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Past, Future, Present – Saki’s Journey in Shin Sekai Yori

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As Shin Sekai Yori approaches its conclusion, it’s interesting to look back on how far its come. Over a decade has passed since the opening of the series and the story has taken so many twists and turns that sometimes even I forget exactly how it reached this point. Let’s be honest, the plot is disjointed at best and completely fragmented as worst. But this trait–something that would have killed any ordinary series–seems not only appropriate but intentional.

At its core, Shin Sekai is about the growth of its protagonist, Saki. Every experience changes her world view in an immense but discreet fashion. Most television shows portray personal development as a series of epiphanies , but one has  to remember that long lasting change is rarely immediate as popular culture has lead us to believe. Instead, real change is the culmination of many events, all intricately interwoven.

That is what makes Shin Sekai Yori so unique. It isn’t telling the story of a few years of high school or the brief adventure of some exotic hero.It’s recounting Saki’s 26 year-long journey from a young, naive girl to a strong, understanding woman through love, loss, bloodshed and peace.

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Do you remember Reiko? Do you remember Shun? In all honesty, I had to look up the name of Reiko while writing this, and I even forget Shun from time to time. In Saki’s case, she literally can’t remember these people, but even so they permeate every aspect of her character. Her experiences with them push her to adamantly reject the ways of the Ethics Committee even if she isn’t entirely sure why.

In a similar way, Tomiko’s past drives her to fulfill her own self-prescribed responsibilities. She personally knows the terrors that a single fiend can unleash upon the world so she is willing to sacrifice almost anything in order to prevent such an event from occurring again. Saki has now been placed in the same position. Her family, her friends, her town, in effect her entire life, have been destroyed by a fiend, and though it pains her, she now understands the sacrifices that she must make as well.

But this understanding is far from set in stone. Through watching her actions, it becomes clear that Saki still questions if she’s doing the right thing. Her world needs her to kill this fiend, but it is demanding that she kill the child of her lover too. I am confident that she will carry that burden and do what she must, but how will that determine her future? Will she take up the mantle that Tomiko held and defend her world accordingly? Or will she remember the fate suffered by Shun, Maria, Mamoru and Reiko and search for a new means to preserve her way of life? And regardless of the path she decides to take, do we have any right to judge her?

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If we were to look at this from a simple cost-benefit perspective, I believe it’s pretty clear that Tomiko made the best decision given her options. But at the same time, she never had to deal with the unexplained execution of her own friends and family.  If Saki were to make the same decision, she would have to accept the necessity of the many terrible events that plagued her childhood. Would she even be the same person if she allowed herself to think that way?

Saki faces an impossible task when it comes to reconciling her past, present and future. Being my favorite show of the season, I can’t wait to see how Shin Sekai Yori ends. It really is too bad that so many potential viewers dropped it before it had a chance to prove itself. If you’re one of the ones that stuck with it, what do you think about the direction it’s decided to take?

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2 thoughts on “Past, Future, Present – Saki’s Journey in Shin Sekai Yori

  1. “It really is too bad that so many potential viewers dropped it before it had a chance to prove itself.”
    Definitely – it took a while for the show to find it’s footing, and it was a bit ‘different’ to begin with.

    I’ve been on anime hiatus for a while so I’m behind on SSY and can’t really comment on where it’s headed, but if the reaction on the anisphere has been any indication, it’s done well by itself.

    • It definitely had a second wind, but it took a pretty big hit early on in the season. It’s good that it’s getting some well deserved attention, and I’m interested to see how the Spring 2013 reviews are going to treat it.

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