Shin Sekai Yori, a.k.a. From the New World, is an anime adapted from a novel written by Yusuke Kishi. It is currently airing and is slated for 25 episodes. The story centers around five children living in a seemingly fantasy world full of demons and monsters. People all have telekinetic powers and are taught to develop them from a young age. Despite the series appearing to take place in the distant past with the majority of people living in villages, it actually takes place a thousand years from now. The first three episodes did little to explain how the world and human civilization developed to its current state, but episode 4 hit viewers with a full-on explanation of not only the world’s history, but also the hidden workings of the current society.
Warning: Spoilers for Shin Sekai Yori up to episode 4 below.
In the explanation that the library gives the children in episode 4, the emergence and discovery of telekinetic powers during our decade led to conflict and war. As a result of the fighting, the human population was reduced to 2% of its peak and the survivors degenerated into varying levels of social advancement from nomadic to large empires. Those establishments eventually fell victim to the conflict that destroyed modern society and it was soon obvious that a new system needed to be developed.
As history has shown, conflict between people was what destroyed all of the societies of the past. The most logical thing to do to ensure a society survives would be to eliminate conflict. Several methods were employed to achieve this: children were educated from an early age to obey certain rules and taught certain beliefs, those that exhibited violent tendencies or immoral behaviour were eliminated, people with weaker powers were removed to avoid the development of kinetic vs non-kinetic discrimination, sex between all ages and genders was promoted as a way to relieve stress and frustration, and an auto-suicide mechanism was built into every human’s genetic code and programmed to activate when they harmed another human. The engineers of the society in Shin Sekai Yori aimed to create a perfect society and achieve world peace among humans, but at what cost?
The reactions that the children had to the revelation that humans fought and killed each other in the past indicate that their society has succeeded in eliminating murder (at least on the surface). However, observations that Saki, the main character and one of the five children, make in the first three episodes reveal that a lot of sacrifices have been made (and are currently being made) in order to maintain their society. One of the early observations is that Saki’s new school reminds her of a farm she once visited. In a way, the children are like farm animals, bred to produce the best results while those with undesirable qualities are removed from the gene pool. Parents are also shown to be in constant fear that their children will be taken away if they don’t meet the society’s standards. Access to and dissemination of knowledge is strictly controlled in order to prevent people from discovering the truth about their past. Perhaps the most disturbing thing about this society is that human behaviour has been manipulated so much through psychological persuasion, extreme eugenics, and genetic engineering that you have to wonder: do these people have the freedom to deny their programming and make their own choices?
Shin Sekai Yori has certainly been a thought-provoking anime so far and I am looking forward to seeing what other secrets the rest of the series will reveal. Feel free to share your thoughts on this peaceful society and what it has done in the comments below.