From the New World (新世界より) is a 25 episode series from A1 Pictures in 2012 adapted from a novel. It merges a lot of genres of fantasy, mystery and even horror at times.
In the early 21st century humans begin to develop psychic powers… and everything promptly goes to hell. 1000 years and a couple apocalypses later Saki Watanabe is a 12-year old girl living in a village more reminiscent of middle ages Japan than anything modern populated entirely by psychics and starting to learn the various secrets society has implemented in order to try and prevent even more calamities from striking as she comes of age.
From the New World oozes with meaning at every turn, which is good since so much of the show revolves around the various mysteries Saki and her friends are trying to understand and a show which can’t give proper weight to its plot beats just won’t captivate like this does. And make no mistake, it absolutely is captivating as you want to understand why the village keeps killing its children, or brainwashing others into forgetting things while more importantly you’ll find yourself having to ask yourself questions about if they’re really that wrong with the choices they’ve done.
From a horror standpoint the show also works thanks to the dual front of having likable characters (Saki is a great protagonist) you don’t want to see get hurt, while having very real dangers which see plenty of people getting killed so you know to take nothing for granted. There’s a couple different sequences throughout the show which play out like monster chases with people running through the dark while being pursued which are amazingly tense.
But really, its about the ‘meaning’ which is why it deserves to get called out twice. Even outside of the mysteries at play everything in this show is extremely deliberate- both in setting up how things play out and in being metaphors or allusions to real-world situations which are up to you to interpret.
For the last 8 years I’ve consistently referred to this show as “the best thing I never want to watch again”1, and its not even because its super violent or has some kind of objectionable content, its just so heavy with its themes that it can feel like work to get through it, plus even after seeing it once it will never leave your thoughts so you won’t feel a need to rewatch it.
Not helping this is the series’ use of time. Even in the year 2020 when time has no meaning, this show has a really bad sense of explaining when things are happening which causes notable problems in a couple places where its not clear if a couple days are passing, a couple weeks or even a couple months. Complicating even that is that there are more unreliable narrators here than should be legal- thanks to a heavy brainwashing regime its never clear how much people remember of past events and when they question others about them you don’t know if the respondents are lying, are brainwashed, or if the person asking the question is the one brainwashed (or more likely, they both are). Complicating even THAT is the show has a tendency to show you things without explaining them for several episodes such as with the first 3 episodes having cold opens from various points in the 1000 years since psychic powers developed and you don’t get any context for what you’re seeing till episode 4. Honestly Im willing to chalk a lot of this up to being a novel adaptation as there are so many points where it seems like stuff has been cut out but this show isn’t easy to follow is what Im saying, although I have noticed that watching it in several episode chunks instead of weekly has improved its flow considerably as you get to those answers sooner.
We also need to talk about the animation which can charitably be called uneven. Most episodes are fine and can even frequently adopt some gorgeous cinematography, however there are quite a few where things just seem to go off the rails and characters look different than they did last episode.
Weeb Level: 1/10- You could show this to anyone and they wouldn’t need any kind of Japanese knowledge to follow it, largely because there are plenty of other reasons for them to not follow it.
Fanservice: Somewhere between 1/10 and 10/10? This gets tricky as we need to actually first categorize fanservice. Do you see the characters naked? No. Do you see them in revealing clothes and/or with male gaze? Eh, no. Some of the outfits they have are maybe a little thin but they fit the general time period of all the clothes. Is there sexual content? Oh boy is there. One of the conditions people have adopted to curb violent tendecies is to act out stress through intimate contact with others regardless of sex and there is a lot of same-sex 2 and inter-sex relationships going on with implied sex at least a few times.
Quality: 8/10- Make no mistake, From the New World demands you work to watch it and is not something you’re going to pop on to feel good. You may not want to rewatch it again for another decade (or ever) but you’ll never feel like the show has let you down.
Where to watch: Crunchyroll and HiDive have it and while Prime still lists the episodes they are currently unavailable to watch.