Summary: Saki meets the head of the mysterious Ethics Committee, who makes her a shocking proposal. Elsewhere, Maria discovers that Mamoru has run away from home.
Aqua’s thoughts: Hallelujah! While last week, I complained that From The New World had me regretting I never wrote any of the plot details down, this episode resolved some long-lasting questions of mine in a very thorough, clear and absolutely terrifying manner. At last we now know the difference between Karma Demons (or gouma, depending on which subs you use) and their even more horrible cousins, the Fiends (akki) — and the full truth behind the titular new world’s radical self-censorship. It seems like all the pieces are finally in place for a revolt to kick off, but I’m not so sure whether one is even near. After episodes’ worth of subtle hints, Tomiko confirms that the Ethics Committee consider Saki a unique specimen and a possible future head. Her actions will determine where From The New World will take us next. Will what happened to Shun – and most likely will happen to Mamoru – drive her to accept the necessity of the town council’s suppression, or will it cause her to actively oppose it?
As I stated in the comment section of last week’s post, From The New World is a multifaceted anime. Its story is considered from a plethora of angles, ranging from sexuality to psychology and each playing relatively bigger or smaller roles in every episode. Some of these facets are considerably better executed than some others. Where From The New World often falls short is the unification of these facets within a single narrative whole. While all of them are interesting and well spotlighted, it often seems as if single episodes are dedicated to single facets of the story. Last week was a story-progression episode, the week before saw a more atmospherical, emotional episode, and the very first episode of this arc was more focused on romance and other interpersonal relations between the characters.
Just like the very first one, this week’s episode was considerably high on infodumps and New World‘s already signature horrifying flashbacks. The story of K’s Chronicle-esque nosedive off the loose end was in many ways similar to the Kid A (I’m not sorry) who kickstarted this disaster to begin with. All of a sudden, Psycho-Pass, that other dystopian anime of the season, doesn’t seem that far away anymore. Everything points at Mamoru being the next one to go right down the same slippery slop, as he has a lot of traits in common with K. Traits that seem innocent, yet are entirely in line with characteristics of real-life psychopaths. Submissive? Check. Quiet? Check. Introverted? Check. Never taken seriously? Hello there, Maria! Is this what future Saki meant with her being the cause of many deaths? I hope we’ll soon find out.
By the way, have I mentioned that this anime is artsy as heck? Because it is. Delicious.
Zigg’s Thoughts: This episode functions for most of its length as a huge expodump. That doesn’t necessarily make it a bad episode, but it does mean that the pace noticeably slows once again. I’ve commented several times on what I’ve called ‘ see-saw rhythm’ in From the New World and its becoming clearer the further it goes along that there has been some difficulty adapting the story from its source material. I’ve not read the novel (and I’d be intrigued to know if a translation exists) but the impression I get is that it’s very wordy [Aqua’s Note – Apparently, it’s over 950 pages long], high concept sci-fi that doesn’t necessarily translate easily to another medium. Episodes like this are a byproduct – as intriguing as the information we’re getting is, it’s essentially three-quarters of an episode of two people sitting in a room talking.
Having said that, what we’re told is pretty fascinating. As we’ve long suspected, the Ethics Committee knows way more than they’re telling the general populace and in fact seems to know everything that the False Minoshiro told Saki and crew way back before the timeskip. What’s intriguing is that they’re not presented here as out-and-out villains, but rather as protectors, doing what they acknowledge are terrible things in order to maintain the greater good. The horrifying violence of the ‘K’ flashback (I doubt it’s coincidence that he looks a bit like Shun) helps sell the validity of their point of view and while the acceptability of their actions is still up to your own personal moral weight, it’s a nice bit of nuance that they aren’t at least cackling cartoon villains. There’s genuine moral ambiguity, rather than the often obviously one sided ‘for the greater good’ arguments which anime often tries to force (Gurren Lagann, I’m looking at you). My personal take on it is that no amount of security is worth the oppression this society is based on, but then I always was a wishy-washy hand wringing liberal. The cool thing is there’s an argument to be made both ways. The story of Izumi is another great presentation of this dilemma, showing (heartbreakingly) that some people are prepared to work inside this system, even at the cost of their own lives.
Outside of this central debate, the idea that Saki is responsible for the group’s continued existence because she has the potential to lead this society is an excellent twist which ties in nicely with what we’ve seen of her so far. Saki has been mentally resilient, curious, unwilling to back down and willing to take great risks in order to bring the truth to light – all fantastic qualities for a leader. Up until now the Ethics Committee has been the ‘enemy’, so asking your lead character to cross lines and essentially fight to hide everything she’s worked so hard to uncover is a cool angle to take, and also provides a good, valid reason why the children’s tampering has been permitted up until now.
The disappearance of Mamoru at the end of this episode feels almost inconsequential as a result of everything else which is unfurled. That’s not to say it isn’t an important plot development, it’s simply that it’s obviously a setup for next week’s story. Having said that, I’ve been saying for a while now that if a member of this party were to snap, it’d be Mamoru and while Shun got there first it looks like that guess is coming true. Asahina Tomiko’s talk of a chain being only as strong as its weakest link immediately made my mind leap to Mamoru in this group of friends, and the line is ominously echoed in Saki’s head at the end. It seems bad things are coming up for the quiet one.