Humanity has Declined: An Anime Review
Humanity has declined(or "Jinrui wa Suitai Shimashita" in Japanese). The title summons images of the people with signs warning of the end, the sigh of the cynic, and maybe some dark movie or book detailing the last moments of the human race.
To some degree this what «Humanity has declined» is about. We are past the apocalypse, and all Earths cities are in ruins. And yet, this is a happy end of the world and the people get by in small towns scattered across the world. However, with the sun setting on the human race, a new species seems eager to take over: the fairies. Fairies are tiny people who still have the ability humanity has lost: the ability to build and create and change. In the ruins and garbage dumps of the human empire they multiply and build their own cities. Meanwhile humanity is heading towards destruction and has become dependent on the fairies for food and other help.
The Heroine and the Fairies
In this world there lives a young girl. She is never named, so we'll just call her the heroine. She acts as a mediator between the fairies and the humans with the help of her special skill: she can make sweets, the one thing the fairies can not. So it falls to her to help the fairies and get help in return, and the episodes usually revolve around the heroines futile attempts at controlling the little pests.
The heroine is an interesting character. Too often anime pushes characters too far in some direction so they turn into unbelievable stereotypes, but the heroine feels pretty balanced. She is a very calm and collected teenager, sometimes comically unfazed by the insanity that goes on around her. This is perhaps the only thing that lets her talk with the fairies without losing her mind. Unusually subtle for anime is her loneliness, which is only explored in the last episodes, but which is shown from the beginning. While always polite, the heroine rarely has deep conversations with others, instead often backing away or becoming silent. She is however determined and willing to step up to the challenge, while still being a bit cynical about it all. I really do enjoy this girl.
The fairies are by far the best part of the show. Cutesy, strange and sometimes extremely disturbing, I never get tired of these guys, and my enjoyment of any episode is usually correlated with the amount of fairies in them. The fairies are a naïve new species, curious and easily led by the mood. They reproduce by having fun and can thus quickly multiply during parties. Despite their flaws however, they are able to build in ways humans can not, and they are often described as the new humans. The fairies also have a sinister side, eagerly doing “shady research” and bullying other fairies.
The Underlying Horror
“Humanity has declined” is an excellent comedy, where the colourful and pretty visuals and lighthearted tone just helps to accentuate the disturbing reality the story takes place in and the out of place comments made by some of the characters. It often feels like watching a show intended for little kids and then suddenly Bert accuses Ernie of being a communist, before they go back to their usual talks.
The characters themselves seems trapped between the color and the cruel world around them, and denial is a concept that is quietly brought up a couple of times. It often seems like the heroine is the only one who understands the danger humanity is in, and this informs her dark worldview. Everyone else are happy hunting while the food storage is getting more and more empty, having festivals celebrating the time they had electricity, and making gay porn manga. Humans can adapt to everything, but it is a bit strange how careless these humans are as they plunge into the pit of extinct animals. Denial also comes up when we see the heroine's school days when seeing her friends' true selves.
The Beginning of the End
Anyone watching would be interested in knowing humanity arrived at its sorry state. The anime never tells, but many of the episodes centers around things that might have done it. Episode 9 and 10 are my favorites, and the first one deals with unsustainable use of resources leading to society's destruction, while the latter is about religion, or perhaps any sudden new trend sweeping through civilization. So while we never learn what happened we are given plenty of options. Perhaps it was the other theme of the anime, denial and carelessness, that in the end doomed humanity?
Humanity has declined is a special anime, the kind that is made all too rarely. Perhaps the show can become a little too strange for some, the time travel episodes certainly left me wondering what the point of it all was. But beyond that there is such a strange, fun and disturbing world to explore, that I feel anyone should give it a go. And as a final bonus, the ending theme song is one of the most beautiful I have ever heard.