Shinsekai Yori Ep. 4: A grand ol’ history lesson

Sometimes, lectures aren’t that bad. When a lecture repeats the same thing over and over, we get the latest episode of Zetsuen no Tempest. You have to tell me something interesting, but you also have to avoid repeating yourself. So why do I not mind listening to the devil’s minoshiro go on and on about Shinsekai Yori‘s fictional history? First, it’s partly due to my desire of always wanting to see how the future will turn out. As a result, these “what if” stories fascinate me even if I don’t think Shinsekai Yori‘s scenario is particularly realistic (assuming the emergence of psychic users). But more importantly, I can tolerate this lecture because it covers a whole range of topics, from the rise of the first PK users to the slave-owning Holy Cherry Blossom Empire.

Anyway, people read this blog and assume I hate any instance of world-building. That isn’t true whatsoever. Like anything else, I just think that the act of world-building has to be interesting and purposeful. A show doesn’t get an automatic pass just by virtue of the fact that it is world-building. The narrative still has to be advanced in an interesting, thoughtful way. I would not say that this was true for much of last week’s episode. And no, last week’s episode did not make this week’s episode more enjoyable, so let’s not waste each other’s time by even suggesting it.

Notes:

• When the talking library rebuffs them, the kids’ first instinct is to hack the organic-looking creature apart. One of the them even suggest skinning it. Yeesh. I personally feel bad about having to kill anything larger than a bug, but who knows what values society will have in a thousand years. It is rather strange, however, that the library requires you to be at least 18 years of age in order to access its memory banks. I suppose any fitting library probably stores a wealth of information on a myriad of adult topics, but I’ve never seen a public library prevent kids from entering the grown-up section (I hesitate to say “adult section” because that phrasing would seem to carry a sordid connotation).

• The devil’s minoshiro seems to have enough intelligence to improvise. Sensing that the kids might do harm to it, the library quickly waives the requirement for any sort of documentation on the kids’ part. This would suggest that the devil’s minoshiro isn’t merely an intelligent program with a set amount of algorithms, but an actual AI that can learn and adapt to the situation. On the one hand, it has been a thousand years. On the other hand, society hasn’t exactly been trending forward the entire time. Furthermore, this suggests that the devil’s minoshiro somehow values its own life.

• A search for a “Raman-Klogius syndrome” yielded nothing, so it’s probably made up for the anime’s narrative. I’d say the same for the “Hashimoto-Appelbaum syndrome.” I’m not complaining or anything. It’s fiction; you’re supposed to make shit up. The “Fox in the Henhouse” syndrome got me some dubious articles on stuff that wouldn’t seem all that related to Shinsekai Yori. Granted, I didn’t spend a lot of time researching any of the terms or anything.

• Welp, the thought of rape had escaped my consciousness for a good week, but Shinsekai Yori brought it right back to the forefront. In other words, the first thing a Japanese psychic user did was break into people’s homes and rape women. Of all the destructive things he could’ve done, he decided to rape. Again, this isn’t really a complaint on my part. I just think it’s sort of morbidly amusing now. Before you misinterpret that previous sentence, I’m sure you guys have heard this crude joke before: “Rape — it’s like saying ‘Hello!’ in Japan!” We shouldn’t unfairly stereotype an entire nation, right? Well geez, what’s with all the rape in all my anime series?

• I do think it’s somewhat unnecessary to show us shots of the brutalized women, blurry or not. What do we get out of it? Why not just have the camera focus on the kids’ faces as they listen to the gruesome history lesson?

• Bizarre: one of the kids can’t even imagine a human being killing another fellow human being. I guess the concept of murder has always been kept away from these kids? Then again, they had no problems threatening the devil’s minoshiro.

• You’ll notice that I keep referring to the kids as merely ‘kids’ because besides Saki, I have a hard time really telling any of the others apart. I’m sure someone’s going to be a smartass and tell me to pay attention because it’s not hard to identify them! No, it’s not that it’s hard. It’s that I don’t really care that much.

• So when the ‘ancient civilization’ rightfully arrested the psychic rapist, the other PK users started to act out. What’s up with that?

• Also, stress made the PK users’ powers evolve even faster. They must have been very powerful when you consider that they only made up .3% of the world’s population. It isn’t likely that every single PK users acted out, yet the world, with all its militaries and weaponry, couldn’t keep the renegade PK users under control.

• So over the past thousand years, some of the people without PK abilities reverted back to hunter-gatherer tribes. Why was this necessary? Could they not have run away far enough that their enemies would no longer pursue them? If the world’s population had decreased to such an extent, I’d have to imagine that there were vast pockets of uninhabited land out there where a small community could’ve sustained itself outside the watchful eye of these horrible slave-owning empires.

• Apparently, an heir assumed the throne by murdering the previous emperor. Why did the slave-owning empires rely on such a barbaric tradition? Why couldn’t the heir just wait until the emperor died? Did the PK powers continue to evolve at such a speed that each generation was stronger than the last? If so, what prevented the emperor from eliminating his or her heir to avoid ever having to give up the throne?

It’s just strange to me that everyone became so bloodthirsty just because they had some awesome psychic powers. Sure, the elitist PK users probably regarded non-PK-users as nothing more than fodder to do their bidding, but why would they treat each other so poorly? Then again, this is all information gathered by a third-party, a group of scientists who weren’t likely keen on the idea of civilization giving way to these slave-owning empires. As a result, we have to consider that there might be some bias at hand here, because the alternative is that the author was lazy and thus decided to paint the PK users with broad strokes.

• Something doesn’t add up. According to the library, the scientists are responsible for all these current safeguards against any possible emergence of a renegade PK user. But if this is so, why do the adults now refer the libraries as dangerous demons? Hell, they seem more like fundamentalists than scientists. The villagers and the scientists thus can’t be one and the same… unless they decided to abandon their pursuit of knowledge some long time ago.

• If a “death feedback” has been put in place to prevent PK users from harming other people, why is the village still so draconian?

• So the punishment for breaking the rules is harsh in order to prevent a single renegade PK user from appearing. After all, we learned from the second episode that should two Cantus ever clash, [s]pace would warp, creating a highly dangerous environment.” Essentially, one bad egg would endanger the entire village. Still, the process of filtering out these kids has to be flawed. I just continue to think back to Amano Reiko. We never saw her break any rules. She was just a bad PK user. But for the sake of the argument, let’s just assume that she had broken a rule and this is why she disappeared. Breaking a mere rule, however, doesn’t necessarily mean she’d pose a danger to anyone. Reiko seemed like a shy, meek girl. And again, she was bad at the PK stuff. Why would she go renegade and attack anyone?

• So what was up with the Death-like specter and Saki’s ominous words: “Didn’t they look like humans from afar?” Did some humans evolve into queerats? Is this the reason why the monk continues to suffer from the “death feedback?”

38 thoughts on “Shinsekai Yori Ep. 4: A grand ol’ history lesson

  1. Ducky

    It’s pretty common that the shy, meek girl accumulates so much stress that she breaks and flips out, killing everyone. There’s like, a trope and everything.

    And why should the bit about two Cantus clashing be true? They are trying to prevent any possibility of Cantus being used directly on other humans.

    Reply
    1. E Minor Post author

      Tropes are also pretty lame and examples of bad storytelling.

      And why should the bit about two Cantus clashing be true?

      Why would an older Saki have a reason to lie?

      Reply
  2. MarigoldRan

    Personally I think that if PK users suddenly came out, the government would IMMEDIATELY indoctrinate or hire them to fight rogue PK users. That, and experimentation.

    Society would change but the government will have a massive edge in ensuring that the majority of PK users are on their side. Hence, the probability of anarchy is low.

    Reply
    1. E Minor Post author

      And why should the bit about two Cantus clashing be true?

      Yeah, but we’re told how clashing Cantus create an unstable situation for everyone and everything. I don’t think it’s as simple as just letting random PK users duke it out like a shounen until one side submits.

      That, and experimentation.

      Maybe they tried this and couldn’t come up with a solution.

      Reply
  3. Vincent

    If a “death feedback” has been put in place to prevent PK users from harming other people, why is the village still so draconian?

    Because the death feedback mechanism isn’t triggered until your subconscious believes that you are doing harm to a human. You can probably eliminate one person (or something that can emit a image of a human like the mobile storage device) at minimum if the full extent of your full power is used. The feedback mechanism doesn’t even guarantee death and it just weakens/severely cripples the attacker, which can mean that such attackers can continue attacking after being done with another person, endangering more members of society. I imagine that if you hallucinate, you might be able to avoid the death feedback entirely, so any people prone to hallucinations would also be removed from society. And it might be possible for mutation to occur in a small part the population, which is another cause for concern. The world population in Shinsekai Yori is under 2 million, and it looks like people don’t want this to fall even further due to an unfortunate massacre.

    Reply
    1. E Minor Post author

      Because the death feedback mechanism isn’t triggered until your subconscious believes that you are doing harm to a human.

      But if you know something bad’s going to happen to you, you wouldn’t attempt it. It’s a deterrence. I mean, just because someone’s a renegade PK user doesn’t mean they’d abandon any sort of concern for their own well being. I wouldn’t act out if I knew there was a good chance I’d die as a result.

      The feedback mechanism doesn’t even guarantee death and it just weakens/severely cripples the attacker,

      The episode says, “…but if they sustained it, either tetanic asphyxia caused by low blood calcium levels or cardiac arrest due to a sudden rise in potassium concentrations would kill them.”

      Also, according to Shun, “He didn’t attack another human so he shouldn’t die from it…” This implies that you can die from the death feedback.

      Reply
      1. Vincent

        Most people don’t know about the feedback mechanism, and after acting out, they might not attribute it to doing damage to themselves. Some might also be aggravated by the stress the mechanism causes due to some mental deficiency, and might continue acting out. This would kill them, but I think that society would prefer that people never act out in the first place, which is why they limit the individuals to such an extent.

        I know that you can die from it. What I meant to say was that death was not “guaranteed”. I guess it was my fault for not being clear and posting after midnight.

        And yeah, I realized that I screwed up the population count as well. Meant to say under 200 million, and not 2 million. And I guess this isn’t really dangerously low number.

        Reply
        1. E Minor Post author

          Most people don’t know about the feedback mechanism, a

          You’re not getting my point. If you’ve engineered the death feedback, why wouldn’t you tell people about it so that it could function as a deterrence? What I don’t understand is why they put in the death feedback secretly, then piled on top of it even more constraints.

          You’re also assuming that the stress mechanism is very slow. The show seems to suggest that you die pretty quickly if you did something drastic.

          What I meant to say was that death was not “guaranteed”

          Nothing suggests this though. The only reason why the monk hasn’t died is because he hasn’t actually attacked a human being.

          Reply
  4. Son Gohan

    Why are you assuming that Reiko and that other kid who broke the rules have been killed? Maybe they just sealed their Cantus and imprisoned them, so the “death feedback” didn’t trigger.
    Also I think that Saki was bluffing when she suggested to rip apart the Minoshiro.

    Reply
    1. E Minor Post author

      I suppose there’s a chance they might not be dead. I was just going along with the ominous tone of the anime. But still, why would they need to be imprisoned once their Cantus have been sealed? What threat to they pose to anyone at that point?

      Also I think that Saki was bluffing when she suggested to rip apart the Minoshiro.

      Judging by the way the kids acted in the previous episode, I doubt it.

      Reply
  5. The Real Sugoi Sugoi

    The various inconsistencies and instance of question-begging in this show that you point out in your post bugged me as well.

    I think that the explanation for these inconsistencies is simple:

    1. The author of Shin Sekai Yori (SSY) was careless and did not think about these inconsistencies during the process of writing SSY.

    2. Dystopian literature in general is fundamentally flawed, because they base their predictions about about these dystopian societies on absurd and reactionary assumptions about human nature.

    For instance, I too thought it was silly to imagine that the first thing a person with psychic powers does is to go around and rape/kill women, and that a post-collapse society would revert to a feudalistic slave system based on constant threats of power usurpations.

    Those kinds of assumptions are the kind that are written by misanthropic people who have this thing sociologists like to call the “mean world syndrome”. This syndrome basically describes people who assume that everyone is out to get them, and that without coercion from authority structures like the state, the world would devolve into a war of each against all. That’s the philosophical argument, which was originally presented by Thomas Hobbes.

    If you want a scientific argument, based on evidence, then you actually look at disaster scholarship. You examine how people actually behave when they face a disaster (like a hurricane or a tsunami). What you actually find out if you look at the scholarship is that people become incredibly helpful towards one another in post-disaster situations, as American scholar Rebecca Solnit has meticulously documented in her book “A Paradise Built in Hell”.

    So again, the reason why both you and I consider the hypotheticals that SSY’s author presented as odd is precisely because those hypotheticals are based on absurd, paranoid and misanthropic assumptions about human nature.

    Reply
    1. s2012k1993

      <>

      It seems to me that you already hold certain assumptions about human nature: rational (the opposite of absurd), structurally fair (opposite of anarchy, I suppose you use “feudalistic slave system”) and full of trust (opposite of “mean world syndrome”).

      <>

      Also, I have read Hobbes and he doesn’t hold that people don’t trust each other. In fact, people group together for the purpose of increasing their survival rates. Starting from the claim that humans prioritize survival above anything else (and that humans act on their will), Hobbes intelligently derives his political philosophy: we trust to the extent it ensures our continued survival. Reading Hobbes’ Leviathan might actually give much needed insight into the inner workings and history of Shinsekai Yori.

      Reply
      1. E Minor Post author

        You’re right about Hobbes, but the other commenter was also correct in a way for invoking the philosopher. Hobbes does say that we rely upon society to avoid the state of nature. PK users, however, obviously saw themselves as superior to everyone else. At that point, they no longer needed society, and this is why they constantly flouted society’s laws and rules. Even when they set up their own societies later on, these were slave-owning societies that did not function to protect anyone. Rather, they seemed to serve in indulging the desires of the strong. The question here, I think, isn’t whether or not man is unable to trust one another, but can we buy into the concept of Hobbes’ state of nature. Will people, like the PK users, suddenly act out when they find themselves outside or even capable of removing the social constraints of civilization? That’s where the other commenter and I find our doubts.

        Reply
        1. s2012k1993

          I think two different interpretations are being confused, resulting in incorrectly applying Hobbes.

          1) PK users share human psychology, but go crazy.
          2) PK users are superior to humans and they are fundamentally different from humans.

          In the first, PKs are expected to act in a similar fashion to humans. Somehow, I need to accept that like humans, who accept “great responsibility when comes great power,” (I disagree) PKs use of their absolute power over other humans shouldn’t “corrupt them absolutely.” I don’t quite see why someone with immense power over another can’t just loose his sense of morals. Notice that Hobbes plays no picture in this.

          In the second interpretation, PK users’ nature is fundamentally different human nature. Please don’t tear the following example into parts: One can imagine the effect of the Pks on humans as no different from the effect Europeans had on the Native American population. Granted, it’s not a clash of civilizations, but it can be considered a clash of a superior species to an inferior one. Hobbes, again, doesn’t have much to do with this either.

          What’s confusing is when one points to Hobbes (and his misanthropy) as a bad explanation of what is happening: PK users place such an importance of their survival that they go beyond crazy and even enslave the humans. But it seems to me that such an explanation confuses the series’ central debates about PK’s humanness and their morals, not about whether humans are intrinsically evil/selfish or good/altruistic.

          Also, it looks like Shun has made enough of an impression on your mind that you quote him in the comments section.

          Reply
          1. E Minor Post author

            What does your first interpretation have to do with craziness? Losing your sense of morality doesn’t make you crazy. It does, however, frame a person as being concerned primarily with his or her own appetites, i.e. returning to the state of nature. This is where Hobbes comes in. The PK users saw that they could use their powers to ignore the rules of society, and they did. This suggests that without a sufficient form of government to enforce society’s laws, the social contract dissolves.

            Your second interpretation makes no sense. You say that the PK users are fundamentally different from humans, but you then compare them to a human example of European colonialists slaughtering natives. Do they act like humans or do they not?

            I don’t think Hobbes is being used incorrectly because I don’t suddenly think the PK users are somehow less like humans just because they have PK powers. Nothing in the show suggests this. We only see the emergence of PK powers, not some drastic evolution in their psychology that somehow makes them different from non-PK users.

            Reply
    2. BokuSatchii

      I don’t think the point was so much that the first thing a person with psychic powers does is to go around and rape/kill women, but rather that he was the first person with psychic powers to go out and do that.

      I agree that the show is taking a very “mean world syndrome” approach to its setting, but given how innocent the main characters are, I hesitantly believe that this approach is a setup for them to subvert that idea and thus more fully embody the power of good – that by making the darkness this much darker, the light will seem to shine brighter. Not necessarily the best storytelling, and pretty darn cliche, but I don’t think the intentions of the story are as misanthropic as you make them out to be.

      Reply
  6. s2012k1993

    Shucks! I was going to make the argument that the last episode’s world building fit into a larger narrative, one without which, some of the events that took place in the fourth episode would seem out of place. Since we both know how this argument will end, I will instead try to answer some of the questions, this article raises.

    The instinct to survival, which we see the library rely on multiple times, seems to indicate that the library puts the psychic societal values second to its survival. If only Saki and the others weren’t in such a frustrated mood, it’s officialness and sense of authority would have put any child in order. Before acquiescing to the children’s requests and during the retelling of its stories, the library sought to stamp a psychological (not official psychic societal) authority on these children, at the very least to create a chance for escape. All of this seems to me to indicate that the library was clearly not part of the Psychic society.

    Meanwhile, I similarly have to wonder why the kids (except for the rational Shun) freaked out at the concept of murder and rape. The children have no respect for the environment and that concept was reinforced with the monk (Buddhism?) ripping land apart and changing the weather at his will to ensure their safety. Somehow, there exists a disconnect between life as something that only humans possess (are these Queerrats part human given Saki’s natural instinct to save them?) and life as something more broad.

    I think you are great at asking the right questions and this episode seems to have gotten you back into your groove.

    Reply
    1. E Minor Post author

      Shucks! I was going to make the argument that the last episode’s world building fit into a larger narrative,

      It’s not that this isn’t true, but in my opinion, this does not excuse an episode being boring. And quite frankly, I found the previous episode boring.

      Meanwhile, I similarly have to wonder why the kids (except for the rational Shun) freaked out at the concept of murder and rape.

      Well, you’ve been saying all along how this is a paradise where something bad is lurking underneath (or something to that effect). On that same token, they must think of themselves as ideal (perhaps even Platonically). For them to suddenly learn of their flawed and at times evil ancestry, it seems to have been a traumatic experience. This might then point to another horrific aspect of the kids’ culture: they’ve probably been taught that everything that isn’t human is expendable. That one kid doesn’t even bat an eyelash when the queerats got slaughtered like nothing. So despite all the steps to prevent renegade PK users from re-appearing and ruining everything, it seems that there are echoes of the past.

      Reply
  7. wanderer

    It is remarkable how we got two lecture episodes in the same week to compare, isn’t it? That said, I generally share your sentiments here: the world-building is interesting enough to make up for being a lecture episode, although I share your misgivings about many of the details that’ve been related to us. It’s possible some of the information is false and some of the information will make more sense later, but as a capsule history of the past thousand years I wish it was more convincing, which here would probably mean having been less precise (“various groups, including…” rather than “4”, etc.).

    Beyond that I don’t have much specific to add, but as a minor thing, FWIW: at least three of the four proper names in the syndromes are actually names associated with various medical things (there’s raman spectroscopy, there’s a thyroid condition named after a hashimoto, and Von Recklinghausen-Applebaum Disease is an uncommonly-used name for hemochromatosis). No clue on Klogius. So basically the in-story terms are made-up terms meant to sound vaguely familiar, apparently successfully.

    Also: I was going to comment further on Zetsuen that on further thought, I think part of what that lecture so dull was the way it was (iirc) broken up and interspersed with the ongoing battle, stretching out what really was a 2-3 minute lecture into a seemingly 10-15 minute lecture. If nothing else, splitting it up that way showed a lack of confidence in the intrinsic interestingness of the lecture contents. Contrast that with this lecture, wherein other than short breathers to show character reactions the writers *were* confident enough that the lecture was interesting enough in and of itself that they were ok with running it essentially uninterrupted. I’ll move that here because I don’t have anything else to add and it’s more of a compare-contrast statement anyways.

    Reply
    1. E Minor Post author

      It is remarkable how we got two lecture episodes in the same week to compare, isn’t it?

      Anime series sync up remarkably well. If one show has a trip to the beach, another show in the same season will likely have the same premise in the same week.

      but as a capsule history of the past thousand years I wish it was more convincing, which here would probably mean having been less precise (“various groups, including…” rather than “4″, etc.)

      I think the show ends up making vast assumptions about human nature that makes for initially juicy storytelling, i.e. man killing man without any hint of remorse, but on a deeper level, it’s not as compelling because it doesn’t really reflect human psychology. You might be referring to something else, however, but my major quibble is with how the PK users instantly devolved into megalomaniacal psychopaths.

      Also: I was going to comment further on Zetsuen that on further thought,

      I still think the lecture in Zetsuen no Tempest wouldn’t have been that bad if one of these two things had happened: (1) the fight was compelling rather than being just two guys randomly meeting and fighting for non-emotional reasons or (2) the lecture had something interesting to say other than “logic, logic, logic.”

      Reply
      1. wanderer

        Extremely belatedly, I definitely agree with your assessment of its conclusions about human nature. The point I was trying to make is that for whatever reason it’s really common in (weak) sci-fi and fantasy writing to be overly-definite and/or include too much extraneous detail.

        Sometimes it’s just lame and tedious (long lists of made-up names of countries, dynasties, duchies, or whatnot), and sometimes (like here) it makes statements more definitive than they need to be, and unnecessarily brings in extra baggage (e.g.: if they hand’t pinned it down to exactly 4 groups, no more no less, then the human-nature conclusions would be weaker, because there’s implicitly wiggle room to say “well those were some of the main groups, but presumably there were other, less-well known groups who did things differently…).

        Bit of a pet peeve. It’s as if they assume readers/viewers will think they just phone it in if they keep things no more precise than they need to be, but then are blind to the consequences of being that precise and detailed.

        Reply
  8. arcanetheorem

    I’m glad someone asked why Reiko could be ‘exiled’ or ‘taken away’ because I think her being singled out and disposed of is quite telling to this society/dystopia. I view Reiko’s disappearance as a calculated move by a ruling structure to protect the masses — or to retain their own power more thoroughly, whichever way you want to slice it. Reiko is, in essence, The Fox in the Henhouse if you think about it. Just because she’s not a psycho killer does not mean she’s not a risk. I view this as follows: If you give a child a gun (a highly dangerous skill/PK) who doesn’t know how to use it properly, what usually happens? The child usually ends up either hurting themselves or others. Reiko was not skilled at all no matter how hard she tried to be, so it stands to reason that her lack of control/skill makes her a danger to others. Sooner or later, she might have slipped up and did something that could have ended in disaster. From what I can see, the village is doing everything in its power to indoctrinate the children to keep them submissive (perhaps because, unlike adults, a child/teen’s emotions are so erratic and have a great possibility of becoming destructive). Plus, children that are indoctrinated at an early age have a greater chance of always ‘following’ in their life in comparison to an adult that has been indoctrinated. It would not surprise me at all if Reiko was ‘dissapeared’ because her lack of control could have meant the village would be at great risk. Why would you let an obviously untalented individual possess the power to destroy everyone near them? Not only is it protecting their preferred ‘soldiers’ that *do* have talent in controlling their PK, but it also gets rid of the possibility to blow the whole dystopia wide open concerning the limitations of their powers. What would happen if Reiko lost control one day and her Cantus was let loose on the village in front of everyone (including young children being indoctrinated)? Questions. Questions about just how destructive and powerful one person’s Cantus is when uncontrolled. That, more than anything, is what the village fears most from its members that live in blissful ignorance. Having the lower class question the ruling class of the very fundamentals of their society is a powder keg just waiting to ignite. Radical ideas/actions ALWAYS lead to the lower classes rebelling. Always.

    If children just randomly ‘disappear’ for no reason at all every now and again the adults can be placated with ‘well, such-and-such must have run away’ or ‘such-and-such must have went beyond the boundaries of the village and so must have been killed out there’. As most of the adults have already been indoctrinated long ago, it stands to reason they’re predisposed (or hypnotized) to believe what they’re told—except for a select few who are in-the-know and are party to it in one way or another. If the children start to rise up against the adults before they can be properly indoctrinated, what hope does the village have to keep a whole generation quiet and submissive? How could they explain a whole generation disappearing overnight or one which is defiant of all their teachings? Bloodbath, I’d say…

    On the subject of Saki’s village being the descendants of the scientist’s faction: It makes total sense to me that it’s devolved into a fundamentalist society, for all accounts. Religion, I’ve found, has a way of worming its way through every facet of society with time. It’s a fallback for those that are either scared or easily lead. It not only gives people a reason to go on when everything seems to collapse around them, and, also in complete contrast, to give them the power and the strength to commit unspeakable horrors for their beliefs. Again, how hard would it be for people to start thinking that the power they have has been given to only the ‘special people’ that God hand-chose… in essence, the PKs?

    “We must kill/enslave the non-PKs because God has chosen ONLY us, not them.” Sounds a bit familiar, doesn’t it? No matter how uncomfortable it makes us, it’s always been an undeniable fact that religion is a preferred tool to use to control a society. Ancient Egypt is a prime example of such: The Pharaohs wanted their workers to work as hard as they could and not complain or question them while they laid about and relaxed in their rule in total luxury. What would motivate the workers into doing such without rebelling in the end? Religion would, in a nutshell. The Pharaohs told their people of the Gods and the Happy Fields of Food and that’s pretty much all she wrote. Who *wouldn’t* work their ass off all their life when their reward in the afterlife was pretty much a food paradise? Back then drought and famine were high, so food was scarce for most that weren’t the ruling class. The reward for their lifetime of hard work and hunger was an eternity of The Good Life the Pharaohs frequently indulged in under the guise of being Godly. Again, this is only a small example of how Religion can shape (or collapse) a society; I’m sure there are much better examples of this instance, but the Happy Fields of Food has always resonated with me and makes a good contrast with Shinsekai Yori. Saki’s observation of how the school they go to resembles a ‘farm’ is an apt description of how the ruling class views everyone else: as cattle to serve their needs and whims. The ruling class of the village is willing to make a few sacrifices (like exiling Reiko) to keep the status quo as it always has been. Again, going back to the Reiko point of why she’d be a threat to the ruling class of the village: If it became known that someone as unskilled as Reiko could do something so horrific and devastating at such a young age, what would seeing that power up close do to the rest of the village? What would that say about the PK users that were truly gifted? Children are easily influenced; if they see first-hand what they’re capable of, some might become drunk with the thought of that power and spread their own ‘ideas’ to the other children who are being disillusioned by the adults. What hope does the next generation have of trusting their leaders and following them blindly if they’ve been suppressed and lied to all their lives? Or, more specifically, how would they act if they knew that they could do things the adults always told them was a myth? Children love to rebel; this is an undisputed fact. If the children realized that they had ‘the power’ to oppose those that try to control them, it wouldn’t be a hard leap in logic to assume they’d band together to either change things in their favor or become bloodthirsty for revenge, thus throwing society into another bloody history of rebel factions/reigns of terror/disorder.

    It strikes me as interesting that Reiko, the most timid/shy/untalented girl of the bunch, could do something truly horrific because of her lack of control of her powers. How could the village justify that after they’re pretty much said it’s impossible for evil to act through children via the sealing of their ‘evil’ side at their coming-of-age? Or, if she accidentally killed someone and it, in turn, triggered her own death via death feedback, how could the village explain her timely death afterwards? If it were me, I’d be screaming ‘Something’s not right here!!’ upon seeing such an awesome display of power being used in evil ways in a girl who would normally never hurt a fly if she could help it. She’d be breeding suspicion in the village for decades to come, that’s for sure. And, again, such an occurrence would trigger what the village is trying to avoid at all costs: Questions.

    Just some thoughts…. sorry for the long ramble/lecture, but I thought that idea/aspect could be a good explanation on the subject of Reiko and the reason for such secrecy in the village concerning PK abilities and their limitations.

    Reply
    1. E Minor Post author

      I apologize, but there is a lot here to process. I’ll have to respond to your comment later when I have more free time. I’m just saying this now so you don’t think I’m ignoring your comment or anything. I appreciate anyone who takes the time to write a thoughtful response to a post of mine.

      Reply
    2. E Minor Post author

      Just because she’s not a psycho killer does not mean she’s not a risk. I view this as follows: If you give a child a gun (a highly dangerous skill/PK) who doesn’t know how to use it properly, what usually happens? The child usually ends up either hurting themselves or others.

      Yeah, but we don’t know whether this is a real gun, or a peashooter. Yes, Reiko was bad at controlling her abilities, but what if she just didn’t have that much ability to begin with.

      Plus, children that are indoctrinated at an early age have a greater chance of always ‘following’ in their life in comparison to an adult that has been indoctrinated.

      Sure, but why do they believe that you can’t continue indoctrinating small time cheaters or just even a bad PK user? Just indoctrinate her to never use her abilities.

      As most of the adults have already been indoctrinated long ago, it stands to reason they’re predisposed (or hypnotized) to believe what they’re told—except for a select few who are in-the-know and are party to it in one way or another.

      Saki’s parents seem to understand why their kids keep disappearing when we saw a flashback of them fretting over whether or not Saki would get her gift. That’s another thing we haven’t discussed in a while. What is this gift and why is it necessary? Why do giftless children have to disappear? But anyway, we might thus assume that Saki’s parents were those in the know. How do we determine who can be in the know and who isn’t? Why Saki’s parents? How do they guarantee that one group of people are indoctrinated enough to never pose a risk?

      Anyway, I think a lot of your post hinges on the possibility that Reiko could’ve done something dangerous, but I just don’t know. She just seemed like she had little power to begin with.

      Reply
  9. s2012k1993

    I don’t seem to be able to reply to your post, so I am creating a new comment.

    Maybe I’m misunderstanding something. Hobbes says a human’s primary motive is survival; satisfaction and appetite come second. Why would a PK user, solely concerned with survival, while having been accepted in society, go out of her way to massacre others? She is no longer acting on behalf of her survival, but on her whims. If anything, she endangers herself by acting out. Acting on her whims suggests that survival isn’t her motive, but her lack of disregard for the social contract because of her superior power. By not valuing others’ lives and putting their own lives at risk, PK users’ moral value structure changes dramatically. I was just borrowing Machiavelli to explain the “corruptness.”

    I am sorry for being so technical, but I think it’s important. Survival = Hobbes and Power corruption = Machiavelli. If the PKs wanted power, they wouldn’t want to return to the state of nature but to a slave society. If the PKs wanted to survive, they would have no reason to attack the very society that protects them.

    I agree that the second interpretation holds no water. It simply existed to explain the possibility. I believe the opening sequence mentioned something about scientists creating PK users by awakening a latent power…? The human genome has definitely been tempered with and I don’t know to what extent that plays on one’s very being. Europeans, when conquering the Americas, believed the natives to be less than humans. That was what I was trying to get at.

    Reply
    1. E Minor Post author

      Maybe I’m misunderstanding something. Hobbes says a human’s primary motive is survival; satisfaction and appetite come second.

      “Life it selfe is but Motion, and can never be without Desire”

      It is man’s constant need to whet his appetite that brings him to war with others because resources are limited. It is man’s constant need to whet his appetite that causes him to seek power and dominion over others. This is all part of Hobbes’ philosophy on mankind’s pursuit of happiness (or, in his words, felicity). Hobbes also surmised that man was essentially created equal enough that the weakest could kill the strongest. Unfortunately, the rise of PK users disrupted this balance. There was no reason for PK users to obey the laws and rules designed and built to protect normal human beings. Mankind is only expected to act morally if people can expect others to obey. The PK users saw themselves as above conventional human morality. They reverted to a state of nature wherein all PK users were at war with each other, even if it wasn’t open warfare. This is evident by the way heirs succeeded the throne: the strongest wins.

      Reply
  10. BokuSatchii

    I believe the age restriction is there on the library for the same reason that the children aren’t told about the history of the world and the “death feedback,” and why the library was said to be off-limits in the first place. The library mentioned that the education and social conditioning were primary components of the scientists’ plans to prevent violence between PK users. I took this to mean that children were to be indoctrinated the way they were such that thoughts of violence towards humans never even occurred to them, as seen in the “You can DO that?” response to Kid A’s acts of murder. Because even one rogue PK can destroy the fabric of the society, the indoctrination was to be so thorough that even the knowledge in the library, which contained imagery of such deeds, needed to be censored in order to prevent the disruption of the village’s carefully crafted narrative, likely a result of the scientists’ social research. “Education” here refers not to the acquisition of knowledge, but to the more derogatory, dystopian sense of the term. It seems to me like the scientists felt that they couldn’t trust anyone but a chosen few with this knowledge, and so they tried to cut off the general public from accessing it and potentially undermining all their well-researched “education.”

    I think the “death feedback” was only implemented as an absolute failsafe, in case the “education” was thwarted. If people knew about it, they would likely try to find ways around it. In the case that somebody does go off the deep end, if that person is uninformed, the feedback will hit them before they know what’s coming and has a much higher chance of working. I’m also left to wonder if the “sealing” of PK actually does work, or if this is also just the result of strong social conditioning. It seems a bit too magical at this point.

    I’m not sure what they were going for with the Reiko thing, either. The best I can come up with is that maybe they were afraid she’d become frustrated and snap, or as another commenter suggested, that she would have poor control of her powers.

    It seems like Queerats may indeed be in some way human. Whether they’re a separate evolution of humanity – possibly from the hunter-gatherers or something – or if it’s yet another type of defense mechanism like the death feedback, or the result of another of those mysterious “syndromes”.

    SSY has been a bit too eager to push the idea of an extremely negative human nature that resorts immediately and only to violence if given any kind of power or freedom, or oppression when faced with any resistance. I’m hoping that you’re right and that this can be chalked up to the bias of the isolated and probably-quite-frustrated scientists whose writings fill the library. Though if I’ve learned anything from watching anime, it’s that overwrought negative situations like this are usually just a set-up for the main characters to represent some equally-overwrought sense of good, and overcome the big, bad world to show that the goodness in human nature is strong enough to overpower the bad or something like that.

    Reply
    1. E Minor Post author

      Your explanation on why the society has to be so thorough in taking precautionary measures makes sense, but it really makes me wonder why the scientists even felt that their powers were even worth the exorbitant costs. They have obviously developed a technique to seal off people’s PK powers. Why not just seal off everybody’s powers and allow for society to go back to the way things were… y’know, when human civilization flourished, when there was art and culture, scientific achievements, etc. Instead, the population chooses to constantly cull itself of potentially bad eggs. As a result, society’s progress has stagnated. Is retaining our psychic powers worth all of this nonsense?

      Reply
      1. BokuSatchii

        Well, like I mentioned, I’m not completely convinced that the “sealing” actually fully seals off their PK abilities. The method they employ to remove the PK ability seems pretty hokey to me – I won’t be convinced until we get some kind of explanation as to why using PK on a paper doll allows the priests to remotely disable a person’s latent ability, beyond “it’s magic, that’s why.” I think it’d be interesting if the seal worked by way of social conditioning somehow, but could easily be overcome if you could see through it. That would also explain why society has retained this tight control rather than reverting to their pre-PK ways – not only can they not actually seal the power away, but the only way they can attain any semblance of doing so is necessarily rooted in their suffocating culture.

        Reply
    2. arcanetheorem

      I view the village’s radical indoctrination of all PK children as the first ‘failsafe’ to keep PK users in line. For some reason, I’m left with the impression that PK users that reach their ‘full’ potential, or go outside the boundaries of what their peers instruct them to do, results in a type of ‘rabies’ of that PK user. If you were to create a new breed of dog that was genetically enhanced to withstand the rabies virus and be immune to its effects, wouldn’t there be exceptions to that rule sooner or later? Perhaps an environmental factor mutates a small group of dogs in that breed and they become highly susceptible to rabies as a result? Or, worse yet, that group of dogs are genetically/psychologically changed because of the rabies virus into almost a whole new breed of dog? It would make sense, in a way. If Cantus users can’t have their Cantus clash with another’s, perhaps it’s because if they do, they’ll become a ‘new’ breed of PK—like the PK users that first emerged and went on a planetary rampage? Perhaps the trigger was two Cantus clashing which triggered the ‘rabies-like’ symptom/evolution? As rabies causes instability in a dog’s psychology and physiology, it wouldn’t be a huge leap to think the PK users of old were ‘infected’ when their Cantus collided and thus is a taboo in the village. I can see highly peaceful people go on murderous rampages if they’re infected with something so physically devastating as something akin to rabies in dogs. And, like any ‘infection/virus’ in society that’s newly emerges, panic ensues and others (the scientists) search for a cure or at least a stopgap measure. Perhaps the collision of Cantus will unlock the ‘seal’ and revert those persons to their old, bloodthirsty/imbalanced states.It’s been hinted that Saki had a bout of violence with that priest in this episode before she was ‘sealed’ of her ‘evil’ so perhaps its not a stretch to think two Cantus colliding will dissolve that seal and turn those that have that Cantus into psychologically unbalanced threats. It would also tie in a bit with Hobbes’ theories: Survival is the first and foremost concern to man (and beast); however, if you take a virus/Syndrome into account, that priority becomes null and void and insanity ensues. A mad dog cares not a whit for survival; their priority has no logic or reason, it’s just pure madness and aggression. Much like why a serial killer goes on a rampage and doesn’t give a crap if he gets caught or not: survival doesn’t matter to them, not really. They just kill because they can. Randomly choosing victims with no motive for killing them is a direct parallel to the ‘Mad Dog’ state of mind: There’s no reason for doing it, only the urge to do it. In the opening scenes of Shinsekai Yori, you see random teens killing off random people for no reason. The teen boy on the elevator killed strangers standing next to him; the random boy in the taxi killed random strangers near him on the street; the schoolboy killed his female classmates (again, probably because they were the closest targets nearby). This pattern is reminiscent of total madness, the type that happens on a whim for the sole purpose of annihilating everything in your direct line of sight just because you have the urge to. Such urges/aggression usually indicate a *massive* psychological/physical shift in the one doing such acts. If the Syndrome is what caused this mass violence/destruction, it would make sense that the Syndrome has effects that are reminiscent of rabies in dogs.

      The Queerats, I fear, are humans that have either lost their PK powers or are ordinary humans affected by a Syndrome. Since they have a language (a garbled form of Japanese) and refer to PK users as Gods, it wouldn’t be hard to see them as the ‘slaves’ of PK users from long ago that have been adversely affected by a type of virus. The fact the Queerats have a breeding colony and are used as ‘slave labor’ makes it even more damning in my mind; plus, it would explain why there are ‘wild’ Queerats that oppose PK users, rebel factions so to speak. It would also explain why the adults want to keep the children away from them. God forbid the kids find out that the Queerats are slaves to them and that they were once human beings that were more than likely terrorized and abused by PK users. It would def. give the kids one more reason to try and topple the dystopia or find ways to unlock their power to go on killing rampages. And perhaps the Queerats have knowledge of the village’s secrets that most don’t have which could threaten everyone? Don’t forget that servants/slaves were often overlooked way back when because they were viewed as ignorant or unimportant. If you were having a secret meeting with the higher-ups in the village and were having your slaves serve you and your guests, wouldn’t you dismiss their presence and not think of the consequences of them being aware of your discussions? Slaves were often ruled with an iron fist and were beaten into submissiveness… thus why they were so often overlooked by their masters when important/illegal events were happening in their presence.

      Just some food for thought.

      Reply
  11. Toyu

    Ok…if you do die from death feedback while killing humans subconuissly, how did that whole hospitale get inalilated in episode 20? Note the the survivors said “he/him” suggesting that it was a human that attacked. And then theirs the fact that they died from cantus being used, so it has to ether be a human that can kill non-subconsciously thus eliminating the “death feedback” or mabe it’s a field demon…. Personally I think it’s shun back from the dead, but then I could be wrong.

    Reply

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