Living the (Manga) Dream; Jinrui Episode 4

Though this was Jinrui‘s weakest episode yet, it still had enough quirkiness and dry humor in it to make it enjoyable to watch.

I’m not sure what happened here; it might have been the change from subtlety to directness, which isn’t a bad thing overall, but perhaps a weaker approach to the humor that made Jinrui so fun (and slightly cringe-worthy) to watch. Whereas the first three episodes of this show were drowned in cynicism but also subtle poking at a certain topic, the fourth episode was a more straightforward one on manga. Which is interesting, regarding the fact that I personally thought that episode three was a general take on fandom mechanics rather than just fujoshi criticism;  as such, episode four doesn’t tie very well into the previous episode’s criticisms, but it does give some interesting commentary about manga as well as solidifying Y so she becomes more than just another 2D, flat character.

We all understand that in creating a story, there are certain foundations that must be laid down: the context, the characters and the story-introduction, climax, resolution. Here, Jinrui criticizes the appeal of manga, specifically fan-base manga, in trying to cater to such a large audience that it loses the very structure of these foundations and becomes the mess the Narrator describes as “one that makes no sense.” This is a double edged sword: our characters become the characters of a manga and thus struggle to find the reason of what makes a manga really sell, but in doing so, contradict the reason as to why Y’s attempts fail and why “Play Your Role” as a manga ends. Confused? Let me try to explain.

In this episode, we have a manga about people trying to understand about manga; in real manga, a mangaka exerts nearly complete control over the plot and the characters and the story format, as said before. Here, we have none of this. Y not only knows what role she is supposed to play in “Play Your Role” but also refuses to keep an actual plotline.  Likewise, in order to keep a structured story that doesn’t have loop holes, a mangaka must always be in contact and in communication with his or her editor. Our characters- and our mangakas in a sense- in Jinrui are literally kept in the dark as they try to understand the cryptic messages of the fairies. The objective of Y, the Narrator, and Assistant-kun is to end the manga while retaining popularity. Manga in the real world of course, has a real purpose- to continue selling and rise in popularity. Whereas the differences are subtle, Jinrui takes its perspective to the extreme, so our three heroes have to keep their popularity, otherwise they will die. Despite this, the reason why Y’s attempts to become a popular manga fail because they are meaningless and hold no coherence, because she lacks the qualities of being both a good mangaka and an interesting manga character. As the Narrator says, her tricks become predictable and old and the meaning of any sort of form of entertainment is to, well, keep the audience entertained. As such, “Play Your Role” ends without even given a proper ending. To me, this is a bit odd: Y was able to spread manzines across the country and make her own manzines famous, but here she completely falls flat on her face in trying to sell her own manga. She has the resources, but what she probably lacks the most are the fanservice qualities that made her manzines so popular in the first place. Here is the catch 22; Y doesn’t use any sort of fanservice or cheesy gags in her manga to make it sell. Why not? We only have one male of course- Assistant kun, but he could have easily have drawn another male figure for yaoi purposes. I said last time that the fairies could even utilize yuri fanservice. Y doesn’t go along those lines and instead makes “Play Your Role” a manga about stereotypes and the running gags that make it sell well for only so long. It’s a bit misdirected because Jinrui is criticizing fanservice and the idea that manga only sells well due to fanservice, but “Play Your Role” doesn’t end because of those things. It ends because Y tries to find a solid answer as to how manga can appeal to the audience for so long, but ultimately, realizes that manga-not even yaoi manga but manga as a whole- is driven by the masses’ demands. And how can one’s story go on when one cannot understand the masses’ demands in the first place?

So we have two conclusions: either Jinrui this episode was criticizing the mass appeal of manga based on its ridiculous system of gags and incoherency, and not fanservice, or it was about fanservice up to the very end and it’s because Y refused to use fanservice in her manga that it ended miserably (though a serious question is why Y never used it in the first place when she had thorough experience of how fanservice boosted the popularity of a manga in the first place). The audience could interpret it as one or the other; but to me it’s because of these options that I felt that the commentary in this week’s episode was confusing even though it was so direct. Best stick to the subtlety, Jinrui. 

Despite this, even if the actual conversation about manga was a bit muddled, the episode gave time to flesh Y out as an actual character. There’s no doubt that she, like most characters in the world of Jinrui, is driven by an extreme motive, but nevertheless I found her to be slightly more likable than last week. Y is so caught up in her own wild fantasies of becoming the next leader of a fan movement that she simply refuses to see the actual trees. It makes her a fun character to laugh at but like all things, Y is just another representation of the fan, of us: driven by passion and blinded because of it.

A bit overdramatic, Y…

All things considered, I still think Jinrui has the potential to remain the weirdest but most entertaining show of this season. The past two weeks may have shown signs of weakening, but overall the energy hasn’t decreased too much so I’m willing to bet that it can continue being the mysterious, bizarre and comedic show that it is. Maybe next week’s topic will be something a little more on edge? Will Y stick around? Will there be fanservice? (Insert Shock! here) I guess Jinrui has learned how to keep itself from falling down the hole of cancellation with this week’s episode, so hopefully things will be more interesting here on out.

Enjoyment Level: 7/10

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