Slouching Toward the Apocalypse.
In life, some days you eat chicken and some days you get feathers. Anime is much the same way, and it can be hard to tell at a glance if a series will be a “winner-winner-chicken-dinner” or something that will make you cry “fowl”. “Cruising the Crunchy-Catalog” is here to help. Each week we provide additional info and cultural context to help anime fans determine which shows should be at the top of their pecking order and which shows are just for the birds.
What’s Humanity Has Declined?
Humanity Has Declined is a 2012 TV anime with direction by Seiji Kishi and animation by AIC A.S.T.A.. The series is based on the Jinrui wa Suitai Shimashita light novel series written by Romeo Tanaka and illustrated by Tōru Yamasaki and Sunaho Tobe. Crunchyroll describes Humanity Has Declined as follows:
Our human race has been slowly declining for several centuries now. In many ways, the Earth already belongs to the Fairies. Life is relaxed and care…free? Thus begins a story that is a little strange and just a tiny bit absurd.
A cheerfully post-Apocalyptic tale of a world where human civilization is slowly circling the drain, Humanity Has Declined follows the misadventures of a young UN Mediator who acts as liaison between the pastoral pockets of old humanity and the Fairies, a new species of pint-sized people who possess technology so advanced as to be indistinguishable from magic.
Despite her outward appearance of reliable responsibility, the Mediator is actually quite cynical and acid-tongued, and she’s more concerned with dodging blame and leading an easy life than in performing civil service. Similarly, the Fairies mean well, but their very presence warps reality, often with bizarre and unpredictable results.
Wherefore Art Thou, Romeo?
What’s in a name? It’s difficult to say, because in Humanity Has Declined, none of the main characters have proper names. The protagonist is known as Mediator to her peers, and she signs her journal entries with “Watashi”, a Japanese first person singular pronoun. Most other characters are referred to either by their title (“Director”, “Assistant”) or their familial relationship (“Grandfather”, “Granddaughter”).
Another element that may throw first-time viewers for a loop is the fact that Humanity Has Declined is not told in chronological order. The series contains 7 tiny story arcs that are shuffled around, such that for example the events of first arc (Episodes 1 & 2) actually take place after the events of the third arc (Episodes 5 & 6), while the events of the final story arc (Episodes 11 & 12) are told in flashback. One of the story arcs also deals with a sealed time loop, so it can get a bit bewildering.
A Macabre Sense of Humor.
For a series with such a bright color palette, Humanity Has Declined has a sense of humor that is equal parts grim and surreal. The Human Monument project – designed to immortalize humanity’s achievements in history, science, and culture – is the butt of repeated jokes. Failure and human folly are constant as the foibles of Mediator and her friends invariably make matters worse when they try to address the frictions created by living in proximity to the Fairies.
A Strange Sentimentality.
Although primarily a comedy, Humanity Has Declined also has quiet moments of introspection where characters experience pangs of loneliness, isolation, and doubt despite being surrounded by family, friends, and co-workers. The series also examines what it means to form a personal identity despite the slow decay of human civilization. What meaning does “work” or “hobbies” have in a post-human world? How do people define themselves?
Crunchyroll currently streams Humanity Has Declined in 75 territories worldwide. The series is available in the original Japanese language with subtitles in English, Latin American Spanish, and Portuguese. Humanity Has Declined is also available on Bluray and DVD in North America from Sentai Filmworks. Unfortunately, no official English translations are currently available for the original light novels or their manga spin-offs.
Sometimes silly, sometimes sentimental, and strange throughout, Humanity Has Declined is a good match for fans with a taste for the cute, the acerbic, and the bizarre. If that sort thing appeals to you, please consider giving Humanity Has Declined a try.
Special props go to resident fairy negotiator Joel Drayer (@Joel_Drayer) for suggesting the subject of this week’s “Cruising the Crunchy-Catalog”. Thanks again, Joel. I’m sure the viewers will have a fairy good time with Humanity Has Declined.
Is there a series in Crunchyroll’s catalog that you think needs some more love and attention? Please send in your suggestions via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or post a Tweet to @gooberzilla. Your pick could inspire the next installment of “Cruising the Crunchy-Catalog”!
Paul Chapman is the host of The Greatest Movie EVER! Podcast and GME! Anime Fun Time.