OP: 「リアルワールド」 (Real World) by nano.RIPE
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「妖精さんの、ひみつのこうじょう」 (Yousei-san no, Himitsu no Koujou)
“The Fairies’ Secret Factory”
It was smelling a little stale after the first batch of formulaic season premières, but Jinrui wa Suitai shimashita blew through the room like a breath of fresh – albeit very strange – air.
I’ve liked the chemical composition of this series from the first time I heard about it – director/writer team of Kishi Seiji and Uezu Makoto taking on a LN series from adult game creator Tanaka Romeo, known for his dark sense of humor. Throw in character designs and animation direction by Sakai Kyuuta (Steins;Gate, Pita Ten, Mushishi, Needless, Princess Tutu) an OP from nano.RIPE and an ED from the legendary Itou Masumi and it was almost impossible for this series not to be interesting at the very least. That’s no guarantee of success – there’s an old Chinese curse which says “May you live in interesting times” – but in a season short on originality, Jinrui sticks out like a Picasso on a Kindergartner’s refrigerator.
I’m happy to report that the premiere absolutely lived up to its potential, both in terms of execution and pure weirdness. It’s trippy, that’s for sure, and I can’t honestly say I know exactly what’s going on – but I found it entertaining and frequently hilarious. In fact, this show reminds of Tsuritama a little bit for a number of reasons. Visually, it shares some of that series’ “pop-up book come to life” qualities – bright color palette, childlike, fantastical backgrounds, and surreal imagery. It also has some of Tsuritama’s relentless energy and relentless strangeness, powering insistently through 23 minutes with an unstoppable momentum and not too many explanations. I think the emotional tone of Jinrui is certainly going to be darker, and the social commentary flies almost as freely as the wacky sound effects, but the two shows definitely share a sensibility that I like.
To at least make a stab at describing the plot, we seem to have some sort of dystopian future – but it’s not like any dystopia you’ve seen lately. Mankind has been on the decline for a long time, Centuries probably – seemingly a victim of a consumer-obsessed culture that’s dying a slow death – and has regressed to a state of pre-industrial village life (think 17th-Century or so). The dominant species on Earth is now the Fairies – several inches tall and possessed of futuristic (maybe even alien?) technology – not just ahead of these post-civilized humans, but Centuries ahead of 21st-Century human technology.
Into this scenario steps the heroine (Nakahara Mai), who appears to have no name but “Watashi” (Me) – though the Fairies call her “Ms. Sweets”. She’s a teenager who has the job of mediator for the United Nations Conciliation Commission, and that job is to act as a negotiator between humans and fairies – and from what I’ve seen of the fairies, that seems like a tough assignment. Her Grandfather (the great Ishizuka Unshou) seems to be the Adminstrator/Mayor of the village, and Watashi has an assistant called (appropriately) “Assistant” – a young boy who appears to be unable to speak. It seems that the episodic plots are going to spin off this premise, the first of them being a mysterious cache of consumer goods showing up with a “FairyCo” label, leading the trio to head off in search of the factory where they were made, and see if the Fairies are trying to cause trouble with the local humans.
Believe it or not, that doesn’t come close to doing justice to just how weird all this is – I suspect this will be the only series this season in which you hear the phrase “If you pity my existence, please eat me” from an animatronic loaf of carrot-juice bread. It’s all about style here, starting with the fairies themselves. They’re adorable little buggers, seemingly addicted to sweets, but with a lurking sense of menace to them despite their size – and the exact nature of their relationship with the human population is unclear. I love the steady stream of sound effects, like the gunshot when Assistant starts recording with his camera and the “plop” sounds of marmalade being, well… plopped into jars in the Wonka-like FairyCo factory. We also got a sort of running commentary of the rather kawaii Watashi’s inner thoughts, which are generally not as kawaii as she is (she speculates that cute girls turn into old ladies when their “delicacy points” run out). And there’s lots of random weirdness like the chickens Watashi was supposed to slaughter as part of her job escaping, prompting her to declare “These chickens have earned the right to live”. The topper for me, though, is the aforementioned robotic bread cutting itself open as blood sprays everywhere while it begs to be eaten. Yum!
There’s definitely something mischievous going on with FairyCo’s factory and it’s one human employee – an animate headless chicken turns up outside the village after the chicken incident, and one of the products discovered is a tube of “FairyCo Hair Restorer” – guaranteed to regrow hair cut off after losing a bet!” (which has just happened to Watashi). The Fairies drop lots of hints in their cute fashion, speaking of “Death by starvation becoming a new fad” and a “sad end for material culture”. If we’re to look for the overall theme here, I think Romeo-sensei is definitely aiming squarely at the ills of materialistic consumer culture, and what it’s doing to the human race. What comes out of FairyCo isn’t very good – “a substance pressed into the shape of a sardine” – and that’s not even getting into the realm of the “synthetic food” like the carrot-juice bread. Fittingly, I suspect consumer culture will reject Jinrui as it’s just too idiosyncratic and doesn’t really push the right buttons – but if you want something really original and distinct, this might be the standout of the season. There’s always something to look at and listen to, and the series rarely sets a foot where you’d expect it to. It’s early days yet, but I think Jinrui has a chance to be something special.
ED: 「ユメのなかノわたしのユメ」 (Yume no Naka no Watsahi no Yume) by 伊藤真澄 (Itou Masumi)
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