Well this is a first. I have shared my other Crunchyroller Reviews here in the past, but this is the first time I am giving one its own article. Like always, I transcribe the video below. Enjoy.
(Note, due to copyright claims, as of this time the video can only be watched in the following countries: Australia, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, South Korea, Sweden, United Kingdom, and United States, everyone else please feel free to read the transcription instead)
It is often said that humor is subjective, but from my experience some of the most subjective forms of humor are surreal humor and dark humor. Both types of humor tend to push the boundaries of what people generally find funny, with the former often confusing people as to where the humor even is while the latter quite often cheerfully marches over subjects considered “off limits” to comedy. So why am I talking about different genres of divisive comedy? Because the show I am reviewing today is 2012's Humanity Has Declined, a show that happily employees both styles with gleeful reckless abandon. Does Humanity Has Declined soar to comedic heights or has comedy declined?
Humanity Has Declined takes place in a pastel-colored post-apocalyptic world with the ruins of old human society scattered about the landscape and humanity on the brink of extinction in a way that should make fans of the cartoon series Adventure Time feel right at home. The series follows a young woman who works for the United Nations Conciliation Committee as a mediator between the remaining scraps of humanity and the fairies that have taken over the planet.
For the sake of my sanity, I will be referring to her as the Mediator for the rest of the review. I know she is often referred to by the name Watashi in other reviews and other sources, but it is just simpler for me as that is the moniker she is most often called by the other characters in the show. By the way, that’s actually one of the many quirks in the show, almost no one is actually called by their real name, with character names often changing based on the episode.
Anyways, back to the Mediator. She’s a great main character to me, and works as a hilarious straightman to the rest of the cast. Her intelligence and overwhelming deadpan snark and pessimism works as a sort of counterbalance to the absurdly surreal hijinks happening all around her, especially those of the fairies. It is a good thing that the Mediator is such a great character, though, because the rest of the show’s characters don’t really do anything for me, with many of them just having far too little screentime to either leave a lasting impression or develop as characters. There is an exception to this, however they aren’t a particular character, but rather a race. I am of course referring to the fairies.
The fairies are mysterious and mischievous little creatures that look more like miniature elves and behave more like gremlins. They have highly advanced technology that borders on magic that they use in their quest to seek out fun and sweet foods to eat. The fairies also can quickly reproduce much like the titular creatures from the Gremlin comedy horror film series. The fairies are like the hidden star of the show, as they are often the cause of many of the events in the show, and they can easily steal most of the scenes they appear in with their creepy, yet cute nature. Often they will say some really dark things that directly clash with their adorable designs.
In terms of story, Humanity Has Declined doesn’t actually have a story. Instead the show falls into a somewhat episodic route, but not exactly, as the show is actually a collection of mostly two-episode long story arcs that are held together by a very thin sense of continuity, with the arcs told out of chronological order. Unfortunately the order the show presents the arcs in ends up leaving the show feeling unbalanced to me, as it front-loads the episodes I enjoy the most in the first half of the show.
For the most part I enjoy the majority of the episodes in the show, but there are three episodes in the second half that I just do not enjoy, with two of the episodes being a single arc about a recurring time loop that I actually found to be boring, and I personally feel these two episodes kind of killed the momentum in the second half of the show, because after them I just didn’t laugh that much in the remaining episodes while the first half of the show had me geniunely laughing out loud.
While Humanity Has Declined may stumble a bit with its writing, its visuals are just a pure, breathtaking assault on the eyes. The show features some of the best watercolor-style backgrounds I’ve seen in anime. The show doesn’t stop there, however. All of the characters have unique designs that are easily recognizeable. This even includes the fairies when they aren’t being shown to be in a massive crowd. When shown up close none of the fairies actually look the same, despite have the same basic core elements of pointed ears, beady little eyes, and their mouths agape in a creepy yet happy expression that never changes, even when the fairies are scared or sad. The way everyone looks helps enhance the surrealism of the whole show and makes the ever present dark undertone all the more dark.
One of my favorite touches when it comes to the visuals in Humanity Has Declined is the way lighting is presented. Instead of your typical beams or rays of light, every light source in the show produces multiple layers of polygonal shapes of varying opacity that helps cement the show’s unique look. It honestly isn’t often that I get to see a show that dedicates itself so thoroughly to such a gorgeous yet quirky look, and for that I am glad that I watched Humanity Has Declined.
Musically, Humanity Has Declined is very solid, albeit none of the songs on the show’s soundtrack stood out to me, with two exceptions. The show’s amazingly addictive opening “Real World” by nano.RIPE and strangely charming ending “Yume no Naka no Watashi no Yume” by Masumi Ito blow me away. Now granted the show’s visuals also earn massive praise in these areas as well, because part of what makes the opening so addictive is the simple, but cute dance the Mediator and fairies do throughout it and the visuals during the ending are just a sight to behold.
However, I can’t sell the songs themselves short, either. They just tunneled their way deep into my ears while I watched this show. Another thing I have to praise the show for sound wise is the show’s voice acting, which is top notch. Some of the more noteworthy performances being Mai Nakahara as the Mediator, Grandpa Joseph Joestar himself, Unsho Ishizuka, in a rather subdued performance as the Mediator’s grandfather, and all the voice actresses who play the fairies, of which there are unfortunately too many for me to list.
Even with the flaws I personally found with the show, when I get down to it, it’s just a unique experience. Certainly a unique experience when it comes to anime at least, because the only other animated tv show I can even think of as even being remotely in the same ballpark as Humanity Has Declined is yet again Adventure Time. If nothing else, the show’s visuals more than made it worth my time, they are seriously that damn good.
So while the show most certainly won’t be for everyone in terms of its actual content, I implore everyone to at least watch one or two episodes at the bare minimum just to see this gorgeous show in motion. As such I hereby award Humanity Has Declined with a bronze medal, which is awarded to shows that I feel have many flaws but also have strong aspects to them that make it worth at least checking them out even if they aren’t usually your cup of tea. As of this review, the series is licensed in North America by Sentai Filmworks and obviously can be streamed on Crunchyroll.
As for alternate recommendations, I’ll be keeping to the surreal and dark humor wheelhouses. First up is Hozuki no Reitetsu, aka Hozuki’s Coolheadedness. This series is a supernatural dark comedy that follows Hozuki, the demonic aide to the Great King Enma and his adventures working in hell. I find this series to be surprisingly hilarious and it also kind of serves as a bit of lesson on Japanese mythology as it features characters from many famous Japanese tales as well as many of the kind of spirits that inhabit Japanese culture.
As for the second recommendation, I’m going with something much more recent, as in from this past Spring season recent. I’m talking about The Lost Village, aka Mayoiga. Have you ever seen an anime series try to intentionally be bad? If not, then you are in for a treat with The Lost Village. If you ever seen a parody that makes fun of horror films, try to imagine something like that, but instead of mocking horror directly, it feels more like it is a parody of the parodies, as it is filled with obviously bad shot composition and cheesy lines that are played straight on purpose. It’s from the director of Shirobako and is by far one of the most surreal things I’ve seen in recent years. Between these two shows hopefully you will find one to your liking.