And in the final episode, Humanity Has Declined decides to bring on the harem antics!
|So we finally reach the conclusion to this funny but hard-to-grasp show. If there’s one thing Humanity Has Declined has consistently done, it’s to subvert expectations, and it did it again here, continuing the previous episode’s message of hope and ending unquestionably on a happy note. It wasn’t a complete reversal, but it clashed with the show’s general sarcastic and pessimistic attitude, and it was just what this show needed to provide a satisfying finish.|
The finale continued the flashback instead of returning to the main character’s present, picking up right where the previous episode left off. The main character continued her school life with the Wild Rose Society, becoming friends with Y and helping both her and the Blonde fit in better with her friends. Like the previous episode, this one was centered around the main character and her schoolmates, with the fairies completely absent until the big finish, and with very little of the pointed cynical humor that defined most of the show.
As I mentioned, this was not at all what I had expected, but more on that later. This episode had the same general idea as the previous one, using the personal experiences of the main character as an example of more general societal issues. The previous episode was about abuse and bullying, and this one touched on even more general topics like secrets and friends, kicked off by the main character’s discovery of Y’s closeted fujoshi tendencies.
I truly found fascinating the way Humanity Has Declined kept sliding back and forth along the spectrum of cynicism. Y’s secret hobby or the main character turning the tables against her wasn’t particularly cynical or unexpected, but then the reveals of the Wild Rose Society members began, and we could see the show going back to its humorously cynical ways. One of the girls had massive anger issues, another had an unusual fascination with other girls’ hair, another couple were drug users (and possibly other things that shocked the main character), and the Blonde was a possessive maniac with an unhealthy obsession over the main character (but we knew that part already).
This part confused me somewhat, since these girls seemed pretty innocuous, but the main character’s reaction and the changing has me convinced that they were doing something sexually depraved.
Of course, that we all have deep dark secrets is an utterly mundane observation, but what I loved was how the show handled this revelation by the main character by not addressing it at all. There was absolutely no follow up, and the main character went right back to her everyday student life. She grew closer to Y and less close to the Wild Rose Society, but she and the others enjoyed a pleasant if incompetent time at school. The purpose of showing these shocking things wasn’t to point out how dark people actually were, it was to point out how boring and inconsequential such dark aspects of people were. What really matters is how we treat others. That’s an extremely hopeful message.
That feeling of hope was pervasive in this finale. Yes, the show continued to keep making digs at humanity’s sorry state. It took the main character and Y 2 years to pass 4th grade, and who knows how many years it took them to pass the 5th? The students were all resigned to the fate of never seeing each other again following graduation. But through it all, the main character and her friends enjoyed their time together. This was the continuation of the lesson from the previous episode: no matter how hopeless things may seem, having friends will make things better. The main character’s escape from bullying came from her friendship with the fairy, leading to friendship with others, leading to a happy school experience, all despite the depressing state of society. In finishing the series with this arc, in finishing the arc with the main character’s reunification with her very first fairy friend and finally discovering the Fairies’ Tea Party, Humanity Has Declined sent us off with a message of hope.
After a show is over, I like to try to look for any central themes or underlying messages I might have missed thanks to careful obscuring by the director. For example, it was only after the fact that I came to realize that every last scene in The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya existed for the purpose of progressing the relationship between Haruhi and Kyon. This realization changed my view of the work completely. I’ve been looking for something in Humanity Has Declined, but the best I could come up with was general cynicism about society. The show took every opportunity possible to rag on humanity, from the major plot points that drove entire arcs, like the manzines, to brief off-the-cuff remarks by the main character about any number of topics from education to bureaucracy.
But – and I’ve mentioned it before – cynicism is way too broad a topic and way overdone. Cynicism in commentary is like meta in comedy: you might giggle at the cleverness, but unless it brings something new or special to the table, you’re still groaning and rolling your eyes. I was doing that in the face of the show’s uninspired satire that was quick to grow tiresome. Early on, I kept hope that it was all going to build up to something, but I gave up and I decided to pay most attention to the over-the-top wacky comedy. That was usually quite solid, integrating excellently the show’s science fiction and fantasy elements. I loved episodes 9 and 10 because of how well they used the show’s setting, even if they were predictable. Humanity Has Declined was not the clever social satire that I had hoped for after the 1st episode, but it was still a consistently amusing comedy.
That twitching fairy just made this scene!
Then this arc had to happen. A huge departure in tone and style from the previous arcs, here was a deeply personal story about the main character’s struggles in this depressing world. This shift to heavier drama could have ended in disaster, but the show handled in remarkably well, with episode 11 standing out as an unusually heartfelt and wholly believable depiction of the effects of child abuse. The finale wasn’t quite as good, but it still told a sweet and poignant story. The arc provided a way to connect to this foreign world, turning the nameless character into an actually well developed character with whom we could sympathize. It turned a show that was only good for a few chuckles into something more meaningful. In the end, Humanity Has Declined didn’t do anything cohesive with its main theme described in the title. It took plenty of pot shots, but it only used the loosest, most general threads to tie its various arcs together. Perhaps this chronic failure to follow through was a meta commentary on humanity’s decline, but I don’t accept “It sucks because it’s supposed to” as an excuse. After all, the show delivered a message of hope, not just with the final arc, but peppered throughout the show such as in The Fairies’ Subculture arc.
Fittingly, it was thanks to that hope that the show was saved. The show couldn’t crack it as a cynic, it did alright as a comedienne, but as an optimist, it was wonderful. After the 1st episode, I had hopes that it could be another Kaiba. It wasn’t. But it didn’t miss by too much. Humanity Has Declined was a fine show with some interesting visuals. I would like to see more of it.
I never dreamed that this show would end this way. Quite fitting for a show that ended each episode with A Dream Within a Dream