From A New World (or Shin Sekai Yori in Japanese) takes an interesting realistic approach on what the drastic consequences could be if a world filled with kinetic ability-powered humans were to exist. Yes, it’s cool to manipulate and bend objects with your mind in the physical plane as portrayed in other anime, but the human mind isn’t so unwavering as it seems, is it? That’s the topic this anime tackles in its core.
Think what if everyone, including people with depression, insanity or other internal issues were given the power to control the very fabric of the physical realm- as in kill thousands with the pop of a subconscious thought even though they didn’t mean to? Doesn’t everyone go through a mental breakdown and instability at some point in their lives? And what would society do to preserve the human species while treading on such thin ice!?
One may say the story is pretty similar to Psycho-Pass, and it is in terms of having to live in a sugar-coated dystopia. The difference is that the paranoia society portrayed in Psycho-Pass is unnecessary and unfair to the whole population- taking away their rights to be creative in exchange for eliminating the risk of heightening one’s crime coefficient. Whereas in Shin Sekai Yori, society really had the right to be paranoid because a single person, once mentally deranged and destabilized, has the power to wipe out an entire species.
I should share to you in advance that the first three episodes are going to be really weird and they won’t explain shit to you on what’s happening, but things should start making sense around episode 4. This is to immense the viewers first in the norm our protagonists has been inculcated with upon entering society as children.
Everything starts in modern day Japan where a teenager starts murdering people on a whim with his mind, followed with silhouettes of five children playing in a farm about to end their game and go home. Then you hear jargon like “I’m going home since the Trickster Cat’s gonna come out!” and “Look, can you see the Minoshiro?” Then it’s revealed that the farm scene we’re watching is actually 1000 years in the future…but wait, what the hell’s a Minoshiro?! All will be explained at the right time so be patient.
Then a coming-of-age ritual takes place where a young girl named Watanabe Saki, who has received her blessing (kinetic powers), is being sealed off of her powers, but is given a new yet similar on (this will be explained in the latter episodes.) She then joins a middle-school school where students are taught to control and improve their kinetic powers. The following scenario after this is where things become Higurashi-ish mysterious- students who either show poor performance in manifesting their powers or display a bad attitude disappear and are forgotten. They notice this, but just shrug it off as it is forbidden to talk about such topics.
Saki, on the other hand, starts to thirst for the truth when flashbacks start haunting her, like hearing her parents conversing privately, worried that they’ll lose Saki when her powers weren’t manifesting even on her late age, and when they also panicked when she told them she caught a glimpse of the Trickster Cat. So it’s like the cat has been coming for the naughty children, eh?
Saki’s an only child…at least that’s what she thinks.
Mythical creatures only talked about in rumors- specifically Ogres and Karmic Demons, are mentioned from time to time to scare people into not doing the forbidden. This shall be a crucial concept in the story later on.
It’s basically society using religion to crowd-control the people.
The story would usually switch between the growing friendship of the protagonists Saki, Satoru, Maria, Mamoru and Shun; the village rumors and mysteries; adventure to the outside world beyond the Holy Barrier; and discovering the facts behind said mysteries and the very reason why they were implemented.
I’m going to stop here and cut to the chase- it’s much better, after all, to fully familiarize yourself with the world and lore of Shin Sekai Yori by watching it. In the fourth episode, after going to a forbidden place, they see and catch a ‘False Minoshiro,’ which they subdued and interrogated. The said Minoshiro, which turns out to be an advanced man-made robot by the Library (which is supposed to be already extinct and phased out) containing 890 petabytes of historical archive, answers the kids’ questions at the threat of its own life.
Here’s the gist of the info they squeezed out of the weird creature:
“In the year 2011 AD, science proved the existence of pyschokinesis. After a certain point in time, the number of people with powers began to increase- up to .3% of the world’s population. PK-users were only able to wield a fraction of their powers, but it still held the possibility of bringing down the societies of the time. In Japan, the turning point was a series of crimes committed by Boy A. He discovered he can open any lock, and raped and killed 19 women at first. After his arrest, he continued to use PK to commit crimes. It became a terrorist weapon- it split society into a complex mix of opposing political, humanitarian and ideological factions. A world war like any other broke out. Ironically, the constant threat to the lives of PK users led to a dramatic evolution of their abilities. Meanwhile, the human population plummeted worldwide to 2%. These events serve as an overview of the Dark Ages that lasted five centuries.”
I could put in more on what happened to the world, but that would spoil you.
The kids were shocked, knowing that it is ultimately impossible for a human to kill another human. This is so because every human’s psyche has been proofed with a backup system called ‘Mental Restraints,’ where it prevents instigating the thought, and ‘Mental Feedback‘ where if ever one does kill, the attacker dies as well via a premediated heart attack. They stopped the Minoshiro from talking any further because they just couldn’t handle hearing any more- they’re not even sure if they are true or not.
The series is split into 3 parts: one is when Saki and her friends are 12, then 14, and eventually 26 years old.
With regards to the Ogre and Karmic Demon, they are just myths fabricated by society’s higher-ups with the aim to detect and isolate them, also minimizing damage-control to the people without giving too much info. Ogres are actually “human PK users with mental instability caused by stress, seeing the world as the source of their problems, becoming one that kills with no sense of guilt or remorse, like a serial killer,” hence the term Fox-in-a-Hen-House Syndrome. Karmic Demons, on the other hand, are “human PK users who subconsciously lose control of their powers due to stress and distorts everything around them. They won’t be able to stop destroying people and the things around them even if they tried,” it’s also referred to as the Hashimoto-Appelbaum Syndrome. Because of their defects, both are immune to Mental Restraint and Mental Feedback.
I guess this ends it- if I made this anime interesting enough for you, now go watch it! :D
Oh, I really liked the first ED song, by the way: