Shin Sekai Yori 05 — Be Human in this Most Inhuman of Ages

 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):

  1. The world is full of suffering.
  2. Desire leads to suffering.
  3. The end of desire leads to the end of suffering.
  4. 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.

Radical Freedom

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.

Being Human

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.

Further Thoughts

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?

9 thoughts on “Shin Sekai Yori 05 — Be Human in this Most Inhuman of Ages

  1. For the last part, I feel like the starry liquid roof thing was like a trap or a lure, like a moth to a flame or an angler fish type thing.

    1. Hm, that makes sense. The children seemed to know exactly what it was though, and looked horrified— that’s what leaves me the most confused. If it was simply a trap I don’t think they would have had that exact reaction…

  2. The thatcher egg was seen in earlier eps- I think it was in ep 3 when they started their excursion and canoed in the river. There was a scene where they did sth to a thatcher’s egg with their spear and the end result was a pointy plant(?) of a sorts which one of the kids was sketcking- do you remember? My guess is that these eggs try to destroy the ones who want to harm them, thus when they are broken and liquids are inserted into them, they turn into that thing.

    As for the fake sky I have a weird feeling they might have broken another type of egg and perhaps sth related to queerats (their babies?). We’ll learn next ep for sure.

    Other thoughts:
    Satoru didn’t kill the queerat directly which might be another reason why there’s no death feedback.
    I wonder if the other kids are alright…
    I’m still curious about the sealing ritual of their powers. Isn’t it the same with that in the first ep? Isn’t it just some kind of suggestion?

    1. Ah, I’d forgotten about the thatcher plant from before. That’s one crazy survival mechanism… So did the rats at the beginning of the episode die from thatcher eggs? I thought the monk killed them. Are the spiky things that are supposedly their bones different from the spiky things the thatcher eggs make? I’m pretty confused on this part.

      For the death feedback, I thought that even thinking violent thoughts makes you uncomfortable. Satoru doesn’t even have the slightest hesitation, which strikes me as odd.

      It did seem to be the same sealing ritual as the first episode. I’m still not entirely sure what they were sealing in that first episode, since their powers seemed to come back…

      1. No, what we saw at the beginning of the episode exploding was a balloon dog or sth like that. Satoru was telling them about it when they were around the fire and along with minoshiro’s devil this was the other animal they were searching to find. The ninja star- like bones belong to that balloon dog. The Devil’s Hand that comes out of the thatcher’s egg is a whole other story.

        If I remember correctly, death feedback is triggered when you see someone suffer or is near death because of you and your PK(?)… I mean the reason the monk had these weird reactions and the legends about killing a mineshiro would bring about your own death are based on this mechanism. But the killing wasn’t done with PK powers and the process was indirect. I think.

        Yeah, still many questions about that first ritual and that’s why I claim it might be just suggestion.

        1. Ah— all these animals are so confusing! Well, I assume if it matters I’ll manage to wrap my head around it eventually.

          I think the effects begin to kick in even if you intend to physically harm someone, regardless of the method or whether it results in an actual death. Could be wrong though.

  3. It’s not just their smiles that were strange; all of their facial expressions were disturbing. In fact, there were a lot more close ups on their faces in general this episode. It seemed to narrow my focus so the characters’ actions became more noticeable while the rest of the world was kind of drowned out.

    From the start, the entire style of the show seemed to change drastically, but I still can’t quite put my finger on the major differences. There weren’t a lot of transitional scenes so everything appeared to move faster even though individual sections were still happening at an incredibly slow pace. It was almost like I was watching a dream. I half expected Saki to wake up at some point.

    This change is interesting, but I’m not sure if I actually like it or not. Also, is it just me, or does it appear that the animation suffered a substantial drop in quality?

    1. I’ve heard that someone else was in charge of this episode, which would help explain the animation differences. It does look a lot like a dream.

      I thought it was a drop in quality as well, but the uniqueness still made it pleasant to watch for me.

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