「妖精さんたちの、さぶかる」 (Yōsei-san-tachi no, Sabukaru)
“The Fairies’ Subculture”
I can’t recall another anime that’s surprised me as often in three episodes as Jinrui has.
This episode was so unlike anything I’ve seen in anime that I almost don’t know where to begin to describe it? To say that Jinrui wa Suitai Shimashita isn’t very commercial is the understatement of the year – I can’t even begin to imagine who the target audience for the show is. Was this episode as fun and outright hilarious as the first two? Undoubtedly no – and I’d be lying if I said I enjoyed it as much. But it was so jam-packed with intellectual content that I found myself constantly pausing the video and scribbling notes to myself, all in an attempt to keep everything straight in my mind.
In purely practical terms we start with the introduction of a new character, Y (Sawashiro Miyuki). She’s a colleague from Watashi’s graduating class, currently in town to work on the ominously named “Human Monument Project”. Goodness me, this series is full of dark and depressing subtext (all those guns!) – it’s that in contrast to the hyper-kawaii characters and storybook art style that’s essence of the show, as much as anything – and the notion of this is some sort of monument to humanity’s past glories. The problem is, nobody in the government really cares about it and it keeps getting pushed onto the back burner until a newbie like Y comes along to have it dumped on them for a while.
Naturally Y doesn’t give a rat’s ass about the HMP either – she’s a bit of a flake generally, in fact – and she’s much more interested in the old mansion outside the village whose owner has just died. Turns out the basement held a veritable treasure trove of human artifacts – not exactly Picassos or Shakespearean manuscripts, but the likes of rotary printers, copiers and a whole bunch of memory cards. It’s on the first of those cards that the real “treasure” lies – a BL manga called “Sweet Love” that sets off the unlikely chain of events that this episode looks at in flashback form.
Frankly, Y isn’t a particularly likable character. In fact, she’s rather annoying and I took an instant dislike to her – but given the fact that this was probably the exact reaction I was supposed to have (Watashi certainly can’t stand her either) she serves her role admirably. What plays here can only be called a pitiless deconstruction of the life cycle of a fandom – on this case the one in the crosshairs is fujoshi, and Messrs.’ Tanaka, Kishi and Uezu take no prisoners in telling the story of how a new wave of fujoshi mania sweeps from “Manga Mansion” through this post-apocalyptic world at blazing speed. We have the publication of the original manga, the follow-ups, the first wave of fans, the growth of the doujinshi market, and even a miniature Comiket for BL-lovers from all over the countryside (did I see a few guys in that line?).
I’ll be the first to confess this is a subculture I really don’t know too much about, so I suspect some of the satire was lost on me. But in all truth, while the specifics are fujoshi the pattern was pretty much universal. And even I couldn’t help but laugh at the progression of content that spewed forth from the humble beginnings of that first disk. We had “Camphorwood”, which gave birth to a legion of fetishists of every fujoshi stripe in this new “homogeneous” subculture. Eventually a whole wave of doujinshi “Manzines” are spawned – “Oakwood”, “Silkwood”, etc. This forces Y to up the ante, and manga produces the ultra-HQ “Cinnamon” collection, which gives Y the upper hand until she loses control of her means of distribution. This forces here to call for a doujin fair, the “Rose Garden of David”, with the truly revolutionary idea of having the fans come to the manga. And so they do, in massive numbers, bringing with them their own manzines and legions of fans.
What’s interesting here is that Watashi’s initial warning to Y was that the Fairies would mimic this operation once they got wind of it, and it was the human fujoshi who did so first. But the ending of the episode suggests that the Fairies are finally involved, as Y and Watashi find themselves trapped inside a blank manga panel – and rather ominously (given that the quite kawaii shota was forced to lock himself in a storage room to hide from the “undisguised lust coming from the crowd of girls”, and Y’s misinterpretation of his relationship with Watashi) Assistant-kun is trapped with them. The mind boggles at the possibilities of where the satire might go from here.
As I mentioned, this episode definitely lacked something in terms of pure enjoyment as compared to the first two – it was somewhat dry in comparison – but somewhat made up for it just in terms of the sheer sharpness of the satirical blade. Nakahara Mai’s running stream of sweetly delivered cynicism (“I don’t believe in any of that crap”) goes a long way towards deflating any sense of elitism in what’s undeniably a very intellectual show, and the satire itself is right on the money. There’s a “can’t see the forest for the trees” quality that runs through much of what happens in Jinrui – people walking around with blinders on, hopelessly trapped in their own self-centered view of the universe, and the doujin culture – which can clearly be as cynical and corporate as the establishment it purportedly operates independently of – is certainly a prime target for satirical demolition.