28 CommentsHumanity has Declined / By Scamp /

Humanity has Declined episode 2 – The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Post-Apocalypse

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.

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28 Comments

  1. †Croos†
    Posted July 12, 2012 at 10:25 am | Permalink

    They’re chickens(cowards) after all those chickens.

  2. Chipp
    Posted July 12, 2012 at 11:32 am | Permalink
    • Scamp
      Posted July 12, 2012 at 11:55 am | Permalink

      Pretty much the same conclusion I came to.

      Mind you, I’d add that one can draw their own entertainment from the show however they please. Just because you’re not getting the same enjoyment out of it as the show intends, or as the Japanese do, doesn’t mean you can’t get enjoyment from an educational standpoint. Learning more about cultures and all that. For example, I don’t have to be American to find jokes about the religious deep south funny because I know the context.

      Basically what I’m saying is there are plenty of reasons why you can get enjoyment out of Joshiraku that does not connect to its original intent, so saying “if you watched this you’re full of shit” is dumb and ignorant. They’re just not reasons that I find engaging

  3. hint
    Posted July 12, 2012 at 12:18 pm | Permalink

    The best anime of this season, with dark humor, and a perfect MC for this kind of show.
    The naked chicken without heads running from the paparazzi – the girl assistance with his photographer, they are like those capitalists with their obsession on getting rich no matter what happens to the society by manipulating consumers/market. Wow
    The music Ave Maria with the sound photograph shooting remembers me the Hitman movie which has the same music as theme.

  4. Lilith
    Posted July 12, 2012 at 1:48 pm | Permalink

    I don’t think the message is necessarily CAPITALISM IS BAD YO or PROCESSED FOOD WILL KILL YOU BRAH. The show just chose to explore those things in a setting far removed from our own so we can clearly see how funny those things really are. Especially capitalism as a personal philosophy is pretty dumb. The parallels to the business environment in the first episode are actually what made me love this show. I see it more as poking fun at the obviously ridiculous things we call “normal” without really passing judgement.
    So, yeah, I mostly agree with you and also yey for Douglas Adams love!

    • Scamp
      Posted July 12, 2012 at 4:17 pm | Permalink

      Yeah it’s satire is pretty wide-ranging, but those two things are definitely there

  5. Posted July 12, 2012 at 3:13 pm | Permalink

    I can’t really see the comparisons with Hitchhiker’s Guide, except how “weird” it is. And I would never try to compare the quality of the writing from a genius book to a tv-show. What I mean is, is that you can never expect to have the same quality of jokes in a tv-show, as in Adams’ books. They’re simply… “book-only”. That’s why they never even tried to adapt Dirk Gently properly.

    Oh well, I probably completely misunderstood you.

    In any case.

    You like Douglas Adams.

    You got good taste.

    • Scamp
      Posted July 12, 2012 at 4:19 pm | Permalink

      Mentions in post that he’s a fan of Hitchhikers from the radio programme that came before the novels did.

      Commenter says the humour is “book-only”

      lol

      • Posted July 12, 2012 at 9:41 pm | Permalink

        Well. Eh. Uh.

        You win.

        Good day, sir.

  6. Posted July 12, 2012 at 3:43 pm | Permalink

    I still need to read the rest of the Hitchhiker’s books … don’t remember where I stopped, though.

    Love that this world is in such a state of disrepair that headless chickens crashing through a window is like getting served dinner by God. That scene had me laughing pretty hard. I love those chickens, especially Big Boss Chicken with its cigar.

    • Scamp
      Posted July 12, 2012 at 4:23 pm | Permalink

      If anything, I’d say you don’t really need to. The second one is still great, but they completely fall off a cliff after that. I gave up part of the way through the 5th one

  7. Kamui
    Posted July 12, 2012 at 3:48 pm | Permalink

    Yeah, the radio series of Hitchhiker’s was pretty awesome,especially the skit with the squawking man-birds. Just as good as the novels in my opinion(then again, I haven’t read the 5th one because I just don’t have the heart to. I don’t want to see it end…)

    Okay, I’m going to go back to the topic at hand now. The overall tone is really interesting.I just love it when the characters(especially the MC in this show) assume a devil-may-care attitude when nutty things are happening. It really helps the comedy flow better, enhance the insanity factor, and show how insignificant we really all are in the universe…ack, I’m getting philosophical.

    Oh! And yeah, the movie was okay but I resent it for casting Martin Freeman as Arthur Dent. I can never get that image out of my mind.

    • Scamp
      Posted July 12, 2012 at 4:27 pm | Permalink

      Whaaa, he was a perfect Arthur Dent! He is the definitive middle-class boring english white 30-something male

      • Kamui
        Posted July 12, 2012 at 5:08 pm | Permalink

        Exactly! That’s the problem, he’s still THE Arthur Dent and my brain can’t handle it otherwise. Now whenever he’s playing a role, no matter how fabulous it is (Sherlock, The Hobbit,etc) he’s still Arthur Dent.Just imagine the confusion and unintended comedy I must suffer.

      • Scamp
        Posted July 12, 2012 at 9:37 pm | Permalink

        lol ok that’s a fair enough reason

  8. Click
    Posted July 12, 2012 at 3:55 pm | Permalink

    I’d say that another theme is the inherent laziness of human beings. All of the female villagers are too lazy and unwilling to kill the chickens in episode one, but we see at the end of the episode that that one of the girls is rewarded with free chicken despite her lack of conviction. She doesn’t learn anything; she’s just spoon fed a temporary fix to delay the learning process. The lazy are rewarded with the spoils of the hard working.

    • Scamp
      Posted July 12, 2012 at 4:28 pm | Permalink

      Hah, that’s a pretty good one. Again though, I’m not sure that’s laziness so much as they can’t even comprehend that they should do something. It’s ignorance rather than laziness

  9. Posted July 12, 2012 at 4:18 pm | Permalink

    For me I truly believe that the humor comes first, then the message later. I totally get what they are trying to say, but I’m too distracted by how funny and out there this show really is.

    • Scamp
      Posted July 12, 2012 at 4:30 pm | Permalink

      But the ‘message’ is precisely why I find it funny. These are the punchlines. I’m just doing the boring part and explaining them

      • Posted July 12, 2012 at 7:37 pm | Permalink

        And that’s the drawback to writing about comedies. You start talking about the jokes and explaining them and then they lose a bit of their humor. The exact reason why I’m glad you didn’t write about Nichibros

      • Scamp
        Posted July 12, 2012 at 9:39 pm | Permalink

        Yeah, I recognise that issue. However so many people say stuff like “you’re overthinking it, it’s just a comedy” miss the very thing that makes them great. I’m trying to make a difference here!

        Also I just like writing about satire

  10. Lanf
    Posted July 12, 2012 at 8:37 pm | Permalink

    I loved what seemed to be a parody of The Good, The Bad and The Ugly theme, it’s fairly different, but the interlaced gunshots convinced me it is. Man, I love JinTai, it just does all the little touches right.

    Also, the Kami pun was kinda lost in translation, Kami meaning both God and hair.

  11. Nebulous
    Posted July 12, 2012 at 11:11 pm | Permalink

    The Hair-God thing got me really, really well. I don’t think I’ve genuinely enjoyed an anime for a while.

  12. hint
    Posted July 12, 2012 at 11:12 pm | Permalink

    Ok theres one more… from someone who read the books(not me)… the noble sacrifice of the bread at the end of episode 1, its like the cows competing themselves to get eaten.
    Uff finally found 6 episodes of the series http://www.youtube.com/user/Alfrad3D.

  13. Taka
    Posted July 12, 2012 at 11:44 pm | Permalink

    Favorite Pratchett characters? Alternatively: Favorite discworld novel?

    • Scamp
      Posted July 19, 2012 at 11:33 am | Permalink

      The best Discworld novel by far is Night Watch because it’s the only one where Pratchett actually wrote a good plot

  14. Posted July 13, 2012 at 12:25 am | Permalink

    Bro, that movie made the same mistake So Long and Thanks for All the Fish made – tried to make it all a romance, blech.

    • Shogun
      Posted July 13, 2012 at 12:52 am | Permalink

      If there’s one thing Californication has taught me, it’s that if you butcher good source material with romance the author WILL sleep with your wife.

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