Shin Sekai Yori Episode 23: The Face of the Boy
“Fiend? You misunderstand. That’s no Fiend.” -Shun Aonuma
Summary: The group is forced to split up in order to move forward, and Saki and Inui are tasked with fetching the submarine. Inui confesses that he is very distrustful of Kiroumaru and warns Saki that he might not be the friend that they think he is. As Saki forges ahead to find the Psychobuster alone, she is plagued by visions of the past leading to the return of her memories of Shun.
Impressions: So. That was…intense. Two episodes left! Eep! How’s this going to end?!?
Our little group continues to make its way towards their goal as they journey through more of the subterranean hell that is the tunnels underneath Tokyo. As narrator Saki tells us, people’s PK leakage has created this place, as all of people’s scared thoughts and dreams concerning Tokyo have led to their actualization. We see this in all of creatures that wander the tunnels. Each and every one of them is the stuff of nightmares. Weird giant hand things with almost tiger-like stripes, cockroaches, the poisonous vampire slugs from last week, moving green strips that hang from the ceiling and only respond to fire, and “the shadow”, a large swarm of mites that will paralyse you and then eat all of your insides leaving only a sack of skin and bones. Thanks to Kiroumaru, they know that Squealer and his team have split up into three groups, two that are pursuing them in the tunnels, and one that is above ground should the emerge. Squealer doesn’t know their position yet, so it becomes even more imperative that Inui, Saki, Satoru, and Kiroumaru make their way quickly to where the Psychobuster is.
They come to a dead-end and Kiroumaru suggests they split up. He and Satoru go back into the tunnels to give their enemies a false scent, while Saki and Inui go get the submarine. They’ll then meet back up and continue on up the stream that blocks their way, and hopefully throw off Squealer & Co as well. But once they split up, Inui opens up to Saki about the possibility that Kiroumaru is no longer as loyal to the humans as he once might have been. He asks some good questions. What exactly was Kiroumaru looking for the last time he came to Tokyo? It must have been something very important if he was willing to sacrifice so many of his men over it. And it can’t just have been any little thing, otherwise he would have told them what it was that he was looking for. Something is definitely up, and while Kiroumaru might not be working with Squealer, I also don’t think he’s working for the humans. He’s got his own agenda going on, but what it is I can only guess at (I think that he went to Tokyo the first time also looking for the Psychobuster, but was unsuccessful because of all the different deadly animals and the fact that Queerats can’t use juryoku) Kiroumaru also doesn’t warn Saki and Inui about the very real danger that’s waiting for them in the waters off the shore.
They make it back to the sub, and from the baby false minoshiro (which is almost out of power), they find out about the dangerous giant Bobbit worm, which is a singularly ugly thing that looks like the bastard offspring of a giant centipede with the hair of that girl from The Ring and the nose of Gérard Depardieu. It’s nocturnal, and if Inui had not remembered what Kiroumaru said about the shore being dangerous (especially at night) both he and Saki would have been goners since Krioumaru failed to give them any other information about it. Knowing that held that information back is just another strike against him, and seems to show further that he’s secretly trying to get rid of Saki and Inui. Thankfully, even when they do run into one of the worms, Inui is able to defeat it, probably thanks in part to his job exterminating Queerats.
The two make it up the river, using an old subway tunnel judging by the train tracks that run along the bottom of it. When they make it back to the ledge where they were supposed to meet Satoru and Kiroumaru again, they aren’t there. Unable to waste time waiting for them to show up, they have to move on and trust that the other two are safe. Although just how safe you can be with a suspected traitor is up for debate. After reaching a dead-end, Saki and Inui are forced to abandon the submarine in favor of walking along the bottom of the floor with air bubbles over their heads and lamps. It’s here that another of the giant worm attacks and while Saki manages to avoid it, Inui is not so lucky. He cuts it in half, but at the cost of his own life.
It was saddening to see him go, snuffed out as quick as can be, and now just one more name to add to the growing list of characters that SSY has killed off. He really wanted Saki to make it, and his oath to make sure that she made it through alive was very touching. In the end he did pay the ultimate price to make sure that Saki would survive, and she cries for him after making it to shore. Inui makes an interesting point earlier in the episode about how it didn’t feel like he had survived so much as he’d just escaped death for the moment. And it’s true, since death does come for him. I think that some part of him knew he wasn’t going to make it, since he was living on borrowed time.
Thankfully for Saki the false minoshiro is waterproof, and she’s able to use it to finally locate the Psychobuster. For something with such a grand name, you’d expect it to look a little more menacing or scary than the ornate vial that it turns out to be (what I really want to know though, is what was in the letter that was in the safe with humanities supposed last hope at survival.) Anthrax in hand, Saki finds here way out into the ruins of what once was Tokyo. And she starts to remember. Throughout the episode, Saki shows signs that the barrier around her memories of Shun is slipping. She’s able to remember some of what he told her about the juryoku leakage and how it affects the world outside the holy barrier. While she’s in the submarine with Inui, Saki has a vision of the boy with the mask, who reassures her that everything will be okay even if she can’t remember his name yet. Saki even starts to remember that night on their summer camping trip when Shun showed her the stars. All of this finally leads Saki to remembering the name and the face of the boy in the mask.
Shun’s reappearance is quite dramatic and heart-wrenching. While I’m glad that Saki finally remembers him, I do not think that his appearance is anything other than a figment of her imagination. I don’t think he’s somehow magically “back” or has been resurrected (although he does look very Jesus-like with the glow of the rising sun giving him a bit of a halo and a certain holy vibe). I think it’s just Saki’s brain giving her another walking dream, like the ones she’s had before. I don’t know why now of all times she’s finally able to remember him. Maybe it’s because she’s so far away from Kamisu 66th district, maybe it’s the atmosphere of the ruins, maybe it’s the stress of seeing so many people die and of seeing the world she knows crumbling into pieces, but whatever it is, something causes her to finally break the barrier around her memories. I’m very curious to see what happens next week. What, if anything will Shun tell her? Will he maybe elaborate on he statement that the fiend isn’t actually a fiend?!
Saki was questioning it last week, and this week Shun seems to confirm that the boy who, up until now, we assumed was a fiend might actually not be. I want to know just how he’s getting around the death feedback then. Is it really that he doesn’t see humans as humans (since he was raised by queerats) and as such feels nothing from killing them? It can’t be that simple, since 1. I’m pretty sure that I remember them saying that it’s a built-in genetic thing and 2. this is a society were every little thing about everything surrounding them (from how they grow up, to what they learn in school, to being hypnotized the whole nine yards) is geared towards them being non-violent. Even on a genetic level. It seems hard to imagine that all that could be undone by simply being raised outside of society. I still think it’s far more likely that something was done to him to make him become the way he is (either brain surgery a la lobotomy, or maybe some kind of drugs to keep him from feeling the pain of the death feedback or something like that). I’m just dying to know. And what is up with those purple markings that he has on his face now?
With only two episodes left, I’m expecting some major plot twists and revelations. What will Saki do now that she remembers Shun? What happened to Satoru? What’s Kiroumaru’s role in all this? Fiend or not a Fiend? and what’s going to happen with the Psychobuster? Will Squealer prevail? Or will humanity be saved? I need the next two episodes stat!
Final Though: There was some really nice bits of animation this week. Saki and Inui’s fight with the worm-beast, Saki’s first vision of Shun when he still had the mask on, the whole last part when Saki steps out into the ruble formerly known as Tokyo and sees Shun again. Yup. I especially love the brief moment when we first see Shun reflected in Saki’s eye. It’s a nice parallel to the first time we see the Fiend, and I’m sure if I went back further I could find other examples of this as well. It’s a great running theme.