What They Say:
Saki and her friends Satoru, Maria, Mamoru, and Shun have lived their entire lives in what seems to be a perfect utopia: a world where almost all technology has been rendered irrelevant by “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 their reality threaten to swallow them whole!
Faced with a bloody secret history of how their world really came to be and 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! Because when your whole world is a lie, the truth can be the deadliest weapon of all in From the New World!
For this review, I listened to the English dub, which is offered in 2.0 stereo. The Japanese track is also available in 2.0. The audio is clear, and there is some nice directionality in the sound effects, though as there is a decent amount of action in this title, I’d have really liked to have seen a 5.1 mix. I think it could have added a lot to the atmosphere.
The transfer for this release is well done. By design, the colors are pretty muted for this series, but they come through clearly with no distortion. There is occasional, minor artifacting, but it’s certainly not distracting, and I’m sure I wouldn’t have noticed had I not been paying attention.
The package for this release looks nice, though is fairly basic. The five discs come in a single amaray case with center inserts to house a few of them. The front cover has a group shot of the main cast as kids, while the back has a picture of Saki and Shun more grown-up, along with the series summary, screen shots, and technical details. Again, it looks fine, though it doesn’t really jump out.
The menus are also pretty basic. The main menu has a picture of one of the characters along the left, with the selections down the right. Episodes get their own selection, and there is no Play All button, though episodes will automatically lead into the next one. The OP plays in the background on a full, 90 second loop, so the song has a chance to play all the way through before repeating.
The last disc of the set has a clean version of the ED as well as some Japanese trailers and TV spots. It isn’t much, but it’s more than we often get these days, so it is appreciated.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
From the New World is a title I took a flyer on and knew nothing about before watching. Now that I have seen it, I’m glad I took that chance, but at the same time, I’m not 100% sure how I feel about the whole thing. In fact, it’s taken me about two months to write this review, because I am having trouble figuring out my feelings on it. But I’m going to try.
World War III has past, and the remaining humanity not wiped out by the apocalypse has developed psychic abilities that allow them a greater degree of control on the world around them. Peace also reigns, both because humanity has evolved to generally be kinder, but also because their powers will not allow them to hurt others. Intentionally harming another person will trigger what is known as the “Regret of Death”—where the power turns back inward on the attacker and kills him/her.
Saki is the last person from her kindergarten to graduate and move on to school—in other words, she is the last of her class to manifest her powers, the sign that a child is ready to move on and begin developing his/her abilities. But she notices something weird—while everybody recognizes her as the last person to move up, she also recognizes that she was not actually the last person in the kindergarten class. There were plenty of others still in the class when she left, yet nobody in the new school seems to remember the others. As far as anybody else is concerned, Saki is the last person. And in time, Saki forgets this fact, too.
As time moves on, Saki and her friends begin noticing other similar oddities. People disappear from class, and yet it isn’t long before it becomes as if they never existed in the first place. But Saki and her friends are somewhat different. While they are like the others in that they can never remember the full truth, they do recognize that things are off. No matter how much they try to investigate, however, they never seem to get any closer to finding out what is really going on.
From the New World is an anime that really took me by surprise in a lot of ways. The setup for the series has a common utopian theme, one that is explored frequently in anime—the supposedly peaceful and perfect world has a dark underside propping up that perfection that nobody on the inside can see, and it takes an outlier to notice the discrepancies and figure out what is really going on. Saki, in particular, is our outlier here, and she and her friends have the task of learning the realities of the world they live in and react accordingly.
But this is where the anime makes an interesting turn. Against the norms of the utopian genre, and anime in general, learning the truth of their society does not lead Saki to try to change or bring down the world order from within. Instead, when a conflict between the humans and their normally subservient Monster Rats takes a dramatic turn, Saki begins to understand just how important the rules are as they are laid out and instead finds herself not only following the rules, but often reinforcing them. By the time the series is over, the status quo is restored and resumed.
What this leads to is a series that is a lot darker in execution than it appears it is going to be upon setup. I went in expecting a dark world that is brought to the light. Instead, we get a dark world that is understood to have no redemption. There are some truly disturbing moments in the late game of the series, made moreso because decisions are made because they have to be and accepted because there is no room for heroics, at least not heroism in the more traditional, literary sense. It’s a fascinating approach, and I definitely appreciated it for that approach.
However, despite that approach, I ultimately found myself struggling to really get into the series. It was a bit of a catch-22, really. On the one hand, it was initially hard to get invested because I wanted to write it off as another “kids saving the world from oppressive adults” anime. But then when it kept turning away from that, I kept wondering what the point of it all was. A story hinges on the need for some kind of change to happen which makes things interesting. Every time somebody tries to change something, they ultimately come to realize how futile change really is. Again, it’s an interesting idea, and one that gave me a lot to think about at the end of a year when there has been a lot of divisive challenges to the status quo (and a lot of divisive arguments, protests, etc. over what exactly the status quo should be). I won’t get into my thoughts on that here, but while the series has been thought-provoking, the story ultimately fell a little flat, so I’m left confused how I feel.
From the New World is a series that gave me a lot to consider at the end. The unexpected twists and turns it takes led me to a lot of reflection about my own feelings on our political and social realities. On the one hand, I love this series for raising so many questions for me. On the other, I also found that the way it went about doing this left us with a story where I’m trying to figure out the point of it all when all is said and done. It’s a story where I feel like nothing really is accomplished. So do I love it for what it said to me? Or am I frustrated for what I feel is the lack of follow through on its potential? I don’t know the answer to that. It’s probably worth a watch if only because it ends up going down different roads than your typical utopian fiction, and that almost automatically makes it interesting. And maybe if you do watch it, you can let me know if I’ve missed something important.
Japanese Language, English Language, English Subtitles, Japanese Promos, Clean Opening & Closing Animations.
Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: B
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: C
Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: February 2, 2016
Running Time: 625 minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p
Aspect Ratio: 16:9 anamorphic widescreen
Magnavox 37MF337B 37” LCD HDTV, LG BP330 BluRay Player w/HDMI Connection, Durabrand HT3916 5.1 Surround Sound System