Thursday, November 8, 2012

In short: Jinrui wa Suitai Shimashita (2012)

aka Humanity Has Declined

As the title of this twelve-part anime show states, in its nearly post-technological future, mankind has entered a state of stagnation and decline, with the remainders of humanity living a rather bucolic and peaceful looking life. It's a very soft apocalypse, where no punky raiders ride around in dune buggies to rape and pillage. Instead, what's left of humanity takes its own end with a slightly melancholic shrug of their shoulders.

The new dominant species (or as the show calls them "the new humanity") on Earth are the Fairies, weird yet probably well-meaning little creatures with a thing for hats and sweets and horrifying and/or cute ever-smiling holes where their mouths are supposed to be. Oh, they also can do magic. And science. Or something.

The show's nameless, pink-haired protagonist returns to her home village (humanity can't do the whole "city" thing anymore) to work as an UN mediator between humans and fairies. She's really rather good with the fairies, but she still gets into a bunch of strange, hair-raising and often wickedly funny (on more than one level) adventures, like having to thwart the world-domination plan of naked chickens, or becoming trapped in a manga where she has to survive the horrors of actual Japanese manga magazine culture, or surviving the the mandatory "Groundhog day" time vortex episode (which does not take up ten episodes, and includes a most curious tea party). It all ends up in a surprisingly poignant and complex boarding school adventure that would be the stuff of a whole season in most other shows.

As the show merrily jumps around in its internal time line, there's no major plot developing. Storylines usually take up two episodes and merrily take from the part of otaku culture the show's producers want to explore, send up, or work in this week. These genre detours get plenty crazy, but they never lead to a show that only consists of pieces of other shows or cultural artefacts. Instead, Jinrui manages to take these bits and pieces and make them intrinsic parts of itself; I'd even say it could stand on its own for a viewer who doesn't even get half of its winks and nudges.

Still, that structure should by all rights lead to a rather random show, and if you only look at its very surface, Jinrui is rather random (like its fairies). On a thematic and emotional level, though, there is more than one through-line to the show, with melancholic yet hopeful acceptance the emotional tenor between all the craziness the show can come up with.

Surprisingly, all that randomness also manages to add up to the sort of somewhat coherent worldbuilding where even the more bizarre elements begin to make sense once you put them in context with each other. Of course, the show expects its viewers to do large parts of that effort themselves, so if you don't, it's just adorably random, which is also well and good.

The show's main director Seiju Kishi and composer (aka lead writer) Makoto Uezu belong to the type of contemporary commercial anime workers who seem to be doing just about any kind of show, with no philosophical through-line I could find, so it's impossible to position Jinrui in the context of a body of work, seeing as most of what they have done lacks any personality of its own as far as I can tell . Jinrui wa Suitai Shimashita on the other hand, is all personality.

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