DVD REVIEW: FROM THE NEW WORLD PART 2 / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR: MASASHI ISHIHAMA / SCREENPLAY: YUSUKE KISHI, MASASHI SOGO / STARRING: HARUKA KODO, AYUMU MURASE / RELEASE DATE: OCTOBER 6TH
The second part of From the New World compiles episodes 14 – 25 of Masashi Sogo’s intelligent anime. Based on Yūsuke Kishi’s manga (itself an adaptation of his own young adult novel), the series offers a vision of Japan a thousand years from now, a far cry from the post-apocalyptic worlds of other other speculative fiction. While Tokyo itself may be a desert waste, much of the country still retains its majesty. The population has dwindled down to 50,000 people, some of whom possess telekinetic powers. The series focusses on six children who come to realise the bloody history that has ushered in their apparent tranquil existence, which sets them on a journey filled with dark discoveries and loss.
Children with powers is familiar territory in the young adult genre, but From the New World does something altogether more inspired and exciting. The plot is a labyrinth of twists, held together by quality writing. Unexpectedly, the story approaches a burgeoning lesbian relationship with integrity, not unlike in The Last of Us: Left Behind; though it’s only recapped in the second half of the series.
The characters are an interesting bunch, with the second half mostly focussing on Saki and Satoru, both of whom are easy to warm to, though it’s Saki who really carries the series. She’s a complex and driven individual whom we watch grow from ages 12 to 36.
The music is superb, a cut above the usual underwhelming anime soundtrack, making an affecting use of Dvorak’s New World Symphony. It’s worth noting that there’s no opening theme, and the show is all the better for it.
Even with the English dub, this is a tale steeped in Japanese culture and history, a series which addresses Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the country's history of warfare and which demonstrates the folly of putting the sins of a culture’s past onto its children. Despite its intended young adult audience, the story makes no compromises, tackling theology, ethics, bureaucracy and politics. There are no binary opposites, no black and white conflict; instead you see the conflict from both sides and understand the other’s plight.
Director Masashi Ishihama's approach is stylish and cinematic, leaving the story's manga origins well behind. But perhaps the most surprising element of From the New World is just how moving it is. To My Beloved Saki and Scarlet Flower are both standout episodes, and the self-titled closer offers a poignant and poetic conclusion.
The series may be a bit bogged down with exposition, and it does occasionally edge towards the sappy, but it’s dark and beautiful and demonstrates the strength and potential of the genre, tribes of mutant naked mole rats and all.