerats. But things have changed, and a dark and dangerous atmosphere pervades the whole colony. Something terrible is at work, and with no choice but to trust Squealer, Saki and Satoru set out with him and his troops to question the Goat Moth colony about Maria and Mamoru’s whereabouts. Squealer’s manipulative actions almost destroy the Goat Moth colony, but Satoru interferes and they are finally able to question Squonk, who can’t tell them where their friends went, but does give them a mysterious letter.
Impressions: Wow, what a terrifying episode. Shin Sekai Yori takes a very dark turn this week, giving us an episode that not only provides us with some developments that could have serious ramifications on SSY’s society, but also drops a couple of hints as to what the final conflict of the show could potentially be. There’s a lot to cover this episode, so let’s not delay!
How about we start with the Queerats? The brunt of the episode focuses on them this week, and with the whole Robber Fly colony and Squealer making their triumphant returns, it seems only fair that we start out with them. After Saki falls down the side of the mountain, she wakes up to find that both she and Satoru (who managed to stop her fall and therefor save her life) are in the guest house of the Robber Fly colony. They are greeted by Squealer, who has been gifted with the name Yakomaru for all the things that he has done for the humans lately. He’s dressed quiet nicely, and explains how much better the colony has been doing since they absorbed the Ground Spiders. When Saki asks to greet the Queen, Squealer somewhat reluctantly agrees, and at that point I knew something was up. Squealer has always been a touch suspicious and this week really proves that that suspicion might not have been misplaced. Remembering back to the first episode where he and the children met, the very first thing he did was take them to the Queen, no questions asked. He was nothing but a servant to her. But now, the way he acts, talks, and dresses shows him in more of a position of power than before. Even the fact that the Colony now has such a thing as a guest house, with a fire place to make tea and even a tea kettle, all shows very early on that these are not the same creatures that they were two years ago, when they were all still living in caves underground. When Saki and Satoru are show the rest of the village on their way to meet the queen, that fact becomes even more evident.
The Queerats have built an actual village, with real houses, factories to make all kinds of things, and they even have a assembly hall built using concrete. As Squealer explains, they now have a more democratic way of ruling, where a large group of them make decisions about everything instead of just going along with their Queen (the layout of the village itself has even changed to reflect that.) Later in the episode we see the Robber Fly soldiers, and even they have changed. Gone are the poorly clothed, terrified, and unorganized fighters and in their place is an army. They are well trained, follow commands, and are outfitted with matching armor. They’re still using bows and arrows, but they seem to not be afraid of fire anymore as they set their arrows alight before shooting them at the entrance to the Goat Moth colony. I was almost surprised that they didn’t pull out muskets. Now that the Robber Fly colony has a greater population, it seems that their increased prosperity has changed their lives. What’s frightening is how similar those lives are to those of the humans. As Satoru points out, not even their village has a building made of concrete, it having been something that they had to give up as part of the material world. The fact that the Queerats have switched from fighting between each other to forming coalitions, living in houses and not underground, building factories, and forming a more representational form of government; it all mirrors human societies of old. While the way that the humans live now is different only in terms of the way that their governed, in some ways the Queerats have even over taken their “gods.” At no point so far have we seen a factory like the one that the Robber Flys have in the world of the PK users (there’s also the concrete thing again.) But in one more way does it seem that the Queerats have almost eclipsed the humans, and that seems to be knowledge.
Squealer was always clever. He could speak the Queerat language and also that of the humans very well. He would do anything, but only if it saved his life. He couldn’t really apply that thought process to anything other than saving his own skin. Now, he seems to be fully aware of how to use others in order to get what he wants. He manipulates Saki and Satoru into fighting half his battle against the Goat Moth colony, who incidentally are one of the last colonies that have yet to join with either the Robber Flys or the Giant Hornets. While on the surface it seems like he’s still bowing and thanking Saki and Satoru, something just under the surface suggests that now that the Goat Moth’s no longer have their stronghold it’ll make it just that much easier for Squealer and his men to take over that colony as well. And it’s not just that Squealer suddenly can think in such a way as to be actually conniving, he even has gotten so far as to have more theoretical thoughts about government and even the rights of the Queerats themselves.
As he rightfully points out, the Queerats are second only to the “Gods” in intelligence in this world, so why should they be ruled over by a Queen who’s only revered because she is the only one who can reproduce? She was tyrannical, and would kill her subjects on a whim. Her only claim to power was her ability to have children. Squealer can now think in such a way as to question why that would give her the right to rule, and he starts to reject it. It makes you wonder how much of the shift in power was a negotiation, as Squealer puts it, between the Queen and him, and how much of it was an actual revolution against a tyrannical monarchy. Now, instead of relying on an ill-equipped ruler, tasks are divided and handled by those that have proven that they can best do the task. The Queerats have had a radical change in though, and if Squealer is to be believed most of this has come from books that he’s read that came from the humans. We’re talking about some of the core ideas of democracy here, and the Queerats know about them, and are using them in a way that gives them much more freedom and power than the humans. Now the question becomes how did the Queerats come across this knowledge? Did Squealer really manage to catch a false minoshiro/library and use it to tell him all he knows like Satoru hypothesizes? Now that they’ve overthrown their oppressive ruler, how much longer will it be until they realize that it’s within their power to destroy their gods? Because that’s what everything seems to be leading up to.
It’s my personal theory that the Queerats are going to become even more powerful, and eventually become a real threat to the humans. If they really are what happened to non-PK users hundreds of years ago, they would only be repeating their own history. How many times over the course of hundreds of years have humans risen up against in revolution? It even happens to this day, as we can see with the Arab Spring. While the PK users aren’t exactly the worst masters, they still treat the Queerats as little more than beasts. Now that Squealer and others like him are starting to think that they deserve equal rights since they are just as smart as the humans, I think it’s only a mater of time until they join together to replace the human race, just as Satoru believes they will. The only thing standing in their way is the PK that the humans wield, but even that can be neutralized, which takes us to with out a doubt on of the more disturbing scenes that this show has offered us yet.
Saki and Satoru are finally taken to meet the Queen, and a lead into a dark hut where they find not only the original Queen from the Robber Fly colony, but also all the other Queens from the colonies that have joined them. While at first it seems like the Queen is only sleeping, and that the only strange thing about the whole situation is that they’re all being kept in a dark shack, Saki quickly realizes that something is horribly wrong as soon as she reaches down to touch the Queen. Part of reason that this whole sequence of events is so great is because instead of spelling it out word for word, or reveling in showing us fully this disgusting beast and what’s been done to her, SSY keeps up the tension by not letting the viewer see the whole picture. It leaves everything to the imagination and speculation of the viewer, who only have Saki and Satoru’s reactions, a couple of brief, dark images, and some bone-chilling sounds to go off of. I can only equate it to watching the end of the movie Se7en, with its infamous last scene. You never see what’s in the box, but you can tell by everyone’s reactions that it can be nothing good. It let’s your mind run rampant with what could be, and that (to me at least) is much scarier than having violent or grotesque images put in front of you. That’s the kind of stuff that’s going to be going around in your mind before you go to sleep at night.
Whatever it is specifically that they’ve done to her (I believe it was probably something similar to a lobotomy, since Squealer mentions that she was suffering from encephalitis, which is an inflammation of the brain), the Queen has been reduced to nothing more that a living incubator, alive enough to continue to give birth, but without the mental capabilities to even notice the state she’s in. Squealer claims that she is better off this way, and that they did it for her own good, but again you have to wonder if that’s really true, or if it was done in order to completely strip her of any power she might have. Squealer also mentions that they haven’t completely perfected the procedure but it’s said in such a way as to make it seem like they were still working on it. And if they can lobotomized their Queen, making her nothing more than a birthing machine, what’s to stop them from using it on PK users, making them unable to use their powers? or worse, leaving them as mindless slaves? Satoru is smart to be very cautious about putting his trust in the Robber Fly colony and Squealer, because honestly, I would be too.
To finish off the episode, the kids and the Queerats finally set off to the Goat Moth colony, and after using Saki and Satoru to not only defend but also to attack the enemy colony, they’re finally able to force Squonk into meeting with them. He, of course, doesn’t know where Maria and Mamoru have gone off to, but he does have a letter which he gives to Saki. On it is written simply “Half the World Away.” It’s one of two strange title card bits, with the other one being shown right after they inter the hut where the Queen is being kept and reading “Her Majesty.” There’s something very strange about them, and I still can’t tell why it was done. It’s nothing we’ve seen in a previous episode. I also can’t tell if they were written in English originally, or if they were re-done by the group that’s translating and subbing it. So with Mamoru and Maria still in the wind, maybe next episode will see us finding them again. Or at least finding out what was in Maria’s letter (which seems to be what the preview was hinting at.) Once again, I’m left anxiously awaiting next Friday, because damn, do I want to find out what’s going to happen next.
Final Thought: Squealer’s VA does an absolutely fantastic job this episode. He did a great job at making Squealer sound not only downright menacing, but also crazy, sly, suspicious, and proud all in turn. While Squealer’s facial expressions do some of the work, his voice really makes the character for me, and this episode it really stood out as above and beyond what I was expecting.