Humanity Has Declined is one of the few consistently entertaining entries that aired in this year’s summer season. At worst, it’s a ham-handed allegory for current issues plaguing the world, portrayed with as little subtlety as physically possible. At its most inspired, it has plucked, headless chickens falling off cliffs while Ave Maria plays in the background, their plans for global takeover thwarted by an intrepid UN mediator and her silent assistant.
My first exposure to Humanity Has Declined, shortened to Jinrui for the rest of this post for brevity’s sake, was in a crowded hotel room on the last night of Anime Expo. Drunk, bored, and looking for a way to whittle away what remained of the evening, everyone agreed to appropriate my laptop to screen the first few episodes of the upcoming summer season. After several less than stellar premieres, Jinrui was the last chance to make that a decision that we weren’t going to regret. And boy did it work.
While the first episode is a harbinger of the show’s many problems, like crafting surreal settings before blatantly explaining the symbolism they were supposed to convey mere moments later, it also ends with possibly the most memorable moment of the year: A sentient slice of carrot bread tearing itself in half, spraying its filling everywhere after futilely begging our protagonist to eat it. Everything about the scene is pulled off to perfection—the confused stares of horror from the onlookers, the bread’s own pathetic mewling as it snuffs out its own life, the spray of “blood” on the screen, and a perfectly-timed silence after the poor bread finally falls lifeless to the factory floor. Simply magnificent.
The moment came completely out of left field, yet wasn’t the least bit out of place. In a show as zany as this, it felt right in a way that it couldn’t quite recapture without being gimmicky. In a way, it almost ruined anything else that it would attempt, all subsequent storylines forced to live up to it with mixed results. Very few moments in anime approach this level of memorability, and even fewer can brag about being brilliant from start to finish. This is undoubtedly the #1 moment of 2012 for me, and the standard that I’ll hold the coming year to.