By Randy Thompson / December 27th, 2012
Hey there, everyone! Trying something new to shake things up this time around. It’s a double dose of Shin Sekai Yori. Double the intrigue. Double the mystery. Double the drama. No time to waste — let’s get to it!
Saki is back at school with everyone else in Group 1 consisting of all her childhood friends: Satoru, Maria, Mamoru, and Ryou. Wait, RYOU? Who the heck is this guy? He claims to have been there from the beginning, but this is our first introduction to the kid! Something is obviously wrong.
Being the sharp-minded young lady she is, Saki knows this isn’t right. Instead of picking Ryou as her group partner for an upcoming event, she chooses Satoru as her teammate. She then brings up the odd feeling she can’t shake that Ryou isn’t who he says he is. The kids all take some time to talk to one another about their canoe trip and see if they can piece these things together. Eventually they all realize that some things just don’t match up and that there was someone else there, someone who was not Ryou, but they don’t have a name or a clear picture of his face to go off.
Realizing that talking isn’t going to solve this any further, the group sets out to a nearby village for clues by investigating the one thing they do remember: the boy’s house. After poking around and talking more and more about their lost memories and what happened to the missing kids as they grew up, Mamoru loses his cool and begs them to stop talking about it as the Ethics Committee will find out, resulting in some bad times for him and his friends.
Satoru, Saki, and Maria lay off, promising to never talk about it again around Mamoru. While discussing this amongst themselves, an Ethics Committee attendant shows up to escort them to Satoru’s grandmother Asahina, for some questions. The girls grill Satoru about never telling them that his grandmother headed the Ethics Committee. Satoru pleads ignorant, reminding Saki and Maria that the members of the Ethics Committee are kept secret so it’s no surprise that he himself didn’t even know. Asahina asks to speak with Saki one on one, leaving us off there with Distant Thunder in Winter.
Weak Link is interesting as it’s basically all exposition, taking place as a conversation between Saki and Asahina. This is our next big chunk of story that let’s us know what’s been going on so far and gives us a glimpse at what to look forward to.
Asahina explains that one of the important parts of her job is to look for the next leader of their society, someone with strong resolve and a stable psyche, revealing that she believes Saki to be the woman for the job. Saki is the first one in a long while that seems to have the correct Personality Index, a statistic measured during the childrens’ formative years to find out how mentally stable they are in terms of dealing with stress and interacting with others — something very key in holding a civilization of potentially invincible murder machines together.
Satoru’s grandmother continues to spill the beans on many of the village’s secrets so that Saki knows what she’s dealing with. Asahina recounts a story of the most recent Ogre, who is not a monster at all, but rather a Power user who is not affected by the Death of Shame and kills people with no remorse. The boy, named K in this telling, was a disturbed individual, but nothing substantial had come up to cause further action passed observation. Unfortunately, one day, K snapped and went on to murder his teacher as well as his fellow students before rampaging through the streets. Eventually he was killed via poison from a local doctor who died in the process. This incident caused the Ethics and Educational Committees to put together a stricter protocol for dealing with similarly troubled individuals with an ever-striving goal of never letting another Ogre come to be.
Next on the Asahina’s list of story explanations we are treated to more information on Karmic Demons. As explained in More than the Darkness, Power users can unconsciously use their power, distorting and mutating their surroundings and nearby individuals. Asahina recounts a story of a girl she knew 20 years ago who was leaking Power, becoming a Karmic Demon. Out of fear of what could happen to those around her, she gave in to the village rules and submitted herself to “help”. She was given poison, disguised as medicine, which would kill her and end her ascension to Karmic Demon status — she knew this was the only way out and resolved herself to it to save the others. Sadly, unbeknownst to her, her Power had already killed her family.
Saki can not help but feel deep sadness at these stories, to which Asahina explains that such a reaction is normal. Knowing that something similar must have happened to someone around her, Saki begs for her memories back — a request which is denied by Asahina. This is not because of the damage that could be caused to Saki by the knowledge, but because her strong bonds with her friends would encourage Saki to tell them the truth. With the chain being broken only by the weakest link, the information is withheld so that the weaker of Group 1’s members can be safe.
Soon afterward it’s discovered that Mamoru has left, asking that no one look for him. Not heeding this wish, Saki, Satoru, and Maria duck out of class (with an awe-inspiring, quick-on-his-feet lie to Ryou made by Satoru) to go out in search of their missing friend. What happened to Mamoru? What could he be doing on his own after his fearful breakdown in Distant Thunder in Winter? Why doesn’t he want his friends or family searching for him? Ah, that is to be left to next week’s episode!
As these episodes unfolded, we are shown more and more that the Ethics Committee and Education Committee are forces not to be trusted or even faced head on. Everything they do is shrouded in complete mystery and seems only to further make matters worse for Saki and the others. Changing and rearranging memories is not something good people do, right? What these episodes did well was illustrate that things are not so clear cut in Shin Sekai Yori. Even though their means hinder Saki and the others, it’s not done out of malice or cruelty. I don’t envy their jobs as it must be extremely stressful and worrisome to balance the livelihood of the villagers with their safety when a singular maverick Power user could wipe the village off the map.
Just as I had expected, it seems Mamoru does have a part to play in all this. His character design is certainly different than the other main characters in the series, calling us to pay attention to him for some reason. His name, which translates to “protect”, doesn’t match his personality at all, begging the question of why he’s named that in the first place? Couple all that with his shyness and great anxiety and fear and it seemed it was only a matter of time before something happened. What that something is we don’t know yet. I’m interested to see what his deal is and if he can snap out of it.
Asahina was a very interesting character, especially since she is the first person we can put a name, a face, and a personality to one of these committees. While she’s clearly behind a lot of what’s happened to Saki, the others, and the children for years, she is a kind and compassionate soul, one who seems very much like an older, more mature Saki. I’m curious to see if this was really what Asahina is like or if there is more to all of this. Weak Link was one of the best episodes I’ve seen recently and I’m very interested to see where things will go from here with both Saki and the audience armed with more information. The pieces of the puzzle are coming together and we are getting a far clearer picture of what this series is about and where it will be going, but if anything, Shin Sekai Yori has been capable of plenty of surprises and I’m sure we’ll see more as time goes on.
Shin Sekai Yori is up on Crunchyroll every Tuesday at about 3:30 PM Eastern Time.
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