「妖精さんたちの、じかんかつようじゅつ」 (Yōsei-san-tachi no, Jikan Katsuyō Jutsu)
“The Fairies’ Time Management”
This series is one of the most exquisite mind-benders in recent anime history.
We’ve certainly seen time loops, cloning, temporal paradoxes and such used as themes in anime before. But somehow Jinrui wa Suitai Shimashita has a way of making the pieces fit together that manages to be intellectually dense without being pretentious, and confusing without seeming unfair about it. This show has an exhilarating effect for me – I’m thinking my way through every episode non-stop (if you smell smoke it’s because it’s coming out of my ears) and always walk away feeling as if my brain has just been to the gym for a bracing workout. I’m mentally tired afterwards – but it’s that good, “feel the burn” kind of tired.
If Jinrui were nothing but mental Pilates I’m sure the charm would wear off quickly, but in addition to the stimulation I continue to find the whole enterprise vastly entertaining. I can’t explain everything that happened in this episode, but some things are clear enough. This appears to be a prequel to the prequel that concluded last week, for starters – making the chronological order of episodes so far 7 (8), 5, 6, 1, 2, 3, 4 if my guess is correct. In any event Watashi didn’t seem to know Joshu-kun this time – though like so much of the episode there’s enough contradictory evidence to make me wonder. All we know is what we’re told, that Grandpa has assigned her to pick up his assistant, who’s returning from a round of medical treatment. While we’re never specifically told that this is the Joshu-kun we know and love, it seems quite likely to be – and the evidence later bears this out.
But like everything in Jinrui, it’s not quite so simple – and Watashi undergoes quite a trip down the rabbit hole in her much-interrupted journey to pick up Joshu-kun at “The Lamb and Olive”. Among the elements that appear during the episode (all of which may or may not be significant) are the following:
- Watashi has lost her watch, and Grandpa gives her a sundial watch that we’re told he received from a beautiful girl he knew before Watashi’s Grandmother. To indicate her underwhelmed reaction Watashi memorably gives us “Arigato gozaimasen”.
- Watashi mention to the Fairies that since humanity has declined, there just aren’t many people left who know how to make sweets, and jokingly wishes there were several of her. When Fairy tells her this is possible, she declares “No cloning!” on the grounds that it’s morally wrong.
- Watashi meets a Fairy in the woods who gives her a banana which has no taste. When she points this out he responds, “You wanted one with flavor?” and produces one (by the end of the episode I was shouting “Don’t eat the banana!” at the screen).
- Watashi sees a strange dog in the hazy distance, which seems to intermittently look like a human.
- Watashi sees the Fairies playing soccer with what looks unsettlingly like a humanoid head (and sounds like one, too).
- Watashi meets a Doctor at the Lamb and Olive, who tells her that the assistant has wandered off (which he has a habit of doing). She also tells Watashi that the assistant is a young boy who was found completely alone, and never had anyone to teach him how to speak. She agrees to search the forest while the Doctor searches the village.
- Watashi meets a girl who looks much like herself.
- Watashi meets her Grandfather riding a chariot, and he scolds her for not having picked up his assistant.
Now, certain things seem obvious enough. The Fairies have clearly taken the notion of the “time slip” quite literally – each time Watashi takes a banana from the Fairy and eats it, she meets another girl who looks just like herself – then slips on the banana peel and wakes up, dazed, to start the cycle all over again. The obvious Occam’s Razor solution is that the Fairies have taken her DNA and cloned her repeatedly, in order to give themselves a stockpile of Watashis to make sweets for them. But it also seems as if Watashi has entered the world of the Fairies, which – for lack of a better explanation for now – seems to exist as an alternate dimension alongside are own (one of the Fairies refers to it as “Happy Land”). That the Fairies are up to no good has never really been in doubt – what I still don’t know is if they’re merely mischievous, selfish and cavalier about humans, or truly malicious. I don’t think this ep answers that conclusively.
It’s certainly welcome to get some new information about Joshu-kun and his sad background, and I hope that’s a topic that’s explored further because his relationship with Watashi remains the most human one in the series and the closest thing to real character development. I was interested in Watashi’s initial reaction of jealousy when Grandpa informed her that he was getting an assistant, as well as her later remorse for it. Also interesting was the Doctor’s assertion that Joshu-kun “Unfortunately was a bright boy. He was smart enough to wonder who he was.” That’s the sort of conspicuous and carefully worded statement that doesn’t sound like a piece of throwaway dialogue.
The odd thing in this episode is that Watashi remembers that Joshu-kun “looks great in a Hawaiian shirt”. Does this mean the timeline is different than it appears, and they’ve met before? Time is an obvious recurring theme, with clock faces and watch dials appearing throughout the episode. And what’s the story with the dogs, I wonder? Again, in what sounds like anything but a throwaway line, Watashi is heart to say “That dog worries me.” As the episode closes Watashi stumbles upon a village square full of dogs like the one she’s been glimpsing – and a boy in a Hawaiian shirt playing with one of them. The internal logic of Jinrui always holds up once the mysteries are revealed and I have no doubt that will be the case here as well, but at this point I can’t yet put all the pieces together. If the past three arcs are any guide it should be a blast to find out – each of them has concluded with a brilliant second episode that builds on the one one that preceded it.