This is exactly what it looks like.
|Humanity Has Declined ended with quite the cliffhanger last week. And just as the show had sped up to a nice pace, too. And this episode did a fine job of following up and finishing, with references to some modern events on the way.|
This feels somewhat video game inspired.
How fitting that this episode about homecoming managed to easily be the best one since the first. This was Humanity Has Declined at its best, pushing science fiction elements beyond their limits until they’re barely recognizable. Along the way, it kept doling out more hints about the show’s setting, while also making some digs at the sorry state of society.
There was so much to this episode, but the most significant piece has to be the explanation of Pion’s past, which also revealed to us the identity of the 2 black monoliths: the space probes Pioneer and Voyager, launched in the mid-70s. I love the way they explained away the Pioneer anomaly, which you’ve probably heard about if you follow science news. We don’t have a slam-dunk explanation yet, but there was a pretty good explanation published earlier this year, which is obviously after the original publication of Humanity. Here, the show clearly pushed beyond science fiction and into fantasy with the unexplained evolution of these probes into conscious AIs (though Voyager argues that they were conscious from the start, which doesn’t really change things). It reminded me somewhat of Diebuster, (spoilers)in which robots designed to protect the Earth evolved over thousands of years to become what appear to be space monsters. That one could be handwaved over somewhat because the robots were an evolving swarm,(/spoilers) but in Humanity, we have to resort to “sufficiently advanced technology,” i.e. magic. Which is just fine – it’s not about the hardness of the science fiction, it’s about how it’s used.
Best application of swarm AI and tech ever.
For example, there is something inherently funny about seeing a giant kitten fighting a Nautilus only to be defeated by a long range microwave beam. Even considering the various sentient foodstuffs we’ve seen on this show, this might be the craziest display it’s had to offer so far. The fact that the kitten was a composite robot made up of much smaller robots was just icing on the cake.
Seeing the fairy take control of the Nautilus in that fight got me thinking about to whom the title refers. Are the fairies descendents of humanity? I loved that fairy’s attitude when he was listening to the main character’s request to save her. Amazing feats like merging into the Nautilus and controlling it come naturally to him, and he thinks nothing of saving the main character’s life. He’s another example of the magic of fairies who are supremely intelligent and capable but also only focused on having fun. They’ve let ambivalence take over. The humans, on the other hand, seem like (even) stupider versions of ourselves. And though they work, the Fairies’ Subculture episodes showed them not exactly to be diligent. But it’s a matter of ability, not of motivation as in the case of fairies. I guess it makes most sense to consider both to be offsprings of humanity, but they have declined in different ways.
I wonder if the engineers at NASA ever envisioned their creations eventually doing this to each other.
Part of what made this episode special was how well it kept twisting in on itself. The monoliths from the beginning turned out to be probes designed to go into space and find alien life. Yet after (presumably) thousands of years, they ended up back home, and thanks to the failure of their missions, the Human Monument Project from the start got a massive boost. And the ending came right back to the beginning of the show when the main character had just cut her hair. The twisting came into the biting commentary as well, when the project members got so mad at the main character that they forgot to punish her appropriately. I have to admit, when it gets going, this is a pretty clever show. Here’s hoping that it continues with this pacing.
I have a thing for short hair on girls. Shame this was so short-lived.