Shin Sekai Yori Episode 20: Drenched in Cold Sunlight
“Yakomaru had us humans in the palm of his hand from beginning to end.” -Saki Watanabe
Summary: Using some mirror trickery, Saki and Satoru escape from the fiend just in time. As they wander in the wilderness, they come across a strange new breed of mutated animal, one that blows gunpowder into the air to cause massive explosions. Saki recognizes this just in time to save herself and Satoru from getting incinerated, but they’re separated in the process. Saki almost remembers Shun, and remembers that she needs to survive no matter what. Saki then meets a young boy who was also separated from his parents and tells her all about what happened in the time that she had been at the hospital. They both make it to the village only to find that it has been almost completely leveled. Saki finds Tomiko and tells her about the fiend, after which Tomiko entrusted Saki with her job and said her last goodbyes since she plans staying behind, even if it costs her her own life.
Impressions: Oh animation, there you go again. This episode was very up and down in terms of quality. It’s almost a bit distracting. But the story just keeps moving ahead (what its goal is I still don’t really know) and that’s what counts, right? This was a bit of a more “action-y” episode, since a majority of it is Saki and Satoru on the run. The tension doesn’t let up and by the end it’s clear that these people’s world will never be the same. Things are getting very dark on SSY (not that they weren’t before) and I’m left wondering how much deeper into the abyss this show will go.
Things pick up right from where they left off last episode, with Saki and Satoru trying to escape from the fiend. This time it’s Saki, and not Satoru, that comes up with a plan to save their lives. By making a mirror across the river, they’re able to trick the fiend just long enough to hover their way out of the boat and onto the shore. After some tense will they be found moments, the boat the fiend is in turns around and disappears, leaving Saki and Satoru to make their way back to the village. Saki’s almost trance like state, probably brought on by shock, reveals some very interesting things about just how defenseless the humans are. Their only way of transportation is the canals, they have a very small amount of electricity, and no means of communicating over long distances. With all of this suddenly crashing down on her, it makes sense that Saki would start to comfort herself by thinking of Maria, someone who was strong enough and loved her enough to want to protect her.
The pair eventually find an abandoned home (how convenient) and “barrow” some cloths. The also steal a cart, and head back to the canals to use it as a make-shift boat. But not everything is smooth sailing, as they come across the newest mutant creature that SSY has to offer. Looking like the demonic offspring of a mosquito, a leech, and with the suicidal tendencies of the blowdogs, this creature was specifically bred to be a weapon against the humans. Luckily Saki notices that the smoke it’s spewing isn’t fog, but gunpowder just in time to hurl Satoru and herself out-of-the-way of the explosion caused by the monster. Seeing the two levitate around this episode really makes it clear how good Maria was at “flying.” The animation during this part was great compared with the rest of the episode, which was plagued with weird faces, too long necks, and just general weirdness. It made it very hard to take screenshots, that’s for sure. With Satoru flung off to god knows where and Saki hurtling in the opposite direction, the vertigo and trauma of the situation makes Saki have another hallucination/vision, this time of Shun.
It’s definitely one of SSY prettier moments, as Saki floats in a night sky and sees Shun. She still can’t remember his face or his name, but seeing him helps her remember that she needs to survive. Like she say’s in the beginning of the episode, she doesn’t want to die without remembering his name. She eventually lands from her high-flying acrobatics in the middle of a sunflower field, and doggedly keeps going on her way to warn the others of the evil thing that is coming their way.
I think one of the reasons she doesn’t spend any time wondering about where Satoru went, is because it’s been made abundantly clear to us and to her that Satoru can handle himself. He’s smart and strong enough to make it on his own for a while at least, and Saki’s number one priority is making it to the village in one piece so that she can tell them about the fiend. There was never a doubt in my mind that Satoru would die from something as lame as an explosion. All the other farewells and deaths have been rather dramatic and given a lot of emotional weight, so it seems pretty obvious to me that he’s not dead. Especially since he also appears in the preview for next episode.
Whilst walking, Saki is suddenly attacked by something which throws giant boulders at her. It’s only when she protects her self using her powers, and a rainbow-like pattern can be seen in the air (since that’s what happens when two people’s PK meet up against another), that both parties realizes that the other is human. Turns out the attacker is a young boy, who tells Saki about what happened in the village while she was away. The canals had to be drained to keep the monsters out of the town after they attacked and burned the whole place to the ground.
With panic and fear levels rising, the people out patrolling were tricked by the more human-looking Queerats. Unable to tell friend from foe, the humans started attacking whatever moved, even if it was another human. This, of course, lead to they themselves dying from the death feedback. With everyone afraid, paranoid, and without a real means of transport out of there now that the waterways are cut off, Squealer has the humans right where he wants them. I don’t doubt for a minute that everything that has happened is a part of his master plan. I don’t know if his aim is the total annihilation of the human race, or if he plans on using them as slaves like the humans once used the Queerats, but whatever he’s up to I know it’s not a good thing.
When Saki and the boy finally make it to the village, it’s a huge shock. It looks like a bomb went off. Almost no buildings are left standing and the dead and dying line the streets. The two of them split ways, with Saki going off to find Tomiko at Sage Academy, one of the only buildings left standing. The Tomiko that Saki finds though, is not the strong woman of episodes past, but a very wounded ghost of her former self. It’s not really explained how she got hurt so badly, but she doesn’t look good. Saki tells her about the fiend, and while she initially doesn’t believe it since the Board of Education had been so overly cautious, the thing is soon sighted from the Academy.
Tomiko then has to make some tough choices just like Saki did last episode. Knowing she would only slow down their escape in her condition, she tells Saki to leave without her and make it to the Shrine of Purity where the Security Council is in order to warn them about the danger. Tomiko also asks Saki to succeed her, just like they’d talked about so many years ago. Saki is reluctant, and she is forced to leave before she can really even process what’s going on. I couldn’t believe that Tomiko, who was slowly becoming one of my favorite character with her sharp eye and cleverness, was now probably going to die at the hands of some unknown fiend. I’m holding on to a tiny shred of hope that that wasn’t the last we’ll see of her, but with this shows track record, I should probably prepare myself for disappointment.
While the motivations of the Queerats remain in the shadows, one question that I do have after seeing this episode in particular, is how are they managing to breed all these new and dangerous mutants? With the more human Queerat soldiers and now the gunpowder spewing water monster created in such a short amount of time, I’m very curious to find out just how the Queerats are doing it. And also, who was that boy who Saki met? Just a one-off character? Or was there more to him? I’m only suspicious because he’s out in the middle of no where, and he’s a kid but he’s also taking part in the fighting and seeing all these horrible events. Saki points out how unprepared everyone was, and how even the adults were powerless in the face of the Queerats, so why should this kid be able to face them no problem? And given how most of the children in the district are more like Mamoru mentally than Saki, why would he even have the drive to fight? Anyway, next episode I’m hoping for some more Shisei action, and maybe some explanations. We’ve only got 5 episodes left, and I’m really looking forward to seeing how things are going to start wrapping up!
Final Thought: You’ll notice that while Satoru and Saki are walking through the woods after escaping from the fiend, Saki has a bandage wrapped around her foot. You’ll also notice that Satoru seems to be missing one of his sleeves. While I often wish this show would make the interactions between its two most important characters a little more obvious, sometimes tiny things like imagining Satoru wrapping up Saki’s foot with the fabric from his sleeve are enough. It’s very very subtle, and never verbally addressed, but it’s still a nice visual hint at how those two feel about each other.