Front row seats to humanity’s demise!
|Anime as a medium is filled with science fiction shows, but few of them actually use theri settings as anything more than plot devices or substitute for magic. That’s fine, but I do like to have more pure science fiction as well, one that really pokes and prods all the bits and pieces of its setting. This seems to be the case in Humanity Has Declined (Jinrui wa Suitai Shimashita), a show with no named characters that is set in the far future when humans are close to extinction (and thus we’ve reverted to medieval times, apparently).|
|Ever look in the fridge for something to eat, and end up choosing to starve despite the fact that there’s plenty of food in there? I do this all the time. I don’t think I’d handle a food crisis quite as well as the folks in Jintai, and they’re just scraping by. There’s a lot more to be said about people who don’t die immediately from not having a constant supply of their favourite snacks, which is precisely why I’ll stop talking about myself and start talking about the show.|
Gotta have dancing in the opening!
lvlln // Humanity Has Declined is blunt right off the bat with its title, a simple description of the show’s setting. We see the world through the eyes of the unnamed main character, a UN mediator, as she visits some village to teach its girls how to turn live chickens into meat. When she fails in this by letting the chickens escape, we get to see to what extent humanity has declined.
Unsurprisingly, cynicism is the name of the game in this show, as it keeps making obvious critiques of various aspects of modern society. In her search for the chickens, the main character eventually ends up at a FairyCo factory that produces marmalade and bread, all synthetically by the looks of it. The receptionist isn’t shy about admitting that his company’s food tastes like crap compared to the real thing. The meeting that goes forever only to land on the first suggestion is an especially blatant criticism of how modern corporations work.
“We’d starve to death!” “But at least it’s new and interesting!”
Humanity Has Declined is undoubtedly influenced by many previous science fiction works, and there are 2 anime shows in particular that it reminds me of. The first and most obvious one is Fractale. Like in that show, humans have become completely reliant on technology, and are pretty much doomed to death if left to their own devices. The art is also quite similar, with bright and colorful landscapes as the backdrop. But (one of many places) where Fractale failed – making a convincing case that the current situation is problematic – Humanity Has Declined is a show that gets right to the point. As cheerfully explained by the fairies, they’re going to starve to death if they can’t correct the mediator’s error with the chickens.
Which is why I think this show is much more similar to the 2nd show I had in mind, Kaiba. Kaiba doesn’t particularly look like Humanity Has Declined like Fractale does (it doesn’t particularly look like any show, really), but it is also a science fiction show that presents a pessimistic far future for humanity. The dire situation that humanity is in can be traced back to the things we’re doing wrong now, and the shows have an air of pessimism hanging over the scenery at all times.
Anyone notice the Hitler mustache on this dude? I guess that bit of fashion finally became acceptable by this time!
The show’s social commentary is too overt at times and can feel clumsy in those cases. The fair/good/excellent grading system seems just thrown in there, and the main character narrates the exact lesson to be learned at various points throughout the episode. One place where the overtness works well is the already infamous ending with the bread, but that’s to be expected when shock value is being used. The show takes sides on multiple issues – mass production of food, coddling of our students, inefficiencies of corporations – but it hasn’t yet tied everything together into one cohesive message. Since this is only the first episode, the show may be throwing a lot of things at us in order to build on them in future episodes. A couple questions still hanging over the show are, why are humans going extinct, and what is the origin of those fairies? I suspect that those answers might be saved for the very end. But in the meanwhile, the show has plenty of topics to explore. If Humanity Has Declined can do that well like Kaiba did, it could be something amazing by the end. If it fails at that, we might end up with something a lot closer to Fractale.
I like these little things like the hair growth product that remind us that this fantasy setting is actually far in the future.
Overcooled // There is something to be said about a show where food is sentient and fairies gleefully titter about the entire population dying from starvation. Jintai is about such…interesting…things. If you expected a serious take on a post-apocalyptic society struggling to make ends meet and scour together meager meals, then you will be quite surprised. Seiji Kishi is going for a more of a dark comedy approach. For example, the episode starts off cute and simple with lots of pastel colours that lead you to think the show will be sweet and fluffy. It’s not long before a loaf of carrot bread commits suicide with a gush of bright red “blood” spurting out. This show is, in a word, demented. The contrast in tone between the cutesy-looking fairies and the horrible things they actually say is both disconcerting and hilarious at the same time. There’s something great about little people with giant grins on their faces cheerfully discussing human extinction.
Jintai is an odd show, and I hope they can manage to maintain the same grim-yet-light feel throughout. I expect some genuinely important statements about society, human nature and economy to be brought up amidst everything. Although the presentation is there to make you laugh (at least…I HOPE that’s the intention here), there are still plenty of underlying messages. Are board meetings really just for show? Is it necessary to play out your role just to keep democracy working? Is it right for a company to synthesize food out of anything and not tell you? What IS food anyways, when you think about it? While the actual content of the episode frames it all in a zany comedy, I couldn’t help but wonder if I’d eat fake bread made out of garbage if I had nothing else to eat. Even the less extreme case of wondering what the hell is in the synthesized foods we have in stores now popped into my head.
How could you not find this appetizing?
I haven’t actually watched any other summer show, but I can still say that Jintai is good news for the batch of seasonal stuff coming out now. It’s great when Watashi (no, not me! The girl!) is involved with the fairies or living food. The more normal situations like talking to those 3 girls or herding chickens is a bit slow, and I find myself waiting for a punchline about grain products bi-secting themselves. It’s all going to be about balance. The cute and the dark, as well as the everyday life and the absurd need to be in harmony. Or, you know, just have bread kill itself all day. Can you tell I liked this scene based on how many times I mentioned it? Jintai has some shining moments if you’re a bit patient, so I suggest you guys check it out.