May 31, 2015
Kirik0h (All reviews)
Little inspection into the dystopia genre is required to realise that the majority of the dystopic anime are set in a cyberpunk universe. Be it Psycho Pass, Ergo Proxy or Texhnolyze, the average viewer is likely to have seen these "hi-tech" interpretations of future societies. Enter Shinsekai Yori – a series where whose setting is uncannily quaint such that on first glance, it is hard to see it as a dystopia; but it is, and an exceptionally remarkable one indeed.

What distinguishes Shinsekai Yori from its counterparts is the sheer unorthodoxy of its universe. It is one where the modern society as we know it has not been replaced by a technologically advanced civilisation but that of a small picturesque town characterised by a community whose lifestyles have regressed into that of villagers. It is within these bounds that we follow our protagonists from the ages of 12 to 26 in this insidiously deceptive world. Throughout the series, Shinsekai Yori’s universe is constantly developed with fascinating conceptions such as the Karma Demons, Cantus and the Queerats (an entirely different yet intelligent species) that all bring into question many of our humanity’s morals and beliefs. Each concept is thoroughly explored and reinforce each other to create a powerful and fascinating dystopia whose elements successfully examines and challenges the philosophies we take for granted.

Despite its complexity, it does not lazily “narrate” the ideologies that we question. You won't be sitting through monologues of lecture-like philosophy or psychology. You see society being critiqued through the journey and consequences of the actions of our protagonists. This is what I find to be the most impressive aspect of the show because Shinsekai Yori fully takes advantage of anime as a medium - a feat that I feel is rare in this genre. The characters' dialogue exist to explore their mind whilst it is their actions and interactions with this post-apocalyptic world that we explore humanity. In order to truly appreciate Shinsekai Yori, it has to be completed as only then will the experience be complete as the show's construction of its world is careful to convey certain messages and hidden meanings throughout the show allowing viewers to formulate and reformulate key ideas and questions without ever stooping to overbearing narration.

The characters in Shinsekai Yori all play crucial elements to our story and the range of our cast fully captures the countless perspectives that people in such a world can hold. They are all effectively portrayed via their interactions which unravels how multi-dimensional they are. These interactions are genuine and there is an excellent balance between dialogue, silence and narration from our female lead Saki whose voice actor must be praised for such an alluring performance. Despite the show’s timespan ranging from our protagonists’ youth to their adulthood, the pacing is impeccable as it changes from a slower pace to accommodate the universe-building to a faster pace needed to match the gravity of the conflicts that occur.

For an immense dystopia, it only makes sense for it to be accompanied with diverse artwork. As we observe their world throughout the seasons and its numerous settings – oceans, mountains, villages both desolate and populated, they are portrayed with their own unique environment and colour choices. This is all contrasted with the use of experimental visuals and cinematography during the more dream-like and ethereal scenes which do not exist to simply invoke awe but contribute to subtly send hints across to the viewer on certain mysteries and foreshadowing certain events. Complementing the visuals is a soundtrack which encapsulates the essence of the show with each track strengthening the visuals and enhancing the overall experience. The soundtrack demonstrates how effectively music can make emotions across the human spectrum more compelling whilst respecting its role of being a supplement to the show and thus maintains our focus on the story the series presents - one which no extent of audiovisuals is required to make its ideas any more resounding than they already are.

All in all, Shinsekai Yori is a series that delivers in every single aspect it aims to explore. It displays enough to connect all the ideas examined together into a singular full dystopia but leaves enough for viewers to intellectually ponder and elaborate for themselves. It is profound yet not pretentious and examines humanity without falling into a safety net of tropes that may suffice the viewer but do not inspire. Unlike many of its counterparts, Shinsekai Yori is not a dystopia that relies on a singular premise but a whole host of powerful conceptions that coalesce to create, not just a society, but an entire universe. It achieves this with excellence and elegantly provides us with the most wholesome and meticulously crafted package of dystopian fiction I have ever seen and I unhesitatingly recommend it to anyone who seeks the same.