The last series covered, Clamp’s X, was a rather gloomy apocalyptic series. This time we look at something post-apocalyptic, but also a lot more cheerful and funny.
Humanity Has Declined originally became as a series of novels in 2007 written by Romeo Tanaka, with a 12 part anime being adapted from a selection of them in 2012. This is a rare example of satirical anime, although it features surreal elements too. Also, despite the satirical edge, it is also light hearted, colourful and jolly.
The series is set in a period in the future in which the human civilization has collapsed: there are no big cities, electricity is limited; and what remains of the falling human population now lives in small rural communities. The only life-form that seems to be flourishing is a race of constantly smiling, easily influenced, sweet-loving fairies.
Despite the downfall of civilization, the United Nations has survived. The central heroine is a UN mediator, whose job it is to both help the residents of the small settlement of Camphorwood Village, and to both work alongside and learn about the fairies. This is an easy job for her as she is one of the few people who still makes sweets; thus the fairies flock to her. The one thing we don’t know about her is her name. She is often referred to simply as “I” (“Watashi” in Japanese), but her true name is never revealed. The narrator lives with her Grandfather, who has a passion for guns; and her Hawaii-shirt wearing, mute Assistant.
Most of the stories are told over two episodes, with the narrator having to investigate certain strange goings-on, which normally are discovered to be caused by the fairies. The problem is that once the fairies get hold of an idea they become uncontrollably keen on it. For example, their desire to get more sweets results in them trying to clone the narrator multiple times; another time the narrator and some fairies are stranded on an island in the middle of a lake. The fairies make the narrator queen of the island, which results in the fairies founding, expanding, and destroying their own island-wide empire in around a week.
Humanity Has Declined is a very funny show. The topics covered range from consumerism, science, and even manga. One of my personal favourite stories in the series sees a friend of the narrator called Y who uncovers a printing press, a photocopier and some computer discs which contains some yaoi (male homoerotica aimed at women). This results in Y publishing her own yaoi, and it becoming a gigantic craze. Things take a dramatic turn however when the narrator, Y and Assistant find themselves in a white, featureless world. It turns out they are trapped in a blank manga comic and need to find a way to escape.
Not only is it funny, but it is surprisingly cheerful given the situation. This is a post-apocalyptic comedy. Now, this is a subject that has been covered before in this column, as the mecha series Gurren Lagann (No. 50) is also post-apocalyptic, but both are funny for different reasons. Gurren Lagann is funny because it is over-the-top, big and brash; Humanity Has Declined is funny because it is satirical, absurd and cultural, as the series references other anime and cultural phenomenon (references are explained in the subtitles).
Aside from this, the animation looks wonderful. I like the soft, pastel-like art which adds to the gayety of the show. The soundtrack is also good, especially the opening theme song, “Real World” by Nano Ripe.
If you need cheering up, this series is a great way to do it. Even if the world as you know it was to end, it would make you laugh. Although if the world really did end, finding an electricity supply might be tricky.
Humanity Has Declined can be streamed via Crunchyroll, and is on Region 1 DVD from Sentai Filmworks.