suntzuanime

A thoughtful response to current anime.

Category Archives: Shin Sekai Yori

Shin Sekai Yori 15 – Liberals Liberals Liberals LIBERALS LIBERALS LIBERALS

It was clear to me from the moment the kids met the rainbow library demon that Shin Sekai Yori was a show about the Progressive Ideology taken to logical extremes – I made a post about it a few months ago.  At that point, I figured that the show was taking a stance against progressivism – “It’s saying, here is a situation, here is the progressive response to this, and here are the justifications for that response, but you can see that it has this and this and that bad effect and children are being fed to cat demons.” At some point along the way, though, I became less convinced that that was the author’s actual stance.  The threats that society faced from itself turned out to be even bigger than I had thought. I had thought they merely had to contend with a demon-haunted world, I didn’t realize that the demons were actually drawn from the ranks of society. (“No, John, you are the demons.”) At some point the danger is great enough to justify even their unironic implementation of fiftieth-trimester abortion. And the Ethics Committee seemed to be reasonably decent people, they let the kids live even though they knew all about their encounter with the rainbow library demon and they may have tried to kill Shun but Shun was obviously a clear and present danger and he wanted to die anyway so no harm no foul right? So I thought maybe the point was to stretch the progressive philosophy to its breaking point and show that it can endure.

Then episode 15 happened and it turned out I was right to begin with!

(Disclaimer: I’m going to have fun with politics in this post. I don’t necessarily agree with everything or anything I say. Despite all my rage I am still just a Good Liberal Progressive.)

Oh no! Liberals!

Oh no! Liberals!

What I had forgotten was the rat-people.  The rat-people represent the global poor, the people of developing nations, and it’s typical, isn’t it, that I would forget them?  First world liberals don’t like to think about how they can afford to spend time caring about their gun control and abortion rights issues only because there is an exploited underclass that labors in slave-like conditions to grow our crops and whatnot.  Sometimes they get imported to do the dirty work we don’t want to, like murdering all the children who seem like they might turn into demons.

This episode was all about the rat-people discovering democracy.

Squealer's become a *politician*.

Squealer’s become a *politician*.

Apparently, after the events of three years ago, the Robber Fly colony was starting to rebuild, but their queen was standing In The Way Of Progress.  So the rat-people of the Robber Fly colony rose up against their queen in the name of democracy and equal rights for all rat-people.  Which sounds good right, as a good progressive you hear the word “democracy” and you cheer, except that the rat-people species is one where there is one queen per colony and she births all the rat-people.  It’s like the idea of a beehive rising up and sending its queen to the guillotine – the hive can’t live without her.  So their solution was to lobotomize her and remove her power, reducing her to a baby-making figurehead.

Incidentally, isn’t it sort of cute how they play two progressive ideals against each other there? Do you support Democracy instead of Monarchy, or do you support Women’s Control Of Their Own Reproduction?

Anyway, now the Robber Fly colony has become a revolutionary republic, and like any good revolutionary republic it is spreading its revolutionary ideals far and wide, taking the queens of other colonies and lobotomizing them as well. They seem to be using Saki and Samoru’s appearance as an opportunity to go even further, battering down the defenses of those who would stubbornly retain their old outdated monarchist system.  Saki and Satoru are not very comfortable with this.  It sort of reminds me of the Arab Spring revolts that brought Mubarak out of power, and how people were wringing their hands worried that with Mubarak out of power an Islamist would be elected. Democracy is all well and good, after all, but what if the people choose the wrong things?

SSY4

ssy3

(The chronological order of these statements has been reversed to make the blatant hypocrisy more apparent.)

The first-world progressives are terrified by the rat-people implementing the democracy they supposedly hold dear.  When they hear that Squealer learned about democracy from a book, they immediately get suspicious of him, and take the fact that the rat-people are building structures out of concrete as evidence that they have some illicit source of information, like a rainbow library demon or a traitor human. Like hilarious liberals, they also get concerned that the rat-people might become consumerist:

You have earth-shattering psychic powers, and you can't let them have a little concrete?

You have earth-shattering psychic powers, and you can’t let them have a little concrete?

It sort of reminds me of the American left wringing its hands over the contribution to climate change that Chinese industrialization was going to make, while they enjoyed a standard of living an order of magnitude wealthier than the Chinese which had originally been built on America’s own gluttonous consumption of fossil fuels. Of course, the fact that the rat-people are a different species while the Chinese aren’t makes blatant racism a little easier to use as an excuse for oppressing them.  You wouldn’t hear a good liberal say the Chinese are “just animals, they don’t have feelings like us” if they thought anyone was listening.

Maybe I’m overthinking this?  I haven’t even started comparing the kids getting dragged into the rat-people’s wars to the Libyan intervention, or comparing the power of Cantus to the power of a Predator drone. Maybe I should just lie back and ship Saki x Satoru.

If you were really good progressives you would kiss.  I'm just sayin'.

If you were really good progressives you would kiss. I’m just sayin’.

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Shin Sekai Yori – Episode 4: Restore the House of Bourbon to the Throne of France

When we last left our group of basically well-meaning schoolchildren, they had cornered a precursor artifact data repository and were threatening to torture it to death unless it revealed its secrets.  I still call them basically well-meaning, because hey, it’s not like they were hurting people, just knowledge-robot-demons.  (It turns out that in the demon-haunted world of Shin Sekai Yori this distinction has the force of a physical law.  But we’ll get to that later.)

The kids start off asking about the demons that haunt their world, because after all that’s what they had intended for this trip to be about, but the conversation quickly turns to history, and an explanation about how “ancient civilization” (in other words, our world of 2012 that’s ruled by Modern Liberal Democracy) turned into the current demon-haunted world.  Apparently, researchers in Azerbaijan unlocked the secrets of psychokinesis and created a class of PK users that made up about half a percent of society.  Some fraction of these PK users gave into their base impulses and took selfish actions which destabilized society.

God, fictionalized science fiction societies are adorable. (Note: the speaker is one of the kids, not the library robot demon.)

After the shakeup in society settled down somewhat, there were four main groups surviving: the “slave empires” that were ruled by powerful PK users and sometimes set citizens on fire for no reason, the hunter gatherers without PK that lived on the edges and tried to avoid being enslaved by the empires, the bandits with PK that preyed on the people on the fringes of the empire, and the scientists who were holed up desperately trying to keep the light of Progress and the Accumulated Knowledge of Mankind alive.  But even this four-fold system turned out not to be stable, at least locally.  After a particularly bad emperor set particularly many citizens on fire, the local slave empire collapsed, and the local scientists had to swoop in to pick up the pieces.

Now, you might have thought they would do this by installing a Modern Liberal Democracy as laid out in the ancient traditions, but that would be naive.  After all, Modern Liberal Democracy had been tried, and it had collapsed when faced with the prospect of a class of PK users.  And besides, it would be an old idea, regressive, like the U.S. installing a King in whatever two-bit country they overthrow next.  What was needed was a truly progressive approach to the challenges of the day.

Those hippie-dippy scientists! Haha!

They wanted to create a society of love.  Among their methods of doing so was to introduce competitive PK sports into the school curriculum and “eliminate” any child caught cheating at them, as we saw in episode 2.  Another method was to introduce an automatic biofeedback loop that would hurt or kill anyone who used their powers violently on another human being.  The mystical society that the children grew up in was deliberately designed by social scientists and psychologists to be, if not a utopia, at least a society that could survive having the means to destroy itself.  And for what it’s worth they seem to have succeeded! Their society seems to be basically sort of ok in a lot of ways, so long as you aren’t a filthy cheater or not very good at PK.  The library monster never explained why the children who can’t do PK disappear.  Is that part of the system too, or do they just get eaten by demons?

Maybe if the database daemon had been allowed to continue, it would have explained this.  But just as it was getting to the good part, a powerful PK user appeared and set it on fire.  He was a high muckety-muck in the church, and he was really upset that the kids had wandered away from where they were supposed to be and started talking with demons.

Would you say this violation makes you… platinum mad?

As punishment for their heresy, he sealed their magical powers and began taking them to the temple, for Final Judgment.  Along the way, we got a demonstration of the dangers of the wilderness and also of the powers of a truly skilled wielder of telekinesis when the party was attacked by ratpeople brigands with crude bows and clubs.  The monk just cast Tornado and wiped out a whole band of them. This was disturbing to the tenderhearted girls, but the boys thought it was awesome. So much for a society of love, eh?  I’d say “ratpeople aren’t people so who cares”, but the massacre actually triggered a mild version of the self-destruct reflex in the monk, because ratpeople sort of look like people, and he used his TK to kill a whole bunch of them.  So now they’re in trouble, because the kids don’t have powers and the adult has to lie down and wait for his body to stop trying to kill itself and they’re out in the dangerous wilderness and OH GOD LOOKOUT A BOMB DOG DEMON and then the episode ended and left us with a dumb cliffhanger.

So.  Obviously the most interesting thing this episode was the first half, where they explained the backstory.  It was really interesting!  Now, politically speaking, I identify as a progressive, or maybe even as a liberal.  And the show’s future history can basically be taken as a condemnation of progressivism.  Yes, you can argue that the scientists did what they had to to create a society that could survive in the demon-haunted world.  But the society they ended up with is sinister, and they hacked people’s bodies to introduce involuntary self-destructs, which seems sort of unkind.  And anyway, it’s not clear that they have actually come up with a society much better than the slave empires they replaced.  The ratpeople seem to be sort of replacements for the slaves and bandits of the old society, and the disappearing children seem to be as bad off as the incinerated peasants under the old system. And anybody that would take away the power of humanity for someone just for listening to heretical talk from a rainbow book tentacle demon has to be evil, right?

I know I frequently downrank shows for disagreeing with my politics.  But the thing is, when I say that, I’m being polite.  What I’m really downranking them for is for having freakin’ stupid politics.  Shin Sekai Yori isn’t that.  It may be taking a stance against the progressivism I hold dear, but it’s taking a stance it can back up.  It’s not saying progressivism is pointlessly, purposelessly evil.  It’s saying, here is a situation, here is the progressive response to this, and here are the justifications for that response, but you can see that it has this and this and that bad effect and children are being fed to cat demons. And that’s great!  If you can back it up, I’d much rather hear you weigh the pros and cons of Modern Liberal Democracy versus German Militarism, like Legend of the Galactic Heroes did, than listen to another proper progressive lecture me about how great Universal Healthcare and Not Starting Wars is. I’m not a choir member who likes to be preached to.

 

 

Shin Sekai Yori – Episode 2: A Deck Can Have Any Number of Cards Named Relentless Rats

Episode 2 of Shin Sekai Yori opened with another flashback, to five hundred years “later” – presumably this is five hundred years later than the previous flashback, five hundred years after the establishment of telekinetic power.  If it’s five hundred years after the events of the story we may as well stop now, because why be a hero when your actions are doomed to lead to an oppressive empire?

I wish I were a psion so I could set fire to people for not commenting on my blog posts.

Somehow something must have gone wrong with that evil empire to leave us in the current demon-haunted world. I wonder if it has anything to do with the “karma demon” the students were reading about in class.  Taken at face value, it suggests that if a psion becomes sufficiently evil (or full of “bad karma”, which I think is just the Eastern version of evil) then the psion undergoes a change and becomes a force of destruction in his environment and has to drown himself before he destroys everything.  It’s possibly incorrect to take it at face value, though.  It seems like sort of a morality story, trying to set norms for their children of “don’t be evil” (seems like a good norm) and “if you must be evil at least drown yourself” (perhaps a little more controversial). On the other hand, there are cat demons that eat bad little children, so morality stories may well have physical force in this world.  It’s fantasy, after all.

The centerpiece of the episode was the rolling-ball tournament. For the most part it was good clean fun and nothing seemed to be much of a symbol of anything.

It’s robot fightin’ time.

Well, it would be a waste to put magical powers in your world and not have some sort of sporting competition/game based around them.  Their game was a lot more interesting than Quiddich, although I’m not sure why they went to all that trouble making fancy person-shaped clay dolls to control.  It seems like a simple solid wedge would be less prone to breaking and would tend to win in a fight… Except I guess that if you’re not allowed to lift the ball off the ground, a solid wedge might be a good way to accidentally break the rules, if the ball rolled on top of it.  And since accidentally breaking the rules gets you eaten by demon cats, you’d want to take care.

Seriously, what’s up with the demon cats?  I had figured the adults were just helpless to stop  them from eating children if they got old enough without hitting magical puberty, and I figured that the chick who was just bad at magic didn’t count as having gone through magical puberty because she was so bad at it, and that’s why she was eaten.  But apparently misusing your magic gets you fed to demon cats too, and the adult who saw the boy blatantly misusing his magic didn’t seem to care about it, probably thinking “ah well, he’ll get eaten by the demon cats anyway”.  Are the adults actively feeding children to the demon cats? That seems a little unkind.  I recognize they have to do certain things to survive in this harsh environment, and non-harmonious or magically-untalented people are only going to drain their resources and leave them vulnerable. I guess we should be glad that we don’t live in a world ravaged by demons, to have to make these choices.

I mean, if they don’t keep up a strict regimen of purging the unworthy, they could end up like the ratmen:

The new world’s 99%.

The ratmen are not good clean fun, I’m pretty sure they’re supposed to be a metaphor for the poor, or third-world sweatshop workers, or something.  A ratman falls in the river and the first-class human beings worry about whether they’ll get yelled at for trying to help it.  On the other hand, even the rich first-world equivalents have to deal with constant demonic harassment and cats eating all their children, I don’t think they qualify as “privileged” per se.  Even if they can use magic, and are free from the grotesque physical deformities of the ratmen.  Well, I guess privilege is a relative thing.  Even the most privileged in society today is still haunted by the relentless forces of entropy that gnaw away at everything they’ve ever loved.  First world problems.

So next episode they’re going camping!  That should be fun, right?  I’m looking forward to it, they’ve created a compelling world and I’m interested in seeing what it looks like outside the Holy Barrier.