There are some key elements in Shinsekai Yori that keeps it beautiful–like this ever-present human darkness. It’s like every given life that is born to society, society plays Russian roulette with statistical odds in the production of a monster. The monsters in Shinsekai Yori are world-destroyers in the most literal sense. A character refers to it as a nuclear bomb, and I think most of us would agree. It becomes the nightmare scenario where even if 99.999999% of mankind is perfectly upstanding and good, all it takes is one bad apple to ruin everything.
In the same way that is the exact same perspective from Psycho-Pass (if in that society, humans are much worse on average). In order to play this numbers game with statistics (which already assumes a lot of different qualities about the human condition that you and I might not agree with) we can skew the odds heavily in society’s favor if everyone just give up on something. In Psycho-Pass, it’s the obvious flaws with the Sybil system. It does a clumsy job of illustrating it for us, but they’re spelled out plainly.
In Shinsekai Yori, the scheme is much more sinister. It’s so sinister, that we don’t even get a good look at it. It’s so well-disguised, we can call it simply, human evolution. It’s when we de-evolve ourselves to limit the conscious capacity to commit murder, to hypnotize our children so to limit the power of their minds, and ultimately kill the potentially dangerous elements of our society in the form of children-killing-by-committee. We never really got a up-close look at all this, except maybe the scene where Saki goes over the details of her terms with the Ethics Committee chief. We never really get a close look of the hypnosis or the way these visual triggers were genetically added into the strains cultivated at the village they were living in. We don’t know how the memory manipulation were done besides what we could guess by inference. It’s not really the focus of the narrative, but these things are pretty important.
Of course, it may only seem like “de-evolve” from the perspective of a world where not everyone is a live bomb ready to go off. In some ways, the scenario in Shinsekai Yori is what engineers called an edge case. You can look at it in the context of, say, gun control, or in the context of an effective way to prevent crime. You could also look at it in the case where how can power and responsibility coexist. There are a bunch of different ways to tackle the same framework underneath. It’s in this overarching context that I examine the stories about Saki and Satoru and Maria and all those kids, in that the values we perceive to be important to cherish and reinforce in life may run against these survival, political, societal, and even evolutionary forces.
Unfortunately, this also means in a season where I’m watching Psycho-Pass and Shinsekai Yori at the same time, Psycho-Pass is more like Psycho-Passe, and if it isn’t for Urobuchi’s sensual murders I probably would have already dropped it out of the weakness for themes. Of course, I don’t think most people are approaching Shinsekai Yori as an ethics experimental pressure chamber, and Psycho-Pass has other redeeming values too, but for me I can’t take all this Mole Rats business any other way.
Actually, an experiment is a good way to phrase it. The fantastic setting is oozing with realism in Shinsekai Yori. There are pluses and minuses to this approach, that said, but it feels like after 17 episodes the experiment has finally began.