Shin Sekai Yori Episode 18 + 19: A Crimson Flower; Darkness
“May you see beauty…” -Koufuu Hino
Summary: All the important member of the village debate what weapons the Robber Fly colony could have possibly used to wipe out the Giant Hornets, and decide that it’s for the best to kill them all as well as all their allies. Later, Saki and Satoru go to the summer festival. While at first things seem peaceful, Saki soon has visions of people from the past and that’s when suddenly everything starts going horribly, horribly wrong.
Impressions: Reporting to you from under the blankets I’m currently cowering in fear under, it is I, Tenderfoot. Sorry for the delay on these (real life has not been a picnic of late.) While episode 18 was just mildly unsettling, episode 19 was downright scary. With two episodes to cover, brace yourselves; this is going to be another long one.
These two episodes can be broken into three large scenes; the committee meeting, the festival and the hospital. I’m going to divide up this article along those same lines, and hopefully that will make it easier to read than if I skipped around. Now, episode 18 starts with another committee meeting, this time to discuss just what went down in the battle between the Robber Flies and the Giant Hornets. In addition to the characters who were at the meeting last week, this week they’re joined by Satoru, Hiromi Torigai and Masayo Komatsuzaki of the Board of Education, and Saki’s mother (acting in her position as head librarian.) Satoru starts things off by giving a report on the battle, which states that the Queerats of the Giant Hornet colony were defeated, their bodies reduced to mere lumps of flesh. Kiroumaru is assumed to be alive and to have escaped the battle, although no one knows where he is. Important to note is that no weapons of any kind were found on the few dead Giant Hornet soldiers that were found. Even if the Robber Flies had taken the weapons to use again, you’d expect them to leave the broken or otherwise unusable ones behind, but there are absolutely zero left. This is puzzling to everyone and seems to point toward the Robber Flies wanting to hide something, something about what type of weapon they’re using to attack.
While it’s almost certain that the Queerats have access to information, either in the form of a captured false minoshiro or some other form, it’s also clear that they didn’t use the type of weapons described in the “Class 4 Forbidden Documents” that Saki’s mom talks about. Those documents describe bombs and other weapons of mass destruction, and Shisei is certain that the Queerats don’t have anything on that level since the battlefield showed no signs that it had been damaged in the way that an explosion would. They then inspect the arrows that were found on the battlefield. All of them appear undamaged, which is strange since even if they were fired and missed, they would still show signs of having hit the ground. There’s really only one way that the arrows could have ended up like this, and it’s one that we’ve seen employed by Satoru and Saki often enough. How many times have we seen them use their PK to turn away or shield themselves from a hail of arrows?
The only logical conclusion is that someone with powers must have been at the battle, someone who not only stopped the arrows in mid-air, but also turned the Giant Hornets into minced meat. This is exactly what Shishei thinks, and I’m partial to that theory as well. He’s only concern is who this mystery PK user could be. Shisei believes it could be Maria or Mamoru, since he doesn’t believe that either of them are dead, considering their “bones” were brought to him by Squealer, the mastermind behind this whole affair.
Surprisingly, it’s Tomiko who crushes any last hope that Maria and Mamoru might still be alive by stating that the bones were positively theirs, since they not only matched dental records but did DNA testing as well. I didn’t really know how to feel, hearing that the two of them were definitely dead. I’m more inclined to believe it since it was Tomiko who confirmed it, but there’s also a small part of me that thinks that she’s lying. Maybe a part of her wants to protect Saki because she failed to bring them back, or maybe she’s covering her own ass because she was the one who let them go in the first place. Tomiko is cunning, and I wouldn’t put it past her to lie in order to protect their fragile society and the rules it’s built on. Regardless of who has been helping the Robber Fly colony fight their battles, the committee decides that it’s for the best if the whole colony and its allies be wiped out. Inui and the department of pest control are dispatched to do just that. Hiromi, cautious and afraid as ever, suggests postponing the summer festival until things have been stabilized, but she’s quickly shut down by Koufuu, who says that doing so will only make them appear as cowards. This turns out to be a decision that will bit both of them in the ass.
Saki and Satoru attend the festival together, and seem to at first be enjoying all the sights and sounds it has to offer, even though Saki is preoccupied and thinking about attending the same festival with Maria when they were younger. As the night continues on, Saki catches sight of an older Maria, shockingly enough. She chases after her, and eventually comes to a clearing where she sees Maria as a child again, along with Mamoru and the faceless boy we know as Shun. Saki is about to run to them, when Satoru holds her back. He doesn’t see what she sees, and it’s clear that Saki has been chasing after ghosts. The festival day is something similar to Obon Festival, All Souls’ Day, Día de los Muertos, or Halloween, where the spirits of the can be found wandering the earth again. Saki came wanting and expecting to see Maria’s spirit so badly, that she actually conjured it up, along with the souls of the others that she lost. She even came wearing a yukata that was less festive and more like one she would wear in mourning. Satoru understands Saki’s pain, since they both want to see their friends again, but know that it’s impossible.
As they make their way back to the town square, Saki sees the same child dressed as a monster that she saw earlier. Even though Satoru denies that children participate in the festival as the monsters (who can be seen pouring out drinks for the people visiting the festival grounds), it’s obvious that whoever is in the costume is the same size as a child. Their attention is momentarily distracted by mosquitoes inside the holy barrier which to them might mean that Inui and his team are back from their mission, and when they turn back to where the child was, all the see is the man who was with it collapsed dead on the ground. Ever the quick thinker, Satoru immediately guesses that it wasn’t a child in the monster costume at all but a Queerat, and that in some kind of last ditch effort to avoid being killed, the Robber Fly colony is now attacking the village. As explosions shake the town, the pair of them make their way to the square, which Satoru believes is what the Queerats are targeting.
What follows next is perhaps the craziest and strangest turn of events in the episode thus far. Arriving in the middle of town, Saki and Satoru find Shisei and Koufuu, who have set up a barrier under which some of the villagers have managed to take cover from the invading Queerat army. Even though there surrounded, they still cheer and act like it’s all a show when Koufuu changes the winds direction to spread the poison gas meant for the humans to the rats instead. There still cheering when Koufuu is shot dead by some of the Queerats disguised as humans that were in the crowd. Shisei is quick to pick up on them after that, and destroys them and all the rest outside the barrier in an impressive display of his powers. They weren’t kidding when they said that he’s the strongest PK user in town.
But the most amazing part of the whole thing is that we finally see Shisei without the mask/goggles that he usually wears, and man, I did not see that coming at all. He’s got four pupils! That’s two in each eye! Why? What the what? Was he genetically engineered? Some kind of science project gone wrong? Whatever he is, he looks frighteningly cool, which only makes the whole battle more stunning (the animation is also very, very nice during all this as well.) With the Queerats taken out, Shisei goes to Koufuu, who is dying. With his last breaths he laments the fact that the “gods” are only given such fragile bodies, and with his last words a giant glowing woman erupts out of his eyes. The spirit takes off into the night sky and vanishes….Um what? What the heck was that? It’s an absolute mystery to me what that could have been. The only thing I can think of is the shape that was seen in the storm that Rijin conjured up to defeat the Queerats in episode 4. It leads me to think that maybe, when a person is on the verge of death (like Rijin and Koufuu are) and they use their cantus/pk/powers/whatever, it manifest’s itself in human form. Maybe because it takes every last bit of their power to do this and since they’re so close to dying anyway it doesn’t matter if the use all their energy. What do you think these strange shapes are?
With the danger subdued for now the villagers are ordered to form groups of 5, patrol the town, and take out any and all Queerats they come across. Saki finds Tomiko in the aftermath, and being the totally amazing woman that she is, Tomiko swears revenge on Squealer in the most blood-chilling way possible. She is not someone you want to fuck with, because when she’s mad, she’s terrifying. Not only did Squealer succeed in surprising the humans, and killing a lot of them, including Koufuu, but Tomiko also tells Saki that Hiromi perished as well. While I had no love for the fearful and controlling head of the board of education, it’s still saddening to know that she died as well. This was the one time when her caution was not misplaced, and knowing that she was right about holding off on the festival makes her death a little harder. It’s also hard because of Tomiko’s reaction to it, and knowing that the two of them were close.
That takes us to episode 19, which picks up right where 18 leaves off. Saki and Satoru, whose group consists of two, join with another group who only have three members. They are Fujita, the leader of the group, Kuromochi, a brash younger man, and an unnamed woman. The five of them decide to go to the hospital, since the woman is concerned for a friend of theirs named Oouchi who was being treated there. As they set off, Satoru is still anxious and feels uneasy about the whole situation. Knowing Squealer as they do, why would an ambitious and cunning creature like him start a battle that he can’t hope to win? Shisei’s powers alone could probably take care of all the Queerats under Squealer’s control, so why would he try to fight when the outcome is certain death one way or the other? When you think about this, and the fact that the Robber Flyies seem to have some kind of secret weapon, it does not seem to bode well for are little human friends.
The group arrives at the hospital only to find it seemingly abandoned, with a huge hole where the entrance used to be. Now, anyone who’s seen any scary/horror movies knows that abandoned hospitals are just bad news. Nothing good ever happens in them, and they’re usually full of scary horrible things. Shin Sekai Yori is no exception to this rule. Kuromochi, being the brash, head-strong one jumps out of the boat right away to go inspect the place, but thank god for Satoru being smart and observant because otherwise they all would have been dead meat. Even thought they see a light at the window, like an angler fish luring its pray, Satoru once again shows that he really is handy in tense situations.He senses that this situation could probably be a trap. If it weren’t for him, they all would have been shot in the back by the Queerats waiting for them. Instead, Fujita, Satoru, Saki, and the other woman are able to surprise the Queerats and manage to kill them all. As a side effect from using their PK too much, everyone feels a little sick but it must be nothing compared to the feeling they got when they turned around and found that Kuramochi, who had been waiting by the entrance, had all but disappeared.
I’m glad Saki and the other woman were headstrong enough to bully their way into going with Satoru inside the building. Fujita, the supposed “leader” stays behind by the boat. Once inside, things quickly go from tense to downright scary. After almost being killed by some Queerats who were waiting for them, the trio finds Kuramochi. Or at least what’s left of him. SSY again plays very well with its use of visuals, letting us as the viewer imagine what kind of horrible things have happened to him instead of showing us a graphic image of his body. Most of what we see are shadows on the wall and reflections in mirrors, which makes it hard to differentiate between the real and unreal. Having finally made it to the room where they saw the light coming from, they’re meet with three strange cocoons that seem to be…moving. Cutting them open reveals three bound, beaten, and nearly catatonic humans, one of whom Saki recognizes as one Dr. Noguchi. These people can’t move, can’t speak, and look like they’ve had their minds broken. Permanent expressions of terror are etched onto their faces. It’s obvious that something bad has happened to these folks and it only heightens the terror level of the episode. When the woman who was being kept starts to scream, I jumped under the covers and continued to watch from under the blankets from that point on.
The real question becomes why were these people being held here? Why keep them alive? Remember how I said the light was like an angler fish? I think the simplest explanation is that they were bait. The light draws them in, and if who ever sees it isn’t killed by the Queerats waiting all over the place, then they’d be drawn into helping these people. With three wounded/disabled people to take care of, the whole group then acts as bait for something else, something much, much, much worse than the Queerats, something that the doctor is very afraid of and once he kinda comes to his senses will only call “him.” By now I’d guessed that this “him” was a fiend, and everyone else suspects it as well. The situation they find themselves in very neatly parallels Tomiko’s story of her encounter with a fiend, which also took place at a hospital. It’s just another one of those ways that SSY will have events mirror the stories told by characters (like with Shun.)
Knowing they have to get out of there like yesterday, our group makes its way downstairs only to see one of men that had been kept as bait and who ran as soon as he was free of his cocoon prison burst into flames. This announces that “he” is here. For something so horrifying, the animation sure is pretty. The unknown man goes up in an explosion of magenta and gold flames, and when Fujita runs over to try to help, he too is grasped by the invisible powers of the fiend and is torn apart. Unable to fight against another human due to the now incredibly inconvenient death feedback, Saki and the others have no choice but to make a run for it.
While I think that Saki and Satoru would have found a way to kill “him” without using their powers, or would have at least had the will to fight, I don’t think any of the others would have even thought to make that choice. It’s one of the things that these episodes make abundantly clear. These are for the most part people who have been raised as sheep; they do what they’re told, living peaceful lives within the confines of their very controlling society. Now that there are wolves amongst them, they have no real idea what they’re doing. They have no sense of situations that might be dangerous, when things could be a trap, exactly how cunning the Queerats can be. Nothing. When you compare them to someone like Satoru or Saki, who think of those types of things, you can see the differences even more clearly. They all rely so much on the mythos of the power their Cantus gives them that now that it’s essentially useless, there left without much to defend themselves with. And the worst part is that many of them, like Kuramochi, haven’t even realized that they’re PK can’t and won’t protect them forever, especially when they’re too arrogant to see the dangers of the situation they find themselves in.
Now down to just five, the doctor leads them out the back way and once outside tells them they have to split up to increase their chances of getting away. Once again, anyone who’s seen a scary movie knows that once you go off on your own, the chances of you coming back alive go down to 0. He runs into the woods while Saki, sensing that the fiend is nearby, retreats with the rest back into the hospital building so that they can race out the front. We finally see the fiend, a swirl mass of black smoke, presumably with a human at its center, as it finds the good doctor and kills him without hesitation. Satoru and the rest hear rather than see this, and make a run for their boat while they still can. There they have to make the toughest decision yet. The woman who had been captured refuses to leave the hospital, grabbing hold of the building and refusing to budge. The other nameless woman, who had been so worried about her friend, decides to that she will stay with her and find someplace to hide while Saki and Satoru get away in the boat. The duo must choose between the good of the few, by staying to try to protect the two women and possibly dying with them, or the good of the many, by leaving and warning the village and Tomkio about the fiend. Considering the society that raised them, where children are regularly disposed of in order for the group as a whole to survive, I think Saki and Satoru’s choice to leave them makes sense. I also think that both parties understood the sacrifice that was being made. As adults, they were all aware of what kind of society they lived in, and I’m pretty sure that those women knew that they would have to stay behind in order for Saki and Satoru to live. Of course Saki is sorry that she has to make that choice, but this isn’t just about her survival, or Satoru, or even Kamisu 66th district, but possibly about the survival of the whole human race. She and Satoru escape in the boat, and head back to try to worn everyone about the fiend.
Saki and Satoru float down the river, and they now know why Squealer was so willing to go to war (and what the Robber Flies secret weapon is.) The fiend and the Queerats are working together. I don’t know how, but somehow the Queerats have managed it. To be honest, when I first saw those cocoons, I thought that the people inside would be the ones turning into fiends. With their facial expressions, and the fact that they were tied up, I though that once they were cut down they would change and the whole thing would be a trap set be the Queerats. I still believe that they must have figured out a way to change humans into fiends, either by doing something to their brains or by mentally breaking them in such a way that they would snap. It seems like it would be too much of a coincidence that they just happened to find a human who had turned that they could then use against the villagers. The episode ends with tensions running high again after they notice that there is a boat following them and in that boat is the very thing they’re running from.
The hardest thing to watch in both of the episodes is how lightly the humans take the Queerats. From cheering while they’re under attack by the rats, to afterwards when they treat it like no big problem to go and kill the remaining forces, to Fujita and Kuramochi’s attitudes about how unintelligent the Queerats are and how easy it would be to kill them using their PK. For too long these people have lived relatively peacefully and have never even stopped to think that these creatures (or anyone) could threaten their existence. I can hardly imagine that after just one skirmish, the Queerats would call it a day, so I’m curious to see how they continue fighting. What other tricks does Squealer have up his sleeves? Hopefully the humans will start to take the threat against them a little more seriously, since it doesn’t look like things are going to go back to the way they were. There are so many questions that this episode raises, as well as ones that have been floating around for a while.
Now that there are only 6 episodes left, and with still no real end point in sight, I’m a little tiny bit worried about how this is all going to end. What is all of this leading up too? The destruction of the human race? An all out war? Figuring out how to change the world to make PK users less dangerous to themselves without resorting to having to kill children? Finally understanding why everything up till now has been saying that Maria needs to die? While the individual episodes are fun to watch, and all this stuff is building up to something, I’m still not sure what that something is exactly. So I’m a little worried about what the conclusion will be since the over-all story is still as intangible as it was in the beginning of the show. With so many things to think about, and such a massive cliffhanger, you know I’m going to be eagerly awaiting next week’s (this week’s by the time I’m finished writing this) episode. In the mean time, give yourself a round of applause for reading this far (I broke my own record for the longest post I’ve written), and leave me some comments with any theories you have. I want to know what other people are thinking about what’s going down!
Final Though: There was one tiny little scene that I didn’t get to talk about since it was so brief and didn’t really fit it with the others and that was Maria’s strange talk at the end of episode 18. In it she talks about running away and why she couldn’t leave Mamoru. She seems to be justifying the reason why she left Saki, even going so far as to say that they wouldn’t be able to have children anyway. It’s very strange and has a very sinister undertone. Why is Maria so worried about being able to have children? I almost want to say that the fiend could be Maria and Mamoru’s child, since then it would make sense that no one in the village would know about it and have been able to eliminate it after it showed signs of being a psycho killer in the making, but I don’t think the two of them survived long enough to have procreated. Unless they’re not dead? Could the Queerats really have falsified the bones so well as to make the humans believe that they really were Maria’s and Mamoru’s? Could Maria and Mamoru really have had a kid? Did the Queerats then kill them after?
Final Final Though: Oh, and let’s not forget the Queerat’s new-found ability to pass for human. They seem to be an entirely new breed, with human-like hands, and without the prominent snouts that most of the Rats seem to have. It’s scary to think that the Queerats have been specifically breeding themselves to make themselves appear even more human. It certainly helps my theory that the Queerats were once the non-PK using humans, and that due to Cantus leakage were changed into the Queerats we all know and love. If it’s one thing that humans are good at, it’s evolving, and maybe now that their society is changing into something much more human, they’re bodies are also evolving to become more like they used to be. Just a thought.