illegenes: For the first time, I feel a little disappointed and confused after watching the conclusion to the Queerat arc at hand, wondering if this arc served a clear purpose or not. I did enjoy this week’s episode, no doubt, but there were a few things that bothered me and felt a little clumsy.
I talked last time about the connection between the power of Cantus on these kids and Dharma/Adharma, and I was hoping to see that line of thought follow up as Satoru continued to use his power for destructive purposes. And in a sense, it was continued – Satoru set the Queerats’ nest ablaze, hurtled boulders at them, and blew up two blowdogs at once. What was intriguing was that these actions were a sign of defense, not offense, like last week. He was using these powers to wage war, no doubt, but rather than indulging himself in chaos, Satoru chose to use these actions as a way to cover his and Saki’s tracks as they tried to escape. The sudden shift of this was rather odd to me, but I chose to accept it because Saki had informed him of his actions and thus these efforts could be interpreted as a way of retribution. What was disconcerting was the ending. No sacrifices were really made. Nothing truly changed. I didn’t get the sense that the children lost something of value here, especially when the Narrator returned with simply saying that the kids had gotten back their Cantus (which to me, was a bit of sloppy writing – shouldn’t there have been a more foolproof way of going about this entire sealing process?) and that everything was okay. Also, why would the children go back to a society which kills children despite knowing that they have broken essential laws? What happened to the other kids? Why are they still alive? There are far too many unanswered questions here and I feel like the writers could have done a better job in wrapping this up; I do understand that next week, things will be different for our cast, but at the same time, I’m still confused about the exact meaning of this arc. Perhaps this uneasiness will be resolved with unforeseen consequences, which will somehow prove important in the next 18 episodes, such as the discovery of the progress of human society, or how the queerats function in the natural world, or the truth about Cantus and using it on one another. But so far there’s been no real hint of these things, so I don’t feel as of yet that this arc accomplished anything significant. It may also have to do with the expectation of the summary of Shinsekai; I was under the impression that this was the part where the children escaped from their dystopia’s clutches permanently.
Needless to say, it seems like Shinsekai is continuing to roll through this dark and mysterious path as we skip a few years and reenter the world once again next week. Talk about puberty effects (is it me or did Shun grow into quite a fine teenager?) and some homosexual tones, by the look of it! I look forward to seeing all the changes – physically, emotionally, spiritually, and of course, mentally.
wendeego: Since Natasha expressed confusion above about the purpose of the Queerat arc, let’s try and draft what this brief string of episodes accompished:
- Developing the characters. Before this point, the cast of Shinsekai were pretty bland with the possible exception of Shun. Not only did this arc provide a chance for the characters to interact outside of the classroom, but the latter half also provided our heroine and her friend Satoru with much-needed character development. The latter’s reveling in the destructive powers of PK planted seeds of drama that could be followed up effectively down the line, while Saki proved herself to be far more resourceful and courageous than she initially appeared. It’s enough to make one wonder if Shinsekai‘s initial hesitance to provide character development was a deliberate attempt to throw the viewer off the scent.
- Introducing sex. This arc marks Saki’s coming of age: not because she has sex for the first time (it’s implied this has happened before) but because for the first time she realizes what the conditioning she has been subjected to means. Her decision against having bonobo sex with Satoru marks her first act of revolt against the system, and heralds later events such as her hijacking Satoru’s programming to restore his Cantus.
- Exploding the boundaries. Up to this arc, Shinsekai‘s been almost claustrophobic, an eerie exploration of a seemingly utopian society seen through a more typical school-days anime lens. With the introduction of queerrat tribes and the recontextualizing of history, this arc proved that Shinsekai is not so much about a restrictive school for PK users as it is about a massive, damaged world and the question of where a handful of dangerously empowered children fit within it. It looks like the next episode will remain within the bounds of society, but from here on out where the story will end is anyone’s guess.
To be honest, I’d say these past few episodes of Shinsekai have been the best this show has ever been. They’ve been inconsistent, especially considering the first few episodes. But I’ve been waiting this whole time for the show to reach beyond its boundaries and fully embrace the craziness of its world, and for me the introduction of the Queerats–far more varied and complex than anyone might have guessed–did just that. With the end of this arc, Shinsekai’s laid the groundwork for something that could be legitimately fantastic. It’s not quite there yet, but I’m more certain than ever that slowly but steadily, we’re getting there.