Imagine a future where everyone has psychokinesis, the power to manipulate the physical using the mind alone. What kind of people would we become? How would a society run itself? What would be their greatest fears? The anime Shin Sekai Yori (From the New World) answers these questions in a terrifying series about such a utopia.
Shin Sekai Yori is based on the novel under the same name by Yusuke Kishi. The anime tells the story in three distinctive parts in the life of Saki, the female protagonist. The first part introduces Saki and her friends as pre-teens, when they come across their ancient society’s darkest secrets by accident. The second part takes place in their high school years, when one is sentenced to death and two others run away. The third part tells the tale of the battle between humans and monster rats when Saki is an adult. Each part of this epic utopian tale reveals more of the future Japanese society accelerated a thousand years from now, where everyone has developed god-like powers through psychokinesis.
As far as originality is concerned, Shin Sekai Yori continues to tell a similar theme among many utopian pieces of literature. Common themes in many utopian literatures include a person who questions the society’s rules, what the society’s authority does to protect their utopia, and ultimately what is resolved in order to maintain superiority over everyone else. Shin Sekai Yori touches on all of these themes while also bringing the element of referring to our present day as an ancient violent civilization that destroyed itself. Although the utopia that is set in this series is a lot smaller and appears more “feudal” than anything else, history repeats itself as the world faces the threat of humanity on humanity once again.
Needless to say, Shin Sekai Yori also reveals a subliminal message on human nature itself with very familiar tones from other utopian storylines. The anime, for example, covers the very fears that drive the society to ensure their stability. Likewise, the very stability is shaken by an external power that abuses this fear to start a revolution, as was the case of the monster rats in the third arc of this anime. And yet, the conclusion of this tale leaves an audience (particularly me) with a sense of hope, yet dissatisfaction that anything was truly resolved by making a utopia in the first place. This is, once again, a very common theme in utopian art and literature.
Shin Sekai Yori tells a very similar utopian story with a Japanese (specifically anime, in this case) perspective. It emphasizes the fears of a society to drive stability and ultimately has it torn down by the very rules they had created over their people. It leaves audiences to question whether our society alone is better or worse in today’s context. And above all, it tells the story with a very haunting musical score. That in and of itself probably kept me watching this series each week as it came out!