From The New World Episode 23

Recap: Saki, Satoru, Kiroumaru and Inui continue their search for the Psychobuster.

Aqua‘s thoughts: Rest in peace, Inui, you useless little scoundrel. You died just like how you lived, making no one ever give a damn about you. I fail to see why it was necessary to humiliatingly kill off cool, intriguing characters like Shisei and Tomiko, only to pretty much accidentally promote this idiot to main character status. Heck, it took me a few episodes to figure out that random civilian who constantly got dragged into Saki’s and Satoru’s different adventures was always the same guy. Despite being buffed up with some blatantly shoehorned survivor guilt this episode, Inui never felt like anyone more worthwhile than just that guy who makes all the assumptions the audience would have been able to make if this show had any better writing.

As a result, no one will shed a tear for Inui, but at least I’m glad they don’t accidentally make him appear to be made out of stronger stuff than the actual main characters of this story. Or did they? In terms of both common sense and Cantus antics, Inui seemed way more competent than both Saki and Satoru. Speaking of Saki, what even happened to her? She used to be a strong, determined little missus, but she spent most of this episode being scared and grossed out by pretty much everything. This is a 26-year-old woman who has faced unimaginable horrors ever since she was a kid, and whose job involves observing armed conflicts between tribes of grossly mutated sentient rats. Why is she whining about having to walk through puddles? Is it because she’s a girl?

The Saki that got on my nerves the most, however, was the one we never actually see: The narrator. In an episode centered entirely about what is essentially our characters going through a self-fulfilling hell manifested by their own fears of what “hell” looks like, explicitly showing the so-called unspeakable horrors that can drive a man insane is not exactly a great idea. Especially when said unspeakable horrors mainly consist of poorly animated giant blobs of slime. In what I like to call the Lovecraft-effect, gruesome terrors are better off never being fully shown. That way, you poke the viewer’s imagination and make them project their own biggest fear onto this unseen atrocity. Nothing is scarier than nothing at all, so to say, and the voice-over narration explicitly explaining the what and how behind this “hell” instead of the characters realizing it themselves is just plain lazy.

This is a flaw From The New World, as a novel adaptation, often suffers from. Due to its lack of constant literal narration, many of the important descriptive bits are carried over to either a random voiceover, or even worse, to actual dialogue. A narrator in film is not the same as a narrator in literature! Explaining what is happening in stead of showing it is grating in se already, but having it taint the dialogue and necessitate the presence of a random encyclopedic narrator just makes every line come over as incredibly stilted. From The New World is simply better when it shuts up, and makes creative use of its great soundtrack and minimalist animation opportunities. If there is anything Inui amounted to in the end, it is that his dishonorable death sparked a surprisingly gripping scene, in which Saki silently grieves, accidentally discovers the Psychobuster and escapes the dungeon without a single word, only to bump into Shun on her wait out. Yeah.

Wait, what? Shun!?

Random observations:

  • Are you honestly telling me three powerful ESPers cannot think of a better way to walk upstream a river?
  • Saki may be grossed out by everything all of a sudden, but she still doesn’t have any problems with bathing in the same sea that houses all these creatures that give her the creeps. By the way, who even thinks of taking a bath when flesh-eating mites can pop up to slaughter you at any given moment?
  • Am I the only one intrigued by what became of Ryou, the slightly creepy Shun-clone who was inserted into Group 1’s memories by the Board of Education? Yes? (Zigg’s note – no, you’re not)

Zigg‘s thoughts:  At the very least as New World heads towards its conclusion we’re beginning to see a bit more of what always intrigued me about it, namely the heavy, dark horror elements which the show has largely eschewed for some time now. This episode felt like a partial return to that, although there are still elements of the political thriller it tried (and mostly) failed to become through the last third of the run.  Plotwise this is a sharp, brisk episode, a pleasant change after way too much lollygagging up to this point, although I still feel that there’s fat here that could be cut away, such as the group’s numerous two-minute monster encounters that, as Aqua has noted above, actually serve to make the show less scary.

I’ll also agree to his assertion that Inui is actually by far and away the most competent character, or at least second-most behind Kiroumaru. It’s he who kills the enormous sea worm, proposes the idea that Kiroumaru may not be all that he seems, charges the Minoshiro and ultimately sacrifices himself to allow Saki’s escape. He even straight up says to Saki ‘you wouldn’t know what to do on your own’ and sadly, she doesn’t do much to prove him wrong here. We’ve been told all along how Saki is special because she’s strong and resilient and can keep her head in a crisis but we’ve had very little evidence to back that up. In this episode she’s essentially relegated to scared little girl, buffeted in every direction by events surrounding her and only really coming out of it by dumb luck and the greater initiative of those around her.  It’s not like Inui’s sacrifice has much emotional impact either – I appreciate the idea of trying to shock us with a quick, brutal kill, but he’s such a nonentity it’s difficult to muster much enthusiasm.

Where the show does score back some points in in the last few minutes, where Saki’s wander through the shattered remains of civilization as we know it is effectively creepy and unnerving. Her emergence into the light marks one of the few times the show has been able to muster the chops for an impressive visual, and it’s worthy of note that the animation generally seems much stronger and more consistent this episode.  These moment just remind me that I’m much more drawn to the post-apocalyptic, weird psychological drama wing of the show, something which evoked far more feeling and pathos than the weird socio-political aspect that emerged later. These shots of a girl wandering a devastated landscape reminded me of some of the fear and pathos those early episodes inspired.

And then there’s the Shun angle. Oh boy, this one could go really hard either way. I’m personally sceptical of any potential resurrection, since I feel his death was one of the most powerful and meaningful moments in the show up to this point, and he shows worrying signs of coming back as some sort of messianic all-knowing plot device. On the other hand, if a plausible reason can be found for this return then it could be exactly the sort of powerful, completely unexpected twist that the show needs to propel the climax. There’s also the possibility it’s all a hallucination in the very worst style of the false cliffhanger, although I do hope that’s not the case as it would be a cop-out of truly annoying proportions.  Regardless, it’s a bravura ending to an episode which is building encouragingly towards nex week’s penultimate episode.

Random observations:

  • Next to the Psychobuster there is an extremely obvious letter. Why would you not read that, especially as it’s considered important enough to be kept in a safe next to a weapon of mass destruction?
  • Shun does look a little older than when we left him but given the show’s art style it’s difficult to say for sure.
  • The extensive use of flashback footage from Shun’s death episode reminds me that episode was great.
  • Couldn’t you just fly down the river?

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