Shin Sekai Yori Episode 14: Flakes of Snow
“Do not lie, and do not hide anything.” – Masayo Komatsuzaki
(Hello everyone! I hope you all had as restful a winter holiday as I did! But now I’m back and ready to dive right into this latest episode of Shin Sekai Yori. A round of applause and a big thanks to Vantage for covering the last two episodes for me. Now on to the good stuff!)
Summary: Saki and Satoru leave Maria and Mamoru in the wilderness as the two of them set off to try and persuade the village to let Mamoru live. Saki is questioned by the Board of Education, and comes very close to being disposed of herself if not for the timely arrival of Tomiko Asahina. Using her influence, Tomiko manages to get Saki out of a rather sticky situation and after some discussion charges her with bringing Mamoru and Maria back within three days, or she can’t guarantee the safety of any of them. Saki and Satoru set out immediately, but find that the igloo that Mamoru and Maria where hiding in has disappeared without a trace.
Impression: Ah, Shin Sekai Yori, it has been too long. I’ve missed you and all your crazy plot twists! Of course this episode doesn’t disappoint. Most of the episode focuses on Saki, the Board of Education, and Tomiko, who returns this week to depart some more vital information to Saki about the world they live in (as well as some shocking truths about herself as well.) It’s a good episode to come back to; enough going on so there’s plenty to discuss, but not so much that it becomes overwhelming. So let’s dive right in!
After leaving Mamoru and Maria behind at the igloo, Saki sets out after Satoru. Almost as soon as her boat lands in the village, she is informed that the Board of Education wants to question her. What follows in more of an interrogation than anything else, and makes the talk that Saki and Tomiko had a couple of weeks ago look like a casual chat. The Board of Education, lead by the Chairwoman (Hiromi…?) and vice-president Masayo Komatsuzaki, is cold, intimidating, and does not take kindly to children who break the rules. They grill Saki about her attempts to find Mamoru, and why she came back without him. Saki reluctantly answers their questions, but when confronted about the reason why she was unable to bring Mamoru back with her, and the ramifications that has on everyone else, Saki defiantly tells them the real reason: that Mamoru was scared to return because he knew he was a target for disposal by the Tainted Cats. Saki flaunts her knowledge of all the dark secrets; the disposal of weak kids, the existence of the Tainted Cats and who controls them, as well as the obvious plot to get rid of Mamoru. Saki lays bare a lot of the things that the Board has been trying to keep in the dark, and that most adults are too scared to even acknowledge as things that happen, which of course shocks and disgusts the Board members. If not for the timely arrival of Tomiko, Saki surely would have faced their wraith.
It’s clear the Tomiko Asahina is a very influential woman, as she is able to come in and save Saki with only a couple of words and some quick thinking. Even the Board members defer to her, using the -sama honorific. Tomiko assures the Board that the reason that Saki knows so much is because Tomiko is raising her to be a new leader, and that the Board themselves are partially to blame for the situation they find themselves in now. Tomiko mentions an experiment that was done on Group One at her request during this whole exchange, and that’s where things start to get interesting. As Tomiko and Saki retire to one of the back rooms (with at least three Tainted Cats for company), Tomiko goes into detail as to what was done differently with Group One and why she so desperately needs Saki to get Maria and Mamoru back.
Tomiko reveals that normally, everyone is hypnotized multiple times from a young age onward so that even their minds can be controlled. This doesn’t really come as a surprise, especially seeing how easily Ryou was shoe-horned into the role of Shun. If he’d been hypnotized his whole life to make him a ‘docile lamb’ (as Tomiko puts it), it’s easy to see how he could be made to think that Shun’s memories where really his own. What makes Group One special is that their powers of though were left largely untouched. They were never tampered with to the extent that everyone else was for the sole purpose of raising more children that, when they became adults, would be able to protect the village and think for themselves. They also would be able to face the facts, and do what needed to be done without having any qualms about it, no matter how hard a decision it might be. Shun’s death becomes even more tragic, since Tomiko had such high hopes for him being able to be exactly the kind of person that she wanted. Because our little band of friends was left to their own devices, and their minds were left to develop on their own, they were able to do things like cross the Holy Barrier without being paralyzed by fear (as other children would be), and Maria and Mamoru were able to make the choice to stay in the wilderness instead of coming back to the safety of the Village. It’s this kind of rational free thinking that Tomiko wanted to foster, but it’s also what has endangered not just Saki, Satoru, Maria, and Mamoru’s home but also the whole country.
Saki doesn’t really see the problem with letting Maria and Mamoru “get away.” If they live out in the middle of no where, where there are no people, then who could they possibly hurt, right? And it’s not like they’d want to come back to a place where everyone, including their teachers, want to kill them. But seen from Tomiko’s perspective, the problem is similar to the problems that would come up if a country now a days managed to lose two nuclear missiles. While a bomb is only able to take out a certain area (putting aside the more long-term effects it might have on an area), a human with PK who has turned into a fiend will continue to destroy and kill all in its path for as long as it’s body will permit it. For Tomiko, PK symbolizes unlimited energy. How that energy is used, of course, is where her concern lies.
With 50-60,000 people left living on the island formerly known as Japan, Tomiko knows that each one of those people has the potential to explode at any given time, and to do massive amounts of damage if they do. That’s why it’s so important to her that Maria and Mamoru come back. They are two lost atom bombs, just waiting for some unsuspecting creature to set them off. Throughout the whole show, we’ve been told, and sometimes shown, just how dangerous an out-of-control PK user can be, but for some reason it really hit me with this episode that yes, this is serious business, and that a Fiend or a Karma Demon is not something you want to take lightly, especially if you live in a world were the population is getting smaller and smaller. It certainly gives the paranoia that the Board of Education and the Ethics Committee have about controlling their fellow man a new dimension.
Tomiko tells Saki that if she can bring Maria and Mamoru back in three days, she will make sure that they are safe (i.e. that they don’t become Tainted Cat food.) Tomiko also informs Saki that if the two aren’t found, they will most certainly be hunted down and killed, either by the Queerats, a neighboring district, or god knows what else. Of course, with so much at stake, it’s not like the Board of Education would do nothing to stop some kind of catastrophe from happening. Saki immediately sets off, but not before asking Tomiko a question that brings about another very interesting piece of information. What Saki wants to know, of course, is how Tomiko has so much power that she can influence even the Board of Educations decisions. And well, the answer is that unlike rulers of old, who might have used physical force, money, brain-washing etc. to gain power, Tomiko attained it by the simple act of getting old. Really, really, old. In fact, Tomiko is the ripe old age of 267. She’s able to regenerate her telomeres (it’s found at the end of a chromosome and become shorter each time a cell divides. Once they’re worn down, the cell can’t replicate and that’s the end of that), and is thus able to continue living long past her time.
This explains a couple of things, one being how different the clothing looked in the flashback to Tomiko’s past and the Fiend that she encountered Fashion is going to change a lot over the course of 245 years. It also explains why Tomiko is held in such high regards. With so much knowledge from having lived through so much, it seems natural that she should be in such a position of power. It had been my personal theory that the reason Tomiko looked so relatively young was that, just as society weeds out the weak from the young, they would do the same as people got older. I thought that their world would be one where you marry young, have lots of kids, and if you reach the age of 50 you were considered ancient. But I should have known that since this was SSY it wouldn’t be so simple. It does raise the question: If she’s really so old, how is she Satoru’s grandmother? Wouldn’t she actually be his Great-great-great-great grandmother or something like that? Or did she have kids even when she was…”old”?
Saki says farewell to Tomiko, and sets off in a fancy boat to go find Maria and Mamoru. She’s quickly joined by Satoru, who had also been questioned by the Board of Education. The two of them have both been tasked with returning their friends, but when they get to the spot where just that morning their had been an igloo, they find…nothing. Cliffhangers! Argh! I did not miss those, lemme tell you. From the preview, I’m gathering that next week will see the return of my favorite cute/ugly character, Squealer. Although now he seems to have acquired some real fancy armor. It seems like the Queerats will be helping to track down Mamoru and Maria. Were could those two have gone? Will they be found? What happened with Satoru and the Board of Education? Hopefully next week will see the answers to some of those questions!
Final Thought: I have the distinct feeling that Maria was planning to make a run for it as soon as Saki left. Everything about her actions, from her clinging to Mamoru to her saying a rather ominous “Goodbye” to Saki ,screams that she knew exactly what her plan of action was. Mamoru’s PK might be weak, but Maria is more than powerful enough to make an igloo disappear without a trace. What remains to be seen is if they’ve enlisted Squonk’s help in escaping or not.