- Genre: Absurdist, surreal, comedy, commentary
- Episodes: 12
- Studio: AIC A.S.T.A.
It was bound to happen. We all saw it coming. Now Humanity has declined. No longer comfortably perched at the top of the food chain the dwindling remains of the once great human race are calmly, slowly biding their time on the way to inevitable extinction. There was no cataclysm, no tragedy, no great upheaval, Humanity has simply run its course and with nothing much to do and no one to fight, humans do what they can to maintain their lifestyle with greatly reduced resources, as they watch the fairies slowly take over the future. Hilarity ensues!
I discovered this hidden gem through Anime and Coffee’s absolutely brilliant post on this criminally underrated show. Sadly, it seems the blog hasn’t been updated in a minute but I hope Peter comes back soon because I need to start thanking him right now if I ever want to be able to thank him enough.
A quick look over the pictures in this post should be enough to reveal the obvious. Humanity has Declined is one gorgeous show. The designs are simple but incredibly effective and unique. The backgrounds use the same transparent ink/watercolor aesthetic as My Hero Academia, but push it even further to absolutely breathtaking effect and the colour palette is resplendent. I had to dig up the thesaurus for this one folks – I just couldn’t find a way to praise it enough.
Sound design and direction are both excellent but because of the nature of fairies, I could see their shrill little voices getting annoying. Not to worry, they are not that present and to be honest, I kinda liked their weird eternally cheery voices. It added to their personalities. You know what, instead of my just piling on the hyperbole (is it hyperbole when it’s 100% earned?), just take a minute and look at this OP. It’ll give you a sense of what you’re dealing with here.
I guess some of you may be thinking, visuals and technical aspects are all well and good, but a show really needs some kind of decent narrative or characters to keep you interested… Picky aren’t we? Generally speaking, the story is exactly as I’ve summarized it but particularly speaking, it is in fact a series of loosely related, non-linear mini arcs. I wouldn’t quite qualify it as a Slice of Life though since each mini arc most definitely does not deal with any mundane daily activity but are rather self-contained high concept adventures.
One is a meta-commentary on Manga/Fan culture and popularity versus quality as the characters attempt to escape a manga universe. One deals with the feelings and disappointments of personified space probes, the failings of the space program and the possibility that we are alone in a godless universe, it also has a giant biomecha kitten. One is a fantastic environmentalist take on the Lord of the Flies… OMG this show is soooo awesome…
Lest you think I named all the best ones, I left my 2 favorites out….
In tone this is an unambiguous comedy. A somewhat smug, a little cheeky, stoned faced, comedy. You get the sense that Humanity has Declined thinks it’s the smartest thing in the room but well, when I was watching it, it was the smartest thing in the room. It’s that fabulous witty, cultured friend you have, that you go out for drinks with and listen slack-jawed as they make witty comment over obscure reference over catty call-out. It might not be the most constructive use of your time but golly gee it makes *you* feel cool and smart by association.
Speaking of references, it throws bucket loads your way mercilessly picking from any random field it feels like. Among the few I managed to pick up on, we see a clear homage to 2001: A Space Odyssey, a character ships chess pieces in a way that requires some pretty good knowledge of the game fundamentals to get, assistant recreates an Amphigorey cartoon, one scenes is a parody of Scarface and one arc is essentially a mashup of Groundhog Day and Primer, in which a character names their pet Time Paradog!!!!…and I’ve devolved into just badly describing the show again. But guys…Time Paradog…
These surreal tidbits are presented with a sweet smile and a harsh sarcastic tone. One thing you can count on is that Humanity has Declined has opinions. On a lot of things. On ALL the things. If you happen to have superhuman deduction skills, you may have inferred from the description so far and my inability to do much more than constantly lapse into half coherent fangirling, that this show covers a wide variety of complex and absolutely fascinating subjects, a lot of them very timely and intellectual, and it clearly has something to say on all these subjects. Now this isn’t an overly preachy show and it avoids cramming morals down our throats but it’s also unafraid to take a stand. It has issues with industrialization and capitalism, it’s disenchanted with bureaucracy, it believes our priorities may be misplaced at times. It has a point.
But the show also seems to say it’s ok if you disagree, because if anything can truly be taken away from this singular experience, it’s that in the end, nothing really matters. And the truly fantastic, amazing, indescribable thing is – Humanity has Declined makes that into a comforting even somewhat hopeful message. In fact, the final scenes had my heart swelling with tenderness and my eyes tearing up. How the heck did a mean, deadpan, snide comedy like this even manage that? I’m really asking. This thing’s brilliant…
With so much pure narrative to take on, the show opted to minimize characterization but again in the smartest way possible. We never learn much about anyone, we hardly even know anyone’s names in fact, but their personalities are extremely well defined through their actions with minimal exposition. The Mediator’s constant stream of consciousness narration is used to effectually create a rich and detailed image of her own psyche while simultaneously creating an excuse for highly subjective and emotional exposition on any new characters that enter which will always be more impactful than objective descriptions. Let me just say this, Humanity has Declined has one of the best Yandere characters I’ve seen in a long time and that archetype is very hard to pull off.
I’ve been subtle about it so far but it’s time for me to be straight with you guys: I simply loved this anime. So, like you do with anything you love, I immediately went to check that everybody else agreed with me. I was quite surprised to see that it had a 7.89 rating on My Anime List which by MAL standards might as well be Garbage. I was worried that maybe humanity really had declined if we can no longer appreciate the simple joys of exquisite comedy. A bit more investigation was in order.
What I found, unsurprisingly in hindsight, is that this is one polarizing show. The ratings were split between 9/10s and 4/3s, with very little middle ground. And I get why some people may rate this so low. They’re wrong but I get it.
First, there’s the simple fact that comedy is highly subjective, and this is the intellectual, tongue in cheek, snarky type. It’s not as likely to have broad appeal and you couldn’t easily layer a laugh track over it. If deadpan isn’t your thing, neither is this show.
Second, as I’ve mentioned, the series tackles both important and deep subject through very high concept surreal storylines but it never sticks to one for too long. It gives you this highly intricate setup goes in for a darkly sarcastic, but often somehow also sweet, punchline, then moves on. As such it doesn’t have the time to delve too deeply into any one subject. Much like that cool sardonic friend I mentioned what must now feel like 3 years ago….
And that’s all I can see. Since neither of these things bother me in the least, I loved Humanity has Declined. And I certainly hope we are in for such a nice end when the time comes. What I hope for even more that we somehow get a second season. I’ll start holding my breath now!
Favorite character: the Mediator, also my new role model.
What this anime taught me: Hope can be difficult to recogize sometimes
I quit drinking ! Now I freeze it and eat it!
Suggested drink: Classic Green Fairy
- Every time anyone says Sensei – take a sip
- Every time Assistant is off… – take a sip
- Every time we hear the Meditor’s inner monologue – listen
- if it’s snarky – cheers!
- Every time we’re introduced to a supporting girl – take a sip
- Every time Y is intense – take a sip
- Every time someone almost dies – take a sip
- Every time we see sweet – have a snack
- Every time we’re reminded that Humanity has Declined – take a sip
- Every time the fairies are menacing – take a sip
- Every time Grandpa has a weapon – take a sip
- Every timeAssistant talks – finish your drink