Warning: The episode contains death, child abduction and murder. These things will be discussed in the review. That is the trigger warning. Leave now if you wish.
Also Spoilers for both this episode and the series overall. I have seen the whole series and will be discussing how this episode fits into the overall arc. So big spoilers are everywhere here. Consider that your warning.
Okay after an interesting start with some problems back in episode one how does episode two hold up. Well it’s a big improvement. So to start lets get on with the recap and then the analysis.
Recap: Okay so the first thing that happens in the episode is that we get this seemingly kinda of random scene where this guy becomes the new Emperor. This clearly takes place in an era before the main story. Anyway this Emperor states that the first 200 people to stop clapping will be put to death. He does this using his telekinesis. The episode then moves on to the main story of the series.
The next scene is back at the Unification class. Shun is reading out the story of a Karma Demon in class. The Karma Demon was initially a boy in a village much like their own. This boy was very much gifted and intelligent but then he became convinced he was better then anyone else. He became lonely and isolated because he was more intelligent or so be believed. In the end this causes seeds of Karma to take root in this boy turning him into a Karma demon. No longer human, this Demon left the village and vanished into the lake.
The next scene is about a game the different groups play against each other. I won’t rehash the rules of this game as they are explained in the episode rather clearly. Narrated by adult Saki. The characters have gotten a little bit older both in terms of voice and appearance since the last episode. Saki and Satoru fight and bicker. While Shun is the de facto leader. Mari and Saki are close as are Mari and Mamoru. Saki is crushing on Shun and Satoru is jealous but he also greatly admires and looks up to Shun.
The group spends time coming up with strategies and pieces to play this game. Next we see the actual game which is handled really well. It’s fun to watch and enjoyable. They run into problems when one of their pieces breaks so they are forced to improvise. But the real plot development comes . The mains are in group one and were expecting to have to head up against group three. But instead find themselves up against group two. The reason it being foul play on group two’s part. Group one sadly faces the same problem. The ref calls the match a tie. A member of group two Manabu Katayama gloats over this. He was the one cheating in the games. Group one are left to accept their lot. However things are going to be worse for Manabu Katayama. The last we see of him the Impure Cat’s shadow is following him.
We get then another scene of Saki and her mother together. Saki tries asking the usual questions but her mother dodges them as usual. Saki and her friends also meet a pair of monster rats in this episode. Saki even going as far to prevent one from drowning. We learn through a flashback that the Monster Rats treat humans as Gods. But that small children are kept away from them as they do not have powers. The Monster Rats live in many tribes and some struggle to speak.
The episode ends with Group one embarking on their camping trip. They are to row up the river and find a place to stay. Once again we hear older Saki’s voice. We learn that she and Mari are only a week apart. That Mari nearly died when born and only if she had so many other people might have lived. Older Saki also confirms that Manabu Katayama and Reiko Amano are erased from the school books and no one seemed to care.
Analysis: The random scene does get explained further down the line so it’s not too big of an issue. Better yet it is in its proper place chronologically for the episodes story line so I digress. While there are some flashbacks in this episode the timeline is much more linear and has a much more natural feel. There is no jumping back and fourth to fill in blank spaces. The only flashback of real importance was the information about the monster rats. So already this is an improvement.
But there is also the other problem I had from episode one. We now have not one but two dead characters who we knew nothing about. We get it this is a series where people can and will die. Aside from this the stuff episode one did well was only improved on here. The animation is even better and the colors brighter then before. While a dark palette did work well in the last episode I interested in seeing how this develops further. The voice acting is good and the music is effective.
But what I found the most interesting was that it is here in this episode we have the first glimpse of characters blossoming sexual feelings. Saki and Satoru both like Shun at this point. Maybe that’s what underlies all that bickering the two have. That or feelings for each other as Satoru seems jealous of Saki’s affection for Shun. Sexuality in From The New World is not the same as are own. It is also important to keep in mind about how cultural differences between the West and Japan may have shaped the depiction of sexuality. Sexuality is going to grow in importance through out the series and I plan on doing a whole separate post looking purely at the theme of sexuality.
Another point which was something I didn’t talk about in the last review but now wish I had was that this show really has mastered the art of foreshadowing future events. Things are not going to be easy for Group One. I won’t comment too much on what exactly was foreshadowed and where. I will bring it up when it comes true. Alas however this is only episode two. Some ways to go. Even with a few problems the anime is clearly developing in a good way in it’s second episode. This episode really was in many ways a treat to watch especially the game scenes.