First Impressions: From The New World

“Let us burn the last of your worldly passions to ash.”

Every once in a while, something comes along that takes you away. Something so strong it scatters the glass screen between you and the immersive world it paints. Something that makes you feel relieved and grateful for being given the opportunity to witness it. The first episode of From The New World (Shin Sekai Yori) is one of those things.

The brooding first five minutes easily knock everything else we have seen this year off the charts. There is the gritty security footage in the prologue and the excellent cinematography that sees the main characters appearing as shadowy figures at the top of a mountain backed by a menacing sundown. There is the interplay of chilling silences and gothic music, courtesy of the man responsible for some of the most impressive anime theme songs in anime history. Every single element contribute to these fantastic five minutes which sketch an immersive, dark universe wherein nature and spiritualism go hand in hand.

The story of From The New World seems firmly grounded in Buddhist spiritualism, but do not let that hold you back. The pilot shifts back and forth between characterization and exposition, and the writing staff needs to be credited for explaining different terms through increasingly creative methods. Especially the morbid story about the Akki, as told by Maria, is a visual stunner. Ancient writing wisdoms such as “Show, don’t tell” are well respected and the tired-and-true anime pitfall of exposition being unsubtly crammed into the stilted dialogue excels in its absence.

“It’s a blessing! It’s finally come to you too!”

Through the eyes of its characters, From The New World crafts a tangible universe, spending a lot of time on building up. This could make a painful comeback to shoot the show in the foot, but the tightly weaved storytelling in the first episode practically assured me that there is no need to worry. What is the Accursed Power? What is the Boundary Rope? What is an Akki? What does that prologue have to do with any of this? This first episode raised so many questions, From The New Worldcould easily spend its run as a slice-of-life show just because the society it portrays is so darn interesting. Previews, however, promise that an epic adventure is at hand.

Despite starring a crew of kids as its main characters, From The New World is definitely not a kids’ show. The spiritual and occasionally horrifying nature of the story is told in a very effective manner, often intercutting scenes with short flashbacks or flash forwards and taking a very subdued approach to revealing more information about its setting. From The New World will require your unyielding attention, but as for now, it more than deserves it. I could not have asked for a better start to this intriguing season.

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