I had no idea what to review this week … so I left it to chance. Manga Fox’s surprise me option handed me the manga adaptation of Yusuke Kishi ’s 2008 Nihon SF Taisho Award-winning novel Shin Sekai Yori (From the New World ). If there exists a translation of the novel, I am unaware of it. That’s too bad, because the sense I get from the manga is that the novel is an interesting work poorly served by its adaptation into a new medium.
Season of the Young Leaves
Outside the holy barrier around the town of Kamisu 66, endless danger! Within the barrier — no danger that the adults dare mention to their children.
The six inseparable friends — Saki Watanabe, Satoru Asahina, Maria Akizuki, Mamoru Itou, Shun Aonuma, and Reiko Amano — have all manifested their cantus or psychokinetic powers. Now it is time for the six to leave elementary school and graduate to their apotheosis class , where they will learn to master their cantus.
And what of those children who cannot learn to use their powers safely or whose powers are weak or nonexistent? They disappear. They are not killed; they are unpersoned. Of the six inseparable friends, only five are left: Saki Watanabe, Satoru Asahina, Maria Akizuki, Mamoru Itou, and Shun Aonuma. They have forgotten the friend who failed the course. They cannot even remember her name.
The term ”elementary school” is misleading. It’s not the same as our grades one through six. It’s simply the school for everyone who has not yet manifested PK powers. It’s not clear what the maximum age for elementary school might be, although it is obvious that there is one.
This gets the story off to a suitably ominous start. While the teens think they live in a happy oasis within a great wilderness, what we see of adult interaction makes it clear there are dangers even within the barrier. As Reiko’s fate makes even clearer.
Out of the Holy Barrier:
The humanoid queerats serve humans faithfully. When Satoru tries to scare his friends with a story about false queerats, queerats who do not venerate humans as gods but as prey, the five teens decide to head out into the uncharted wilds to prove that this is just a fabrication. What could go wrong?
Apparently even a thousand years from now, teenagers will make extremely stupid decisions. Even the super-powered teenagers. These particular teens are not worried about the demons said to live in the wilderness. They don’t even stop to think about what they will do if it turns out that Satoru’s story is true.
The bad news is at least one queerat is willing to attack humans. That’s not so bad: even an idiot teenager has a strong enough cantu to levitate the beast away. The bad news is that the rogue has friends. Lots of friends. And those friends know where the kids are.
Mamoru has a moment of very badly timed power incontinence. The queerats almost certainly would have attacked, but inadvertantly explodinating the captive queerat guarantees an assault.
Eyes in the Darkness
Escape from the pursuing queerats means trusting a different group of queerats. The Robber Fly colony can at least speak Japanese and they do save the teens’ lives. Can the kids get past their abhorrence of their hosts’ inhuman forms?
Queerats seem to be eusocial, with one very large female serving as the mother of the colony. Are they genetically engineered mole rats?
There’s a lot of interesting material here. It’s sad to see it so poorly served by the manga. The problem is fan-service , which leads to some really gratuitous pinup poses and costumes for the girls. Also to a reworking of the story to appeal to a male teen demographic. I gather that in the novel, everyone is bisexual and sexually active1; sex that can result in pregnancy is forbidden. The manga focuses only on how this plays out for the girls. A pox upon your sexism, I say.
The book sounds interesting and I will see if I can find a translation. The manga is just annoying.
Shin Sekai Yori, volume 1 is available here.
1: The sex releases stress. I guess it makes sense that people who can make each other explode when they are irked probably should try to avoid extended periods of stress and anxiety.