Review for From the New World Part 2
You might have guessed that this was coming after I reviewed Part 1 of From the New World on Blu-ray. But there are certain anime shows that really need to be seen in the best possible light, and the artwork and music in this series is such that you can really appreciate the difference between the DVD and the BD releases. As I mentioned in the previous double-dip review, what kept me from upgrading it in the first place was a reported incompatibility problem with certain players that couldn’t be rectified at the time of release. I waited until the MVM Christmas sale to get it as cheaply as possible, so the pain wouldn’t be so bad if it failed to work. Fortunately, From the New World works just fine on my Panasonic players. I think it’s probably karma, after Kazé’s Un-Go which refused to work.
The New World of the title is the world of the future, 1000 years hence, when humanity is finally at peace, and existing in small peaceful rural communities free of pollution, greed, over-exploitation and crime. It’s all down to the mind, as mankind really has evolved. Now, everyone is born with psycho-kinetic abilities, the power of mind over matter, and from birth is taught how to control those powers, use them in a constructive way to be an integral part of the community.
For Saki Watanabe, the next milestone on her journey to adulthood has arrived as she graduates from elementary school as her powers develop. She’s a late bloomer, the last of her friends to start the Academy, but it’s when she realises that she is the last in her class to graduate that she starts to ask questions about her world. What happened to the children that were left behind? Why do children at the Academy vanish? And what is it that the adults don’t tell them about the world in which they live? Why aren’t they allowed even to be curious?
Twelve episodes of From the New World Part 2 conclude the series and are presented across two discs from MVM.
16. To My Beloved Saki
17. Footsteps of Destruction
18. Scarlet Flower
20. A Cold and Sunlit Place
21. The Fire that Destroys the World
23. The Face of the Boy
24. Torchlight in the Darkness
25. From the New World
From the New World gets a 1.78:1 widescreen 1080p transfer. The show looked good on MVM’s DVDs, but the Blu-ray is a whole other level. The transfer is really quite good, bringing across the animation smoothly, offering excellent detail for the image, and the show’s spectacular colour palette is done full justice by the Blu-rays. The only niggle is the familiar complaint of banding, this time it’s really only in scene fades, and one or two darker moments. It’s not as bad as it could have been.
From the New World’s animation is fantastic. The backgrounds are rich in detail, the character designs are evocative and memorable, and the quality of the animation borders on the theatrical. From the New World is a rare, purely dramatic show, and it makes great use of style and atmosphere to tell its story, whether it’s grainy flashback sequences, silhouetted animation, or rotoscoped character animation for the action sequences. It’s a high quality, high budgeted work that really does sell its story on the strength of the visuals. It makes you forget that you are even watching an animation, and lets you lose yourself in the story.
You have the choice between PCM 2.0 Stereo English and Japanese, with translated subtitles and a signs only track locked during playback. It will come as no surprise that I went with, and was very happy with the original Japanese audio. But I did have some trepidation about the usual standard of Sentai dubs, and from what little I sampled, it wasn’t quite that bad. Some of the characters, particularly Maria didn’t get suitable voices, but the actor performances are a little more agreeable this time around. The dialogue is clear throughout, there’s a nice level of stereo separation for the sound effects, and the show’s music works well. The subtitles too, are accurately timed and free of typographical error.
From the New World once more gets the static menu presentation. The only extras are on disc 2, 6:42 of promos for the series, the textless closing for the second half, and Hanabee (and in some cases MVM) trailers for Nekomonogatari Black, Amnesia, Devil Survivor 2, Valvrave the Liberator, and Watamote.
I was a little justified in not expecting Part 2 to continue in the same vein as Part 1. If Part 1 accomplished the world-building aspect of From the New World, introducing its characters, setting the scene, exploring just what made this distant future world tick, with its populace of humans with god-like powers, and their Monster Rat servants, then Part 2 is where the meat of the story is, which takes the speculative fiction of Part 1 and extrapolates just what will result. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as even the hardest of SF needs a little story to hook the reader, or the viewer. It’s how that story is accomplished that is the thing. From the New World Part 2 has more than the odd misstep in how its story unfolds, but the final moments of the show are a corker, a twist worthy of any classic SF author, and the best Outer Limits episodes. It’s wholly unexpected, and it blew my mind. For about an hour afterwards, I was convinced that this was the best sci-fi anime that I had seen the past few years, but then I remembered Psycho-Pass, and then I also recalled those missteps that I mentioned. Also the thing about mind blowing twists are that they only work the once. When it comes to repeat viewing, you won’t have that crutch to fall back on, and you’ll have to evaluate the show as a whole.
The story is Rise of the Planet of the Monster Rats, and it begins during the first three episodes of this release, which conclude a story arc that began at the end of the previous volume. Two of Saki’s group, Mamoru and Maria decide to leave the town when it becomes clear that the elders have prejudged Mamoru and found his development insufficient for society. By this point it’s become clear that the humans practice a terminal form of social engineering on their children to weed out aberrations or abnormal development, something that’s understandable if cruel when you’re dealing with godlike powers. Mamoru and Maria’s departure from the village serves as the trigger for the plan of the Monster Rats.
We met a few notable Monster Rats in the first volume, notably the forthright and honourable Kiroumaru, as well as the wily and scheming Squeara. We also got a look at how the society of the Monster Rats was structured, functioning as a hive, but with the individual members with almost human intelligence, bred to serve humanity at the whim of humans with mental powers that the rats do not share, and do not comprehend. It became clear pretty quickly that the Monster Rats were a slave race, and the consequences of that subservient relationship to man is all too predictable; rebellion.
We have a significant time skip here, as the story jumps ahead 12 years, and that is pretty hard to justify in a narrative, and I found it to be a little jarring in the story, as was the brief hit of exposition to catch up on all the significant events in the story. The two remaining survivors of Group 1, Saki and Satoru are now functioning members of society, with Saki well on her way to that position of leadership for which she has been bred. And it’s then that the Monster Rat uprising begins. The reason for their wait before striking back against the humans becomes clear when their trump card is revealed. They have an ‘ogre’ at their command. An ogre is what the humans term someone who loses control of their powers, the harsh elimination of children during childhood and adolescence is in large part to prevent the creation of ogres, so the question arises of where this one came from.
Speaking of questions, a fair few of those questions that were left lingering at the end of Part 1 almost get forgotten as the show focuses on the Monster Rat rebellion, although one very important question does get a partial answer as the series concludes. But the focus is very much on the Monster Rats, as a potential weapon against the ogre is revealed, and Saki and Satoru have to go on a journey to the ruins of Tokyo to find it. It’s here that we get some idea of what happened to human society, its downfall a thousand years previously, and we also get some idea of where and why the mutated menagerie of dangerous animals has arisen.
Speaking of repeat viewing, this Blu-ray marks the second time that I have watched the story, and I have to say that it stands up really quite well. The strength of the story and the quality of the science fiction does indeed shine through, and the twists and revelations actually have more resonance given that you’ve experienced the show already and understand the context in which they occur. The issues are still there, but aren’t quite as significant as the story takes on more of a sci-fi epic feel the second time around. I actually liked From the New World even more with a second viewing, and stories of its calibre really are few and far between.