From The New World Part 1 (Episodes 1-13) (Cert 15)
2 Discs (Distributor: MVM) Running time: 283 minutes approx.
Mankind is quite often its own worst enemy as we see every day in the news with the various violent costly military disputes happen in across the globe. In a world where humans have developed psychokinetic powers used for evil intent the end result is, as you might expect, a devastating one. One thousand years after such a catastrophic event, those who still posses these abilities – know conversely as either God’s Powers or Cursed Powers – are taught to harness them in a more peaceful manner.
Years after her powers were sealed away Saki Watanabe is awakened and allowed to join her friends at school in the small, idyllic village of Kamisu’s 66th district. There they are divided into groups to learn together how to best nurture their psychokinetic skills. However when one girl, Reiko, displays signs of weakness in her abilities she mysteriously disappears and is never spoken of again. After a group tournament one of the members of the losing team also vanishes without a mention. Being the only one to notice this Saki begins a quest to find out why this is, uncovering many buried secrets and truths about their world she soon wished she had left alone.
For those yearning for a school/youth based anime which doesn’t pander the usual lazy conventions and offer something new, mature and intelligent then From The New World is the answer to your prayers. This dystopian tale began life as a novel by Yusuke Kishi and takes in many different genres making it difficult to label but should ensure a wide audience as a result. It’s part sci-fi, part fantasy, part mystery and part horror while serving as an allegory for the tumultuous years of teenage life.
The first few episodes are preceded by a short clip featuring a violent and destructive outburst clearly set in a different era; these may seem incongruous and confusing at first but an explanation is forthcoming a few episodes in. While on a summer camp Saki and her friends, Satoru, Mamoru, Maria and Shun, decide to investigate the legend of the False Minoshiro, a supposedly deadly creature but the one they encounter communicates politely with them, revealing the true stories of the world of days gone by, destroyed by people with psychokinetic powers.
As shocking as this is for them, more upsetting revelations follow when a band of Monster Rats attack them, Saki and Satoru are separated from the others but they are saved by a rat named Squealer from the Robber Fly colony, which is in the midst of a conflict against the Ground Spider colony. To the rats people with Saki and Satoru’s abilities are gods so Squealer appeals to them for help in the conflict. By becoming involved the teens learn more about their powers and the underground world they knew nothing of, gradually revealing more information about their own history.
There is a sort of Narnia-esque feel to this mini-arc with Saki and Satoru playing the kids and the world of the feuding Monster Rats being on the other side of the wardrobe. This isn’t a direct comparison, just a tenuous one to best explain one of the many aspects of this mutli-faceted tale. Kishi has created a complex and exciting world which will likely draw comparisons to other literary or movie domains through aesthetic or storyline, translating nicely into animated form via A-1 Pictures.
A prevalent eerie quality is aided partially by the ethereal choral soundtrack (similar to that featured in Shiki), along with the slightly muted colour palette the visuals are rendered in. The character designs are rather rough and incomplete compared to other anime but this again is a key feature in creating the unique atmosphere of this show. The Monster Rats for example are an ugly bunch who benefit from such a loose art style yet never once clash with the handsomely detailed backgrounds and set pieces.
While the first disc covers the happenings at summer camp, the second disc leaps forward a few years and the cast are now well into adolescence. In an interesting twist having learned the basic of mating from the False Minoshiro the kids go about exploring their own desires wherever and with whomever they see fit, resulting in some same sex partnerships which no-one frowns upon. However still lingering in Saki’s mind is the disappearance of her classmates and when one key member of the group stops coming to school, panic sets in. Once again the search for the truth yields more earth shattering results and for the remainder of the group, their key imperative is now survival.
This is definitely a show that requires both patience and your undivided attention. It is admittedly something of a slow burner with the first few episodes gently setting the groundwork for what is to come later, but when it picks up and all the elements start to come together it is not difficult to become deeply engrossed and invested in the story. Because of the nature of the hidden truths you are to be prepared to expect a couple of episodes that are pure exposition and backstory but they are important for both filling in the blanks and setting up the next stage of the story.
It is rare to find a series that can successfully blend so many distinct genre elements and incorporate events from many distant time periods without losing them to poor plotting pitfalls or simply overloading a story for the sake of it. There is a palpable weight of intelligence behind the story as well as a subtle polemic on the consequences of abuse of power and the suppressing of history.
On the surface From The New World is for a niche audience but dig deeper and it has plenty to offer and to say to a wider audience. This strong first volume paves the way for a very intriguing and hopefully equally rewarding second half.
Japanese Language w/ English Subtitles
Disc 2 Only:
Clean Closing Animation
Rating – ****
Man In Black