The Meaning of Shinsekai Yori’s ED; A Deeper Look at Buddhist Elements

I was looking through some history and information about Buddhist rites the other day (to find more about the ritual performed early in Episode 1), and I did find something interesting that was relevant to the ED of Shinsekai Yori.

In the ED, the main protagonist is sitting on the stairs as the water rises up and begins to flood the area. The protagonist walks toward the bridge only to see seven fires; she pauses, as if she’s afraid of walking through them. The water rushes up and douses the flames out; the protagonist can then proceed to enter the boat with the man as they watch fireworks.

The elements of fire and water play a pivotal role in Buddhism. Water in Buddhism represents ‘compassion’ as it satiates people’s ‘thirst’ for excessive and unworldly things. As water soothes, it also cleans – it washes people’s sins, their suffering, and brings them back to a refreshened state where they can connect with the world. Connected with water is the important light ceremony in Buddhism; where people light floating candles and watch them drift away as a symbol of love and appreciation for the people they cherish and have lost. It also symbolizes a deeper connection and understanding to the past. In Shinsekai’s ED, not only is there a sort of candle ceremony held (perhaps to foreshadow the deaths of the children shown later in the ED?) but under the reflection, the old remains of today’s society can be seen. In the same way, the main protagonist watches the fireworks – an event that’s usually meant for bonding with friends in Japan – and cries, perhaps out of loneliness, but also as a method of ‘refreshing’ and cleansing her soul of worries and regrets.

image

The water douses out the flame; our protagonist now has the strength and comfort of mind to walk across the bridge.

image

A reflection of a cityscape that would exist in current time (but no longer exists in the world of Shinsekai). A reminiscence of the past?

image

The candle ceremony.

image

Our protagonist, both crying as a way to ‘refresh’ her soul but also out of loneliness and wanting to share a true bond of friendship with her peers.

If water soothes, fire is the element that ignites. Fire burns away ignorance instead of suffering, and shows the light to one who is shrouded in doubt or ‘darkness’. It represents clarity and sound of mind, and thus signals purification and holiness. By burning away the ignorance that stagnates the mind, one can hold a light for others. The ritual the main protagonist undergoes literally burns away her naive, innocent self, as she is reborn anew and is given a new power. But just as fire warms, it also burns. Fire is a signal of passion – the same sort of passion that may lead an individual astray from the path of enlightenment and good. The six fires the protagonist sees frightens her. Is this new identity that the ritual brought what she really wants? Is this the life she seeks in this new world? Is our protagonist’s mind sound and clear the way we believe it is – in a world where deception lurks in the form of a soundless power and  where children mysteriously disappear? In the same way, fireworks are from afar, enjoyable, but the minute the protagonist’s world is thrown upside down, she falls near them and the dream turns into a surreal nightmare. Balance is lost – chaos erupts, and our protagonist wakes up, startled and tears in her eyes.

image

image

Our protagonist falls into the fireworks as balance turns into chaos.

If Shinsekai is a prelude to understanding the natural and spiritual forces at work in our lives, then perhaps the ED is nothing but a reminder of how important balance is. Harmony on a mental, emotional and physical plane is needed – otherwise, disastrous effects may occur.

*On a different note: Our Shinsekai Yori posts will be delayed due to one of our authors having a problem with his internet connection. But we are covering it for the time being, so stay tuned!

About these ads

19 responses to “The Meaning of Shinsekai Yori’s ED; A Deeper Look at Buddhist Elements

  1. It is fascinating to see what truth is in Shinsekai Yori, not just through buddhist elements, but also via truths of other aspects of humanity and our current, and possible future world. Throughout the anime I was captivated by every episode, as ever how small it was, there was always some meaning, idea, truth to be taken away. I ended up writing 6-8 pages of notes as the anime progressed of various interpretations. This anime is one that will continue to captivate me as it has done even a few days after I had finished it. I love your interpretation, it makes perfect sense, and looking back, so does your thoughts on the second ED.

    I think the future portrayed in Shinsekai yori is almost feasable! … Bare in mind the fantasy elements, but those with psychokinesis could represent those who awaken in this society, and through their higher consciousness and ability to see a new peaceful world that focuses upon a natural existence are seen as a threat by the current system and learn to embrace the power, knowledge and wisdom that nature and that unique essence of life can provide us if we search for it. A war of some sort could break out, this society’s last attempt to maintain control and through a dystopian agenda that future world could be formed, where in the end the population has been reduced by humanity’s mistakes, but an almost utopian existence is on the horizon, progress made by those minority who had pathed a way into such a future.

    The dark side of the anime could express that although 1000 years in the future may well be on the way to such an existence, we are still plagued by our past… the karma demons could for example be the ghosts of our past trapped in the subconscious due to the thousands of years we have been brainwashed and through fear and efforts to maintain a peacefull society it is driven to such extremes as shown through Shinsekai Yori, though the adults are considered evil in some respect, they are simply committing the wrong act as a result of their fear of a repeat of the past. Their intentions are genuinely good, as opposed to the kind of control we are submitted to today. You do however see some traits in the leaders that may indeed be undersirable, and this again represents their past mistakes as a race, and that such things like discrimination (towards queerats) have not entirely been wiped from their genes which nearly errupts into a repeat of the past.

    I believe Saki respresents the light that can take humanity into the next step after this era… She has experienced the truth, and through such tests by the committees (Tomiko mentions this later on that Sakis group was an observe group), she is one of the few who had not been completely brainwashed, therefore she had the ability to make her own desicions and find her own truth. She gains knowledge and through her life she remains strong looking towards a better future. She would be the driving force in confronting the current system and finding a means to push their society in the right direction.

    Now the most powerful words I found were at the end of the anime ‘Power of imagination is what changes everything’.
    That statement is very true, as even today, through our imaginations we can achieve the impossible and through delving into this vastly unknown and unused part of our minds, can we find the rope to climb and escape from this current world, effectively pulling ourselves out of the dark abyss and into a brighter future that might eventually lead to our true freedom.

    I apologies for the long comment lol… I was carried away by train of thought….

    Regards, Richard

  2. can anyone explain to me the exact meaning of the words “shinsekai yori”? i want it tattoed but i wanna know what it exctly means.

  3. Pingback: Kino’s Journey and Buddhism | Chromatic Aberration Everywhere·

  4. I took a more psychological approach in interpreting the ending. I was thinking along the lines of the water being her subconscious, slowly spilling and overflowing out. Afraid of her subconscious, she ran to higher ground. As for the fire, I believe it is due to very heavy brainwashing as seen in episode 1. Notice how the fire theme is used to both trigger the awakening and sealing of the psychic capabilities. In hynoptism/brainwashing, it is not uncommon to use gestures/words/symbols to trigger certain effects on the victim. You can search up on Monarch programming if you are not sure what I am referring to.

    Yeah and I believe the boatsman is shun as well. The sudden upside down tilt symbolizes drastic change for me (shun’s death and she knowing the truth of things happening around her). So much so that she no longer knows which is the right side up and she falls through the sky lit by fire works. In dreams, falling usually symbolizes instability or insecurity due to lost of control in real life. In other theories like Freud’s theory, dreams of falling indicate contemplation on giving in to a sexual urge.

    Hmmm…It can be a lot of things I guess. A very interesting anime. :)

    • That’s a very interesting theory indeed! I can totally see where you’re coming from, especially with the utilization of the Masks when it comes to Satoru/Maria/Mamoru. And like you said, the ED is definitely up for various interpretations, so it’s always fun to see what other people think. Thanks for sharing!

  5. Did you also perhaps notice that at the scene where she cries she also has aged aswell. She has longer hair and looks older. Just thought id point it out incase it has any meaning. Thank you for all the great reviews,

  6. Pingback: Colloquium: Literary and Religious Allusions in Shin Sekai Yori up to Episode 5 | The Untold Story of Altair & Vega·

  7. Awesome post! I’d had the niggling feeling that the ED was somehow much more than a pretty light show, but reading this post confirmed that for me.

    There are quite a few interesting notes in regards to Fire and Water in Shin Sekai Yori, but the one I’ll point out is this: the characters spend an inordinate amount of time on or near the water. They seem to commute to Sage Academy via boat every day, their canoe trip in episodes 3-5 is quite a big deal, and they live among rice paddies, which are typically flooded with about a foot of water. Conversely, the monks which carry out the ceremonies at the temple of purity, and (evidently) roam the mountainside looking for people breaking the village’s rules use flame as their primary Cantus.

    • Ah, you’ve pointed out some excellent observations there – especially the rice patties, as I totally missed that myself. I also like the idea that with Episode 5, which was away from water, may have contributed to the idea of chaos and imbalance in Satoru and Saki’s lives; it may perhaps go to show how important these elements are in affecting these children’s lifestyle! I also like how it’s done in a unique sense: fire is used to seal, whereas water is used to soothe, and thus I look forward to seeing how the show continues to tackle and explore these elements – I haven’t enjoyed a show that is so visually and emotionally stunning in a while!

      And thank you for reading/commenting. :)

  8. Er, I’m a Buddhist myself, and while you got some parts right, a bit of it is kind of a misinterpretation. But this is good introspection! It’s nice to see what other people might think.

    • I’m deeply sorry if any part of my post was inaccurate or offensive in any way – that said, could you tell me what things I might have misinterpreted? (Not as a bad thing or anything like that, I’m genuinely curious and I’d love to hear what you’d have to say on the subject!) Also, there might have been some incongruences, as the interpretations I’m focusing on are based off Mahayana Buddhism, so that may be why there are some differences!

Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s