Shin Sekai Yori Episode 16: To Saki, My Love
“Once the kiln is opened and the pottery inspected, all that are crooked or bear cracks are fated to be smashed. If all that awaited us was the fate of smashed pottery, then we decided we would rather run away in the hopes of finding a different future.” -Maria Akizuki
Summary: Saki and Satoru read Maria’s letter which not only shows the depth of Saki and Maria’s relationship but also questions the morality of their society. A devastated Saki continues to try and find Maria, but deep down both she and Satoru know that they won’t be able to find their friends before Tomiko’s time limit is up. Saki’s dreams, on the other hand, seem to suggest that this turn of events is for the better.
Impressions: Like episode 10 which saw the departure of Shun, episode 16 proved to be equally emotionally devastating. Although I think there were some things that could have been done much better (or at least in a way that was more interesting), in the end I believe that this episode still got the point it was trying to make across. It even managed to throw in a couple of more frightening details about the Queerats. Just on a visual level alone, this episode was one of the better ones. But let’s talk about Saki and Maria first.
A big part of this episode was spent on developing Saki and Maria’s relationship even though it seems to be coming to an end. I’m very glad though that they went back and really showed that these were two girls that had a very deep friendship, and later relationship. They grew up together, played together, went to school together, and loved each other very much which was really great to see. It made everything that happened in episode 8 seem like not just fan service, but acts that were based on real emotions. Do I wish that they’d chosen to show that without putting it into some cornball montage with an insert song? Yes. Yes I do. Since it was so close to the start of the episode, it came off as more of an opening, which up until now the show hasn’t had. That’s one of the things I’d really liked about SSY since more often than not openings can really spoil a little too much of a show for me. I didn’t think that song was really great, or even the right emotional tone for what they were trying to do. I though that instead of coming off as meaningful, the whole “we need a montage!” thing was just the wrong tone for the show and ended up being weirdly out of place. I think it probably would have been better to space out those memories over the course of the last couple of episodes, instead of trying to jam them in all at once in order for you to really feel Saki’s pain at loosing Maria. But hey, that might just be me. What did you think of it? Loved it? Hated it? Don’t really get why on earth I even care?
Either way, it certainly added some more context to Saki and Maria’s relationship, and made Maria’s departure that much harder. The clips from their childhood that weren’t in the beginning also helped show how close Maria, Saki, Shun, and Satoru were as kids and how much they’ve lost. Narrator Saki’s speech about what she was truly afraid of, of loosing all her loved ones and being alone, is really striking when you see how her life used to be versus how it is now. The world is a much darker place, nowhere is safe, and three of her five best friends are either dead or have been forced to disappear. Satoru is all she has now, and from the way the two of them talk in their make-shift igloo at the end, they would both fight like hell to keep hold of each other and their memories of their friends. On a side note: Saki telling Satoru that it would be the other way around, and that he would follow her, was priceless. You go Saki, you go girl.
Maria’s actual letter brings up some interesting points. Can the people living in Kamisu 66th District really say that they are that much better than the people of the past? Can a village that kills its children to maintain peace really be considered a normal human society? Maria is asking some hard questions about the morality of the way humans have chosen to mold their society. While a couple of weeks ago we got Tomiko’s point of view on the whole situations, and that they’re essentially doing it for the greater good, control a populace that at the drop of a hat could implode, this week we see it from a point of view more closely aligned with our own, as outsiders looking in. Maria has started to see her own society as the twisted thing that it is. The deep fear that the adults have of all children has morphed what might have been a peaceful environment into one of paranoia and horror. Her egg analogy is spot on. For fear of one monster being born they would sooner destroy tens of thousands of good eggs than let a demon be born.
The worst part is that everyone has learned to accept the fact that their child could disappear or be killed at any time, for almost no reason. And that acceptance is what Maria fears and loathes most. Much like Saki and Satoru’s vehement wish to not forget their friends, and Saki’s personal wish to not lose anymore of her loved ones, Maria also doesn’t want to be forgotten by her family. Who would do so, because they’ve learned that the death of a child is just a fact of life, and that after some grieving they would move on. Saki and Satoru would have been the only ones to remember her, and I can’t help but think that because they were never brainwashed like everyone else they would never really have been conditioned to accept and forget a death like that.
Maria makes her choice and decides to stay with Mamoru, forging a new way of life where they don’t have to worry about being disposed of. Maria writes that while Saki is strong enough to recover from even the deepest grief, Mamoru would never have survived the mental anguish of being left by the one person he loves more than all others (never mind that fact that his PK is weak and he’s not physically strong.) Out of duty, and maybe love, Maria breaks the heart of the person who can live through it, even though in her heart she would rather have gone with Saki. Deep inside, Saki knows she’s probably not going to see Maria again, let alone find her before their time limit runs out. But that doesn’t stop her from looking. She and Satoru continue their search until nightfall. Deeply saddened by everything that has happened, Saki breaks down and Satoru comforts her. It’s really heavily implied that the two of them have sex, and based on Saki’s prior actions, I would be willing to bet it was out of love and not their conditioned sex-for-stress-release monkey reflex.
The animation and backgrounds this episode really stood out to me. The weird egg things, Maria and Saki as children together, Saki and Satoru skiing through the snow, the flash of Shun that Saki remembers, the sunset, and especially Saki’s nightmare sequence all stood out to being very nicely done. Saki’s dream especially reminded me of something that would have been done by Masaaki Yuasa, with it’s surreal animal/monster things, it’s colors, and it’s general style. But. On the flip side. The one other problem I had with this episode was the amount of reused animation. I think part of what made all those other info-dump/long monologes of the past so successful was because not only was the script interesting but so were the visuals. Here, it just fell kinda flat because I’d seen all of that before in past episodes. It’s not a major flaw, but it was one of the first times where I found myself wishing that Maria would hurry it up and be done so we could move on.
So next episode will be the final time skip! After I read that the novel follows the protagonists through three different ages (12, 14, and 26) I wan’t sure that they were going to include the last one, since it’s rare for the main characters in an anime to be adults. But they’re going to do it! I wonder how things will change. What will happen between Saki and Satoru? Will they be allowed to keep their memories of Maria and Mamoru? Was Saki’s dream correct in warning her against helping Maria and that she needed to die? What about the Queerats? With Squealer’s casual defiance of the authority that he previously had so respected and the advances that the Robber Fly colony made in only two years, I really can’t wait to see how much their society changes in 12 (yeah, and how scary was Squealer’s casualness when suggesting that he could find bones similar enough to a humans to fool the authorities? Although, the fact that Queerats have similar skeletons to humans furthers my hypothesis that they are what the non-PK using humans devolved into.) I guess we’ll just have to wait and see!
Final Thought: You know what really gets me though? The drawing that Maria left for Saki of the two of them together. It’s sad not just because the two of them are never going to see each other again, but also because who do you think drew it? Maria isn’t really an artist, but you know who is? Mamoru. He probably had to make that drawing. How sad is that? Imagine having to make a really nice romantic drawing of the girl you loved with someone else. That’s some pretty sad shit right there.