The story so far: From the New World


International stream: Crunchyroll (North & South America, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden; subtitles in English, Spanish, or Portuguese)

The only thing some of you will need to know about From the New World is that it’s an adaptation of a work which in 2008 won the Japan SF Prize, which is given out by the Science Fiction Writers of Japan, making it Japan’s equivalent of the Nebula. Well, that, and that “adaptation” in the world of Japanese TV generally means “portrays the same characters and events as the source work”, in contrast to Hollywood’s meaning.

The setting is a thousand years in the future, when a much-reduced human population lives a medieval lifestyle augmented by telekinetic powers. But the entire organizing principle of the remaining human society is fear of the misuse of those powers. Scarred by a history of mass murder and destruction, humans have been genetically engineered, children are brainwashed, and any child displaying the slightest antisociality or trouble controlling their powers disappears.

The story follows Saki Watanabe and her friends, first at age 12, then 14, and finally 26, as they learn about the bloody history of their world and push at the limits placed on them. Along the way, Saki gets an up-close look at both the horrors her society is trying to avoid and the horrors created in the name of keeping them under control, as she grows into her role as the next leader of her village.

Picking up the thread this week, the village elder has just officially named Saki her heir– but in the middle of a disaster which none of the humans may survive. (All right, we’re pretty sure Saki survives, since we’ve had narration from her 40-year-old self.) The Monster Rats, mole-rats engineered for larger size and humanlike intelligence, have risen in revolt against their human “gods”, possibly with the aid of one of those horrors the villagers tried so hard to avoid…

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