Weird shows are rare in anime. There are a lot of weird manga, but very few of those end up getting made into anime because of the risk of it all. it’s risky enough taking dozens of bland anime every season and making them into an anime series, never mind something that’s serving a smaller and weirder subset of fandom. Humanity Has Declined, knowing originally as Jinrui wa Suitai Shimashita, is definitely one of those weird titles. Originally a light novel series that ran for nine regular volumes between 2007 and 2016, it did well enough and reached just enough outside of the weird to get AIC ASTA and others to come together and form a committee to make an anime out of it in hopes of pushing up the light novel sales. In the year before and during its broadcast, three different manga series were released, varying between one and three volumes to try and tap into that market to bring the fans there into the novels as well, and to get them interested in the anime.
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 just having fun. Our eyes and connection with this world are through the seemingly unnamed young woman, who is credited 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 give 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 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 culminate in a 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.
Admittedly, I hadn’t thought much about the series in the last few years as it hasn’t had the regular run of re-releases and priced-down editions. In fact, I think the 2013 release of it is the only one that’s out there as Sentai no longer lists it in their catalog for home video, though they do retain some streaming rights to it through HIDIVE. Regardless, this is a series that’s not really building a large story or arc here but rather a number of intriguing vignettes that tell some great tales of how these two species co-exist. Watching this amid the state of the world and what’s going on is fascinating as you can see some parallels in a number of areas, big and small, and it’s fascinating to watch unfold, never mind the designs and general approach to worldbuilding. It’s light on the background that I often crave but it also delivers on what counts in exploring the concept and having just enough weird elements to work.
I really liked the nature of mankind here really as it was just accepted that our time is up. It has a calm nature about it. This allows for some striking analysis 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 over the years as you come away with different feelings as you grow and change yourself. Having an anime series that achieves that is very worthwhile.