Shin Sekai Yori is a show I’ve dedicated a lot of time to as a blogger. The task of writing a post on each episode every week was made a lot easier by the fact that I actually really enjoyed it, and always had something to say about it! I actually had too much to say about the show at times, which is why I’ve now decided to write a review on it. I’d like to be able to compile the most important thoughts I’ve had on the show during those 25 weeks into one post. Who knows, maybe it will help someone reading this to decide whether or not they want to watch the show? One can only dream!!
I won’t waste time by giving you a synopsis- if you want one, read it here on MAL- I’m just gonna launch right into it!!!
The strongest aspect of SSY was definitely its story. Well, less its story, more the themes it incorporated into it! It frequently used its characters’ actions to make comments on human nature, comments like: humans are evil, if we’re given weapons, we will definitely use them because of this, fear of our destruction will lead to our destruction, etc. And because none of this was said outright, discovering them provided me with a certain satisfaction!! I know many prefer not to think too deeply about shows, but even though the story, at face value, is interesting, with plenty of twists and turns that make it difficult to predict what’s going to happen next, I would strongly recommend taking the time to ponder over what you watch, because if you’re anything like me, the story alone, without any deeper meaning, won’t be enough if you can’t bring yourself to care about its characters, which I’ll elaborate on shortly.
There were two other things I really liked about SSY’s story. One of these things was that, as the story took place over a span of just under a decade, it really felt as though you’d gone on a journey with the characters by its end. The other thing was that the writers really knew how to get inside your head. It’s strange, even though the human characters in the show often felt artificial (again, I’ll get onto that soon) it really felt as though, at times, the writers understood what it meant to be human, especially in regards to fear. The show could be wonderfully creepy at times simply because the writers understood what we find scary, and exploited that. Pain, darkness, monsters, the unknown, being trapped, being pursued- all things we universally find scary, all things regularly used to create fear!
The weakest aspect of SSY, however, was its characters. Right up until the end, I’d not heavily invested myself in a single one of them! Frequently they’d be placed in life-threatening situations, but I just wouldn’t care. The problem was that some of them didn’t display enough of a range of emotions for them to feel convincing as characters- Mamoru, for example, only ever seemed to display fear and uncertainty- and some of them could have done with their motives being fleshed out more- like, why was Satoru such a compulsive child, but such a composed and reliable adult? I just felt as though I hadn’t been given enough to get behind them as characters. But I suppose that’s what happens when most of your characters are just vessels used to further the storyline, or emphasise a point…
Saying that, there was one character that stood out, Squealer. Everything about him made him a superb villain: his voice, his appearance, his behaviour… everything! Firstly, given that he’s a queerat, it was more difficult for us to identify with him, secondly, almost every time he opens his mouth, he sucks up to the humans around him in this sickly sweet tone of voice that just feels wrong, given his sinister appearance and questionable actions- it is obvious from the start that you can’t trust him- thirdly, although I complained about the show not making enough of an effort to tell us what motivated its characters, this wasn’t necessary with Squealer, a little twitch of his eye, or a slight grin was enough to make you think that he wasn’t completely on the level!! But as his motivations were rarely made clear, it was difficult to pinpoint why you felt this way, and it was this uncertainty that made him such an interesting and unnerving character to watch.
In terms of its art, SSY was pretty darn good. Its backgrounds were often stunning, and the nightmare and storytelling sequences looked incredible! The art was extremely varied during these sequences, making use of monochrome and bright, contrasting colours at points. Some of these sequences even reminded me of famous works of art. The storytelling sequence on karma demons reminded me of a Seurat painting (the artist who painted using dots of colour), and one nightmare sequence, one of Salvador Dali’s. My only complaint is that most of the characters weren’t that interesting to look at. This relates back to what I was saying about them not displaying enough of a range of emotions. Because the only expression some characters seemed to wear was one of fear, they quickly became very boring to look at!! It was a nightmare as a blogger to find screenshots to use in my posts, simply because of this lack of variety!!! I think if you look back at my posts, week after week I’ve had to use screenshots of Saki looking scared, which is quite funny, in retrospect!
Overall, a very good show! Worth watching if you’re looking for a visual treat, or something with depth. Avoid if you’re looking for something simple and light-hearted, you will not find it here!!