Monday, July 27, 2015

[Anime] Humanity Has Declined Review

Humanity Has Declined - 8.5/10

HHD presents the viewer with a very unusual, but enjoyable, experience. I find myself struggling to hit the right tone for this review.

HHD is on one hand a very dark show: set in the future when human society is in disrepair. There wasn't an apocalypse that ended our reign. Instead we just stopped caring and our time has passed. At the same time, it is hilarious. The series doesn't mope about, but instead comments on society in a sharp satire. Taken together they actually make a very potent package: the setting and themes give the show true content but the comedy keeps it from dragging and is able to approach the topic in novel ways.

The strangest thing approaching the series from the outside are the fairies. In fact, just reading an outline you'll get out of it that "fairies like sweets, MC makes sweets, they have adventures." Just watch the intro for confirmation. I was thoroughly skeptical at first but by the end I was sold. They are humanity in mock: given extreme levels of intelligence and ingenuity, they spend most of their time motivated by the simplest of things. I don't really want to say any more, because the show develops the theme far better than I could here.

The Good: The innominate main character is driving force behind the show and also its major highlight. HHD would be nothing without her. She is the last sane person, surrounded by a farcical cast of characters who are all too human. Her reactions and monologues are just gold because of it. It reminds me of a story from Nasreddin:

-One late evening Nasreddin found himself walking home. It was only a very short way and upon arrival he can be seen to be upset about something. Alas, just then a young man comes along and sees the Mullah's distress.
-"Mullah, pray tell me: what is wrong?"
-"Ah, my friend, I seem to have lost my keys. Would you help me search them? I know I had them when I left the tea house."
-So, he helps Nasreddin with the search for the keys. For quite a while the man is searching here and there but no keys are to be found. He looks over to Nasreddin and finds him searching only a small area around a street lamp.
-"Mullah, why are you only searching there?"
-"Why would I search where there is no light?"

It is only through the observer that the peculiar strangeness of human behavior can really be remarked on, and she performs this role magnificently.

On top of this, she is interesting in her own right. She is highly intelligent, capable, and polite. But under this hides a person who is also just a bit cynical and lonely. The series develops this gradually, and by the end she felt like a fairly fleshed-out character despite how little time is spent actually dwelling on her directly.

The humor in HHD is also top-notch. Like the use of fairies, I was at first skeptical. When the robot-bread commits suicide in the first episode, I was more weirded out than amused. If it had just stuck to these I would have been unimpressed. But the series really takes off over time with its humor as you acclimate to its world. It's kind of like watching Monty Python for me: the first time through it's more strange than humorous, but given time it sinks into your psyche and becomes really funny. I had to pause it a few times I was laughing so hard. Completely out of context, but having to retcon their manga to be a rendition of "A Midsummer Night's Dream," the fairy saluting to "God Save the Queen," and the statue of the MC handing out the book of names were some of my particular favorites alongside the numerous one-liners from the MC and fairies.

I also want to remark on Y. I didn't like her at first. I thought she was just a bit obnoxious and unduly eccentric, there only to be a foil to the MC. But by the end of the series that had completely turned around. Usually when a show tries to go back and make me like a character I'm dubious, but I felt they did this marvelously in Y's case. What makes her so good isn't a big sob story in her background. It's the realization that despite her oddities, she is genuine. It made me realize how shallow my first reactions had been, and nailed me right in there along with the girl collecting locks of hair. I was duly impressed by the simple efficacy of their approach to her character.

Finally, I was mesmerized by the ED and watched it every time I could. There was something about it that perfectly matched the series. At one time it is bright with an upbeat theme, but the background has the MC's shadow passing all of humanity, shedding a tear, and eventually lying down to have the grass grow around her. One of my favorites.

The Bad: There were no significant flaws about the series. It is definitely surreal at some times and so might turn people off, but nowhere near as strange as some anime series get.

I was also a bit iffy on the "Voyager/Pioneer" episodes. They seemed the weakest to me overall, and I couldn't quite figure out what their point was.  So that particular sequence can be seen as a weakness.

All-in-all, though, it's a series I would definitely recommend. It's just like a sweet: bright candy coating on the outside, dark chocolate in the center...and definitely attracts fairies.

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