Coming of Age
The children come of age in an instant, when they leave their peaceful walled garden behind and enter the wider world, filled with suffering. One moment they are children:
And the next they are most certainly not:
The change is as stunning visually as it is emotionally for the characters.
Given the central role of Buddhism in this society, I should note that the children’s journey parallels the Buddha’s own. He lived in the palace, sheltered, for all his life, and had never witnessed suffering. When he saw an old man outside one day, he was shocked. Likewise, these children have witnessed suffering and death for what is likely the first time in their lives.
The Four Noble Truths
The Buddha later discovered the Four Noble Truths (paraphrased):
- The world is full of suffering.
- Desire leads to suffering.
- The end of desire leads to the end of suffering.
- The Noble Eightfold Path is the means to the end of suffering.
Despite its Buddhist trappings, this world’s society scarcely bears any resemblance to Buddhism. The children in the village are kept ignorant of suffering. They are genetically modified to encourage sexual desires. This society’s goal is not the end of suffering: it is simply ignorance of suffering.
Likewise, on the surface this society shares Buddhism’s concern for non-violence. After all, the entire society is engineered to prevent renegade PK users from committing acts of violence. But this individual non-violence is enabled— or more accurately, enforced— by means of collective violence. Dangerous students are removed and presumably killed. Those who know too much are stripped of their powers and likewise eliminated. The village’s entire way of life is built on slavery.
The village builds a tent with the trappings of non-violence on a foundation of violence.
Saki and Satoru react quite differently to their circumstances. Saki is no longer interested in sexual intimacy, seeing it as akin to monkeys. Furthermore, she becomes even more willing than before to sympathize with the rat people. Satoru, on the other hand, becomes violent and sex-obsessed. His testosterone is in overdrive.
We were told earlier that violence leads to death feedback. Yet Satoru has had no adverse reaction, despite all his violent acts. My theory is that when their PK powers were sealed, so was their conditioning. This leads me to believe that his attempts at sexual intimacy with Saki were not merely the results of conditioning, especially seeing as how Saki, while equally scared, was not nearly as interested.
Saki and Satoru are freed of the ropes which held them up their entire lives. Now that they are free, they no longer know how to live. But Saki seems to have an idea, because Saki was always living in dissent, even before her newfound freedom.
You are not big enough to accuse the whole age effectively, but let us say you are in dissent. You are in no position to issue commands, but you can speak words of hope. Shall this be the substance of your message? Be human in this most inhuman of ages; guard the image of man for it is the image of God. — Thomas Merton
Saki lives in the most inhuman of ages. It is an age so inhuman that “humans” have been genetically modified to eliminate the adverse effects of their free will. They live a life of plenty and luxury by holding other sentient creatures in slavery, forcing these creatures to worship them as gods.
But Saki is in dissent. Even before she discovers the truth of her world, she is in dissent. She goes against what the whole age has taught her when she talks to and rescues a rat, whom she should not even speak to. Later, she saves another rat creature from its own queen. She cares for the poor and the dispossessed, who everyone else fears and despises. In the most inhuman of ages, Saki is human.
Throughout this episode, Saki and Satoru smile at the creepiest times. There’s something deeply unsettling about it.
I still think that the Queerats are humans, or at least used to be humans. They are still branded, living in chattel slavery, the descendants of their ancestors who were slaves of the great slave empires. They even use a similar means of control: a religion in which the PK users are worshiped as gods.
This religion is (I’ll speculate) enforced by the queens. The flesh of this queen looks suspiciously similar to the library of the last episode. Could it have been genetically engineered as well, perhaps by the villagers to control the queerats?
The queerats’ slavery is so deeply implanted that they don’t even realize they’re slaves. They are already treated like scum, even though they fear being enslaved by the other queerats. Interestingly, they fear that if they’re conquered, their queen will be killed. I wonder if the invading queerats have queens? I’m going to continue speculating that the invaders are freedom fighters and that they don’t have queens. The PK users in the village are fighting a war, enlisting their conquered peoples to fight it.
The judgmental thoughts about the queerats here were quite amusing, especially considering what the children discovered about their own society just recently. And I doubt that the queerats “evolved” to their current state…
Just like the humans.
I have no idea what to make of these “bones.” Those sure don’t look like bones to me. I guess it was implied that the rat blew itself up to kill the monk? It seemed the other way around to me… like the monk used his power to kill the rat. Which in turn led to the monks death?
Are these those same blades when he ate the fruit? I’m not sure what to make of this at all. Perhaps these rats were engineered with some short of allergic reaction to PK, as a last resort kill switch?
WTF was this about? They thought it was the sky, but it was just the roof of the cave? Then there was a white liquid on it? I didn’t get this part at all. Anybody?