Amazing. What a beautiful ending.
Part of what made this ending so successful is that no one was the good guy, and no one was the bad guy. Any attempt to split people onto the “good” team and the “bad” team necessarily ends in failure. Everyone in the show begins with good intentions. And all of their good intentions lead to disastrous consequences.
It’s this lack of a clear divide between “good” people and “evil” people that empowers Shin Sekai Yori to portray the struggles of the weak and powerless genuinely. Compare SSY to its contemporaries, such as Maoyuu Maou Yuusha, which solves oppression by having one smart character wipe out thousands of years of slavery with a single speech and knowledge of middle school economics, with characters from the modern world who don’t accept the basic assumptions of their own society. In Shin Sekai Yori, everyone lives in the world they were born, and share those assumptions. The powerless have to struggle. The good-hearted humans, such as Saki, don’t even recognize the injustice they perpetuate on the Queerats. The world’s problems aren’t so simple that they can be solved in a single speech or by a single person simply telling the world that everything it believes in is wrong. And the world’s problems don’t all boil down to misunderstandings or comically evil characters, as so many anime love to imply. The world is broken, complicated and ambiguous.
Let’s take a look at each of the major characters and their role in this episode.
Kiroumaru is probably the least black and white of the characters. He selflessly gives his life to save the human village, even after all the horrible things they have done to him and his people. He even gives his life in spite of knowing that afterwards, the humans will likely go and exterminate a great number of his people.
But Squealer is right in that he is tied too tightly to the past. He wants his people to continue living in service to their queen. Even at the end, when he pleads with Saki to save his Queen, he can’t see anything bigger than his own tribe. He’s a good and honorable man, but of limited vision.
Squealer, on the other hand, has a vision larger than the world can contain. For a good portion of the show, Squealer was the character I sympathized with the most. He possesses a deep empathy for all of his people.
But then Squealer goes much too far in trying to achieve that vision. He starts a war with the humans and kills tons of people.
I don’t think that Squealer truly hates humans. Look at his face when the fiend dies:
Look at thatface. Is that the face of a monster who hates humanity? I don’t think so. I see it as the face of a shocked father grieving for his son.
Now, Shin Sekai Yori doesn’t explicitly say this. Nor does it explicitly deny it. It could very well be that Squealer is upset that his plans have fallen apart. But I see this as a bit of a final redemption for Squealer. He fought and raged against humanity. And he loved a human child.
Even when Squealer is defeated and imprisoned, made to stand trial naked, laughed at, and thrown into “eternal hell”, he doesn’t back down and isn’t ashamed of what he’s done. I have to respect that. When asked for an apology for killing the humans, he demands an apology from the humans first. He never backs down in the face of injustice.
The problem lies in his methods. He returns evil for evil, hatred for hatred.
The fiend isn’t able to speak for herself. So we’ll let Saki speak for her:
According to Saki, the fiend had done no wrong. Why does she say this, when the fiend has just murdered tons of people?
I see two possibilities: 1) she is innocent because she didn’t kill what she thought were humans (her own kind), or 2) she is innocent because she is a child and only listened to what Squealer said.
Either way, I don’t buy it. For the second excuse, killing is wrong whether someone tells you to do it or you think of doing it yourself. The first reason comes across to me more as an excuse to justify Saki’s own actions in killing the Queerats because they weren’t a member of her own tribe…
Saki and Satoru
Saki has the good and noble intentions of wanting to protect her village.
But she walks around massacring Queerats without a second thought. She manages them as if they are wild animals, and doesn’t see anything wrong with that. And in spite of all this, she believes she’s treated them well.
After Squealer’s trial, Saki begins to change. This is the hope that Shin Sekai Yori leaves us with: that the cycle of hatred and oppression will begin to fade away, starting with Saki’s children.
However, this is going to be a long process. Satoru, despite knowing that even genetically the Queerats are human, refuses to see them as such. And I’m not sure how much Saki has changed, either. Note how, at the end, she is able to kill Squealer without triggering death feedback. Does she really see him as human?
Regardless, Saki misses the larger point. She begins to think the way she treated the Queerats was wrong once she learns they are human. But killing the Queerats is wrong regardless of whether or not they were biologically human.
The Human Villagers
Ok, I lied, there is one group that’s pretty unambiguously evil. Hate begets hate, and these villagers have more than their fair share of it.
This ending didn’t reveal everything— for example it didn’t reveal what happened to Maria and Mamoru (although I think I might have seen them in the ending sequence? not sure). I like that though. If you explain everything there’s nothing left to wonder about.
I want to point out how many of the revelations in this episode I predicted. I caught onto the fact that he wanted to be called Squealer, I caught onto the fact that the child wasn’t a fiend and why, and I caught onto the fact that the Queerats were transformed slaves and peasants from the empire in one of the very early episodes. Although I’d like to think so, this isn’t because I’m a genius. It’s because the show led us along the entire way, with the clues to lead us towards the proper conclusion.
I liked the scene where a bloody Saki loomed over Kiroumaru’s corpse, and Squealer looked over the fiend’s. In the middle of a war of genocide between humans and Queerats, a human sits in mourning over a Queerat and a Queerat sits in mourning over a human. A perfect illustration of the absurdity of war. The conversation afterwards between Saki and Squealer is left to our imagination.