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From The New World Collection 1 Anime DVD Review

10 min read

From The New World Collection 1 DVD FrontReally, what can 1,000 years do to a society?

What They Say:
Born into a world a thousand years into our future, Saki and her friends Satoru, Maria, Mamoru and Shun have lived their entire lives in what seems to be a perfect utopia. Not only is their small idyllic community overflowing with clean rushing water and abundant green foliage, but almost all technology has been rendered irrelevant by the magical power of “Juryoku,” the psychic ability to materialize anything one desires. But when Saki discovers a long lost artifact from the past, the façade of their world is shattered and the cracks that split the foundation of reality threaten to swallow them whole! Faced with a bloody secret history of how their world really came to be a thrust into a nightmarish new paradigm, Saki and her companions are confronted with dangers they never knew existed and a series of choices that may change the fate of every intelligent creature on the planet—human and otherwise! Yusuke Kishi’s award winning novel becomes an epic newly animated series as five young teens fight to survive the shocking revelations that from From the New World!

Contains episodes 1–13

The Review:
Audio:
The audio is 2.0 for both the dub and the sub and sounds just fine. There’s a really cool soundtrack here, so I’m glad there’s nothing glaringly wrong.

Video:
The video looks good enough. Some grainyness, but nothing that I’ll cry about.

Packaging:
Standard Sentai stuffs here. As always, it feels pretty flimsy. The discs have a different kind of artwork on them that’s pretty neat though.

Menu:
The menu has the same neat-o artwork that the discs have, but otherwise standard. The art sits to one side of the episode pickin’s and you have at it. The ending plays over it, which has got to be one of the best endings in all anime.

Extras:
Nothing fancy here. Or, really, nothing at all here. Some Japanese promos, which are nice, and clean closing animation. Not even a clean opening! (Just kidding, there’s no opening to this anime.)

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
There’s a lot to unpack in just the first episode alone. I mean, From the New World opens in present day, where the faceless millions begin…dying. They’re blown to bloody messes on the ground, presumed to be because of one person or several persons who have mysterious powers. These mysterious powers that may or may not be hinted at are, as they say in Japanese and as Sentai so astutely describes, “Juryoku.” This is an interesting style choice on the part of Sentai, since they don’t actually use the word Juryoku in the dub.

These powers are what manifest in Saki in the early part of the first episode (I recall Crunchyroll’s subtitles calling them “Powers” with a capital P). The powers are not just the next evolution of man, nor is that what the series focuses on. What From the New World focuses on is the societal impacts that these new powers have and how the world has grown in 1,000 years.

Now more rural Japan lies isolated from everything else and that’s where Saki and the other main characters live. These powers aren’t something that they’re born with, but something that manifests. These powers also only have a set time to manifest before…well, we don’t quite know what happens to those people, but we can tell it isn’t bad. “I don’t want to lose another child,” Saki’s mom emphatically yells to her dad on the cusp of Saki’s own manifestation. These powers are what drive society and manifesting or not manifesting them is the pressure we put on our own children. The powers are the same as tests, just shown in a much more overt fashion. We also see the flawed test system, as those who failed are just killed. We obviously don’t kill our children if they fail tests, but the looks some parents give, the looks some teachers give, and the society that’s driven on test results not prowess in action is the metaphorical death we all have probably experienced throughout life.

Saki is the perfect representation of that failure and success as we blast through her early childhood into her tween/teen years. She’s the last person to graduate from Harmony Elementary School, but there are people after her. What happens to them, we ask, but receive no definitive answer. Only cryptic messages that we’re expected to decipher on our own. She’s suggested to get her powers and graduate from Harmony Elementary School, but when she finally does, she’s asked to lose them. It’s exactly like the job market. We’re expected to get good grades, and yet they’re useless after a year of real world experience. Then we’re expected to have job experience and references and our grades are essentially useless.

But this is more than that. Saki’s asked to give away that which she’s been clamoring for. She’s asked to give away the only thing that would let her be with her friends and make her parents happy and that’s heartbreaking. We’re only given a few short minutes, if that, to experience what is perhaps the most traumatic experience in her life thus far and, in hindsight, that makes it all the more hurtful. We see this manifest in full through Reiko. At this point, we don’t quite know what happens to people who fail, but it’s clear she’s failing. She has powers, but they’re weak or she just can’t control them. In an act of cruelty that only kids can display, they leave her behind after the very first time we see her and that’s the last time she’s seen. We can make our own inferences easily. The dark society—that maybe, for a few seconds, felt like a utopia—is suddenly turned upside down.

The first big hints at the flaws in this utopia appear with the Fake Minoshiro. The sequence takes up half of episode four, a fact that I am not all too happy about, and feels very info dump-y. In almost a question and answer format, Saki and the other four from Group 1 ask the Fake Minoshiro what happened to society. The thing lays it out for them and it’s just boring. I honestly don’t know how to say 1,000 years of history without being info dump-y or boring, but leaving it unsaid might have been just as good. The focus in the next few episodes is on the characters losing their powers and the suppressors that are put on them, which could have been done without the history lesson.

Once we run into the Monster Rats, the utopian society is put into more question. The Monster Rat’s society is similar to an ant’s. They have a queen that “leads” the workers. And those laborers and those workers and laborers fight amongst the other of their ilk. In a way, this is more sound than the utopia that the humans now live in, but their eyes are glazed over from having run it for so long. The Monster Rats fight amongst themselves for sovereignty, hoping that maybe the Giant Hornet or the Robber Fly colony will gain dominance over the others when, in truth, this is a truly futile battle. There is always someone over the Monster Rats in the food chain: humans.

This is shown no more obviously when Kiromaru defies the presumed human order and lets Group 1 leave, even leading them to safety. How could this Rat—who looks more human than any other (though his character design is made to look more human, there are distinct non-human elements beyond just the face, which makes his figure look very interesting)—be afraid of the real thing? Because they are gods in the Rats’ eyes. The humans possess a power far beyond anything a Rat could ever dream of wielding and Kiromaru fears that.

Their fears are certainly not unfounded. From the New World has been incredibly good, thus far, at pacing its story. With the exception of the Fake Minoshiro, it has slowly revealed this world more and more up to this point. There are always hints at something darker and it gets much more overt. What was once whispered tones are now outright accusations. Mamoru was attacked by a Trickster Cat and presumably only saved by Shun. To keep the utopia, they have to kill dozens upon dozens of fine people because they lack talent or the mental capacity to do work. It’s a harsh society to live in, but the people who live in it know no better. They don’t question it because A. It works and B. They don’t really know anything else.

Through all of this, Saki is the anchor. As is said, she remains steadfast when everyone else struggles to maintain. After the Fake Minoshiro incident, it seems Satoru has calmed down, but Maria and Mamoru are a little more touchy. And Shun has fallen off the deep end. He can’t contain the power and skill inside of him anymore with the knowledge he now holds. The few minutes of relationship between Shun and Satoru we see after the first time skip is representative of his slow collapse. It’s fine (after they return), but he’s hesitant (as the time moves on), and completely breaks (at the end). Satoru’s left with trying to fill in the holes, really to no avail.

Maria and Saki have gotten closer, and are also in a relationship, but Mamoru’s left on the sidelines, pining for someone like Reiko who he’ll never know again. These relationships, both homosexual, are escapes. Yes, they love each other. But no, they aren’t meant for each other, it seems. Maria’s too motherly toward Mamoru and worries about him too much. Mamoru recognizes Maria’s motherly instincts and reacts on them, almost Oedipal in his demeanor. Shun’s own emotions are being overshadowed by his powers, but it’s clear by the final shot as the mask he puts in front of himself—the mask that he loves Shun over Saki—melts and we see one tear. And Saki’s just looking for something to stabilize her life. Not only is Maria the same sex, the one she knows intimately, but they’ve both known each other since childhood. To maintain her mental stability, she may have chosen this path.

I’m torn on the dub, because the acting is mostly great, but the scripts could use some work. This has in part to do with the already stilted Japanese scripts and the dialogue heavy info dumps that are sometimes placed within. But voices also seem a little off. Clint Bickham worked as brainiac douchebag Yahiro Saiga in SA, but the kinder and gentler Shun doesn’t come off as well. Some of the intonation seemed off in the delivery.

Two actors blew me away, though, and that’s Blake Shepard as Mamoru and especially Emily Neves as Saki is pitch perfect. She struggles a little acting as a little girl, but those times are short and can be looked over to focus on the fantastic performance of the rest of the show. She brings the same light to Saki that I remember her Japanese counterpart, Risa Taneda, bringing when I was watching the simulcast. Blake Shepard is a little more subtle in how he’s good, because Mamoru has relatively few lines, but trust me, he’s good. He brings the same uncertainly and quiver in Mamoru’s voice that Motoki Takagi did in the Japanese and I initially thought it was bad. But no, that’s just how Mamoru acts.

Veterans Greg Ayres as Satoru and Monica Rial as Maria are great as always. Ayres struggles when they were kids, just like Neves, but settles in once they hit 14.

In Summary:
I was hesitant to even pick this up, because I remember being really off put after finishing the simulcast. Watching it in marathon form really helps fill in the gaps because god this is a dense show. I wrote almost 700 words on the first episode alone and decided that I didn’t want to turn in an 8,000 word review.

I’m glad I picked it up again, though, because my fears are, thus far, unfounded. The Fake Minoshiro was still bothersome, but not nearly as much as I remember it being. The time skips are thus far negligible (though I know more are coming in the second set…). I was told that this first half is the weaker half, but if memory serves that won’t be correct.

This first set does succeed in entertaining, though, and is extremely thought provoking on a metaphorical level. The kids seem to play puppet to the plot, but the plot is so engaging that it almost doesn’t matter.

Features:
English 2.0, Japanese 2.0, Japanese Promos, Clean Closing Animation, Sentai Trailers

Content Grade: A-
Audio Grade: B
Video Grade: B-
Packaging Grade: C+
Menu Grade: B-
Extras Grade: N/A

Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: April 15th, 2014
MSRP: $59.98
Running Time: 325 minutes

Review Equipment:
Radeon 7850, 24” Dell UltraSharp U2410 set at 1920 x 1200, Creative GigaWorks T20 Series II

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