Shinsekai Yori (From the New World):
- Trailer: Extended fan-made trailer
- What it’s about: In a far-flung post-apocalyptic future survives an isolated society of small Japanese villages. The community is rigidly controlled and stratified, with a great focus placed upon developing and restraining the natural psychic powers that all humans begin to demonstrate upon hitting puberty. The story follows a group of children as they begin to question the indoctrination imposed upon them and are steadily presented with the reasons and justifications behind it.
- Why you should watch it: Shinsekai Yori has, hands down, the best world-building I’ve ever seen in an anime. It takes its central premise – ubiquitous psychic powers – and follows through on the societal consequences that the existence of such a thing would have. As the show goes on, it’s made clear that there really are no “heroes” or “villains”, that everyone has their own entirely self-consistent justifications for their actions, which nonetheless conflict with everyone else’s. It’s a wonderfully morally grey narrative. As an added bonus, Shinsekai Yori is a rare work in that it treats its audience as intelligent: it doesn’t directly narrate connections as the characters make them, it shows you flashes and assumes you’ll keep up.
- Caveats: The start of the show is slow, with much more effort being put into setting up a solid foundation for the latter half and in establishing the unique setting than in showing things actually happening. This pays off, but the “mystery” of the early episodes is not enough to sustain interest by itself at times. “Plot holes”, particularly with regards to character actions or motivations, only make sense with information gained later on. The sudden time-skip into adolescence around the half-way point makes for a *very* jarring transition episode with every character (including background ones) apparently having paired off romantically. Again, justified later, but still a bit of a sudden change-up from what had been happening up to that point.
- Themes: Liberty vs Security – the benefits and drawbacks of censorship. Identity, conformity and indoctrination. Legitimacy of violence. Discrimination.
- Similar works: Psycho-Pass shows a dystopia struggling with the same problem of security versus liberty, but takes a more action-intensive approach. Outside of anime, the most obvious parallel is with Shyalaman’s The Village, though Shinsekai Yori is a much deeper, much more thoughtful work. Also, The Giver.