I have to admit that Killer Death Cat would be a pretty neat boss battle.
While this episode was a lot less well-directed as episodes 4 and 5, it still had the humor and wittiness that makes the series so fun to watch. I felt like this episode of all episodes, was one that followed the entertainment format and atmosphere of the first episode; wacky dialogue combined with cheesy overdramatic scenes. The problem is that the message, which was direct in the first four episodes, feels cluttered here. It’s not that the the show lacks the energy or drive to send a message, but it’s more to do with the idea that the show is confused about which message to send. Tthis episode was fun and quirky, but messy as well. The transition from what was seemingly a commentary about folk myth to poking fun at the shounen/mecha genre was overall poor. To be honest, I’m not sure what I was supposed to get from these two episodes. I understand the connection of technology, but what did that have to do with the tablet falling from the sky, or the interesting idea of a Voyager/Pioneer conflict? Maybe this little arc’s commentary went over my head, or I just failed to see the actual forest for the trees, but I didn’t get much out of this episode in terms of actual satire. Was it about human neglect of technology? If so, that would be in conflict with what Jinrui has been setting up so far: that humans are increasingly dependent on technology or a collect order of authority to the point where they have become forgetful and mindless. Either way, I was a little disappointed by the lack of order in these two episodes, though the fight scenes and delivery of dramatic shounen cliches were really entertaining to watch.
That aside, I do want to talk a bit about one of the strongest and most consistent points about Jinrui: our protagonist. Narrator is probably one of the more intriguing female protagonists to grace anime in a while, and it’s not because she has sentient hair or because she’s pretty. In anime, female characters are often heavily masculinized or sexualized to become objects of the male gaze. There are exceptions, of course – Faye Valentine, Motoko Kusanagi, Balsa – but they are rare when we look at the volume of anime produced in general. Women’s roles are mostly always put on one extreme or the other in terms of appearance and opinions. Inori from Guilty Crown for example, is a ‘main’ protagonist and ‘heroine’ of the story, but we rarely see her point of view on the subjects in the show. On the other hand, Nanami from Shoujo Kakumei Utena is often criticized for complaining or overreacting to everything, from dresses to her brother. In a media where there is no middle ground, it’s hard to really characterize what the norms of femininity are.
In Jinrui though, we have something a little refreshing. For one thing, the Narrator and her narrative are not romantically defined or driven; the Narrator has no romantic tensions with any of the characters (arguably, Assistant-kun may be the only exception, but if anything, their interaction is confined to a strict companionship, not sexually or romantically driven in any way). And it’s not like we have a lack of male characters – there are plenty of opportunities for them to be introduced, as the universe and town the Narrator lives in does not shun the male gender or anything. Ironically, the show even addresses how some girls enthusiastically love yaoi (perhaps, breaking the fourth wall in opposing these views with a lack of heterosexual or homosexual text?). The thing is that there is no real male protagonist in Jinrui; just the Narrator and her views on society collapsing around her. This is rare to see not only in anime, but in fiction as well, when male characters are present and do interact with the main female protagonist on a regular basis. Jinrui teaches us that not every relationship between a girl and a boy has to include romantic tension – there are plenty of relationships that are outside the idea of romance out there, and the Narrator’s relationship with Assistant-kun is one of them: simple friendship, or coworkers, depending on how you see it.
The Narrator also voices her opinions in a very sarcastic way, but not always blatantly, nor constantly in a subdued or passive manner. Throughout the show, she gives her perspective in the form of thought-speak, but doesn’t hesitate to call out on people’s actions and ideas when it is necessary. In episode 2, when confronting the Director of the Factory about his actions, she condemns him for selling illegal goods, and then proceeds to manipulate him with false threats and her power as a negotiator for her own interests. Whereas in most anime, this sort of attitude would be paralleled with a sort of callousness and lack of emotion, in Jinrui, the Narrator expresses her emotions subtly. She panics, she smirks, she smiles and she shrugs. She feels shock and gloom, and concern for other characters; she even decides to help out Oyage and Pion in this episode knowing fully well that she would be punished. Indeed, manipulation and being somewhat emotional doesn’t necessarily mean that the Narrator is brave and courageous either. For example, in this episode, she simply surrenders to Oyage, and doesn’t even hesitate to cower or run away. These emotions and actions are not overtly done, but are enough to make the audience understand that if anything, the Narrator isn’t flat, but unmistakably human. She possesses qualities that we would find in any sort of person today – a decent amount of ego, determination, curiosity and intelligence; qualities that aren’t restricted to a specific gender. She proves that a girl doesn’t have to be extremely intelligent, overpowered, or overly sexualized – strange, in a show like Jinrui where everything is taken to the extreme. Narrator calms and assorts the crazy, hectic storyline and scattered humor in the show with her witty opinions and frank attitude. And in a world where girls are criticized for looking too pretty, or being too weak and ‘feminine’, Narrator is a refreshing opponent to these views, with a sharp tongue and ‘ordinary’ appeal. There is no norm; no absolute, wrong way to be a girl, and Narrator agrees, wearing dresses, overalls, giving shade right and left and using whoever and whatever she wants to ensure her own survival in a world where humans are dying out of obsessiveness and ignorance.
Enjoyment Level: 7/10