“We have to change our way of thinking if we want to change the future.”
–Saki Watanabe, From the New World.
From the New World. Sentai Filmworks, 2014. Blu Ray Collections 1 & 2.
I first came across this anime in 2012. Based on a novel by Yusuke Kishi, it blew me out of the water as soon as I started. I was incredibly happy to find out there was a dub forthcoming; the blu ray quality is a treat to behold. However, this is NOT a show for kids. If I had to categorize it, it’d probably be science-fiction/horror.
From the New World is probably one of the most gender-fluid anime that I have seen to date. While reasoning comes up later in the story to explain a bit of this, it still applies that there are many different types of interpersonal relationships not as accepted in current society. Saki’s first love growing up is Shun, but her best friend is Maria – and in the society of Kamisu 66, best friends date as often as loves (Episode 8). Maria and Saki’s relationship is sexual, but never questioned as wrong, and the same can be applied towards the relationship of Shun and Satoru. It is only later as adults that the main circle of friends divides into couplings of opposite genders, and even then there is no resentment between anyone because of previous homosexual relationships. Arguments like Joanna Russ’s in The Female Man about gender being socially constructed are realized here – there is no “manly” role for Shun and Satoru to fulfill, nor is there any shame in their homosexual relationship, from adults or society at large (Episode 8). There is simply love between two people.
The fact that Saki has three loves as she grows up throughout the anime, but that her love for Maria is the strongest – and accepted by both men/males in her life is also a telling story (Episode 17). Both Saki and her group of friends understand that love can be expressed both physically and emotionally to both genders, without jealousy interferring. While one can attribute most of the acceptance to the genetically altered state of humanity (Episode 4) in which they were made to have the same needs as bonobo apes, there is no intolerance for any emotional relationship with another being. The leader of the town is a woman, and respect is given to her not for her gender, but for her age and experience (Episode 14). It is for similar traits that Saki shows (resiliance, personal strength) that she is chosen to be a successor for the leader Tomiko – sex is never a factor in the choosing process. Saki is also counted on several times over throughout New World to be a leader first and foremost as a human being. There is no assigned role for anyone in the village.
The entire culture of Kamisu 66 is also held as an example against that of the antagonist people, the Monster Rats. It is interesting to note that the genetically modified Monster Rats were created from the 99.7% of humanity that did not exhibit psychokinetic abilities, and yet they demonstrate a solidified gender role system. While a great deal of this can be aspired to the genetic tinkering of Saki’s ancestors to the human genome, Satoru’s analysis of the Monster Rat’s genetics demonstrate that they still retain most of their homo sapien heritage (Episode 25). Females are kept as breeding Queens, one to a colony, while males participate in heirarchal, rigid roles – either as manufacturers, warriors, or carers (Episode 17). While earlier in the series, the females are revered as giving life, they are later lobotomized by Squealer and other Monster Rat males (Episode 15). Their actions demonstrate the disenfranchised state they believe themselves to be in – first and foremost by humans, but secondly by the female of their species.
When placing these societies side-by-side, it is rather obvious to state that they both balance on sets of extremeties: The humans operate socially with incredible flexibility and fluidity, but are strict with their government/discipline roles, while the Monster Rats are incredibly rigid with gender roles, but flexible in social heirarchies outside of the breeding Queen. It would be easy to assume that the Rats have more freedoms, except that that they are ruled by the humans under threat of a colony wipe for revolting (Episode 24). They are also disdained, with the viewer intending to find them as lesser beasts, despite Satoru’s findings. Kishi’s message can therefore be read clearly – though the society of humans has intolerable strategies for dealing with children, the fact that humanity at large has incredible interpersonal freedom in their relationships, regardless of gender, is to be held in higher value against the Monster Rats’ gender regidity. While the main separation of the two species of homo sapiens should be attributed to the PK phenomenon, the socially flexible new humanity is the one that prevails in the end; even Saki understands that the Rats need their gender/social roles in order to function in every day life.
The fact that such fluidity came at the cost of genetic intervention is of questionable consequences; the peace between humans is also due to a genetic “death shame” co-opted from animals into human genetics preventing killing among humans (Episode 4). This leaves humanity defenseless against Fiends, a fact used by Squealer in an attempt to overthrow humanity. The victors, however, write history, and it is through Saki’s efforts that the Monster Rat threat is nullified. Because of her own experiences, she and Satoru vie to make their futures a better place for all species – Monster Rats included.
I cannot recommend this anime enough. If you are unable to get ahold of the DVDs or Blu-Ray, it is currently being streamed (subtitled) through both Crunchyroll and Hulu.
On a side note, I would recommend that anyone with an interest in the show watch the anime, or (if it has been fan-translated or you can read Japanese) the novel. The manga series is incredibly full of lesbianistic cheesecake; none of the masculine pairings occur “on set,” making me think that the artist was only catering to a specific audience. While I enjoy the story – which is based more closely on the novel than the anime – the art is gratuitous to the point of nearly offending.