「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”
If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?
Seriously – my pathetic words cannot do justice to how effing brilliant this series is. You’re going to have to forgive me for going into full fanboy mode for a bit, because Jinrui wa Suitai Shimashita continues to blow my mind in a good way like no anime I’ve seen for a very long time. This episode was such a beautiful, intricate and delicate construction, lovingly spun like a spider’s web, reflecting on weighty topics like identity and perception, and pulling in some very strong emotional impact in the end (as Jinrui seems inclined to do). And then, to end on such a deliciously brilliant and awful pun – I’m in awe.
Thank Goc for anime, that’s all I have to say.
I really should end it there, but I guess I have to try and give form to my impressions. First off, one thing that strikes me is that we’ve had four two-episode arcs that have followed the same basic format, and the most amazing thing is that in each case, the second episode of the arc has been the masterpiece. The odd-numbered eps have all been great too, but it’s the even-numbered ones that have taken what those odds set up and gloriously put it all together. I’ve been completely satisfied with the way every one of these arcs have been completed – not only have they all been rousingly entertaining, but they haven’t wasted a frame of the setup done in the prior episodes. Everything follows a logical progression, in hindsight, which is pretty remarkable considering that the arcs have aired out of sequence. Against all odds, this episode manages to craft a conclusion that explains the dogs, the bananas, the watch – all of my questions were answered.
Now, I won’t pretend I can explain every single detail of what happened in this arc, but that doesn’t bother me in the slightest. Some of it is still tied into the larger mystery of the series itself, so I’m content to wait for the final two arc to peel away more layers. In the meantime what we have is a marvelous and unique character introduction for Joshu-kun. It seems as if, forbidden by Watashi from cloning her for their nefarious confectionary purposes, the Fairies went with Plan B – time manipulation. As commenter Sade shrewdly pointed out last week, all bananas are genetically clones of each other – so they do make a rather logical vehicle for the Fairies “Time Management” experiment. I would add about the banana that those wishing to credit Tanaka Romeo-san for a Steins;Gate reference here should check their dates – the Jinrui LN appeared well before the S;G VN did. I think he was simply going for the brilliant “slip in time” pun here – and that pun was only the warm-up for the one that would cap this episode.
I think this is a good time to muse on the nature of the Fairies, which is still shrouded in mystery. It occurs to me that they don’t seem to come up with any original ideas. The notion of “cloning” Watashi to make more sweets was basically her own inadvertent suggestion. Their factory, their manga, everything – these are all basically bastardizations of human concepts. The relationship between the Fairies and human consciousness is still obscure and something that seems likely to be at the heart of everything that’s happened in Jinrui, up to and including humanity’s decline. I wonder of they aren’t somehow an outgrowth of us – something we created out of our own group consciousness in some way. We’ve already seen that in this world, reality can be changed by thought – though that’s presumably because of the Fairies influence, which would mean their own creation in such a way is a time paradox. But maybe that’s not such a problem either…
What of Joshu-kun, all those dogs, and all those Watashis baking in the woods? Joshu-kun is described by Grandpa as “undefined”, and by the female doctor (Kuwatani Natsuko) as “obscure” – which Watashi correctly observes are odd ways to describe a person. We learn that he’s the lone survivor of an ethnic minority, and was living alone in a remote valley – so alone, in fact, that he had no sense of identity because there was no one to define him. The philosophical implications are deep here, no doubt, but that’s apparently what this “bright boy” is seeking when he wanders off – an identity, a sense of self (and is that so different from the rest of us?).
Into this scenario enters Watashi – or “Watashitachi” I should say, as there are many of her – and the Fairies. Each misadventure with a Fairy banana is a slip in time, creating a paradox and another Watashi. And as these Watashi gather in the woods the clock continues to move, and even the doctor and Grandpa seem to sense on some level that something is wrong. Finally the Fairies deliver a faulty banana to Watashi, which sends her “too far back”. There, she meets a hilariously randy and inappropriate 13 year-old boy (Matsumoto Rica) in a Hawaiian shirt who identifies himself as the assistant. He first calls himself “Doc”, and then “The Ringo Kid”. He has an affinity for guns and procreating, and after copping a feel of Watashi’s boobs he tells her he was kicked out of a prestigious school for “procreatin’ with the teacher” (what happened to the teacher??). He also takes a shine to Watashi’s sundial watch, which he promptly “borrows” from her without waiting for permission before spotting a bustier local girl and ditching Watashi to put the moves on her.
Of course, the Ringo Kid is really Grandpa – it makes sense, right down to the Wild West gun-spinning and the origin story of how he got the sundial watch from a beautiful girl. The years have obviously changed him – in some ways more than others – but irrespective of that, this trip far back in the past seems to close the loop on the slips in time, and after this last big slip Watashi has one last meeting with Watashitachi, where she finally asks them what the assistant might look like. The resulting conversation (these really are all her, after all) paints a detailed picture: kind, thin, soft hair, sweet, gentle, responsible but a little bold sometimes, and wearing a Hawaiian shirt – of the boy she imagines Joshu-kun to be. And Joshu-kun has been in the forest all this time, listening in to all of Watashitachi’s conversations, and decides that this is the identity he’d like to take on for himself. So, at last, Watashi and Joshu-kun meet – and this time he’s the Joshu-kun we know. Oh, and all the dogs? Turns out that every time a temporal paradox occurs, the universe cancels out the paradox and gives it the shape of a dog – a “Time Paradogs”. Oh, the sweet sweet agony – Romeo-san, I bow before your ruthless genius.
I’ve said all along that the relationship between Watashi and Joshu-kun is the most real and grounded thing in Jinrui, and this arc makes me feel that even more strongly. How could there be any stronger connection than a boy who decided to be everything a girl imagines him to be? I don’t want to go down the shipping road because this isn’t that kind of show, but there’s a very real connection between those two – built on the compassion she felt for him after hearing his story, and his desire to find himself by connecting with her. It’s a fantasy but it plays on some very real questions of self-identity and how it depends on our connections with others, and I think it’s quite beautiful in a very profound way – for all the kawaii and zaniness, this Fairy world is actually quite a terrible place in many ways, but Watashi and Joshu have found each other in the most bizarre circumstances possible and because of that they have something very real to hold onto.
There’s one last bombshell, of course – Joshu-kun speaks, and using the voice of Fukuyama Jun, no less. Whether this means he’ll continue to have a speaking role in the rest of the series, I can’t say – given that (unless there’s another shoe waiting to drop) this arc surely must precede all the others in the series continuity, it seems unlikely. Perhaps it was the presence of the time paradog that allows him to speak. But with Jinrui, who knows – this is truly a magical and bizarre world that Romeo Tanaka has created and Kishi Seiji and Uezu Makoto have brought to life. And in that kind of world, nothing seems impossible.