One wonders, shouldn’t there be at least one male in this crowd?
|The main character and her assistant dispatched of the chicken revolution last episode, but society isn’t any better off. We’ve got a guest (recurring, I hope) appearance by Miyuki Sawashiro as Y, the main character’s colleague and self-described “rotten” girl. Her manga/doujinshi/convention scheme made for some great laughs, and Sawashiro’s voicework was spectacular as usual, but what of the social commentary that it really hit us over the head with in episode 1?|
One cynical message to take away is that you can live the dream by exploiting otaku for money (thing is, Y is one herself).
These past 2 episodes have shifted my expectations of Humanity Has Declined somewhat. After episode 1, I thought that we were in for serious science fiction that made pointed critiques of modern society by use of its setting. I mean, that bread was no crazier than what we saw in Kaiba. The 2nd episode showed that it wasn’t afraid to get silly, and this latest episode continues the trend, indicating that silliness might be the show’s primary objective. And that’s just fine if it continues to be as funny as these 2 episodes have been.
I’ve compared this show to Fractale before, a show that is a little less overt about referencing otaku culture. Anime creators do love to be self referential, sometimes to an obnoxious extent. Among all the digitized entertainment media in human history, a trove of boy-love manga is what happens to fall into Y’s lap? But those little details don’t matter after all, and it did produce good material for showing us the sorry state of humanity. Manga isn’t some special form of entertainment, it’s just that entertainment has declined to the extent that manga art blows most people’s minds. Just how far has art fallen to the point that backgrounds in perspective and consistent characters are “Lost Techniques?” It’s quite hilarious that no one has thought to reverse engineer it, though Y does it in this episode, apparently with ease, based on the copycats it spawns.
It would be easy to call this episode a criticism of today’s fujoshi or otaku culture, but that doesn’t seem to be the case at all. The mass of unproductive fujoshi isn’t presented as a cause of humanity’s decline, but rather as a symptom of it. That is, humans aren’t in trouble because of the time they waste on BL; the time they waste on BL is an indicator of the lack of good entertainment media. Y is actually presented positively, as someone who creates happiness for others through her ambition. It’s just that, like geeks often do, she sometimes gets a little too into her craft. Literally, by the looks of the scenes that bookended this episode.
1.3GB floppy disk. That’s retro-futurism.
There are a couple of bits I really like in this episode. One is the talk of long term data storage, which unfortunately doesn’t get discussed much after the 1st half. I’m no expert on the topic or even a hobbyist, but the topic of long-term data storage interests me. As Y said, digital media don’t last very long; for us, digitizing a piece of media and uploading it online may be effectively permanent, but that permanence comes from the redundancy and the constant upgrade cycle of the physical media on which the data resides. But once that maintenance stops and the data remains stagnant, the physical media will degrade, corrupting the data. Hard drives, magnetic tapes, and DVDs will deteriorate in a matter of decades, which is problematic if you want to keep something around for hundreds or even thousands of years.
Ironically, less advanced technologies are better for data longevity. I’m sure many of us have checked out books from the library that are over 100 years old or seen paintings from centuries ago hanging in museums right now on the canvas they were painted on. Go back even further, and you’ve got stone cutouts and cave paintings that last millenia. But old technologies lack the storage density and convenience (read/write latency) of modern media. Transcribing the binary of an H264 encode of a 2 hour movie into book form would be nightmarish work, without even considering the nightmare of extracting said video from what’s written in a book. So today’s archivists have to find a balance between permanence and convenience. The internet offers the best of both worlds when it’s on, but in the worst case scenario, perhaps something like what happened in Humanity Has Declined, we can’t count on it always being on.
If Y ever wanted to start a real intellectual property war, she’s well equipped.
The other bit I like is also mentioned only briefly, when Y is furious that others are copying her idea for a fanzine. The main character is detached as always and just explains that this is how culture spreads. With issues like SOPA, PIPA, and ACTA recently (we here at Metanorn, like many anime blogs, were part of the anti-SOPA/PIPA campaign in January), this rights holders vs. public interest conflict is very fresh in my mind. And the main character’s line hits the nail on the head;
sharing is how culture spreads. The public’s right to culture trumps an individual’s (socially constructed) “right” to exclusivity over his creation. Instead of creating artificial exclusivity, the original creator should use his first mover advantage to create a product that is better than the competitors’. That’s what’s best for society, and that’s what Y does in this episode, with very positive results. Though I’m sure she would have done it differently if she had access to a court system like RIAA or Apple do now.
Even though the show has been happy to explore what is wrong with its society with its 1st 2 episodes, this last episode has it also exploring the little joys that people have as well. And the people like Y who help create them – she may be a poor UN mediator, but she’s an excellent entrepreneur. So maybe this show isn’t just about how Humanity Has Declined but also about how humans continue to persevere and find happiness in this hilariously messed up world. It’s definitely a different show from what I expected, with more hope, more fantasy, and more humor. Those aren’t bad things to have more of.
Merging anime with manga. It’s worked before.