In search of a decent way to explain the plot I kind of gave up and let Wikipedia do the heavy lifting:
Humanity Has Declined is set in a post-apocalyptic world where the human civilization has regressed and humanity keeps decreasing in numbers. The story follows an unnamed girl who acts as a mediator between humanity and the “fairies” who are small elf-like creatures attracted by sweets and happy things, but also have the habit to cause trouble to her with their powers in their endless search for amusement.
I had heard of this series but hadn’t given it much thought but when I came across it on HiDive at the same time as I was looking to see how the app went streaming to my TV, this seemed like a good test series and so I gave it a go and was soon joined by a friend who stuck his head in just to see what was up with the overly cute song and stayed, intrigued by the truly surreal viewing experience that the first two episodes of this show become.
See, the first two episodes are essentially the end of the story (because for the sake of being gimmicky each two episodes tell a story and each story occurs before the one you’ve just watched until you kind of get the start of the story with the final two episodes). What that means is you are dropped head first into a world with references to events you have no context for and some truly, truly bizarre things occurring (even by anime standards). The ridiculously cute fairies that have an incredibly dark view of life that they deliver dead pan while grinning psychotically (although that actually appears to be their standard expression), the assistant who thinks a joke involves a story where everyone dies (although my friend and I nearly fell off the couch laughing), oh and the revolution of the synthetic, sentient, skinned chickens. Can’t forget that last part, it is kind of important particularly if you want to get the Hitman parody in the final few minutes of the episode.
So yeah, the first two episodes are pretty brilliant if for no other reason than you cannot look away as this strange and quirky tale unfolds. None of the characters have names but are usually referred to by their job or relationship. The main girl is regularly the granddaughter or referred to as a human by the fairies and the assistant is only ever called assistant. There is one episode far later down the track where the girl attempts to name the fairies but like most fads the fairies get caught up in, this one doesn’t stick and is well and truly forgotten by the first two episodes which I guess are actually the end of the story.
I don’t actually have an issue with non-linear narrative or even stories that want to be told backwards, I just want there to be a point to it. The only thing the reverse order added in this case was that those first two episodes are fantastically novel and interesting and they do leave you wanting to know why something happened and what it was that happened to lead to something else. And that is pretty standard through the series as each story will mention at least one previous event that we will later see unfold. Otherwise, it really adds nothing and what it really means is there is no satisfying resolution to story and we never go back far enough to find out why humanity are in decline other than they are. Not that it really matters because this show is making observations of life and parodies of other shows but doesn’t seem to be overly concerned with thematic continuity other than the ephemeral nature of life.
The opening song is ridiculously cute and boppy and when I first started watching I nearly hit the stop button but there was something slightly fascinating about it and so I kept watching. By the final episode I couldn’t stop my toes from tapping along even as my head was screaming about how wrong it was. Basically it is infectiously fun.
The fairies remain the selling point of the series. Their observations and random questions always make for an intriguing mine field of thoughts that will never really get an answer but at least get you wondering. The only issue being that the fairies remain an enigma. Their purpose, other than to seek out fun new experiences (and sugar), is never understood. They build some marvellous things throughout the course of the series and they almost all crumble within the instant.
I had fun with this series but like with a lot of shows that rely on comedy and gags, the fiftieth time you see a fairy respond with something that seems really quite dark in an overly cute way it doesn’t have quite the same impact. And none of the later episodes ever held up to the sheer enjoyment the first two gave. Still, if you haven’t given it a go, it was certainly worth the time to watch.
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