Humanity Has Declined is an usual show, even by anime standards that’s really saying a lot. We’re used to the random craziness of anime but Humanity Has Declined doesn’t so much go off the wall, it’s in fact a very intelligent show… too intelligent from what you’re probably used to. I’m not even talking about vaguely plausible scientific and philosophical theories that many sci-fi anime have demonstrated over the decades, as Humanity Has Declined presents its stories and ideas with utmost simplicity, but underneath its surface is layers of subtle symbolism that demand astute observation to notice.
Humanity Has Declined is socio-political satire with a heavy dose of black comedy, wrapped and presented as a colourful and vibrant anime. It’s so cute and magical on the surface and yet so shockingly cynical and dark underneath, and when you see the themes explored and the way the characters are presented, you can’t help but be caught a little off-guard. On your first viewing it’s entirely possible and understandable for you to decided not to continue watching, as the pace is so slow and the direction of the story is so unclear that it’s sometimes hard to invest yourself into it. That being said, Humanity Has Declined doesn’t want you to invest in its characters, setting, or story, in fact it almost doesn’t even try to flesh out any detail because the characters remain nameless and mysterious, and the seemingly disjointed events aren’t even presented chronologically. At the end of the day, Humanity Has Declined really wants you to observe what’s underneath the surface.
Humanity Has Declined is an ambitious social commentary on the modern world and humanity, and it does this by a portraying a modern human society that is on the brink of extinction. With the decline of humanity, whimsical and creepy fairies have emerged as the new dominant species. The main protagonist is a researcher and a member of the UN, and her job is to ensure congenial relations among the humans and fairies, and also to research lost relics and knowledge of humanity in hopes of keeping the human race and its heritage alive. It’s an intriguing setting for sure, and as bleak as the premise is, the bright colours and calm characters are a stark contrast to the discerning setting and themes. It’s like presenting an apocalyptic world in the most optimistic, colorful, and cheery way possible, but at the same time not really denying the bleakness of its reality.
Humanity Has Declined is a 12 episode series, with each story arc taking up two episodes apiece. It’s a short series for sure, but it makes each episode count even when the pace feels like its prodding along and not really going anywhere. In each episode, if you give it attention, you’ll find striking commentaries on a variety of topics. One story arc in particular will resonate with any fan of anime and manga, as it humorously and ironically pokes fun at the industry and all its conventions, tropes, and everything else in between. In particular, it almost discourages viewers who might be considering a career as a manga artist, as the episode reminds us that those who spend their entire lives working to be a manga artist will work long hours, earn peanuts, and one day inevitably end up with no work as an artist while having no other marketable skills to fall back on. Humanity Has Declined is one tough reality check after the next.
That’s honestly the kind of messages and lessons that you can expect from Humanity Has Declined, it presents realistically pessimistic and cynical realizations about the world that we live in. Over the course of the 12 episodes you will see criticisms of the education system, corporate-driven consumerism, social identity, organized religion, and the most striking of all episodes is the one that very cleverly summarises the rise and fall of human civilization in just 20 minutes.
At the end of the day Humanity Has Declined doesn’t present its ingenuity in the most obvious manner, in fact the show is paced rather calmly, and the presentation of the story and characters can feel so dry, that it’s almost easy to overlook its hidden brilliance. While there isn’t much in terms of deep character development, you can’t help but admire the nameless protagonist. A cynical woman who is unphased even in the most dire situations, she has the charm, wit, and dryness of a Seinfeld character and you can’t help but enjoy her musings and reactions. While you never really learn who she is, you at least grow to admire her maturity and demeanor. Her pleasant design sports an unforgettable, messy, and wild hairdo, and her calm and collected reaction towards the most bizarre things is always amusing. The leading lady of Humanity Has Declined will guide you through the show’s dry surrealism, and you almost wish you were as unphased and chilled out as her.
I’m a bit torn about Humanity Has Declined, on one hand it’s perhaps one of the smartest shows I’ve ever watched– anime or otherwise– but on the other hand it’s not an easily digestible viewing experience. It uses bright colours to wonderful effect, the backdrops and art style are certainly pleasing, but at the same time there is a dry blandness in its presentation and pacing that can test a viewer. If you stick with it and really look beneath the apparent, then you will be entertained by its ingenious commentary of the world we live in.
Humanity Has Declined isn’t an easy recommendation as it’s an acquired taste in every possible sense. If you enjoy carefully layered satire and subtle black comedy, then Humanity Has Declined will be one of the most intellectually stimulating shows you will ever have the pleasure of watching. Others will still enjoy its witty dialogue and get a good chuckle, but the slow burn and disjointed progression may not sink well with everyone. All things considered, Humanity Has Declined is perhaps the smartest and most unique comedy in anime, a rare and calming experience in an otherwise extravagant and energized genre.
You can grab a copy of Humanity Has Declined from Hanabee.