The Bad Guys Won, But There May Be Hope: Thoughts on the Ending of Shin Sekai Yori

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Through the latter half of Shin Sekai Yori it’s been evident how terrible the human society of villages has been not just to their own people, but to the other major, intelligent inhabitants of the land. And even if Squealer’s rebellion was indiscriminate, one could definitely understand why he and the other bakenezumi did what they did. And the world might be better off without humans warping the world around them with Cantus leakage, creating all sorts of dangers and mutations. And as if this didn’t weigh against the humans enough, most of their leadership and the majority of the rest of the villagers refused to learn from what happened, slipping to depths of even more barbaric cruelty in the trial and sentencing of Squealer. So the bad guys won. Though hopefully people like Saki and Satoru can find another way to change things besides wars of genocide.

Out of all fiction, I really enjoy the stories where I can get inside the head of characters in conflict. Squealer’s rebellion had aimed to wipe out all humans, and the ethical and rules-of-war part of me was abhorred by it. But then, the humans are so much more powerful than any bakenezumi could hope to be, so does the existence of any Cantus-using human not constitute a existential threat, forever into the future? Think of things as Squealer: The humans have a history of wiping out whole colonies and executing individuals simply for failing to treat them like gods. And while there might be good individuals like Satoru and Saki, they clearly aren’t in control of policy. And even if they were and you signed a treaty recognizing your rights and sovereignty, within every Cantus user is the ability to destroy whole colonies. What if they change their minds, or a new regime comes to power? You have no power over them if they go back on their word. None of your military strength can compare, there’s no system of international law, and they’d either laugh in your face or execute you if you told them you were human too. Now that you have newer weapons, a mostly united bakenezumi alliance, and the Messiah, you’ve got one shot. Best to just wipe them all out rather than make a show of force and regret it later when they mobilize against you. It’s not like they view you as anything but animals anyway. The name of their “Office of Exospecies Control” says it all.

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Saki, understandably, wanted to protect her home and people, and thus enabled the human victory by asking Kiroumaru to lay down his life. She’s now in a position of power on the Ethics Committee to try and change things for the better. And I think it might be an even more hopeful ending with the late reveal that the bakenezumi are just the non-Cantus humans that were engineered to be a subservient species. Since the fall of the Old Civilization, new societies were built up on the bodies of those they killed. The Holy Cherry Blossom Empire was ruled like North Korea and killed untold numbers. Then a successful rebellion toppled it, only for its solution to Cantus violence to require the mutation and domination of all non-Cantus humans. And stability came through a paranoid Ethics Committee that had countless children killed on the small chance that they might become karma demons or fiends.

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The society of the villages, like most countries in the real world, has its darker moments in history. Atrocities and wrongs that were as much a part of building it up as ideals or laws. But despite everything that happened before, the right people can change the present and future. Violent rebellions like Squealer’s or the one that ended the Holy Cherry Blossom Empire aren’t the only way to change history. So in the end, Shin Sekai Yori offered that hope that the crimes of the past don’t have to continue into yet more bloodshed.

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  1. Posted March 24, 2013 at 3:48 pm | Permalink

    Sad and a very rage ending

  2. Bear
    Posted March 25, 2013 at 2:27 pm | Permalink

    At first I thought this was a dystopia, but it’s really a horror story. Saki is still a child of her society. She can’t let Satoru sacrifice himself to stop the fiend but she has no problem with Kiroumaru doing it. Even in the epilog we see her (now a member of the Ethics Committee) raising tainted cats (and we know what they are used for). It’s seems obvious now that the death feedback experienced by the priest in episode 4 was due to the fact that he knew that the queerrats were modified humans. Their society was just a follow on to the slaver societies. They had just found a way to make their slaves appear less human. Dehumanize your opponents and anything becomes doable to them.

  3. Posted March 28, 2013 at 1:31 am | Permalink

    Just War Theory loses most of its meaning when it comes to total war. Like you said, any single human has more than enough power to both wage war against and eradicate the bakenezumi, so with that in mind, Squealer’s plan was the only rational strategy to secure his people’s future.

    Though I wouldn’t go as far as to say that the bad guys won. One of the groups had to be on top so it might as well have been the humans. It’s not like the atrocities committed by them were really any worse than those committed by the bakenezumi. If anything, the message I got from the ending was that both sides had sensible but conflicting goals. It’s unfortunate that it had to end in war, but the blame clearly fell on both sides.

    When reading your summary of the conflict, I couldn’t help but think of the relationship between modernized countries and the developing world. There certainly are some disturbing similarities between the two. Smaller nations have literally no way to stand against the NATO through conventional means, but nuclear and biological weapons level the playing field at the cost of indiscriminate death and destruction. If we don’t carefully considered those in developing countries, we may unwittingly unleash a different kind of fiend into our own world.

  4. CTT
    Posted March 28, 2013 at 11:32 pm | Permalink

    Hope the hunters got to celebrate a few generations before they were turned into rat people. Well. rat people and whatever awesome creature Kiromauru is

  5. Posted March 30, 2013 at 3:27 pm | Permalink

    I agree with KITSU

    think that this is a sad final and coulkd be better in my opinion :(

  6. Marigoldran
    Posted March 31, 2013 at 12:55 pm | Permalink

    Eh. I’m always on the side which looks more cute. And the Queerrats don’t look very cute to me.

    What comes around, goes around.

  7. skeine
    Posted April 5, 2013 at 3:07 pm | Permalink

    Humans have a remarkable talent for commiting genocide against species that are even a minor threat to us — some of it is even unintentional. Sounds like the bakenezumi were admirably fulfilling their genetic imperative. I haven’t seen Shin Sekai Yori but this review makes me think I need to check it out. Thanks.

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