The Fairies’ Secret Factory
This first episode… blew me away. This might not be a proper way to start a blog post, nor is it my style to express my opinion simply and right off the bat. But I simply loved it. Is this the sleeper hit of the season? I certainly can’t guarantee it, not with only one episode out. But for now, I have only praise to give to it, for its premiere was not only the best I’ve seen in a long while, it certainly neared perfection. By my standards, that is. This show is certainly unconventional, and I doubt everyone will be able to appreciate it for what it is. As for me, I’m sure I just found a very valuable little gem.
If I had to make a list of the words that better describe the first episode of “Humanity is Declining”, it’d be full of synonyms of “weird” and “random”. And it was indeed weird and random. It also had a very abstract style, both regarding the plot and the art. I’ll talk about the plot later and start by the easier element. The art is really refreshing, sporting plain color palettes, with a noticeable cleanness and lack of shading variety. That offers a serene and abstract look, which is further emphasized by the lightness of the colors chosen. And with that, it perfectly sets the mood for one of the strangest settings I’ve seen.
It is set in the future, where it seems like humanity has been declining possibly due to the lifestyle lead in our current time (I’m referring to the real world society here), having reached a situation in which rural life is the most viable option, yet the human race is sure to disappear soon regardless. But that doesn’t mean the world will be deprived of rational forms of life, for the most prosperous beings are now the Fairies – some really cute (and really small) creatures that seemingly have really advanced technology, ages ahead of humanity, even though we haven’t seen it in action yet. The unnamed main character is a member of the United Nations Conciliation Commission, a Mediator between humans and Fairies. That point hasn’t got that much attention yet, except for the fact that everyone seems to idolize her for that, and that she negotiates with the Fairies – with sweets. Joking aside, I don’t really know what her position serves for, in regards to in what those “negotiations” are supposed to benefit humans. But one thing I know for sure, as really childish yet quite intelligent creatures, the Fairies don’t seem like easy beings to deal with.
Soon the protagonist and some other girls are told to kill some chickens, the chickens run away, there’s no meat to eat, a meeting is hold to decide what to do, the girls go search for the missing chickens, a beheaded chicken appears, the girls have the strangest reaction about it, the protagonist tells them not to spread the word, the word is spread anyway, food starts appearing out of nowhere, they investigate, they use a Fairy as compass and find the source, the source is a fabric that seems like a lego cube construction, the only person in the fabric is a human receptionist who doesn’t understand his own job, a loaf of bread which is a robot appears, the robot-loaf-of-bread begs to be eaten, the robot-loaf-of-bread rips itself apart, blood flushes out of its “head”, the loaf of bread isn’t a loaf of regular bread but had carrot juice inside, the episode ends.
However, who cares about the strangeness of the plot when it is a means to deliver excellent social commentary and outstanding dark humor? I don’t, that’s for sure. There’s something really wrong with each situation, but that’s nothing more than what’s actually wrong with our society.
Criticism is everywhere, and it’ll definitely take a second watch to catch all the little jabs at modern society. I think I might not have noticed (or understood for that matter) all of them either. But rather than going on about how awesome it is, I think examples are always the best means to convey the reasons behind an opinion.
First of all, we’ve got the scene with the chickens. As men go hunting, the girls, including the main character, are told to “turn the chickens into meat”, yet nobody but the main character knows the middle step – that they have to kill and gut the animal. This illustrates quite well the conceptual separation between living animals and the food we eat, that has been fueled by humanity’s gradual distancing from their food sources over the years. It also explains their subsequent reaction when they’re told the truth. They completely refuse the idea of “murdering” the chicken, yet they don’t even question eating meat. They find the process disgusting but are ok with the end result, which is the highly self-righteous attitude most people show toward the idea of killing animals for food. Quite a twisted sense of morality, don’t you think? The rather sarcastic mode in which all of this is presented gives off an even better touch to this accurate criticism.
After that, there’s the girl who is counting the bad things that happen. I found it rather interesting because I’m of the opinion that happiness derives not from the happenings in one’s life, but from one’s attitude towards them. And people’s pessimistic outlook on life is exactly the reason sicknesses like depression and even some mental disturbances are getting more and more common. So I have to agree with the main character – that’s an attitude that definitely needs to be changed.
Then you have the problem with democracy. Someone holds the final word, and debates are stretched for hours just for the sake of it, as with one or other argument other proposals keep being refused, when in the end the result was already determined long before said meeting had even started. This one is rather easy to pick up, as the main character actually calls attention to it, deeming it as a “learned lesson”.
Something that can’t be forgotten is the mentioning by the main character that there was no way they would catch the chickens, but they were doing it because responsibility must be taken. Doing pointless things for the sake of formalities… Seems familiar to you?
Next we have the girls reaction to seeing the beheaded chicken, wondering if someone had skinned it like it was the most natural thing in the entire world, when it’s obvious no regular chicken would be alive in that condition. This once again showcases their ignorance towards the basic aspects of life and food production.
And when they all fail to catch the abnormal chicken, the main character shows her “dark side”, trying to prevent such a discovery to get leaked to avoid getting into further problems, which is a nice little satire to the cover up of media information – “Hiding the Truth, Manipulative Information, Intimidation”. Of course it didn’t work. I mean, let’s be honest, does it ever work?
Continuing on with the most interesting examples (believe me, I skipped some I noticed and I’m still sure there were some I didn’t), there is the receptionist of the strange lego factory. The man has no idea of what is job is supposed to be, and he proudly admits so, calling it a rather beneficial job, since he only has to stand around all day and gets money, food and housing for that. Once again, it manifests the ignorance and “no care” attitude of some workers, as people only usually care about their own payment, giving no regard to the actual productivity of their jobs, as they’re most of the time completely oblivious to where the money they earn comes from, and that only true work can support a prosperous economy.
And last, but not least, we have the mass production food! And it’s blatantly stated: it tastes worse and it is less healthy… but who cares when it is produced cheaper and faster. As the main character said earlier, when the mysterious food is found, there were some “things shaped like sardines”. There is no doubt that the processed food is convenient, and that’s actually an issue I’m rather torn about, but there’s no doubt it is less tasty, and that its rising usage is indeed causing some problems for common health. Of course they take it to the extreme, mentioning the usage of even trash for food production. I don’t deny something like that might actually happen in some more ambitious and less scrupulous factories, but it is a fact that the modern regulations are indeed strict enough to prevent it.
And with all this, I almost forgot the most random, creepy and outright weird scene I’ve seen in a long, long time – the robot-loaf-of-bread ripping his “head” in half and declaring it wasn’t a normal loaf of bread. First of all, I don’t think anyone who has watched it will forget that scene so soon. Personally, I know it will stick in my mind, if for nothing else, for the sheer “wtf” value. But when one thinks more about it, it actually has one more critic hidden in it – upon its “death”, the loaf declares to be carrot juice bread, aimed at children who dislike carrots, which showcases how people want incompatible taste and nutrients in their products, which is ultimately what fuels the processed food industry.
Add to this the amazing bit with the delicacy points, a joke about how nagging old women can be, especially about appearance, and the little remark with the Assistant only being able to rate things with three marks, all of which carrying a positive connotation (representing the conformism and lack of ability to refuse from the latest generations), and you’ve got a perfect episode in all its splendor.
One last thing to mention is the unnamed main character, who is agreeably refreshing. One of the high points of this series is definitely her narration, which made me think that Kyon just found a female rival to the best sarcastic narrator ever. In my opinion, she can actually be better, despite the obvious differences in the setting when one affords to make such a comparison. My point is, she’s great. She’s intelligent, yet not completely above the ignorance the human population seems to be doomed under. Her remarks are witty and sarcastic, and sometimes (like that one scene when they were looking for the runaway chickens) even creepy. Yes, this series excels in social commentary, but the means to that is the protagonist’s narration, which giving a touch of dark humor to each scene, makes this not only an interesting view from an analytical point of view, but also an amazingly entertaining one. The seiyuu’s job cannot be overlooked either. I’m not someone who watches series for the voice cast, and the only way voice acting actually impacts my enjoyment is usually negatively, when it is absolutely awful. But I can’t deny Nakahara Mai is doing an excellent job, which is actually crucial in this case, since this whole series is carried by the narration.
If you’ve read everything so far, I congratulate you for your persistence, and assure you this is almost over, for I’ll be simply concluding with my overall impressions, which should already be obvious by now. Whether this can or not maintain this amount of quality has yet to be seen, but regardless of what will come from now on, it won’t change the fact this is a masterpiece episode. Having gone into this anime with zero expectations, I’m already pleased with what I’ve got, for I hadn’t had my share of social commentary since Mawaru Penguindrum, which I also found an excellent show. However, I do believe this will keep up this level of quality, and while it wasn’t initial in my plans to do so, I will be blogging this series and hoping it is indeed a masterpiece in the making.