Welp, looks like it’s time to panic.
|Just FYI, I’m going to be at Otakon this weekend. Would love to meet up with some of you; let me know if you’re also gonna be there!
This episode picked up right from the cliffhanger, even sharing the same title as the previous episode. How would our protagonists get out of this pickle? Unfortunately, the great premise wasn’t exploited to its fullest extent, and the comedy was hit or miss, making for a relatively weak episode.
The assistant really knows a lot of things. I don’t recognize the board game he’s holding up, but I can swear I’ve seen it somewhere before.
Whereas last week’s otaku-oriented doujin antics were framed in the show’s setting, the manga stuff this week felt like they could stand alone. It was very specifically satirizing the struggles that modern manga authors in Japan has to go through, a rather esoteric topic that made for a couple laughs but felt wholly detached from the show’s conceit. That’s not a major problem; the show wasn’t always on-point in the first 3 episodes either. After all, its apparent lack of focus was one of my early criticisms. But the comedy this week wasn’t particularly strong either, resulting in what was the weakest episode so far.
Like the previous episode, this one had plenty of hope mixed in with its cynicism. Y’s schemes for gaining popularity certainly worked well at the start, but the readers quickly saw through them. Quite the contrast from the last episode which showed the “manzine” fans to be rather undiscriminating in their tastes, to put it kindly. This time around, the fans’ tastes – and preference for actual substance over cheap gimmicks – actually pushed our protagonists’ manga all the way to cancellation.
Due to the overall feeling of disconnect from the real world, there wasn’t much more in the way of social commentary, though I did appreciate how it ended with the main character casually adding the “manzine” to the ban list. Of course, the humor in Humanity Has Declined hasn’t completely relied on social commentary, but I didn’t find myself having that much fun with this episode. The manga author metaphor was played annoyingly straight, making things predictable. There was plenty of potential in the concept, especially when the assistant started drawing on the walls (watch this 3 minute long short animation that used the same idea), but I found the results to be lacking in imagination. Hey, maybe that’s a meta commentary the show is going for?
That said, some parts were handled very well. I liked following along as the protagonists discovered the rules of the manga world. The margins with notes in them between the panels and the literal expansion of panels were pretty clever. The meta humor was cute at times, like the main character’s line describing their manga as a “science fiction-mystery-martial arts-voyage-adventure-action-romance-high fantasy-horror.” There were definitely some good laughs in there; they were just too far between.
Unfortunately, they never got more imaginative than this.
I really wish this episode was better than it was, because there are plenty of things this show continues to do well. The art doesn’t deviate much from standard anime, but it does have characteristics that make it stand out, such as the varied pastel color palette, the soft and often simple character designs, and the anachronistic-looking backgrounds. The voice acting has also been consistently strong, owing to the fact that most of the talking so far have been done by either Mai Nakahara (the main character) or Miyuki Sawashiro (Y). The main character doesn’t sound as soft as some of Nakahara’s other famous roles like Rena (Higurashi) or Nanami (Katanagatari), and she has enough bite to fit her cynical, sarcastic, and unflappable character. And Sawashiro puts just the right amount of energy into Y, the overly confident fujoshi. But this is a show that really needs its writing to excel. We’ve already seen that it’s capable of doing better than this episode. I hope it does it again.
Perhaps getting sucked into a manzine got the main character sucked into manzines? (Sorry)