Please note that I'm not that well-versed in presentation, so I encourage constructive criticism here, especially.
Major Spoilers Ahead
You wanna know the first thing that I noticed that immediately turned me off to the show? The character designs. I instantly didn't like them, for quite a few reasons:
1. Anime Face Syndrome: this is a term I personally made up because I'm tired of using the whole explanation. Anime face syndrome is all over anime hence its name. What it does is convey the same facial features that every other anime has: A line as a lip, a dot as a nose, big round eyes and pale skin. It's attractive(which is why it is used so much), but the most cliche' face there is. It doesn't make a character design automatically bad(as small details and art style needs to be considered), but it's limiting and kills variety when used on every character ever in history.
2.Same Face Syndrome: Most of the characters in Shin Sekai Yori have legitmently the exact same face. The only difference between the boys and the girls are the lashes. The eye is drawn with a thick bottom line that connects with a circle to the top which has a thick curved line and one pointed lash at the side. The nose is a dot or a small upturn from the side, and there's a weird space between the lips. See for yourself, It's the same thing, even in the smallest details are identical.
3.The Eyes: One thing I noticed throughout the whole show is that the eyes were incredibly vacant. Most of the time those white dots are there to symbolize reflections. However, comparable to the eyes(which takes up 2/3rds of the face), they're tiny, hardly noticeable. In most other shows which have eyes similar in size, the whites inside them are huge as well. Seldom would you ever see a case like SSY where the whites are dwarfed. This is probably why SSY's eyes appear to be vacant, it's just one solid color, there's not a noticeable life inside them. Additionally, I think the positions of where the whites are placed may also have to do on why it's so lifeless. You have one white in the center top and another bisecting the eye on the side. Now, this is weird for one main reason, you have no idea what is being reflected. The only way these reflections would realistically exist is if a light was shining directly into them. So why are the characters at all times looking into a light? Even if I'm not thinking about this, it's still at the back of my mind that there's a light directly in front of them. It looks off to have the reflections not react to the environment.
What SSY's eyes usually looks like
What lifelike eyes look like in SSY
4.Lack of Personality: Now, I'm not going to blame the artists for this as much as the lack of personality, in general. I mean how would you design someone who is mentally strong or caring? It must be hard since you have literally nothing else to work off of. The constantly changing outfits probably made this even harder to do. I mean none of them has so much as a consistent color they like to wear nor a type of clothing. They all wear pretty similar things at the same time.
Let's put sun hats, bags, and light clothing on these characters. Let's put heavy loose winter coats. I get it's because of the weather, but the outfits change way too drastically per episode (i.e in Maria's letter we got to see renaissance style clothing and modern clothing put on Saki in episode 10.) and they all wear similar outfits in terms of comfort, shapes, and use, anyway. The only consistent style I found is that Maria sometimes wears flora designs. As for the hairstyles and colors, it does little as well. When you think of red straight hair, what comes to mind? Maybe a passionate, but disciplined character. Maybe someone who is short tempered. Nevertheless, none of these things really describe Maria as a character though, she isn't especially passionate about anything nor short-tempered. You also have Mamoru's curly hair which I also don't get. It's usually used on male characters who are girly, but Mamoru really isn't girly in interests nor personality, he's just delicate.
Another thing I dislike about SSY's presentation is the facial expressions, they are really underplayed compared to the actor's performances. For instance, in episode 4, the actors are really playing it up as it's supposed to be the first time they found out about how messed up their society is, but the facial expressions are made like these characters were mildly upset.
What it looked like
What it sounded like
What it looked like
What it sounded like
What SSY usually looks like
Saturo is running from an impure cat(terrified about dying)
What SSY's facial expressions are usually like(4th episode)
The main problem appears to be how little is changed. The only things that are done are the eyebrows and lips, aside from that hardly anything else is moved. The show also really likes to dilate the irises(which are the few times the irises are moved) and zoom in to convey that someone is disturbed(as seen in the second pic). Anyway, as you probably noticed by all the images I've shown to you so far, the characters are in fact wide-eyed most of the time, and of course, you can't do anything to a non-existent nose(which is one of my qualms about anime face syndrome). Usually, even in most A-1 picture shows, you at least have the eyes squint or something, but SSY doesn't even do that. Though, as a side note, they do have the best-designed character in the show making the best facial expressions(Maki's and Mamoru's child who has rags, bruises and untamed red hair that makes the character look like they came from wild).
Magi by A-1 Pictures
Best Facial Expression in the Show
Moving on, another thing that bugged me are the backgrounds, not because they are poorly designed, just that they are bland and boring to look at. Since most of the time we are out in nature(away from the society), I'm stuck looking at subpar copied and pasted trees(i.e all the episodes where the characters were looking for their other friend/friends). You do occasionally get an episode of great imagery like episode 10 where you see the aurora lights above an unnaturally torn apart cabin(which makes the inside have mosaic lightning and some otherworldly imagery(i.e Shun's dog was transformed to have the teeth protruding outside the mouth)) ,but that's not what the show usually looks like. It usually goes like this, you'd get a sea of bland looping nature backgrounds, and one really good one shot.
What Most of the Show Looks Like
Another shot of what it looked like most of the time
One Good Shot
Animation(Some Attempt at Art Style Critique)
Most of the time animation is minimum with lip flaps, floating objects, and some head turn/tilts. Like you'll have the clumps hair move up and down with the character and the sides of it move the same direction as the wind and, the loose clothing having circulant movements, yet that's all the animation would be. You wouldn't have the eyes squinting or the limbs interact with the wind. I mean even in the action scenes when the most effort is usually put, you'll get something lackluster. For instance, a character is often killed by being blown from the inside out a part. First, you'll have the character disappear and then they'll be replaced with a spot of blood spread out in the direction the characters were closer to. There's nothing really exciting about that, its the same thing on loop most of the series and limited animation is needed to convey it. Additionally, you also have objects being thrown at the characters and all of its weight would be at the bottom to imply gravity(i.e when Saturo threw burning trees at the monster rats). It's hard to have your own style when so little is done in ways of characters designs or animation, it's the bare parts to convey it at a basic level.
However, once in a while it would get really stylized(both the art and animation) for no reason whatsoever, and it's always a mystery on what it'll be. I don't really get this, most of the time it's static shots, but then out of nowhere the whole art style would change to fit the randomly picked animation. For example, one of my favorite style that they could've stuck with that would match the series better than its current style, is the cutaway style in episode 1. In it you'll see messy dark oil painted colors, rapidly switch camera angles(i.e when you get the close up of the guy cutting the rope then a wide shot of the bridge splitting in half) and rigid, sharp movements of the monster, this is what I believe makes the scene have this historical edge to it. It also stands out and was an effective way to do exposition. SSY's strongest visual presentation was always when it tried to do a historical style like the 1800s Japanese backgrounds(i.e some shots of the village does actually look interesting(when it isn't focusing on a corner of the room)) and clothing with the added oil painted style would bring attention to how these characters live and fit so perfectly to what's already there.
A Random thing I didn't feel as strongly about:
Character poses were something that made the first few episodes feel so much more alive than the later parts of it. Saturo is relaxed(think of characters like Karma from Assassination Classroom), Maki is elegant(i.e good posture at all times) and Mamoru sits like L(for unknown reasons). I guess Maki kept her poses, but the rest pretty much lost it by the end of episode 4. I don't know why they bother having it if their personalities hardly matched it, and threw it out anyway.