A caliber of post-apocalyptic, much of what we learn about the new world order is done in retrospect. All you need to know is that our story takes places about 1000 years after the collapse of society, when people with ‘special abilities’ tried to take over the world.
In this utopian society, everyone is born with special abilities and they learn how to use their ‘cantus’ (their term for it), to best help people. The village, Kamisu’s 66th District, (which looks a bit silly to have on a t-shirt), is the kind of place we all dream of. But dreams can always go sour. We follow the five people in Group One, who are:
Shun Aonuma, Satoru Asahina, Saki Watanabe, Maria Akizuki and Mamoru Ito. They go to these schools and academies to learn how to channel and focus their telekinetic powers and learn about the world they live in. However, the Board of Education that governs them all is harsh and unrelenting. Seriously, if you fail to meet their standards or decide to ‘go off the track’, you ‘disappear’, and the students left behind have their memories altered, so the person really never existed, although you have these nagging doubts, much like if you left the iron on.
The series is broken into two parts: them as children and them as adults.
The children section is them growing up and learning of their abilities and what has brought them to the world they now live in. They discover the horrors of the past and why that society collapsed. This opens up more troubles for them (and creates plot points that are critical to the second season).
The second season is now them all grown up (here, they are 14; then, they are 24), taking on adult responsibilities and having to fend off the attack of an entity (a Fiend, as they call it) that is bent on destroying all humans, aided by tribes of queerats (that’s what they call them; they look like naked mole rats) who have been subjugated by the ruling party, since they are ‘less than human’.
This is an odd show, in that the individual episodes spin through really fast and you are a bit surprised that a segment has ended. There are also a couple of things that they do which are very annoying. One is the fade. Portions of the show don’t end or conclude as much as there is a fade to black. Numerous times. To the point of being annoying. I got the feeling that they found all of these left-over fades and decided to use them all up. Maybe this was an idea to be in better control of how the story unwinds, but it feels abrupt and unsettling, especially when it is used 20 or 30 times a show (maybe it’s not that much, but it FEELS like it’s that much).
The second is the extreme close-up. Whenever a character reacts to something, there is a tight shot of possible part of their face. Numerous times. To the point of being annoying. I got the feeling that they found all of these left-over extreme close-ups and decided to use them all up. When they let the show do what it has to do, it works best, without all of these artificial actions that really do not propel the story. It’s when the show decides it is time to do these actions that things bog down.
Still, I liked this show, in that the Road to Shangri-la is littered with the bodies of those who wouldn’t or couldn’t conform. We learn of dishonesty, duplicity, revenge, distrust and double-crossing. Don’t let the beautiful backgrounds and lush colors fool you; this is one mean series as hard choices have to be made and even though you have a special power, that does not mean you can lead. As some wag once said “Men of vision often have terrible eyesight.”
Watching the show is aided by being able to put two episodes together, as it does explain things a bit smoother, although you will have a bit of a jarring jolt when it goes from Part 1 to Part 2, as the jump is so large (10 years) and it comes without warning. If you want a show that makes you think about things, rather than just watching things, this might be a good change-up for you. Do understand that it can get talky in parts, especially when we have to dispense some back history, but it’s worth it and a conclusion that, like all things in life, isn’t really a conclusion.
On a scale of 1 to 10:
Artwork 8 (Nicely rendered)
Plot 8 (Two-fold approach)
Pacing 7 (Charge ahead, fall back)
Effectiveness 7 (The lack of certainty adds to the misdirection)
Conclusion 7 (It reaches a ‘save point’, but it has a kind of)
Fan Service 1 (A similar show would be “Ouran”)
Overall 8 (A daring entry)
And remember, it’s first run until you’ve seen it. The Fiend is coming!