I was pleasantly surprised by Humanity Has Declined. The anime, licensed by Hanabee in Australia, seemed to have the look of a cutsey human and fairy story. However, the old rule of judging a book by its cover is in full effect as Humanity Has Declined proves to be a clever dark comedy on the foils of humanity. The humans are in a decline in a post-apocalyptic world. As a way to survive, they live alongside the fairies. To act as a mediator between the two, there is a female protagonist simply referred to as the Mediator.
The series doesn't have an overarching story, like most anime. Instead, ten of the twelve episodes feature a mini story of their own as two parters. There are another two stand alone episodes. These are all various adventures the Mediator has with her Grandfather, Assistant, the fairies and other humans. They vary from exploring a fairy-run factory reproducing food to one of the Mediator's friends reintroducing manga to the world. The stories themselves are a mixed bag. It feels too random. It would have been better with an overarching story rather than a mixture of different short stories.
The whole series revolves around a female protagonist, only known as the Mediator. This long, pink hair girl is known as the Mediator because she is the person who interacts with the two races of humans and fairies, who are ten inches tall and very intelligent, too intelligent for their own good. She in fact inherits the role from her grandfather, the previous Mediator. The Mediator herself is one cynical human being. Throughout the series, the viewer gains access to her inner thoughts on various situations she is in. It provides some of the excellent humour of the series. Even her appearance provides a bit of irony. Despite looking like a happy go lucky type of girl, she does have a negative side to her. However, it's silly they didn't give her a name. In fact, the main cast of characters don't have any names at all.
The supporting cast also provide some of the humour. The Assistant, a blonde haired boy who follows the Mediator around, shows a very dark side to himself. In one instance, he wrote a story of seven siblings. Six of them were murdered in various ways by the seventh. He barely talks, if at all, but does provide help to the Mediator when she needs it. Her Grandfather is also in the village and helps from time to time. But it's the fairies that can steal the episode. They are cute in design with a matching voice to boot. However, they also have a mischievous side which brings trouble for the humans.
This is, first a foremost, a parody of humanity. Expect jokes poking fun at what makes humans ashamed to be part of the human race: cynicism, business practices, the entertainment industry, poor politics and much more. Most of the jokes, can be silly, but also quite funny. Despite all of its silly moments, there is a deeper, darker subtext behind the series. Right off the bat, the Mediator must kill chickens who fail at producing eggs in order to supply meat for the villagers. The village itself is running out of supplies so necessary measures must be taken. Poorly run meetings, an insight of the human mind and strangely enough, mass production versus quality, all have a presence in the series. The whole series is a parody of the worse of humanity and why it has taken for the worse.
This is where the anime shines the brightest. It provides a commentary at a deeper level for those who want to take in the subtext. But it doesn't just focus on the worse of humanity. It also showcases the best in humanity as well. In the episode about manga, as competition pops up, there are instances where all manga writers showcased their own work in all good faith. In the school arc, there is a lesson on tolerance and diversity. It's good to see the balance between mocking the worse of humanity and showing the best of humanity.
With that said, the messages and social commentary do get lumped into a messy structure. The decision to just have several mini stories rather than an overarching story seems to be a bad one because it flows poorly. Also, it feels they pop out rather randomly. The jokes, while funny, disrupt the flow of the episode. In fact, one moment can be slow and boring, but suddenly there is a very funny moment and boredom turns into fun. It may bring the viewer back into the episode, but it's a very jarring experience. It needed to be a gradual build up all the way through instead of jumping between high and lows of the episode.
To drive in the irony, the world is full of colour. The environments are bright, colourful and have a cute design to them. It would have been easier to colour the world in dark, bleak colours, but having the world as it is hones in on the satire and social commentary more effectively. The animation itself is very reserved. If you're looking for action, this isn't the anime for you. The movements are restrictive. As for the music, it's decent enough. Nothing memorable but it fits the mood. The opening is a little catchy but not worth looking up. The sound quality is good. The Japanese voices are the only ones available with English subtitles.
The dark satire makes Humanity Has Declined a different anime to watch through. It is a good anime, with excellent comedy and an interesting take on the worse of humanity. However, with restrictive animation, poor story structure, no overarching story and average music, it's hard to recommend it to the average anime viewer. If you do enjoy dark humour and satire, then it's worth dropping the money for it. The humour does make it for its shortcomings. It's dark, but it's funny, mainly because it pokes at the truths of humanity.
Rating: Suicidal Bread/10 (yes, there is a slice of bread which commits suicide).
Humanity Has Declined was provided by Hanabee for the purpose of review. The anime is available now on DVD. It can be purchased from the Hanabee online store for $49.99.