I’m still in absolute awe of how entirely wrong Shinsekai Yori managed to prove my worry at the halfway point that it had dug itself too deep to be able to rise out of the hole and become a truly great show. In a complete reversal of Shinsekai’s inconsistent start, the second half of this series is some of the best anime I have ever seen. Since I’ve already covered the finale, which was to me the greatest icing on this delicious cake, I’d like to look now at the time when the series, which had been airplaning my doubts on a spoon in front of my face for several episodes by this point, making them look increasingly silly, finally forced the spoon into my mouth and made me eat those words.
With episode 18’s spectacular first battle between the humans and the queerats, Shinsekai Yori had at last played the hand it had been so patiently building up all the way up to that point. It was starting to become clear just what was going on, and the storytelling choices that had in the first half seemed odd and out of place – in particular the three-episode focus on queerat politics – were starting to come together. Squealer had not yet revealed the full extent of his genius leadership and scheming, but if the show had been lacking in momentum before, it certainly wasn’t now.
But while it was episode 18 that kicked the show’s final act into motion, it wasn’t until 19 that the biggest card was laid on the table. Where Shinsekai had up to this point contained its share of horror elements, episode 19 went the full mile. A small group, on the run from a ruthless and numerous enemy, explores an abandoned hospital. Under constant threat of queerat ambush (and indeed it was more than just the threat), the exploration is fraught with tension – a classic “test of courage,” only with lives actually on the line. Only the hospital wasn’t abandoned. It was overrun. And the more the group saw of the hospital, the more about it seemed eerily wrong.
The word “fiend” was never spoken. But when a man burst into a pillar of purple flames on the run from an unseen foe, there could be no other word on anyone’s mind. The final piece finally in its place, it was time for the real story to begin.