English Title: From the New World
Japanese Title: 新世界より
Director(s): Ishihama Masashi
Screenwriter(s): Sogo Masashi
Studio: A-1 Pictures Released: 2012–2013
Runtime: 25 episodes, ~25m each.
Starring: Taneda Risa, Tojo Kanako, Todo Mai, Hanazawa Kana, Kudo Haruka, Namikawa Daisuke, Hirata Hiroaki
My Verdict: Intriguing coming-of-age supernatural-fantasy mystery involving humans with telekinesis set in an idyllic village. Highly recommended.
● Based on the novel of the same name by Kishi Yusuke that was first published in 2008, From the New World is a somewhat unique series. Although it contains many recognizable elements, the way it is put together makes it an intriguing and captivating work. Please note that I have not read the novel so the review is purely of the series.
● The title is a reference to Antonin Dvorak’s Symphony No. 9 From the New World. Part of the second movement is used in the series.
● Saki, Satoru, Shun, Maria and Mamoru are 12-year-olds who live in what appears to be an idyllic village in Japan. Initially, it is not clear when this is set. The audience is shown a glimpse of present day in which someone with what appears to be telekinetic powers goes on a rampage, and this is obviously disconnected from the world in which our main characters live. So, this world could be in the past, the future or even some alternate timeline. This is deliberately unclear initially, which adds to the intrigue, but it is revealed in the first few episodes.
● The humans in this world possess telekinetic powers called “Cantus” although children do not initially possess such abilities. The plot begins with young Saki manifesting powers, a sort of awakening, which allows her to join her friends at the Sage Academy. It is the norm for children to develop their powers at school.
● The early episodes contain worldbuilding which also serves as signposts for plot development. This is mostly well done because there are no few elements, and although a thinking viewer will no doubt map out plot possibilities, one is never quite certain where the series is going early on.
● For example: there are a couple of children who go missing; people’s Cantus can get out of control, causing serious harm; the residents of the village, at least the children, are not supposed to go beyond a certain point away from the village; children are also meant to be home by sunset; there are sentient but less advanced creatures called “Queerats” that serve humans and which look like mutated humanoid mole rats; and as children get a little older, they are also encouraged to be somewhat amorous amongst themselves, not outright promiscuous but certainly taking a more liberal approach for the purposes of reducing stress.
● Given the above, what initially appears to be a coming-of-age supernatural-fantasy mystery is then accompanied by strong dystopian elements. The pains of growing up, friendship and dealing with the past are still very much part of the story, but it is apparent that societal and individual control and the role of authority are also central themes. The plot follows an inquisitive Saki as the main viewpoint character as she navigates into adolescence.
● Visually, it is mostly well done. There are a few moments where the action (motion) is a little clumsy but, on balance, it is of good quality. The village and landscapes are beautifully rendered.
● This is one of the few works that successfully combines mystery-thriller with dark and poignant coming-of-age themes in such a way that is emotionally satisfying. And on a related note, it also deals with dystopian themes without excessive commentary, keeping the story personal by focusing on Saki and her village.
● This review is admittedly vague but to reveal any more would potentially spoil the series.
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