Thursday, April 7, 2016
From The New World series review
From The New World based on an untranslated novel of the same name by Yusuke Kishi and marking the directorial debut of Masahi Ishihamma is a dark and disturbing Sci-Fi set one thousand years in the future after mankind has become able to use psychokinesis. In this world are four friends kind Maria, quiet and sensitive Mamoru, strong willed and tomboyish Saki brash Satoru and withdrawn but kind prodigy Shun. All friends since their early childhood in this world a mixture of psychic technology and Buddhist Spirituality. Along with a hidden slave class of Anthropomorphic Mole-Rats. All seems well for the four friends with Saki finally advancing into the higher grade with her friends but also ominous hints at a darker side to the seemingly perfect society. Large parts of the series are simply exposition or in the early part flashbacks to the previous eras of the current time a world of covert assassinations, half mad God-Kings, and psychic criminals. Along with the slow questioning of the mores of the society while the characters are left to question whether anything is as it seems. The society in question is a seeming utopia built on social control and an unspoken shadow world of undesirables being “disappeared.” The details of this are explained in a number of narrations and conversations building the society and showing it's origin as a Young Adult Sci-Fi Novel. It's a richly textured world filled with questionable choices made by almost all the characters from the casual mistreatment of the Mole-Rat slave class to the hostile future creatures from snakes that lay exploding eggs to dogs that turn into living bombs and have metal spikes for rib cages. To feral anthropomorphic mole-rats that wage wars on each other for land rights and rights to the queens of the colonies. An overall grim look at a society grown indolent by addiction to pleasure and paranoid over the potential threats they face from within and out. Then there is what the society has done for generations to keep people pacified this ranges from social engineering, gene therapy, and personality and psychic aptitude tests to even sex being used as the way to keep people docile. A latter plot point in the series is when the four friends pair up in same-sex couples when they are in their early teens with the exception of Mamoru who pines away for Maria who only has eyes for Saki. The love triangle part is the weakest aspect of the story but it's not focused on that much and the Yuri and Yaoi fanservice is there but it never felt like the series was saying this was a good thing. Simply that it was a way to further control others through social conditioning. While the presence of Mamoru thankfully keeps this from feeling like sophomoric slash fiction. While many thematic plot elements are explored the strongest story line is actually the one that focuses on the mole-rat slave class (known as Monster Rats throughout the series.) And their attempt at throwing off the shackles of humanity in a bloody revolution led by my favorite character the “fork-tongued” Monster Rat Squealer. Who while his actions are a brutal “total war” against the psychic overlords, for me it was easier to sympathize with if not condone the war. Seeing as humanity in this series was more interested in self-preservation than being well, humane. Call me a “bleeding heart” if you must but it's The Monster Rats that had my sympathy Saki and her friends may be the point of view characters but ultimately they benefit just as much from the destructive social sins and injustices perpetrated against the underclass. The brutality of the actions of Squealer and his minions are chilling it pales in comparison to the society he seeks to overthrow. That this series had me cheering for the villain of the series is a testament to the quality of the writing. None of the questions asked are easy and no easy answers are given only a vague and ill-defined belief that giving people the ability to imagine or be free can bring about change but given the choices of the characters at the end and the entire infrastructure being left intact. It frankly feels a little hollow and me much rather would have preferred the mole-rat revolution. This is a great series filled with wonderful animation touches such as the grainy distressed film stock look of the past scenes the bizarre monsters and even the interactions of the characters and scene framing. A great series that could be looked at as a “hidden gem” of the early 2000s from the grim political elements to a fresh take on Psychic phenomena that avoids the cliches and hackneyed tropes often associated with it.