Writing anime reviews is a fairly new thing to me, and is something I still don’t exactly feel comfortable with. I hope that as time goes on it will become easier and more natural as i develop my writing muscle, but for now I stumble through the foggy labyrinth that is my thoughts, and struggle to make them legible. From the New World has been a show that I’ve so desperately wanted to review, but have never trusted myself to do it justice. While hopefully one day i will look back in shame on this review, now that I have watched it for a second time, I figure it is as good a time as any to share my thoughts.
I’m putting this out there now; I’m going to do my best to keep things as spoiler free as possible, but with a show as cloaked in mystery as this one, some minor spoilers will sneak in. If you are only here to find out if it’s worth watching, the answer is yes. If you are super spoiler sensitive, scroll all the way to the bottom for my score and some summary information.
From the New World aired back in fall 2012 to a fairly underwhelming reception. It’s not that you heard bad things, but it was heavily overshadowed by a collection of juggernauts airing that season including SAO, Chuunibyou, Psycho-Pass, and at least five others that went on to be extremely popular. The only time it entered the consciousness of the anime hive mind is when an episode aired with some heavy yuri and yaoi scenes, and surprisingly that was to mostly negative press. This is A-1 pictures we are talking about though, and they practically don’t know the meaning of the word disappointment, so quality was a foregone conclusion.
From the New World shows its cards within moments of its opening, and then promptly tucks them away for future use. The population of Humanity has been reduced to ashes with only a small fraction left alive, and we see brief glimpses of just how that happened. Ultimately, too much power brought untold destruction, as human beings began to develop the ability to manipulate matter telekinetically. With this incredible power in even a few of the wrong hands, chaos and destruction reigned supreme.
Fast forward a whole bunch of years and we are with Saki Watanabe and her group of friends in the small village community of Kamisu 66. Things seem peaceful, and life is good in the quaint Japanese town; a stark contrast to the scenes of people exploding that we were just subjected to. There is a point where you may even be fooled into thinking this is just another school show with a twist, and you would be wrong.
One of the many things the first couple acts of From the New World pulls off fantastically is a constant state of unease. Things seem fine on the surface, but it’s painfully apparent that darkness lurks just beneath these social customs. Through strange folklore, odd sightings, and rumors of children disappearing, the seemingly normal lives that the characters are living come into question. Saki and her friends are just as much in the dark as we are, and through her uniquely inquisitive nature, slowly each mystery is revealed only to discover a whole new host of questions. You won’t notice it until your second viewing, but there is near constant foreshadowing that’s taking place as well, making it arguably more enjoyable on the re-watch, even without the element of surprise.
The world building in this story is beautifully complex, and as you may expect when you hear the title, the world and society itself is a central character. Without context there would be little way of knowing that this story takes place in the future, as the setting resembles more of what you would expect from a samurai flick. It’s understandable that technology would take a back seat when humans have attained such mental power, but there is deep meaning to nearly every facet of why and what the world has become. While at times the story may feel like it is meandering, every detail plays an important role, and ties up into a tightly wrapped bow by its conclusion.
The cast of five main characters consist of Saki, Satoru, Maria, Shun, and Mamoru, all who are friends from childhood and a study group at school. While they all play important roles in the story, Saki Watanabe is the unquestioned lead, and honestly the only one that gets much characterization other than maybe Satoru. Saki is strong willed, and one of the few children who question some of the illogical nonsense that goes on in her village. While certainly not a focus, some of the romantic entanglements between the five are pretty silly and unbelievable, but the story gives us reason to believe that there is more than meets the eye there. Ultimately, these characters certainly play a roll in the outcome of the story, but mostly the world itself takes the reigns, and they are along for the ride with the viewer.
It would be impossible to talk about characters without digging into one of the story’s most important and well developed roles. Squealer is a Monster Rat; a subservient race of bipedal rat-like creature who see the humans as deities and bow to their will. While the main cast finds themselves in a dangerous and unfamiliar place, this little guy comes to their rescue, but it doesn’t take long before his behavior brings his motives into question. Squealer is intelligent, manipulative, and cunning; while the humans look down on him and his people as inferior beings, he plays them like a well tuned fiddle, always using them to further his goals. Squealer’s actions and ambition play a central role from behind the scenes throughout most of the series, and like him or not, he’s one hell of a dynamic character.
The relationship between the humans and monster rats raises one of the many interesting moral questions that the series touches on. Anti human sentiment is nothing new these days, and most people won’t hesitate to acknowledge how selfish, elitist, and destructive we are as a species. However, when raised with the possibility of living alongside another intelligent race, especially one that we see as inferior, how would we treat them? I would assume very much the same way that the monster rats are treated in From the New World. A lot of the things Humanity does throughout the series are downright despicable, and impossible to defend, but as a viewer i was still sympathetic to their situation. We are provided with many questions in this show, and while many are answered, some are left for the viewer to decide, like who are the good guys really?
From the New World provides us with a fantastically deep and engaging story, so deep that even with two cors there are a couple episodes solely dedicated to info dumping. These episodes are so densely packed with information that it’s near impossible to comprehend the first time around. Adding a few episodes may have helped control the flood, but would have almost certainly made the show drag. Whether this counts as a strike against it is a matter of opinion, but I’m cutting it some slack here. As I said before, a lot of this becomes clear after a re-watch, but don’t be surprised if parts don’t make sense the first time around.
It helped during some of the slower episodes that visually the show was very pretty most of the time. There were some episodes where the animation quality dropped around the middle, but it was corrected fairly quickly and overall was very well done. The character designs themselves are kinda bland, but I really appreciated some of the creative outfits that they wore. I have seen better depictions of the Japanese countryside in anime, but this show did a solid job of creating a world that was beautiful while still being intimidating.
The soundtrack was nothing short of outstanding. There are countless notable background tracks that perfectly set the mood in whatever scene they’re in. “Going Home” for example, was a melody that was played throughout Kamisu 66 to notify the children of curfew, and served as the show’s main theme. The song reflected the peaceful yet sorrowful air of the town, and carried added significance as it was pulled from a symphony by Czech composer Antonin Dvorak named “From the New World,” the anime’s namesake. There is no opening, but the first ending is one of my all time favorites, featuring not only a wonderful song in Wareta Ringo, but a uniquely beautiful animation sequence that ties into the show nicely.
Having now watched it with the Japanese and English audio, I can say that both are very well done and you should choose based on your overall preference, though English may help with some of the more “info dumpy” episodes. While I typically prefer subtitles, and this show is no exception, I do have to give some huge props to the English voice acting crew. Emily Neves did a wonderful job as Saki, and I was particularly impressed with her ability to give Saki several believable voice changes after the few time skips that happen over course of the show. I was also very impressed with John Kaiser’s rendition of Squealer, as his wide range of dialects perfectly represented the characters complexity and only added to his depth.
TL;DR: Overall, From the New World is a masterpiece, and in my opinion one of the best anime ever made. The story is masterfully written, and a fascinating take on a utopian future. The design and animation are beautiful, with only a couple small hiccups, and the soundtrack is nearly perfect. This is a must watch for any anime fan, and especially fans of the supernatural, mystery, and even horror genres.
Recommended Audience: This show can get quite violent, and has many on screen deaths, with some being quite graphic. There are some yuri and yaoi scenes, but they never move past first base. The subject matter definitely aims at a teen or adult audience.
Scoring this has been a struggle for me guys.. Nothing is perfect, but I do believe that From the New World is about as close as it gets….
From the New World escapes the Impure Cats unscathed with 5/5 HP
What are your thoughts on From the New World? Think I’m crazy? Share it in the comments, and thanks for reading!