Shin Sekai Yori Episode 21: Fires of the Apocalypse
“I pray for your safety.” -Niimi
Summary: The Fiend cometh! With its identity revealed, Shisei makes one last, fateful stand while Saki, Satoru and Niimi make their escape. Only Saki and Satoru arrive at the Temple of Purity, where the nightmare continues as the true horror of Squealer’s plans are revealed.
Impressions: Wow. Shit. just. got. real. SSY has gone to some very dark places, but this episode really is the icing on a very well though out, very carefully crafted, and very disturbing cake. It continues to tie in information given at the very beginning of the series into the present in the most frightening of ways. Sure the animation might not always be on par, but man is the story worth it. Just when you think it can’t get any better BOOM! it does.
Shisei’s attitude towards the whole situation perfectly exemplifies how vastly the humans are underestimating the Queerats and how much they’re overestimating their own powers. Even with half the village destroyed and people dying all around Shisei still believes that he has nothing to fear from the Queerats and that he alone can save everyone. This isn’t the tiny rebellion that he makes it out to be. The Queerats have spent years planning and preparing for this moment, and instead of getting everyone away from an area that is clearly dangerous and then regrouping, Shisei gathers the remaining villagers in one place. It’s sad to see his conceit and absolute belief that he (and all humans) are so much better than any other species laid out so clearly. It’s that self-same hubris that leads to his eventual downfall.
I don’t really understand what exactly causes the ground to collapse when he stops levitating, if it’s his own powers or if it’s an explosion caused by the Queerats that emerge from the pit, but for whatever reason the ground gives way to reveal a nest of Queerat tunnels and soldiers waiting to take aim at the unsuspecting villagers. Shisei fights them briefly, and probably would have won in the end, but to his disbelief, it finally arrives. The Fiend. And it is indeed a fright to behold. With the red hair of his mother and the same sad doe eyes of his father, except instead of being filled with fear like Mamoru’s, these eyes are filled with insanity and blood lust. After waiting so long to see him (Satoru calls it “him”, so even with the long hair it must be a boy. Guess Queerats don’t believe in haircuts) it’s really scary, but I was still on the edge of my seat with excitement about what was going to happen. His feral scream is absolutely bone-chilling, and whoever is the VA behind it should get a gold star and brownies because it’s so perfect. The Fiend takes out more of the villagers, and Shisei (who still can’t really believe that there’s really a Fiend in the first place) comes face to face with one of the greatest fears that the humans in this story have.
I really feel for Saki though. I do believe that she thought, at least at first, that the Fiend was Maria, going by her half gasped “..ria?” The shock of seeing the girl she loved turned into such a monster would have been a lot for her to handle. But it must have been even worse realizing that it wasn’t in fact Maria, but that this creature must be her child. With such a distinct hair color, Maria is really the only one who would fit that role. This means that before they died, Maria and Mamoru had a child. And some how the Queerats got a hold of, and raised, said child. I think, given the circumstances, that any human PK user raised to never know how to control their powers would naturally turn into a fiend like this child did. I wouldn’t put it past the Queerats to have done something to him to force him into changing. Knowing all this, the emotions that must be running through Saki seem like they would be almost too much to bear.
Poor Shisei fights a loosing battle against the Fiend. Even though he might be more powerful and have better control over his PK, he’s still been raised his whole life to avoid conflict and is hampered by the inability to kill another human due to the death feedback. So while he might seem to have the upper hand at first, there is no doubt about who will win the fight in the end. Satoru, who has reappeared (thankful unhurt), says as much to Saki in an effort o convince her to leave. Because this is a Fiend we’re talking about, and has been raised outside of the normal human society, none of the controls that are put on regular children were ever used on him. That means no hypnosis to make him more docile, no mantras to control his PK, no seals, no nothing. And that’s why the Fiend can kill people and still avoid the death feedback. Because he is all id, all dark subconscious actions, all those horrible dark things that usually are suppress. I’ll refer you back to this post on episode 10.
The Fiend skirts the death feedback because all of his actions are a result of subconscious leakage of his PK. Without his conscience (or ego) to filter his thoughts, the Fiend is able to do whatever he likes. It would be like if you came across someone who was annoying you, like Shisei is annoying the Fiend by fighting him. Because you’ve been raised in a society with rules and morals which have been ingrained in you since your birth, you’d never think to ever kill the person that is annoying you, even if you might want to very badly. Your conscience would never let you do something like that. Even if, just for a brief moment, you played with the idea of killing them, you’d probably quickly suppress that thought. But the Fiend has no such qualms. He sees Shisei as an annoyance and, with all that subconscious energy building up with nowhere to go, and no conscience to tell him not to do it, he’s able to break Shisei, all the while giggling like a happy little baby. I’m sad Shisei had to die, I really loved his character design (especially at the end with his mane of white hair). I still want to know why he had four pupils though…
While the Fiend is torturing Shisei, Satoru forces Saki and Niimi into flight, knowing that they need to get as far away from there as fast as they can to avoid becoming the Fiends next targets. While making their escape through the empty tunnels the Queerats left, they come across the body of a wounded Queerat soldier. Satoru tries to interrogate him about where Squealer is, and about why the Queerats are rebelling in the first place when even a single human would be enough to erase them for good. The soldier replies that they should be the equals of humans, but because they can’t use juryoku like the humans can, they’re treated as inferiors and slaves. As long as they have Squealer and “the Messiah” (aka the Fiend) they’ll be able to avenge themselves by wiping the humans off the face of the earth.
Even though the soldier ends up killing himself by throwing himself at Satoru, who reacts by throwing up a shield, the converstation offers us our first real insight into the minds of the Queerats. Since Squealer has risen to power, they’ve started to view themselves as equal to the humans, which is true as we can see by the great progress that their society has made in only a few years with the only a bit of education. While Saki and the others see the Queerats style of fighting as something which needlessly sacrifices its warriors, the Queerats themselves so no problem with laying down their own lives for the good of the greater cause. This makes them an even more dagerous enemy, since they have no fear of dying. I think this conversation is where Saki and Satoru really start to see how much trouble they’re in and at what a disadvantage they are.
After the Queerat dies, Niimi urges them onwards, and they make it out of the tunnel system. In order to fulfill Tomiko’s last order, Niimi says that he must head to the town hall in order to put out a call warning people of what’s happening. Saki and Satoru beg him to come with them, but if can save even one more person with his broadcast, Niimi would rather do risk going back than saving his own skin. Thus, they go there separate ways and Niimi’s name becomes just one more name on the ever-growing list of dead or those presumed to be. Saki and Satoru at least hear that he was able to make the emergency broadcast before he died, and it’s so bizarre to hear the “From the New World” music play again after such a long absence. It seems so jarringly out-of-place and a reminder of more carefree days, before any of these terrible things happened. In a sense they really are “Going Home”, to a time where everything was still a least a little bit okay. Out of everything that happens in this episode, this part had me the closest to tears. That piece of music is already very sad, and with Niimi sacrificing himself, and Satoru and Saki remembering their childhoods, it was all just a little much.
The pair of them finally get to the Temple of Purity, and after a brief respite, they meet with Mushin, the old priest from waaaay back in episode 1. They exchange news of what’s happening and who’s dead and who’s survived. Saki asks about her parents. Even though I’d assumed that they had been killed with the rest of the villagers, it’s more distressing to hear that they made it out, but went back to try to defeat the Fiend by releasing all the Tainted Cats in the hopes that one of them might manage to kill him. They left something for Saki though, although we don’t find out what it is this episode, since the priest informs them that there’s someone who wants to see them both. That person happens to be Inui, one of Saki’s co-workers who was put in charge of exterminating the Robber Fly colony. He not only tells Saki and Satoru about what happened to him while he was on his mission, but also tells them of something truly appalling that I don’t think anyone saw coming.
After making a narrow escape from the Queerats after their failed extermination mission, Inui goes to village in order to warn the people of the Fiend. But of course, because it was the summer festival, everyone is out having fun. Thinking that surely someone must have stayed behind at either the nursery or the hospital, Inui first goes to the nursery SSY excels at showing us things of seemingly no importance only to later rub our faces in just how much something so small would matter. I certainly didn’t think twice about the Queerat’s tradition of taking all of the offspring of a conquered Colony in order to make their own colony stronger. But oh how wrong did I prove to be.
What Inui finds at the nursery are the bodies of the nurses and row upon row of empty cribs. The Queerats took all the human babies: the “treasured spoils of war” that will ensure a brighter future for the colony. That was his true goal all along, why this whole attack was so planned out, waiting until the perfect moment for the Queerats to distract the humans with a Fiend while they kidnapped their next generation of ultimate weapons. Because we’ve already seen the destruction just one Fiend can cause, now imagine a whole army of them. Squealer’s grand plan was never just to take revenge on one village, or to limit himself even to one island: he was planning on taking over the world with a great Queerat empire from the start. And the scary thing is, that as things stand now, it looks like there’s very little Saki, Satoru, or any other human could do to stop him. The last 4 minutes really blew my mind, in the best possible way, since even though I might have been able to guess that the Fiend was Maria and Mamoru’s offspring, I don’t think I could have ever seen this coming. Like damn. Not only did they show us what Squealer’s plan is, but also how he intends to pull it off, and they threw in a surprise twist with the baby snatching as well.
While last weeks episode left me wondering everything was going, this week feels like, well, like a game of Mousetrap to be honest. All this time, little by little, the story has been putting together all these little pieces, while I, good little mouse that I am, was too busy going around the board to even notice until this week when all the pieces started to come together to form a very elaborate trap. It’s all wound up and ready to come down on me, it’s just waiting for that marble to set everything in motion. And from the looks of it, next episode will be that “marble” episode that sees everything head for a climax.
I think I saw Kiroumaru in the preview (hurray! he’s not dead!), as well as a something I’m guessing is a false Minoshiro, judging by its strange robot eyes and the fact that it’s all tied up. I’ve still got so many questions, like how exactly did Maria and Mamoru die? What was it that Saki’s parent’s left for her at the temple? How are they going to fight back against the Queerats? While Saki finally be able to remember Shun? What happened that caused her falling out with Satoru after Maria and Mamoru disappeared What about Tomiko? Four more episodes to go, and part of me is pleading for it to hurry up so I’ll know how the story ends, but the other part of me is hoping that it lasts forever, and I don’t know which part is the part that I want to win! Aahhhh! Is it Friday yet?!??
Final Though: I haven’t got one, since I think I managed to get everything written in for once.