Kafuka Fuura confirmed for having blonde descendants.
|I expected that the previous episode would be the chronologically 1st, but Humanity Has Declined continued to defy expectations with another flashback episode, this time all the way back to when the main character first entered school at 9 years of age. The topic this time was bullying and abuse, as the main character had to deal with being a misfit in her new environment, despite attempts by some to help her. This story gave us a better idea of who the main character is and how she ended up as the cynical narrator we’ve come to love. Indeed, this was easily the best episode of the show yet, in which we saw the main character turn from just a viewer stand in to an actual well-formed character.|
I adored this robot. Advanced enough to identify and pick a lock, but too dumb to adjust to a new floor layout. Plus, the voice was excellent; reminded me a lot of Satomi Arai.
Since starting off with a bang with a shockingly fun first episode, Humanity Has Declined hasn’t always lived up to its promise. Certainly, it has embraced its main gimmick, of using crazy science fiction stories to criticize aspects of modern society, but these attempts have often felt weak and without the sharpness that such criticism requires. The issues mentioned have often felt too abstract and far removed from everyday life. Off-hand comments about the inefficiencies of bureaucracy or an overly lenient grading system have felt more like something a stand-up comic points out for laughs than actual criticism meant to provoke thought. Combine that with a nameless main character who is more observer than actor in these stories, and we get a show that makes many generalized statements but doesn’t really connect on a personal level.
Maybe this is what we signed up for with a nameless main character? Looking at nameless protagonists like Kyon from The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya and another “Watashi” from Tatami Galaxy, it’s obvious that this isn’t the case. Despite their lack of names, they are characters with actual personality, whose trials and tribulations we see in their shows causing them to change and grow as human beings. Being nameless doesn’t mean being a viewer stand in. Of course, The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya and Tatami Galaxy were both character driven works with very focused and tight narratives, unlike the broad social commentary that’s at the heart of Humanity Has Declined. A better show to make comparisons with might be Kino’s Journey, which also has a “nameless” protagonist (technically she does have a name, though she decides to drop it for “Kino” which is more of a title than a name) who goes around a science fiction world discovering new awesome ways in which humans can fuck up. Kino herself was emotionless for most of the show, and it was only when it explored her back story that we really got to understand her and why she is the way she was. And that’s exactly what happened with the main character in Humanity Has Declined.
How perfect is bullying both for developing the main character and for bridging that gap between the general and the personal? Unlike processed foods or nation/religion management or corporate culture, it is something most people have experienced in some capacity by middle school. It’s deeply personal, emotionally impacting the most vulnerable of our population, but it’s also very much a societal issue that reflects some failure in the part of society. And this time, the main character was right at the heart of it instead of just watching from the sidelines. In exploring such a heavy issue, it was much more serious than we were used to seeing in this show. The abuse that the main character suffered was believable and painful to watch, and the show depicted it with complete respect, showing the effects this treatment had in the main character’s psyche without painting her as only a victim.
A masterfully directed shot, even if unsubtle.
Indeed, the main character was complicit in causing her loneliness; there were many chances for her to escape early on when people reached out to her. And this brought to my mind another issue closely related to bullying: child abuse. I’ve noticed undertones of this throughout the show; the main character casually mentioned more than once that Gramps would hit her. And her actions in this episode convinced me that she was a victim of abuse before she went to school. Her flat rejection of her teacher and the paranoid delusions she created around the blonde showed an inability to trust others, a classic sign of a child who had suffered parental abuse. It was heartbreaking to see her destroy herself like that, especially when accompanied by her own narration over the flashback regretting her failure to take those opportunities.
Okay, the bones were unnecessary, but I’m willing to let that slide. Especially since it’s a kid’s dream sequence.
She denied, denied, denied, but it was obvious that she was filled with pain. That was what made her breakdown work; it was eventual, only after weeks – possibly months – of lying to herself did she finally acknowledge her feelings. It was impulsive and in a dream. Too often in anime characters are quick to turn to crying or speaking out exactly what they feel, which feels exploitative and forced. I’ve seen that same breakdown scene butchered dozens of times in anime (often written by Mari Okada). But this was an honest and believable depiction of a suffering child who was unable to fully grasp the emotions running through her.
And what a difference it made when she finally decided to accept someone’s love and to love back! That lone fairy filled a role that’s very common for fairies, the secret friend of the loner. The main character giving him the sandwich was the first nice thing she did in this episode, and it wasn’t coincidence that it was the source of the first real laughter. And the show turned right back into a wacky comedy when she took the biggest step of all, deciding to be nice to the blonde, revealing her to be a crazy stalker-type girl. The genre shift in those scenes was a very effective way to communicate just how much joy can be brought to one’s life by very small changes toward trusting and loving others. Life can get pretty dark, but it’s always a little more bearable when you have a friend – even if he’s a drug addict or she insists on being too close for comfort. By the end, when the main character was practically joining the Yamayurikai, the show had turned all the way back into a dark comedy, and I was laughing right along with the main character when she immediately looked for a way out of the tea club.
Clever bit of shadow animation here. Boys killing and torturing fairies is also a common fairy trope.
With this penultimate episode, the show has already established itself to be one of the best of the year. Considering how strong this year has been and how average I had considered the first 8 episodes to be, this reflects what a great run Humanity Has Declined has had these past 3 episodes. It clearly brought out the big guns for the finish. They haven’t been everything I had hoped they would be, and they haven’t done the impossible job of tying together all of the show’s loose ends, but they have played to the show’s strengths. They created incredible spectacles that the show’s setting is uniquely suited for, and this latest episode told a touching and all too believable story of abuse, one that I never would have expected from this show. I’m not sure what we’re in for in the finale, but I’m pretty sure it’ll surprise me, and if it maintains the quality of the run up to it, it will be a fine finish to a great show.
The main character mentioned that an old friend was coming to visit. Could it be…