It’s the weekend and my head hurts. Ordinarily, for people that aren’t myself, that could be the result of a good weekend, but for me it’s because Humanity Has Declined is a brain-busting box set of deception. In my opinion, the less you know about this show before you watch it the better, so I’ll hit you with the brief summary right now: this is a genius show filled with comedy but it can leave you feeling a little lost if you’re not watching intently. It’s by no means a background show. With that said, I highly, HIGHLY recommend it and suggest you pick it up on Blu-ray because it has some great extras and it’s worthy of a place in your collection. That’s my recommendation so, if you’re going to watch it, stop reading now and get to it. Seriously. We’re about to take a deep dive in our Humanity Has Declined Complete Season 1 Review. Spoiler alert henceforth.
Animation and Presentation
Humanity Has Declined is stunning. The setting and characters are all so vibrant with colour, and this plays a major part in why the show is so shocking at its first “turn”. Great care appears to have been taken with the character designs and the fairies remind me of the Harvest Sprites found in Harvest Moon games.
The direction of each episode is fantastic too. Though I’m no expert, I particularly enjoyed the Fairy Co. arc for one particular choice: the use of the song “Ave Maria” during the skinless chickens’ fall from grace. Given that the director of Humanity Has Declined also directed Angel Beats (which I learned thanks to the Manga episode of this season), it connected with my love for another series wherein they used the same technique to emphasise comical moments, or sometimes emotional moments, depending on your feelings towards chicken.
So it’s consistently beautiful and well-directed with great use of musical cues. What else needs to be said? Watch it.
The plot is something I’m still trying to process as we speak. Our “protagonist”, for lack of a better term, is a young woman in the role of Mediator for a human village. In this world, Humanity Has Declined, and the population is dwindling, making way for the New Humans to become the new “humanity”. These humans are cute, tiny fairies that do favours in exchange for sweets. Our main character’s role is to assist these fairies with their troubles and generally keep the peace between the two. At least, that’s how it seemed at first.
Resources are rare and human artifacts of the past are hard to come by, including ingredients for making food. It’s a bleak world in contrast to the happy-go-lucky art style.
The show ends up becoming a series of short arcs from the perspective of our main character. She becomes trapped in a Manga with two friends, stranded on an island with the fairies and we get to see a glimpse at her earlier life during school.
Humanity Has Declined uses its cute aesthetic to keep you off guard when they pile on with the social commentary and dark humour. It’s so much more effective when you don’t know it’s coming, and that’s why I’m trying to keep my content reveals to a minimum.
There’s a whole heap of references to various manga, anime and even video games such as Bioshock, but it doesn’t lean heavily on these references, instead opting to deliver varying degrees of narrative around them. Though it leaves itself very much open to interpretation, I feel the overall theme is that, despite the grim outlook on life our main character has, her life continues and she has to do her best. Humanity Has Declined. It has, but it’s not extinct. That’s what I took away from the show: that we, as humans, may be able to turn the car around from this grim future we’re heading towards.
The narrative isn’t what one might call “neat”. In fact, if you don’t make it through all 12 episodes, it can seem like a mash up of short stories that draw inspiration from other source material. Once you’re done, though, it all comes together, even if it also leaves so much open to mull over. If you’re wondering why I keep referring to our main character as the main character, well, yeah. Watch the show.
The characters are so well crafted in my opinion. Our main character is almost a physical embodiment of the show’s themes: cute on the outside, well-meaning and capable but with a grim outlook beneath her mostly pro-active approach. Her grandfather is a typical mentor type. The mute assistant provides physical comedy from time to time, with a brilliant storyboard gag in a couple of episodes and a fantastic scene featuring chickens and a video camera.
The fairies themselves have a morbid sense of humour, and this makes for some disturbing moments before alleviating that with a silly statement. They’re a simple folk and the source of great comedy. Particularly when they’re stranded on the island.
Sub and Dub
Humanity Has Declined features only the Japanese audio with English subtitles. The dubbing is well done, but not being an expert on the Japanese language, it’s hard for me to criticise with any kind of accuracy. I recognise most of the voices I’m hearing and it comes across as natural throughout. If you’d prefer an English dub option, it’s unfortunately not available here.
The extras found on the physical release are more than I’d anticipated. It comes with the standard clean opening and clean closing animations, a brief digest of the stories through the series, a six episode series of shorts, a myriad of trailers for other titles available on Blu-ray and finally direct access to the credits. For me, the highlight is definitely the Survival of the Fittest six episode mini-series.
Buy it. If you can’t buy it, watch it. However you can do it, do it.
Note: Review copy provided by Manga UK. This in no way influenced the review.
Game: Humanity Has Declined Complete Season 1
Review Format: Blu-ray