The blessing of being a bit late with this post is I’ve got a chance to read various other people’s impressions first, although that in turn can be damning because I’m going to spend most of this post comparing my thoughts to theirs, even though I can never remember where I read this stuff. For example, I’ve seen more than one person say that Humanity has Declined is too relentless with its message that processed food is a Bad Thing, and that everything in these episodes can be boiled down to that core message. Similarly, I’ve seen people say this series is all about “CAPITALISM IS BAD YO”. Both of which I think are true, but also too narrow a reading of the show.
My interpretation of the show was that its core message was that humanity has become so disconnected from the process at which things are made and occur that they no longer can comprehend what things originally were like. In this case, the humans can barely comprehend the idea that you have to kill chickens to make chicken nuggets somewhere down the line. This is the whole processed food thing, but there’s also the deadened reaction characters seem to have to the fact that humanity is declining. The main character’s reaction to the CEO being swallowed by a giant hole was to shrug and walk around it. Because humanity is in decline yo, shit like this just happens. It’s almost as though humanity is in decline simply because they’ve been told humanity is in decline. Plucked headless chickens have to literally fly in through your window for you to finally get some proper nourishment.
Back to CAPITALISM IS BAD YO, this sorta fits into the processed food part if you turn your head to one side and squint at it a bit. There’s also the CEO at the food processing plant who craves promotions for no reason other than for the sake of getting promotions. The cause and effect of the purpose of promotions and production has been totally lost in this hierarchy society they’ve created. It’s the Japanese Salaryman thing where they are just mindless workers who have no idea of the full picture they’re working on, except in this case they don’t even have any effect on the thing they’re working on. The two humans inside the factory don’t even know how to work the place. It’s like the boardroom meeting from the first episode. The process remains, but the purpose has long since been lost. Capitalism may indeed be the reason why the mindless Japanese salaryman exists, but this has gone beyond that to a stage where the purpose these salarymen are working has been lost. Capitalism is dead, only the structure behind it remains. Humanity has declined.
Man, this post has gotten rather heavy. I take my comedy seriously so I do. Let’s lighten up with some talk about Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, which I’ve seen a few people compare Humanity has Declined to. It’s one of those things that have rather defined me and my sense of humour as I grew up, along with Terry Pratchett books. Yes, I have the most predictably stereotypically nerdy sense of humour. Also, for all those of you who said they didn’t like the latest Hitchhiker’s Guide movie because it “wasn’t as good as the original novels”, I got into Hitchhikers though the radio programme. The actual original version. So hah! I nerdslammed you. Also those movies had the characters turn into yarn-versions of themselves. That movie was all right. Anyway, where Humanity has Declined fails to stack up the Hitchhikers is the quality of the actual writing. The ideas are certainly there, but the delivery of them is lacking. The only line in this episode that could have come straight from Douglas Adam’s pen was the fairy saying “I want to reflect on the meaning of life in a dark place”. Some of the nuance may be lost in translation though.
Speaking of lost in translation, watching Joshiraku was a fairly depressing experience. Not that it was bad, but it made me question why I watch anime at all compared to any other medium of entertainment. I could fob it off and say “because it’s there”, but I’m here still watching this stuff with as much enthusiasm as I did on day 1, so clearly there’s something I’ve found appealing that anime as a medium has. The best reason I can come up with is the inherent weird Japanese-ness of it, in that it takes crazy ideas and just runs with them. A very similar reason to why I’m drawn to Douglas Adams and Terry Pratchett. The amusing ideas that comes from running with the concept of a psychotic luggage on legs is very similar to the appeal of a boardroom of plucked headless chickens with plans for world domination.