Summary: After a flashback to 500 years before the story, Saki’s life in the unified class continues as her group compete in the psychically powered sport of Carryball. Afterwards, they begin preparations for a seven day camping trip that will take them outside of the village.
Dragonzigg’s Thoughts: If you thought it was impossible for From the New World to get any weirder after it’s debut, think again, as this second episode effectively acts as a magnification of everything that was good and bad about that episode – it’s pretty, intensely atmospheric, vaguely unsettling and clings only to the very slimmest of plot threads.
Let’s deal with the good stuff first. The opening flashback, depicting some sort of pseudo-medieval crowning ceremony, ending in a gleeful slaughter of ‘ordinaries’ by the newly appointed Emperor is utterly chilling, and helps layer depth into the history of this world – it’s clear that in the thousand years since the present day society has fallen and risen again in multiple different forms, much like real history. It also establishes that those who possessed Power became kings and gods to ordinary people, something which has superbly uncomfortable echoes in one of the final scenes in this episode, where Saki saves the Monster Rat from drowning and in return the two procrastinate before her like she’s some sort of divine being. Saki’s father’s talk of how they used the Monster Rats to build their housing, and the other children’s clear willingness to simply let the creature drown suggest a downtrodden underclass abused by those with Power, further adding a darker tint to the already ambiguously Stepford Wives-esque atmosphere of the commune. I’d be kind of disappointed if the plot went for the pretty obvious ‘Monster Rats used to be the people who didn’t have Power!’ twist, but that certainly wouldn’t be a disaster.
On the other hand, the painfully slow pacing can be a real killer here. The Carryball game is interesting…for about two minutes, but when half of the episode is spent on it, it really begins to wear thin. There’s no obvious reason for it either, aside from the excuse to disappear another kid at the end, something that could have been done in a much less roundabout way. Characterisation is weak and I’m personally having major trouble telling all the kids apart, since the big-eyed look makes them relatively homogeneous and they only ever travel around as a group, making small talk difficult to parse. They seem to have gotten over the sudden disappearance of a close friend pretty easily too – so easily in fact that none of them mention her at all. And although this episode’s fairy story (this time told in a fuzzy, grainy film look – I wonder if each one will have a different style?) is clearly meant to be a blatant morality warning for the children, starting your episode with back to back flashbacks is not great construction.
In other words, New World‘s strengths still mostly lie in unparalleled atmosphere, the creeping tension that underlies it’s increasingly unsettling world, and the hope that the various fascinating concepts floating about the story eventually coalesce into something resembling a plot. It remains visually exceptional, and watching it is an enjoyable experience for sure. For now it’s still a lot of fun to drink in the mod, but let’s hope we see some forward movement soon. It’d be a shame to see a world this interesting go to waste.