Recap: Saki and Satoru flee to the Temple of Purity as Shisei Kaburagi faces down the Fiend
Aqua’s thoughts: Honestly, Zigg and I have no problem admitting that we simply forgot about last week’s From The New World post. It really does show how tremendously excited we are for this show, doesn’t it? I am sad to see From The New World fumble as much as it does, but it is especially hard to put my finger on why exactly it just does not work. It has clever ideas, intriguing twists, engaging characters and a haunting atmosphere, but for some reason, al these perks are mutually exclusive. None of them can stand out without the other three being mercilessly shoved aside – with some very painful results. In any case, we do owe you few brave souls who gave this show the chance it deserves coverage of two episodes now, but I am afraid this will not be substantially reflected in this post’s size.
With its quick shift from night to broad daylight, and away from the city full of potential victims of a horrible death, episode 20 sadly enough quickly did away with all of the elements that made last episode so chilling. Saki and Satoru’s elaborate discussing of their needlessly complex ruses and how utterly horrible the Queerats are broke much of the tension required to keep up the breakneck pace the story was quite obviously trying to convey. It feels like padding, and a rather lazy way to get the final bits of plot in by simply pressing the pause button, especially because the Fiend conveniently shows up to kill everyone again once everything has been explained that needed to be explained.
I have had no problem with human hubris being the cause of their downfall before, but with further slaughter of important characters that could be easily prevented, I am starting to suspect From The New World’s plot of being entirely carried by the fact that literally everyone who is not named Yakomaru is a complete idiot. They just massacred half of your village, burned a great chunk of it down to the ground and confronted you with the one nightmare you have centred your entire society around to prevent it from ever happening again, and you’re still going to boast you can easily wipe out all Queerats? Sure, Yakomaru’s methods may be entirely despicable, but when you consider the treatment his species has had to suffer from these pompous halfwits, it is hard not to root for him a little.
Which brings us straight to the Fiend, who is indeed confirmed to be Maria and Mamoru’s son — or daughter, given the big sparkly eyes and the distinctly feminine legs. His/her portrayal fluctuates heavily between the succinctly creepy vibes of a little kid innocently toying around with creative manners of mass murder and completely overblown cheese carbon-copied from shows like When They Cry or Future Diary. Nevertheless, their appearance and role in Yakomaru’s larger scheme are a very effective device and further proof that underneath all the deranged animation, pacing issues, atmospheric shortcomings and needless banter, there is still a fascinating story to be found in From The New World. It is an ambitious story I greatly appreciate and would gladly like to see the conclusion of, but not necessarily one I’m excited about.
- The adaptation’s portrayal of Maria as some sort of holy virgin (Zigg’s note – this episode kinda contradicts that bit) martyr is getting rather hilarious. I suppose they are contractually obliged to have Kana Hanazawa utter at least one line per episode, even when her character is dead? By the way, wasn’t Shun supposed to be Saki’s big love?
- Meanwhile, when Saki brings up all the friends they have lost, she completely forgets to mention Mamoru. Poor guy really can’t catch a break, can’t he?
- What the hell was up with the physics in episode 20? Since when does being pushed aside launch you several feet into the air? By the way, what the hell was up with that ridiculous scene with Saki being propelled up into the air and having a Convenient Psychedelic Epiphany™ while twirling around for a good two minutes?
- I rather like the super casual outfit Saki wears in these two episodes.
- Oh, Shisei, you died just like you lived: Pointless and confusing. If they actually killed Tomiko off, though, I am officially calling bullshit on this show.
Zigg‘s thoughts (Episode 21 only): This is an episode which should be amazing, given the excellent double-barreled plot twist which forms its climax. Instead, it’s merely good, the result of some odd storytelling choices and New World‘s now trademark sluggish pace. What is does offer is some satisfying payoff to the ongoing queerat thread that has dominated the show, much to my oft-voiced displeasure.
Let’s go straight to those twists then, because they’re certainly worthy of discussion. The ongoing hint over the past few episodes is that the Fiend who has been ravaging the village is in fact Maria, something further emphasised here by the Fiend’s redheaded appearance (although somewhat undermined by the continual referral to the character as ‘him’). When the twist comes at the end of the episode, it’s not unspottable, but it is a very neat one – The fiend is actually Mamoru and Maria’s child. This at once explains a whole bunch of the questions that have been hanging over the show for a while now. How have the Queerats managed to tame a Fiend to their own ends? Because they raised it from birth to obey their will. How on earth did Yakomaru manage to fake Mamoru and Maria’s death so convincingly? Because he actually killed them (presumably). It’s a deliciously dark, brutal coda to the couples’s story and yet another string to Yakomaru’s bow as a villain, though I’m still not sure I really take him seriously enough to be the big bad yet.
My issue with the twist is really how it’s presented. While the moment of clarity/flashback montage TV and film mostly relies upon is pretty cliched, it’d be much better than what we get here where the revelation is just casually dropped into dialogue without any fanfare at all. The only explanation I can think of is that the audience was meant to have deduced this fact long before the actual onscreen confirmation, but while the twist is not completely unpredictable, neither do i feel it’s obvious enough to count as a foregone conclusion (I certainly was taken by surprise). It’s another classic example of the show not playing to its strengths and failing to emphasise the truly dramatic moments in its narrative.
The other big twist here is that Yakomaru has kidnapped all the infants from the nursery and clearly plans on repeating the pet fiend plan ad infinitum, eventually creating an army of psychic killers he can use to wipe out the human race altogether. I’m a little more wary of this one – it’s a fantastically evil idea in principal, and very clever too. But the way it shows up onscreen tips it a little bit towards Bond-villain megalomania, and New World‘s general tone clashes rather badly with the whole ‘global domination’ scheme that feels a bit more shonen manga-y. As I said above, I still don’t buy Yakomaru as some sort of evil mastermind – he’s simply not scary or intimidating enough and the fact he remains completely offscreen while his plot is unfurled dulls the impact considerably.
Elsewhere problems that have dogged New World continually remain in place. The vast, vast majority of the story is still delivered through people standing around and talking about what’s happening, and without the tenseness or mystery which the show relied upon in its early run this fact becomes more and more obvious as time goes by. Brutally cheap animation also remains a concern – just look at how rubbish Shisei and the Fiend killing people is. There’s no blood, just a cheap disintegration effect and it removes any edge from what’s meant to be a horrific scene. With these newest story twists New World has set itself up for a potentially excellent finale, but it needs to solve it’s major presentation problems and fast if it wants to leave our screens with a good impression.
- Clearly there’s no birth control in the future.
- The timeline seems a little wonky here. If Yakomaru killed Mamoru and Maria and took their child, that implies they had to have stayed close to his colony for at least nine or ten months. Why then were they not found by the search parties sent out? They themselves stated they intended to flee as far away as possible as fast as possible.
- For supposedly one of the most powerful beings in the world, Shisei is curbstomped hilariously easily by the Fiend. I guess the idea is to emphasise the Fiend’s power, but it just makes Shisei look crap. He’s served no purpose whatsoever in this show.
- How hilarious is that mustachioed Queerat?