The Bisexual Dystopia of Shin Sekai Yori: or, how an evil anime government tried to make all the kids gay

It’s pride month, so for the whole month of June I’m writing about LGBTQ+ representation in anime and manga! Yay for gay anime!

Okay, so what if I told you there was an absolutely brilliant dystopian anime that featured not one, not two, but FOUR canon bisexuals? Drum roll pleeeeeeeease…

It’s Shinsekai Yori, or From the New World! Not only is this one of the best anime dystopian thrillers I’ve ever seen, but four out of five of its main characters are bi. Not just implied, either…there are same-sex kisses shared on-screen by both the male and female characters. They date each other. They explicitly say that they are attracted to one another. There is no denying their bi-ness.

Or maybe pan-ness? I’m biased, so I’m gonna go with bi-ness.

However, the way the characters’ sexuality is woven into the story is a little odd. They’re not just bi characters who happen to be bi – it’s actually a plot device that ties in with the dystopian setting.

 

shin sekai yorii.jpg
Young bisexuals out in the wild.

Shinsekai Yori premiered in the Fall 2012 season and was based on the light novels of the same name. The show is a wild ride that keeps you on the edge of your seat throughout the entirety of its perfectly paced 25 episodes. Really, the less you know about the plot going in, the better your experience watching the show will be, so I’ll keep it short:

The show is set in a future where everyone has psychic powers and follows five characters from childhood to adulthood as they slowly discover that the community they’re living in, Kamisu 66, has a lot of crazy shit going on behind the scenes. The leaders of the town plot to kill any child who causes trouble. They also try to kill off any kid who isn’t good enough in school…or any kid who’s too good in school. And, most relevant to this post, the New World uses sex as a way to keep its citizens docile.

Kamisu 66 wants to model its citizens after bonobos, a species of monkey that relieve stress and deal with conflict through sexual contact, thus creating a “society of love.” In an attempt to emulate this society, Kamisu 66 encourages a hyper-sexual adolescence among its citizens. Teenagers are encouraged to use sex as a way to ease any feelings of doubt they may have about how their community operates.

Basically, they want kids to be too busy fucking each other to realize that they’re living in a twisted, evil place. But, at the same time, Kamisu 66 doesn’t want a bunch of kids getting each other pregnant and bringing more potential problem children into the world, so they encourage same-sex relations instead.

shin sekai yori yuri.jpg
More like Shin Sekai YURI am I right??? hahahuhuhu

Which brings us to our main characters. Once the show gets into their teenage years, everyone aside from Mamoru gets paired off into a same-sex relationship. Mamoru ends up lusting after Maria, who is dating Saki, who is in love with Shun, who is dating Satoru…a whole love octagon thing ends up happening.

On one hand, I want to be like, “yaaaay, look at all this representation!” But, on the other hand, that’s not really, you know, good realistic representation. Many of the students don’t seem to be actually bi, Kamisu 66 just conditions its citizens to be this way and then expects them to grow out of this “phase” upon reaching adulthood so that they can pursue more “traditional” relationships. They see same-sex relations as immature, and expect its citizens to (literally) straighten themselves out later.

This is not unlike the way Japanese society treats same-sex relationships among young women in anime and manga. You can see it in the Class S genre – you can have a bit of innocent experimentation, but you better knock that shit off once you grow up. It also has hints of the “bisexuals are just greedy horn dogs” stereotype. I mean, they’re literally all supposed to be humping themselves into blissful government submission, after all. 

shin sekai yori gay kiss
Boyfriends still find time to smooch in the fields between all the psychological warfare and government oppression.

Undoubtedly, the way Kamisu 66 treats bisexuality is fucked up…just like the way they handle pretty much everything is fucked up. It’s a dystopian story, after all, so naturally a huge theme is that Kamisu 66 is generally awful, and that the way it treats its citizens is wrong. You’re not supposed to agree with any of Kamisu 66’s policies, so I never necessarily felt that the show actually wanted you to actually agree with this school of thinking. Plus, in an attempt to stay relatively spoiler-free, it seemed to me that at least one of the characters still had strong feelings for their lover even into adulthood, which would ultimately prove the “just a phase” stereotype about bisexuality wrong. 

Granted, it doesn’t seem that these relationships were included because the writers wanted to be progressive and advance the community’s representation or anything. They had a very specific purpose – to advance the subplot of Kamisu 66 trying to placate its citizens through sex. STILL, just because this wasn’t the intended effect, that doesn’t change the fact that inclusion of a bunch of canon bisexual characters is PRETTY DAMN COOL!

Generally, when a non-BL/GL show includes any queer characters at all, it never really goes beyond subtext. There’s never any real explicitly expression of their feelings. At the most, the sexual tension may culminate in a vague confession that viewers can still interpret as being platonic. But in Shinsekai Yori, there is absolutely no arguing that the relationships between Shun/Satoru & Saki/Maria were anything other than sexual.

shin sekai yoriiii.jpg

 

Interestingly enough, when the series aired, the same-sex kisses also caused an uproar among fans who were upset that “everyone suddenly turned gay,” and some people were confused as to why a show would include homosexual relationships if it wasn’t a yaoi or yuri. Like I mentioned before, there was a clear reason as to why these relationships were included, and anyone who didn’t immediately drop the show after witnessing two boys kiss would have realized that. There were also hints that Maria had feelings for Saki from episode one, even before the Big Bi Apocalypse of later episodes. 

LGBTQ characters shouldn’t be expected to exist solely within one specific, confining genre. It shouldn’t be this huge shock every time they show up in an anime title that isn’t marketed as being BL or yuri. In real life, queer people don’t exist solely in spaces specifically designated for queer people. Gay guys don’t cease to exist outside the walls of a gay bar. As shocking as it may seem, queer people exist and are out there in the real world, walking the streets and going to the store along with everyone else! So why would fictional queer characters only be included in the realm of BL/GL anime & manga? It’s so important to have queer relationships in a show that is not about queer romance because it helps to normalize those relationships. By including some gay kissing in something that’s supposed to be a “normal anime,” it reminds viewers that, hey, we  don’t only exist in a vacuum! It forces viewers to acknowledge that these relationships exist everywhere, whether they like it or not. …even if those relationships are part of a dystopian sex plot.

Shinsekai Yori joins the ranks of shows like No. 6 and Samurai Flamenco that include same-sex relationships despite not being within the yaoi or yuri genre. People were similarly upset with these shows because there was no label on them explicitly saying, “hey this is gonna have some gay shit in it!”

Hopefully, more anime like these will be made so that visibility can spread itself further. And y’all will just have to deal with it while I thrive in the bisexual representation!

shin sekai yori.jpg
Here’s another screenshot of my girls for good measure because…well…you know…

Personally, this is a title I would highly recommend, and not just because I love seeing the gays in action. It’s a visually interesting series with a gripping narrative. It also has some of the smoothest anime time-skips I’ve ever seen – it successfully follows the characters from childhood to full on adulthood in a way that never feels rushed. If you want a sexy show that involves rat-people and evil governments, check this out!


Here are some related linked because it’s ~pride month~ and I’m here to hype up all the gay anime content I can find:

10 thoughts on “The Bisexual Dystopia of Shin Sekai Yori: or, how an evil anime government tried to make all the kids gay

    1. yeah, it’s a bit wild. it wasn’t like, the main storyline, but still a pretty major beat. I was like oh this is kinda weird…..well, I’ll take what I can get lmao

      Like

  1. Great post! I’ve had this show on blu-ray for ages but still haven’t watched it yet, your review though has made it move up the watch list!

    Incidentally, I actually own and have read the first volume of the manga (not the LN as that’s not in English) and the manga is crazy gay from almost the first page, it’s pretty much just a yuri manga and pretty explicit too!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! & oh yeahhh, I completely forgot about the manga! I had seen some scans of it after I finished the anime and was like, “wow, they turned the gay up to eleven on this one” lmao. I’ll have to go back and check it out one of these days.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I remember when I first saw this. Took me a while before I got into it, and there was episode 3 which was a massive info dump. After all that, it was all up hill from there, and I enjoyed the anime a lot than I expected too. The characters were the biggest draw for me because they were fleshed in great detail, and a desire to learn more about their world, and change it.

    The same sex couples in the anime wasn’t anything I batted an eye on. I simply accepted it. Thankfully, the whole topic of sexuality was actually tackle well, and wasn’t there just for fan service. Easily the best anime A-1 Pictures ever made. Sad they haven’t made anything as good as this I feel.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I stumbled upon the series by accident and ended up watching it because I thought the character designs/art was interesting, and then was honestly blown away. I didn’t expect a single one of the twists, which is pretty rare when it comes to dystopian thrillers imo because most of the dystopian things I’ve seen tend to re-use the same tropes over & over. And yes, the characters really are fantastic. I especially liked Maria.
      And yeah, I was impressed with the handling of the romance over all. It never felt like it was pandering or anything, and even though it was all essentially a plot device, I still thought it was done really well. This is honestly easily one of my top 10 favorites!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. While this doesn’t sound the best piece of bi representation ever, it is good to see some represetnation out there. I really don’t get the whole thing of people needing it labelled as having same-gender stuff in though. People are a lot mroe free to be out now, and while I do get that some who aren’t LGBTQIA themselves don’t understand how someone can be LGBTQIA, there is no reason that it should need to given a warning. I mean, do we need to start labelling streets now if an LGBTQIA person moves in or something?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree! I’m hoping it was just a small percentage of viewers who ended up ditching it in the end, but I saw a lot of weird comments about it. I wasn’t expecting it to pop up, either, but obviously *I’m* not going to get mad about it. It’s a weird double standard, because sometimes an action series will end up having a love story despite not being billed as a romance, but no one ends up complaining to that degree if it’s a straight couple…

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Pingback: Debroah Rigo

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s