Wow. Bar none, Shin Sekai Yori (From The New World) (Crunchyroll) is the best science fiction TV show that I have ever seen, animated or otherwise. Yusuke Kishi, the author of the original novel, is a science fiction writer in the classic mold. He makes a single unlikely assumption and follows it to its logical conclusion.
I think this is great but its clearly not for everybody, certainly not for young children. It’s thought-provoking but tragic and disturbing. It definitely does not have a feel-good ending. At best the ending might be called “cautiously hopeful.”
I’ve heard this compared to The Hunger Games and there is at least a superficial similarity. Both involve a future dystopia in which children are menaced by authority figures and sacrificed by the government. But Shin Sekai Yori is a much more sophisticated story.
In The Hunger Games the main problem is that the people in charge are a bunch of big meanies. The obvious solution is to kick them out on the reasonable assumption that whoever replaces them is bound to do a better job.
In Shin Sekai Yori the true tragedy is that the people in charge are intelligent and well-meaning. They may do horrible things, but only after considering the alternatives and concluding that all the other choices are worse. And each horrible choice is constrained by the horrible choices made by their predecessors…
A number of people have criticized the rather flat, stylized drawing style but I think it it is just about right, involving us without overwhelming us. Consider the alternatives. A European production would probably make everything look so ugly that it would be impossible to empathize with the characters. An American studio would use creepy computer-generated animation with similar results. A different Japanese studio might have made things look so realistic that we would be overwhelmed by the horror and once again lose our empathy. Or they might have made everything look super-cute which would be really obscene given the subject matter.
So if you want to watch a show that is disturbing but very smart and thought-provoking, I highly recommend this. Assuming that you are not a young child. And also assuming that you have watched some anime before–this is no place to start. If you are just curious about anime, don’t look for a “classic”. Start with something lightweight.
Translator “Vale” provides some additional background information from the original novel about juryoku here. This is somewhat spoilerish; I suggest watching at least the first half of the series before reading it.
Questions for Discussion: