「妖精さんの、ひみつのおちゃかい」 (Yōsei-san no, Himitsu no Ochakai)
“The Fairies’ Secret Tea Party (Part 2)”
The only thing that was predictable about this ending is that it wouldn’t be a predictable ending.
It would certainly be fair to say I have conflicted feelings over the way Kishi Seiji and Uezu Makoto decided to end Jinrui wa Suitai Shimashita. Make no mistake, it was a very good two-part arc – not among the best Jinrui has had to offer, but still better than 95% of the anime that aired this season. But it didn’t feel like a finale in any real sense (unsurprisingly, as it isn’t even the newest volume of the LN). It was just a two-part episode that ended the series, but it could as easily have landed anywhere in the cour and made as much (or as little sense) as it did where it is.
But then I step back, and I wonder – is that a fair criticism on my part? Jinrui has been relentlessly unconventional from the start, so why do I expect a conventional finale? This isn’t a traditional show in any way – it doesn’t have character development at all in the strictest sense, and each arc stands very much on its own. I can’t say how it all would have played if AIC had adapted the stories in the same order Tanaka-sensei wrote them – it would be a guess on my part. But I can say that even in the discontinuous style that Kishi and Uezu chose, there were still character elements that emerged that might have been better served if the chapters had been ordered differently.
Whatever its place in the larger superstructure of Jinrui, this finale was another brilliant example of the show’s relentlessly creative and somewhat disturbing worldview. I don’t think there’s any question that “The Fairies Tea Party” is the least fantastical and absurd of the series’ arcs. Heck, there are barely any Fairies in it (perhaps another reason it’s an odd choice to end with). It’s also, without question, the least funny of the arcs – and it makes very little attempt to be. Even more so than last week’s first part, this episode takes a very chilling and unsparing look at human nature – exaggerated for effect, perhaps, but generally grounded in realism – and in doing so, makes yet another comment about how “humanity has declined”, but from a completely different angle than any that has come before.
There are lots of things that we can take away from this “Tea Party”. First of all, Watashi is fiendishly clever and always was – in fact she’d figured out the riddle Y gave her on the day she arrived at school (based on Mother Goose’s “Solomon Grundy”, as creepy as most Mother Goose) but chose not to “solve” it because she didn’t like being part of Y’s game. She also used her deductive reasoning to figure out what Y was really all about. A list of missing books from the library, all of which involve man-boy or boy-boy love (titles like “Death in Venice” and Satyricon”). The RYOBO 230r running into the wall constantly because there was a secret room behind it. And a scathingly cutting analysis of Y’s personality – why she needed to call attention to her own cleverness and feel superior to everybody else.
There’s a larger pattern that emerges here, that everyone has secrets, and everyone has unsavory elements of their character. This most certainly includes Watashi herself, who has a kind heart (we see this most tellingly with Joshu-kun) but is also snarky, sarcastic and anti-social. As a form of bribery to avoid having her secret spilled, Y – who’s called “Silver” by her former Wild Rose clubmates, who call Watashi “Sweets” (just like the Fairies do, interestingly) – takes Watashi on a magical mystery tour through a secret passage and shows her the dirty laundry of all the Wild Rose club members, and it’s not pretty. A categorical listing of every perceived slight ever received. Bitter and vicious complaining and gossiping about other girls. Hair samples preserved fetishistically in the pages of a diary (why did I hear “It puts the lotion in the basket” when I saw this?). And most chillingly, Curly – who always creeped the hell out of me, from the minute we saw her – who has a one-way conversation with her Watashi doll, before licking hot stew off its face and turning Norman Bates on it.
The weird thing is, I think the message here is “Let she who is without sin cast the first stone”. Y actually played her prank on Watashi because she was lonely, and saw someone of similar no BS intellect, and her BL fetish doesn’t actually hurt anybody. We saw last week that Watashi’s isolationism was really only hurting herself. Curly is desperately lonely. All of these people are flawed, yet they’re still people – and when they emerge from their lair they tuck their dark side away and treat each other mostly as friends. The choice in life is to either accept people as they are, warts and all, or be forever alone while you wait for the one person who can be exactly who you want them to be. The irony of course is that through unique circumstances Watashi actually did find such a person in Joshu-kun – but it was only because of her experience at the school and her relationship with Y especially that she was open to the experience.
I think the meaning of the ending as regards the Fairy and Watashi’s memory is somewhat open to interpretation. The Fairies seem to inhabit some kind of strange space between waking and dreams, and the Fairy who had been Watashi’s first friend at the school turned out to have been by her side all along – riding along inside RYOBO, perhaps keeping the robot going long after its time on Earth should have ended. When he popped out and called her “Friend!” that perhaps represents as unapologetically sentimental as Jinrui has gotten, certainly since the “Time Management” arc.
The short answer: love. Without a question this was the best of the Summer 2012 series in my view, and the gap was as wide as it has been in any recent season. Jinrui wa Suitai Shimashita is a rare sort of series that just doesn’t come along very often – something truly original and wildly entertaining at the same time. The novels of Tanaka Romeo have clearly been criminally underappreciated, but that’s starting to change. There’s a real buzz surrounding Jinrui, which has been rapidly climbing in the stalker rankings in anticipation of its 9/19 BD/DBD release of Volume 1 – there’s a chance it could sell quite decently (which would be a huge and pleasant surprise). The same creative team is also doing an adaptation of Aura, another Tanaka LN, in movie form.
It’s interesting that the series chose to mention Mother Goose in the finale, because there’s a sort of shared mindset that didn’t really strike me until that happened – though in hindsight it should have been obvious. Besides quite literally being a “fairy tale” Jinrui has that some discordant combination of cute imagery and comedy with an extremely disturbing undertone. There’s an unsettling quality that runs through everything just as there is in “Goose” or Grimm” – a sense of whistling through the graveyard, if you like. The series paints a picture of a dying world, but at the same time manages to give us glimpses of the humanity that survives in the humans that survive – there are moments of warmth of honesty that transcend the black comedy and give the series a poignancy I wouldn’t have expected it to have after the hilarious premiere.
If I could have chosen an arc to end with, I would certainly have picked “The Fairies Time Management”, the origin story of Assistant-san (though it was only vol. 2 of the LN). That arc has the most feeling of a coda for me, because the relationship between Watashi and Joshu-kun was the most emotionally straightforward and least ironic element in the series. There was a real poetry to that story, and the ending had a real “ending” quality to it, even if was neither the last story chronologically in the anime or LN. It’s also a bit frustrating because after that episode, which framed Joshu-kun’s character so beautifully (interestingly, on his website Tanaka-sensei says Joshu-kun doesn’t speak so he “Doesn’t have to exchange words with people as dumb as a sack of hammers”), he effectively disappeared for the last four eps – which makes that development feel as if it was wasted just a bit. But as I mentioned earlier, that may be me trying to fit Jinrui into a conventional box it wasn’t designed to fit inside.
The list of things I love about Jinrui is a long one, starting with Nakahara Mai’s performance as Watashi – my current pick for best female seiyuu performance of 2012. When this series went for straight-out comedy it nailed it – Pan-tan the bleeding bread, “Chicken run”, the “time paradogs” pun at the end of episode 8. It also did satire better than any series in recent memory, with topics as wide-ranging as the manga industry, niche fandom, all the way to the rise of religion and its role in the rise and full of human culture itself. It also examined fascinating topics that anthropomorphism, through the example of “Pion and Oyage” the wayward space probed who longed to come home. And it gave us the Fairies themselves, one of the great literary creations of pop culture – so cute they could get away with saying almost anything, which they usually did.
Will there be another season of Jinrui? If it were based just on sales it might actually be possible – which I never would have believed when the show started. However the anime has adapted considerably more than half of the LN series’ 7 volumes, so it seems unlikely there’s enough material to adapt into another season, at least for a while. As Tanaka continues the series we might just see a continuation of the anime in a couple of years – I certainly hope so, because it represents one of the creative high points of the medium in the last few years. Challenging, ruthless, and unapologetically intellectual, Jinrui refuses to fit neatly into any box or trope – it’s completely its own animal. I wish there were more shows like it, and it’s one of the best series of 2012.