What They Say:
For years, declining birth rates have forced what’s left of the human race to cede more and more territory to other beings who have appeared to take advantage of the emptying ecological niche. Now, only a handful of humans remain among the remnants of civilization and Earth is dominated by faeries – tiny, ten-inch tall creatures of surprising intelligence.
But humanity’s importance isn’t over quite yet, as young Watashi learns as she makes the decision to return to her hometown and assume her grandfather’s position as an arbitrator between the races. Unfortunately, the job isn’t going to be anywhere near as simple as she expected, and it’s going to take wisdom far beyond her years to achieve her most important mission. It’s not about how often you fall and fail, it’s about how often you get back up and try again, and the human race still has a lot left to accomplish.
Contains episodes 1-12.
The audio presentation for this release gives us just the original Japanese language track in stereo encoded using the DTS-HD MA lossless codec. The series is not one that really uses the soundstage all that well, or at least not in a big way, but it does use it effectively with some of the placement bits and bringing the fairies voices to life in a great way. The show is largely dialogue based but because of the surreal nature of some scenes, placement is important and that definitely makes an impact. There’s some good character moments throughout with the fairies and everything hits the right note here even though it doesn’t really go big. It’s the small moments that count and the mix captures that perfectly. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we didn’t have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing in the summer of 2012, the transfer for this twelve episode series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. THe series is spread across two discs with nine on the first and three on the second where the extras are as well. Animated by AIC ASTA, this series is one that has a very good and distinct look to it where it’s almost like a children’s fairy tale book but filled with so much detail and a lot more solid color. There’s a surreal aspect to a lot of the sequences here and it works some great design ideas that are outside of the norm, including an episode where the cast is trapped in a white field of manga, and it definitely comes together well with this transfer. The colors are beautifully solid and rich and the fluid moments of animation are great to see. It has the weird mix of simple yet detailed that can be confounding at times but the show simply looks fantastic here and definitely high definition worthy.
The packaging for this release gives us a standard Blu-ray case that holds the two discs against the interior walls. The front cover makes it clear what kind of show this is in terms of style and design, which is good because it doesn’t feel like just another show done the same as so many others, where it’s ringed with a colorful series of green for the border. The character artwork in the middle gives us the four main humans and a good smattering of fairies as well, though they’re not quite as obvious at first that they’re there. The color design is great and it has such a natural feeling to it that I just find it very appealing. The back cover brings in a bit of this style to it as well along the left, which includes floating toast, which plays well against the block of white which has the premise for the series. There are a few shots from the show, which makes me wish it had more of the fairies, and we get a good breakdown of the extras, production credits and a solid and accurate technical grid. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.
The menu design for this release is kind of odd in a way but really quite appealing. With a static screen set, we get the usual layout where the right side has the navigation strip that breaks down the episodes by number and title in an easy to read fashion that works nicely during playback as well. The rest of the screen is given over to the artwork, which is done as a large card style along the far left with lots of colors, characters and imagery. That’s on top of what feels like a stone/slate setting which gives it a very rustic kind of feeling that’s definitely great for this particular show. Using only a third of the screen for the artwork may not seem like a good idea, but the layout here is definitely right for this show. Submenus load quickly and the extras are easy to navigate. While there’s no language submenu, you can turn the subtitles off on the fly during playback.
This release comes with a few extras beyond the norm, all of which are on the second volume. The clean opening and closing is always welcome and with the design of the animation here, even more so. In addition to that, we get the three story digests, which clocks in at just over six minutes. These are about as you’d expect as they deal with a couple of cute segments from the show in short form but little more than that. The show also includes the six “Survival of the Fittest” bonus episode shorts which adds a little more humor and silliness to the world that show inhabits. They’re just a couple of minutes each but it hits all the right notes and in a way makes me wish they did more of the series just in this form.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the light novel series originally titled Jinrui wa Suitai Shimashita by Romeo Tanaka, Humanity Has Declined is a twelve episode series animated by AIC ASTA. The series is one that saw simulcast here and garnered some interesting critical acclaim for what it did and the way it wasn’t like most other shows. The original work has progressed since it began in 2007 in novel form with eight released so far and four different manga spinoff adaptations as well. Tanaka doesn’t have too many light novels to his credit beyond this, but he’s worked for a long time as a scenario writer for a number of bishojo and adult games. That tends to bring a slightly different view to things when you come from that area and Humanity Has Declined definitely feels odd and surreal, though it’s also quite clean in a comical way.
The series takes us to a post-apocalyptic future where humanity has, as they say, declined as the numbers of people are dwindling significantly and much of what made humanity what it is today is gone. It’s not primal or feral, but it’s reverting to a village feeling with a good bit of simplicity, little in the way of electrical power and a more naturalistic approach. Humanity at large has accepted that the species is on its way out and through the UN, they deal with the “new” humanity that is taking its place, a race of very small fairies that have been showing up for years now. These creatures all have big smiles painted on their faces and are generally very inquisitive, friendly and nervous with how they deal with the old and big humans. Through the series we learn a lot of odd things about them, but not much of what they really are. They reproduce quickly, but we don’t know how, and they have seeming access to fantastic technology but no real structure to show that it exists. They’re able to do, in essence, anything in order to work the stories in the directions without any real worries or attempts to create a logical and functional world.
Which is good. Because what the show wants to do is a mix of exploring some social construct issues and to just have fun. Our eyes and connect with this world is through the seemingly unnamed young woman, who is credit as Watanashi in the translated credits, that is a mediator for the UN who has returned home after a lengthy schooling and training period to work with understanding the fairies in this area. Over the course of the show, which provides a series of two-part stories that are not placed in a linear fashion, we see how she started to deal with them (at the very end of the show!) and the kinds of problems and bizarre situations that came up along the way. She’s ably helped by Assistant, a young man who is the sole survivor of a group that went off on its own. He doesn’t talk much and does most of his expressive moments through drawings or other motions. Watanashi also has her Grandfather that she deals with, who has some useful insights from time to time on dealing with the fairies, as well as a few other characters that crop up along the way. It’s largely kept to this group and dealing with the fairies, though the last two episodes gives us a lot of humans as it shows us a younger Watanashi progressing through school and the challenges and friends she made there.
Watching the interactions between the two sides is a great deal of the fun here as neither understands the other and it’s basically two very different races trying to grasp it. We see how the fairies want to help out as they provide a lot of what people want when the questions come up about it and all they generally want in return are some sweets since that’s their vice. One instance we get has Watanashi taking a group of the fairies to a new location since there were tribal issues and she inadvertently becomes their queen when they get stranded on an island. This takes place over a week and they race through it like SimCity on speed. Watanashi’s attempts to teach them things are fascinating since they interpret everything differently than we do, but we also see society in how old humanity worked and lead to the downfall.
One of the more surreal arcs here is also one of my absolute favorites. One of Watanashi’s friends is Y, a woman she went to school with that has set up shop in town and uncovered a treasure trove of ancient publishing artifacts in a mansion whose occupant had died. While finding all these kinds of printing devices, she also comes across a trove of yaoi manga. That sets off a spark of creativity here and through other villages that culminates in competition of “manzines” between people, supply issues and creativity issues. It’s another microcosm of publishing in a way and while it’s blunt, it’s also very well executed. It goes into a truly surreal realm after that though when Watanashi discovers a manzine that the fairies had made which drops her, Y and Assistant into the manga itself. It’s here that we get another microcosm of creativity and how it works, going through boom and bust cycles of storytelling and it’s just hilarious to watch, especially when it starts with them just trying to understand how to exist within that realm.
Humanity Has Declined is not a series that’s building a large story or arc here but rather a number of intriguing vignettes that tells some great tales of how these two species co-exist at this time. While I am the type that wants to know more of the background with how humanity declined, what happened and how they’re surviving now, I rather found the nature of mankind here really interesting to watch because it was just accepted that our time is up. It has a calm nature about it and it does some very striking analyzing of a number of subjects through the interactions between the two very different races. The structure of the series makes it very easy to watch a couple of episodes and take a break without feeling like the narrative is broken. With some great looking animation and designs and a sense of style and atmosphere that really captures your attention, Humanity Has Declined is an intriguing series that I think you’ll get more out of each time you watch it – and want to watch it multiple times.
Japanese DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Story Digest 1-3, Survival of the Fittest 1-5, Clean Opening Animation, Clean Closing Animation
Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: B
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B+
Extras Grade: A
Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: December 24th, 2013
Running Time: 300 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1: Widescreen
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.