Shin Sekai Yori: A whole new world of plot holes and scientific illiteracy

Shin Sekai Yori is an anime based on a novel written by Kishi Yusuke. The anime adaptation was handled by A-1 pictures. You may remember them as the studio behind Kuroshitsuji and AnoHana. This was actually requested as a “futuristic scenario done right” after I took a look at the mediocrity that was Blue Gender, but I’ve also been told that this series is just as bad, even using several of the same cliches. There’s only one way to find out which is more correct and that’s by taking a look.

Story:

Our tale opens in the far future. Our protagonist, Saki, has just advanced to the next level of education, a school that teaches kids how to use their psychic abilities, but there’s something wrong. Students disappear from the school and are promptly forgotten. Saki and her friends go on a camping trip that will lead to them learning a great secret about their society.

That’s how the first arc begins. Yes, the series has multiple story arcs. One thing the series does really well is introducing intriguing ideas. The problem is that most of those concepts end up going absolutely nowhere or are just executed poorly. You think that the various ideas that are touched upon are going to eventually have a point, but they never do. It’s like Kishi introduced them planning to integrate them into the plot eventually, but couldn’t figure out how and let them drop, or briefly mentioned them in some minor scene in the hopes that he could validate having them in the first place.

There are quite a few other issues with the execution of this anime. The series tries to explain several facets of its world with science, which it gets wrong consistently. To use an early example that won’t spoil anything, the series talks about bonobos. It says that they’re peaceful, preferring sex to conflict and that they’ll only engage in sexual activities with the same sex when they’re young. The first half is true, the second is an outright lie and the bad part is that a half-true scientific statement is about the best the series ever gets in terms of its science.

The crowning moment of stupidity is definitely the ending. It starts by using a huge logical fallacy in the major climax. Then it segues into a plot twist that hinges on bad science and just to make things even worse, the series ends with the same lazy, stupid, cliché that Blue Gender ended with. Except that the execution is even worse. At least Blue Gender had some build up going into it, Shin Sekai Yori has a five minute montage at the very end to justify resorting to this tripe.

Characters:

The characters are similar to the story. The writing teases you with hints that these characters are going to develop and get fleshed out, but then it never delivers. In spite of the story spanning over a decade, the characters never grow or develop. They remain pretty stagnant throughout.

The only attempts to demonstrate growth for the characters are done with informed characteristics. For example, there’s a character who talks about Saki’s great leadership skills but she never demonstrates any leadership abilities whatsoever. She follows other people’s plans or gets told what to do by the voices in her head. Yes, she has deceased people talk to her. No, this is never explained it’s just used as a deus ex machina device.

The issue with informed characteristics like this is that the audience isn’t going to believe them. You can tell us the stormtroopers are precise marksmen, but if we see them miss virtually ever shot we aren’t going to believe it. Likewise, you can tell us she’s a great leader. You could also tell us she gained magical girl powers from a talking dog and saved the world from goo monsters during one of the time skips or that she’s the world’s greatest detective. We not only aren’t going to buy it, but we aren’t going to care unless you actually demonstrate it within the narrative.

Art:

The art is really good. Everything is nicely detailed and the character designs are nicely done. That being said, there is one problem with the art. The action sequences are drawn very oddly and they can be difficult to follow. Especially the early ones. For the sake of argument, let’s say that this was done to provide a sense of chaos and make things seem hectic. That would be fine, but it still doesn’t flow well or look good.

Sound:

I have no complaints about the voice acting. Every actor gives a capable performance, in spite of not having much to work with. Hanazawa Kana (Akane from Psycho Pass) and Hirata Hiroaki (Benny from Black Lagoon) are particularly good. The music is largely forgettable, but not bad.

Ho-Yay:

The ho-yay factor is going to be a 4/10. The series has a bit early on. It has some yaoi between Shun and Satoru, as well as some in the background, and some yuri between Saki and Maria, plus some more in the background. Then it transitions into having nothing but het.

Final Thoughts:

On the positive side, Shin Sekai Yori has strong art and good voice acting. Unfortunately, the writing is just inept. The story suffers from major plot holes, terrible science, dropped plot aspects, a horrendous ending and characters who are less interesting than the random nameless bad guys you fight in a Fire Emblem game. As a result, the narrative is just terrible and I would not suggest sitting through it just for the art and acting. My final rating is going to be a 3/10. Next week, One Outs. 

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