Shin Sekai Yori Episode 22: Tokyo
“Now I know what Hell is.” “No. This is still Heaven.” -Saki Watanabe & Kiroumaru
Summary: After learning of an ancient weapon capable of killing the fiend, Saki, Satoru, Inui, and the newly freed Kiroumaru set off on a dangerous journey to the wasteland that is Tokyo in hopes of finding it and saving their world.
Impressions: We’re ramping up to the end here folks! 22 episodes down, three to go! It feels like just yesterday that SSY started airing and it feels strange that it’s going to end so soon. I feel like there’s still so much more to learn about their world, I’m not sure I’m ready to let go of it yet. At least we’ve still got some time before we have to say goodbye (and hey there’s a chance that Vertical might translate the books! Which means that we’d get to go on the whole journey all over again! I mean they’ve already picked up the manga (…yeah, let’s not talk about that) so a girl can dream right? ) This episode was a “calm before the impending storm” type situation, where you see most of the characters moving into position for the grand finale. I’m not saying that nothing interesting happened (because this is Shin Sekai Yori we’re talking about here) but it wasn’t the most interesting episode of the series by a long shot.
So the thing that Saki’s mother left for her is revealed to be a baby False Minoshiro/Library. Along with it is a letter, containing the last wisdom that Mizuho can impart to her daughter. In the letter, Mizuho writes about class four knowledge, the information that falls under “catastrophe”, and how of all the ancient weapons of mass destruction there might be one left that could kill the Fiend. It’s called the Psychobuster, and with the help of the False Minoshiro, Saki is charged with going to find this weapon in order to save everyone. Of all the scenarios that I could think of, this was not even on the map as far as possibilities go. Thinking back on it, there were hints here and there that the powerful ancient weapons of humanities past would maybe be the solution to the Fiend problem, but I don’t think that I ever would have guessed at it going off of last weeks episode.
I think my main theory was that Saki would be able to use her PK to rearrange her cells in order to get around her death feedback (much like Tomiko was able to keep herself young) and then would have killed the fiend in one last battle. I’m not really a big fan of miracle weapons, but I’m willing to see how this plays out. Anyway from how the False Minoshiro describes the Psychobuster, it seems like it’s name sounds a whole lot more intense than what the “weapon” actually is. Yes, according to our little library friend, the Psychobuster isn’t a gun or a bomb or anything else that that name would seem to imply, but is actually a strain of highly dangerous anthrax.
Designed by non-PK using humans in a last ditch effort to wipe out the psychics, the Psychobuster is in many ways a perfect bacteriological weapon. Bacillus anthracis is a naturally occurring bacteria that in and of itself is highly lethal when introduced to the body (either through inhalation, ingestion, or by contact with the skin), and becomes even more so when it has been refined to be used as a biological weapon. It can form spores, which can lie dormant for many, many, many years before becoming active again thus making it dangerous even centuries after an animal or human has been infected and died from it.
Unlike other diseases, which are transferred from direct contact with another infected person or animal, anthrax is transferred in its spore form, making it easier to spread since it can cling to things like shoes or cloths. This makes it very difficult to contain once an outbreak has occurred. If inhaled (which is how it’s most commonly used as a weapon), there is a 92% mortality rate, with death occurring anywhere between two days to up to a month after exposure. And, as the icing on that very grim cake, it’s gentle on the environment since it occurs naturally anyway! When compared to whatever caused the devastation of Tokyo that we see this episode, something like anthrax almost seems like a blessing (for nature at least.)
Considering that things like vaccines and “modern medicine” (in the way that we know it) don’t exist in the world of SSY, I think it’s safe to say that without access to treatment, if the Fiend did inhale the poison, he’d be a goner for sure. Oh and by the way, everything the show and I just mentioned about anthrax is true. Yeah. Sometimes it’s easy to think that a thing like that is made up, but no, it’s real and it exists on this earth. Just think about that for a second. If it makes you feel any better though, there is a vaccine for it, and because of a variety of preventative measures, cases of anthrax poisoning (in animals and people) are very very rare these days. But you can see why such a thing would make a perfect weapon. And why, given the seriousness of the situation he would find himself in if Saki and the others did manage to get their hands on the Psychobuster, Squealer himself is in pursuit of our little group, along with the Fiend and five others.
What’s strange to me about this episode, or interesting rather, is that even though we as the audience have known that this story takes place on earth since the very beginning, this episode was the first to me that really shocked me into realizing that fact. Up till now, it was easy to forget that the story was, and is, set in Japan. Except for some hints in the architecture of certain buildings, it’s easy to imagine the setting being anywhere really. Often times, with the strange flora and fauna, you can almost forget that this isn’t some alien planet. But this episode really serves to connect our present with their future. Suddenly, we’re talking about Tokyo, an actual familiar place instead of villages called Pinewood or Haystack or even the Kamisu 66th district. I think it might even be the first time that were really given any real-world locations. Sure, we see a city in flashbacks to events from 1000 years ago but it could almost be any city. And then there was all the talk of anthrax, and it’s use as a biological weapon.
That’s something that I remember hearing about in the news, and that was (and still is to some extent) a very major topic of our recent past. So to hear it mentioned in the framework of SSY was jarring. Here’s this world where people have psychic powers, who are fighting a war against strange hybrid rat-creatures, who live in this almost fantasy world, and all of a sudden they’re talking about something as real as chemical warfare and anthrax? It really solidified that this is all taking place on future earth. It’s a very similar feeling to the ending of the original Planet of the Apes. The film has a very iconic and oft parodied ending, but if you don’t want to “spoil” it (the movie is from the 60’s, so I don’t really think you’re going to care that much) I would suggest just skipping ahead a paragraph.
The story of the movie is that humans crash on a strange planet where apes have developed into the “dominant” species, while humans serve them as their slaves. In the final scene of the movie, the two main characters have finally escaped (into the “forbidden zone” which is, like here in SSY, a desert wasteland) only to come across the crumbling remains of the Statue of Liberty, thus revealing that the strange planet was Earth all along. I get the same feeling from this episode of Shin Sekai Yori in that you might have a vaguely familiar feeling throughout, like this might be earth, but then you see (or hear about ) a famous landmark and suddenly you’re like “Holy shit, this really was Earth all along!” It’s also interesting to think about other parallels between that whole franchise and this book/series, like the decline of human civilization and the raise of more animal species. Both even feature lobotomies!
So anthrax and Planet of the Apes aside, most of the episode is Saki, Satoru, Inui, and Kiroumaru making there way to Tokyo. After Inui finishes his tale of escaping from the Queerats with Kiroumaru’s help, Saki and Satoru demand to see their old semi-friend/ally whose been locked in what looks like a dungeon. The two of them talk to him a bit, about how he managed to escape (looking a little worse for wear) and how he thinks they can best kill the Fiend and put a stop to Squealer’s plans. Kiroumaru’s whole attitude and creepy aura this episode lead me to not trust him. It seems too convenient that he made it out of the battle alive, that he just so happens to have gone to Tokyo before, and that he seems to be one step ahead of Squealer while at the same time being one step behind. By this I mean, for example, how Kiroumaru says they’ll be safe escaping underwater and that the Queerats are only searching the surface of the river and yet they are still noticed and pursued by the Fiend and other Queerat forces. I don’t know, something about the whole thing just seems like he’s purposely leading the humans into danger so they’ll die before they can get their hands on the Psychobuster or in case he fails at that, he’s also letting Squealer trail him so that they can use the Fiend to kill them. I also don’t trust Inui. He could very easily also be working with the Queerats. I would have no problem believing that he turned traitor in order to ensure his survival. His escape right in front of the fiend just seems a little too good to be true, if ya know what I mean.
Saki posses some interesting questions this week about if the Fiend is actually a Fiend. Having never seen one before they’ve only got their guts and a couple of folk tales to go off of, which doesn’t really make for a convincing argument. Many have pointed out that if it were a “real” Fiend, it would kill everyone in it’s path and that this child seems to make distinctions between humans and Queerats, and chooses who to kill or not. I don’t know if I’m ready to jump on that theory yet, but it isn’t half bad. Just going off of Niimi’s emergency broadcast from last episode though, it sounds to me like there’s more than one type of Fiend, and that depending on the type it would be more or less out of control. Saki also raises another good point, in that if it is a Fiend, who did he get to be that way? Is it really that easy for a human child to become a monster? Or did the Queerats drug him? Or maybe they operated on him, to make him a perfect killing machine whose sole purpose is to fight, much like their Queen who’s sole purpose it is to pump out little baby Queerats? As Saki and the rest make their way further into Hell, I can only hope that this question is answered eventually.
There was one scene this episode that I couldn’t really make heads or tails out of. While Saki’s mother is narrating her letter, the priest at the temple seem to be doing some kind of ceremony with Saki and Satoru. Saki seems to be the one suggesting whatever it is to the priests, who seem shocked over it. We see an image of the fiend appear in the fire as the ceremony takes place, and after the whole thing is over, Saki looks very sick and upset. I really could not think of what could be going on during that time. The gesture Saki makes towards her hair makes me think that she cut part of it to use as a sacrifice, but for what? I don’t think it was another purification ceremony like in the first episode, to re-seal or unseal some part of their PK, so I’m really clueless as to what all of that meant. It seems like it could be important in the future, or maybe it was explained better (or differently) in the book.
Every week it gets harder to wait for the next episode, and of course this week is no exception. Will they find the Psychobuster? Will Squealer catch up to them? Why was Shun’s voice in the preview for next episode? I’ve got a bad feeling about Inui, like I just have a feeling he’s going to bite the dust next episode. The preview makes it out to look like he sacrifices himself so that Saki and the rest can get away…but I can’t be sure. SSY has proven over and over again that it’s full of surprises, so I won’t rule anything out just yet.
Final Though: Dear scientist/engineers/builders of cool things/general smart people of the earth, I demand that you get on building a tiny portable solar-powered library that looks vaguely like a piglet! With cool flashing light eyes! Seriously though, how awesome would that be? It’s not only super cute and squishy, but can tell you all you’d want to know about baking a cake, biological warfare, old movies, and anything else at the drop of a hat. And it’s eco-friendly! It’d be great.