I preface this review with the statement that I haven’t reviewed an anime series before; the absence of reviews for this one has convinced me to write my first (and probably only).
As there are many plot summaries readily available elsewhere, I will describe Shinsekai Yori’s only briefly here. Set approximately one thousand years after the fall of contemporary society, the anime follows the stories of four children in a world where people wield a power called “Cantus,” a telekinetic power. During adventures beyond the watchful eyes of the elders and in encounters with the world beyond the village, the children and the audience come to understand a humanity at war with itself even as it is at war with external forces. The plot, driven by these two wars and by the extraordinary events which unfold from their interplay, culminates in a conflict which forces the characters and the audience to question which side, if any, is fighting the good fight and what humanity has become.
The summary above may be unsatisfying and, perhaps, confusing; one strength which should be evident, however, is that this anime goes beyond the lives of its protagonists. It strikes a good balance between character-driven storytelling and plot-driven storytelling, possessing character development without straying too far from a consistent and gripping overall narrative. It also does a good job of appealing to the audience’s interest in past events while setting the stage for an enjoyable story for the present, balancing well the audience’s interests in the past and present.
Another notable strength of this anime, one evidenced by the strengths described above, is that its plot is not entirely driven by its supernatural elements. Thus, while Cantus is an important part of the story, it is hardly its central focus and it yields the spotlight to more important details and plot. Another similar strength is that the anime does not depend heavily upon a poorly written love story; it understands that it is not a love story and it doesn’t try to be one.
Finally, I will comment positively on the less tangible atmosphere created by the anime. The animation quality is rather good and, combined with the music and voice acting throughout, succeeds in eliciting feelings of wonder, suspense, and mystery at the appropriate moments. While there are few fast-paced action sequences, and while these may be animated somewhat less well than the rest of the show, they are relatively unimportant and hardly central to enjoyment of what this series tries to create.
Despite these strengths, there are some aspects of this anime which bothered me a bit as I was watching it. The first few episodes, while clear the second time around, can be a bit confusing the first time through; however, this seems to be intentional, since the confusion at the beginning does make details revealed later more interesting. The rest of the series makes the potentially confusing beginning well worth watching.
Another issue some might have with the anime—one characteristic of almost any anime involving supernatural powers—is a difficulty accepting certain aspects of the power, Cantus. If one is willing to overlook a few major questions about Cantus and how it is controlled, however, one will find that the power and descriptions of it are fairly consistent throughout the show and do not cross enough lines to cause much real discontent with the series.
Ultimately, this short series is well worth a watch. Having watched many short and long series, I was pleasantly surprised by an anime which combines character-driven and plot-driven storytelling in such a brief but entertaining way. Not everyone appreciates the same stories,