As if our group of youngsters weren't already in enough trouble, Mamoru's decision to do a runner threatens to lead them into yet further danger as the others ditch school to set off in pursuit of their friend across the snow-coated landscape.
Thankfully, the presence of that snow means that it isn't too long before Saki and Maria pick up a trail, spotting sledge tracks that look likely to lead to Mamoru. Things take a turn for the worse however once these tracks are joined by some decidedly non-human footprints, before all of the tracks cease entirely at the edge of a cliff. The discovery of Mamoru's sledge buried deep in the snow only worsens the outlook for the group's friend, but some further investigation sees him turn up safe and sound... for now.
Thanks to the Monster Rat which Saki saved earlier in the series, Mamoru is alive and well, but we soon discover the exact reason for him going on the run - the appearance, not once but twice, of the Trickster Cat in his vicinity. In short, it seems as if Mamoru has been short-listed for "removal" from his community for whatever reason - a fact which flies in the face of Saki's recent knowledge, but more importantly one which begs the simple but seemingly impossible question, "what now?"
After explaining itself so eloquently in terms of Saki's conversation with Asahina and the difficult decisions made for the safety of the town that we've seen previously in the series, we're one again thrown the uneasy and sinister feeling that there are darker forces at work in this week's Shin Sekai Yori, and this time around it seems that nothing will fix the problem or allow the group to return to their normal lives. Despite a bit of a dip in animation quality again this week, it's a delightful piece of story-telling that manages to expertly blend the kind of fables and myths that come from childhood with a sense of reality and genuine threat that makes those urban legends so much creepier - once again, its ultimate finale to the episode leaves me, much like its cast, wondering what will happen next, and that alone is enough to keep me watching this series week after week.