Summary: Saki, Maria and Satoru venture out into the wilderness in search of Mamoru
Aqua‘s thoughts: Oh, I just love how the characters in From The New World are such tremendous dickheads without even being aware of it. Casually force choking an innocent Queerat might not exactly be the best way to show your gratitude, Satoru. When the crew finds Mamoru back, no one even seems concerned about his wellbeing, rather than just why he disappeared. Even after this incident, still none of the other kids take Mamoru seriously, which leads me to believe that his arc is far from over. It really shows just how the kids have been born and raised in a completely different society from ours, though. A society based on fear, rules and indoctrination leads to a different breed of humans and From The New World has gone to great lengths to show this. This episode saw some nice uses of the Cantus in daily life, such as it being used to ride a sled uphill. This turns the Cantus into the essential part of the universe it should be rather than just an excuse for cool action scenes.
Despite how different the humans in From The New World may be, though, I would like to believe that their body language at least somewhat resembles ours. This episode suffered from some appalling directing, with characters mostly just standing up tight doing nothing and flat, dull facial expressions. Many supposedly cool or scary scenes were ruined by the awkwardly stilted animation of the characters. Who in their right mind stands dead still on skis? As usual, it is more than obvious that direction and animation quality in From The New World are very much an episode-to-episode thing. At the very least, next episode seems to hint at the group being forced split up for a while. Will we have another timeskip incoming?
- Maria is a ninja now, and while it fits into her talent for hovering we saw earlier, her bouncing around the place is a bit silly.
- Her enormous jacket is also a clever way to avoid having to animate her arms.
Zigg‘s thoughts: With this episode New World shifts gears again back into as close as it gets to an action mode, as much of this episode is spent back out in the wilderness. This means that the delicate political machinations that made up last week’s story are mostly put on the backburner for now, but that’s OK – after something so talky it’s a welcome break to return to an episode where we’ve got a single clear focus. I’m also going to go against Aqua straight up and say that this was an interesting episode to look at. Although he’s right that the directing is flat and yes, the facial work is particularly awful this time round, I thought that the snow made for a good contrast to everything we’ve seen so far and a nice change from the mostly rural green palette up to this point.
The episode is mostly just filler up until we find Mamoru, but it’s interesting filler that does a pretty decent job of maintaining mystery and tension. I like how the characters aren’t dumb and figure out a lot from the clues they’re given – it makes this romp feel more like an actual tracking mission than just an arbitrary trek from plot point A to plot point B. Saki and Satoru’s powerless skiing gives it a slightly surreal visual edge though and while Maria’s pogo-stick style is dumb as hell (can it really be that much harder just to glide) it does do a good job of distinguishing the nature of her powers.
Of course, once we do find Mamoru, that’s when things get interesting. Again, I have to applaud good character writing here – between them Satoru and Maria ask most of the questions and make most of the points that I did while watching. Why is Mamoru only being targeted now? We’ve seen before that the School Board has no issue with ‘vanishing’ underachievers (remember Reiko?) but right now seems odd timing – Mamoru is hardly a hopeless case, and furthermore the elimination of innocents seems to directly contrast what we were told last episode about culling only being performed on those in danger of becoming Fiends or Karma Demons. Mamoru’s flashbacks (which incidentally are superb examples of how to create atmospheric scenes with limited animation, relying mostly on strong audiovisual design) are left semi-ambiguous, especially the seeming use of Power to save him in the second instance. Given how shocked he is, I doubt this power is his own, unless it’s subconscious. Could the ‘assassinations’ just be paranoid delusions? I doubt it, but it remains a possibility. The revelation that he knows about all the things the other three have kept from him as well is interesting – has he been eavesdropping, or is there an even more sinister reason? And what about the timing – the elimination attempt happens at roughly the same time the other three have been summoned to meet the Ethics Committee. I wonder if the Committee sees him as an unnecessary weakness who is holding back the others – it would certainly explain their sudden desire to be rid of him.
Where we go from here is intriguing. the next episode suggests a major parting of the ways, and I wonder if Mamoru may be forced into some kind of exile (perhaps with the Queerats?) for his own safety. It certainly seems the show is gradually working its way through our cast, Ten Little Indians style. If Mamoru does exit the scene, we’ll be down to three. Who falls next?