The key to time travel is the lowly banana (see also: Steins;Gate)
|The previous arc was a prequel, so why not continue that by making this arc a prequel to that one? We rewound back to before the main character met her assistant so that we could follow her journey to finding him. More than anything, this episode was confusing as heck, though it was by design. And it got me thinking a lot about bananas and how they connect with cloning, time loops, and the decline of humanity.|
Some moral boundaries seem worth crossing given the massive increase in productivity.
There was a lot of stuff to unpack in this episode. We got to find out that fairies like cakes so much that to make them, they would clone the main character, something she finds morally objectionable. Their method of cloning seems to be via time loop, where the main character kept jumping back in time, but her original self stayed where she was, with each iteration started by tripping on a banana peel. And I don’t know if the author intended it, but the banana was a great choice for this trigger. Obviously, it was used in its classic slapstick way here with the fall initiating something, but what I’m getting at is how well the banana goes with the theme of humanity in decline and especially with the cloning and time loop seen in this episode. I figure enough of you listen to NPR that I don’t need to elaborate, but surely there are plenty who haven’t run into it yet, so I’ll explain.
Cavendish banana. 99% of bananas found in US supermarkets are this kind and share almost all share almost the exact same DNA.
I’m coming from an American perspective, but banana commerce is similar in most other first world countries. Americans eat about 3 mllion tons of bananas each year, but very little of it is grown there – only on the order of 10,000 tons a year in Hawaii. So the vast majority is imported from places with more tropical climates, like South America, Africa, and India. So bananas have to travel thousands of miles in ships and planes to get to the supermarket where it’s sold. Transporting fruits is tricky due to their fragility as well as the timing issues of ripening. Not all types of banana are well suited to survive the trip. For that reason, virtually all bananas sold in the United States is of one particularly durable type: (Dwarf) Cavendish. But things weren’t always that way; before the Cavendish became ubiquitous in the world of banana commerce, the Gros Michel (“Big Mike”) held the same spot from the late 19th century to the early 20th. In fact, during this time, the Cavendish was looked down upon for being flavorless. But by the 50s, Gros Michel banana farms were nearly wiped out, necessiating a replacement type, which was the Cavendish.
Why were they nearly wiped out? Here’s where the cloning comes in: bananas reproduce asexually, which means children have the same DNA as their parents. This leads to a lack of genetic diversity in the population, which means that one weakness can be deadly to an entire population. And that’s exactly what happened with the Gros Michel. It took half a century, but a fungal infection of the root called Panama disease stubbornly spread from farm to farm – the clone-reproducing bananas unable to evolve a resistant strain – and by the 50s, it was close to extinct in the major farming areas. And that’s when the lowly Cavendish, resilient against the fungus, swooped in. Because it was an even hardier banana than the Gros Michel, despite its worse taste, it quickly took over as the new ubiquitous banana in international commerce. And it worked for a few decades, but the fungus has continue to evolve for the past 50 years while the Cavendish has stayed still. I’m sure you can see where this is going: the Cavendish is being killed off by the same Panama disease, and we’re facing very much the same crisis as 50 years ago.
The allegedly more flavorful Gros Michel banana. 70 years ago, this was the only one you could buy. You can still find them at obscure locations.
Here’s a brief recap: through (natural) cloning, humans made one type of banana ubiquitous in order to feed consumer demand; the ubiquity lead to that type being wiped out, leading humans to come up with hardier replacement of another type; in order to feed consumer demand, that new type also became ubiquitous; the ubiquity of this new type is going to wipe it out. The 1st time is a mistake, but the 2nd time is tragedy. It’s like watching a time loop. A stupid, wasteful, and harmful result caused by humans acting without a proper plan or conscious thought. It’s exactly what Humanity Has Declined is all about. Here’s a positive note, though: none of these bananas have gone extinct and are still grown in areas that haven’t been infected by the fungus.
Again, I doubt that the author inteded all these connections, but hey, they’re there, and he deserves credit for putting them in. The episode was quite entertaining otherwise, though the laughs weren’t all that related to social commentary. The sundial watch with a built in compass had me in stitches. What a statement the casual use of such a tool makes about the state of things in this setting! And seeing a dozen main characters all obliviously going about making sweets without even recognizing herself was funny in its absurdity. The incredible “immoral” power of self-cloning used for making sweets! The time loop is a tough tool both to use and to make sense of. Excellent examples exist like The Tatami Galaxy or Steins;Gate (a series that also featured a prominent banana), but you also have extremely poor examples like The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya (2009) or Magical Girl Madoka Magica. It’s hard to pass judgment on a use of this plot device until the end, so I don’t consider the confusion of this episode to be a bad thing. And Humanity Has Declined has done a fine job setting up its 2-episode arcs as Answer-Question pairs. Let’s see what answers the end of this arc has in store for us, and hey, maybe the banana is going to end up more important than I think?
Perhaps the assistant can answer our questions? And what’s with the dog? There seem to be as many of them as the clones of the main character…