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.
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.
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!