Lord of the Sprites; Jinrui Episode 9

illegenes: For the past two months, Jinrui has been a show about pulling tricks from its sleeves. We’ve had paradogs, nautilus vs cat fights, bleeding toast, conscious hair….but this episode tops them all, and I’m not talking about the candy plants. No, this episode addresses a topic that has been left out of the series: the fairies. This is the first episode to introduce us to the fairies’ environment along with how they function, and oh boy, what an introduction it is.

It’s not that we haven’t seen the fairies’ antics before. The entire show has revolved around the inner workings of the fairies and their subtle intents as well as their obsession with human culture. They have tried mimicking the taste of bread and bananas to the real thing, creating time paradoxes; they have even made their own magical manga. But none of this has been seen directly and we have never seen the fairies’ thought process behind these inventions. As an audience, we can only guess as to what their true nature is. Thus, we’ve been only able to understand how the fairies think and live through a narrow perspective.  This episode brings light to their way of thinking, and in doing so, shows us how mysterious, horrifying, and capable the fairies truly are.

In contrast to previous episodes, here, the fairies are not in control of their situation. From the very beginning, they are admitted through Watashi’s father to go to a new area where they can repopulate without creating any sort of tension or stress. The are guided by Watashi herself to a location they have no knowledge of. As they end up shipwrecked  – or raftwrecked – on this random, uninhabited island, we’re already asked the question: how will they survive? It’s a question that ties into the very setting but underlying theme of Jinrui; survival of the fittest. Surprisingly, the fairies do not turn to one of their kind of help. They turn to none other than Watashi herself, who happily obliges knowing fully well what her job means. It brings up the question: if the fairies are so powerful, why do they rely on a human being for guidance and direction? It’s not like Watashi has better instincts of survival – on the contrary, her kind is declining while the fairy population rises. She doesn’t possess any sort of true leadership qualities, nor does she have a better chance of living than the fairies. So what is the real reason? What is the real ‘culture’ behind these fairies anyways?

To find the answer, I turn to William  Golding and Lord of the Flies. The story focuses on a group of schoolboys who are shipwrecked on an island with no adults to help them. Stranded, lost, and helpless, the boys form their own group and decide to bestow the authority on Ralph, the main protagonist of the story. However, a much more brutal figure, named Jack, also vies for being the leader, and soon chaos erupts as the boys try to survive. The story may not sound much like Jinrui, but I’ve noticed that there are more similarities than meet the eye. For one thing, both the majority of the boys and the fairies relinquish any sort of control they had to a certain leader. But why? Fairies do not work individually. They work together as a whole; a perfect structure for a democracy. Yet the fairies stray toward a monarchy, taking Watashi as their queen. It’s out of good fun of course, but it’s also because the fairies, though functioning as a group, do need a leader. And that’s why, in the end, they choose Watashi. It’s out of fun but it’s also because they lack any sort of consciousness and cannot understand the idea of consequence. The fairies, like the boys, are unaware of the sort of effects they cause around them. They lack self consciousness, which is a major quality needed in order to learn from mistakes and become better. The fairies nor the boys possess a desire to ‘better’ themselves – just to get what they want. Without Watashi, the fairies would turn out to be exactly like the boys in Lord of the Flies, except even more horrifying as they lack any sort of compassion or empathy. They would be true monsters. It is only because of Watashi and the interaction with humans that the fairies’ curiosity is restricted to human consumption and their true nature doesn’t get the better of them.

Similarly, both the book and the show take a jab at the construction of religion. While Jinrui only passes a single remark – that ‘religions are constructed’, Lord of the Flies takes it to a more twisted level. The boys worship the “Beast” on the island, a beast no one has seen but fear nonetheless, and it’s only through certain confrontations that we realize that the Beast is none other than the darkness within each living soul. The boys perform rituals to the Beast, killing off their own for sacrifices; in this way, the Beast is nothing but a construction of the boys’ fear and desire for power. But fairies do not possess a religion of their own; they don’t even consider it as a basic necessity. For the fairies, religion and leadership is a meaningless trait of humanity, paired with things like ‘starvation’ or ‘oppression’. The fairies do not have a sense of individual consciousness, and without a drive to become oneself, there is no real need for religion or a fairy leader in a fairy society. They all share the same beliefs and ideas, but no representation of ‘self’. None of the fairies bother to give themselves names, and when they speak, they always use the pronoun ‘us’.  In this way, the fairies also function as a collective group. There is no such thing as a ‘single fairy’. Oppression, conflict, revenge, jealousy, inequality, anger, envy – these emotions and concepts don’t apply to these creatures. In this way the fairies are completely alien and foreign; they live in their own world, where they are driven by a single thought: to have fun.  Jinrui paints this picture disturbingly, as Watashi asks the fairies “What would you like in creating a new nation?” to which the fairies reply, “Taxation. Oppression. Suppression. Persecution.” It not only mirrors their nature but also shows how obsessed with human culture they are, which is ironic considering how they can’t mimic any of human culture no matter how hard they try.

The minute the fairies become depressed or unmotivated is the moment when turmoil strikes. Within hours their gloom clouds wash away any of the remaining crops left and destroy the entire island. Likewise, in Lord of the Flies, Jack’s team sets fire to the entire forest to kill Ralph; it is the climax and pinpoint of the destructive nature of human beings. Fueled by unemployment, lack of candy and supplies, the fairies become an omnipotent force of chaos. “I am the destroyer and creator of worlds,” Shiva says, and those are the exact words that come to my mind as the fairies obliterate everything they had worked so hard to create in the first place.

The fairies’ very gloom clouds end up destroying the island; it’s not even their intellect, just the power of their boredom and depression alone.

Yet what brings all of this so perfectly together is at the end, when the fairies look at the debris around them, and innocently ask for orders from Watashi. They express no regret at what they have done. They express no integrity; no sense of self awareness. There is no need or desire to improve from mistakes unless it benefits the fairies, and to them, this is all just a game. Just like when someone wins a game of cards and replays, the fairies see the construction of a nation as nothing more than just something to pass the time. To have fun. Who is to say that the darkness in Lord of the Flies is truly expelled when the boys are found by the officer at the end? Who is to say that humans don’t fall to their own corruption and dark desires daily – like Watashi, who, despite fully knowing that it’s going to get her into trouble, becomes Queen of the Fairies anyways? The fairies are a distant version of ourselves, with certain traits put to the extreme and others completely lacking. They are human and they are alien; they are driven by simple instincts, but have the intelligence to create amazing things if prodded correctly. But most importantly, as this episode shows, they are not perfect. And it’s truly sad – sad, and a little funny – to think that people like you and me and Watashi are left behind with these sort of creatures taking our places, destroying and creating all in the name of good fun, only to die in the end because they will have no leader to keep them in control and no human culture to keep them busy.

But that’s enough about the fairies. Watashi gets her full share of the story too, doesn’t she, Wendeego?

wendeego: Yes she does! Let’s begin with this statement:  in this episode of Jinrui, our narrator Watashi makes a mistake.

This is not a usual occurrence. If every character in this show embodies an archetype constructed by pieces from both ancient and modern culture, Watashi is our audience stand-in: smart, cool-headed, a perceptive observer easily able to tear through the bullshit constantly thrown her way by the world that surrounds her.  If she fails, she does so because everybody else around her fails, dragging her down by association. If she is manipulated, she is always aware of it. And when she occasionally shows backbone, it’s only what we, the audience, would have done if we were in her situation. So up to this point, Watashi has made the logical and “right” decision, to the best of her ability, in almost every circumstance.

Then she ends up marooned on an island with a handful of fairies she has been sent to protect. She encourages the fairies to build a nation, seeking to cheer them up. They hail her as their queen. And for the first time in possibly the entire series, Watashi lets her authority go to her head.

In a sense, it’s an authority she has always possessed. It’s imperfect, of course: the fairies had no trouble toying with her during the time loop arc for selfish reasons. But being an appointed mediator, the fairies listen to her, to an extent. They come to her for sweets, they give her trinkets to survive camping trips gone sour, and in the instance where they are abandoned on an island with seemingly nowhere to go—even though, as Watashi points out, the mainland is not very far away—they submit to her authority. In every previous case, Watashi has kept up a pretense of individual responsibility. But here, bereft of comfort (within walking distance) and authority (which she occasionally disdains) she takes the fairies up on their offer and becomes their queen without a second thought.

The fairies lavish her with every possible convenience and luxury, and she loves it. Her initial feelings of responsibility eventually degenerate into lax and unsustainable rule. Eventually, everything falls through and the fairies’s resulting depression literally explodes their island. While most of them make it to safety, Watashi’s grandfather does not neglect to say to her upon reaching land that she ought to learn from her mistakes. Since this is Jinrui we’re talking about, the episode is never glum or dolorous—precisely the opposite, in fact! But it remains clear nevertheless that Watashi was given a job to do, and due to her own negligence, she failed.

What’s important to note is that this isn’t a bad thing in itself. Watashi’s bungling of her responsibilities of leadership does not indicate that she is a bad or inconsiderate person. What it does indicate, though, is that while she is smart and perceptive, she is also flawed. And those flaws make her more than an archetype or a mere audience stand-in. They confirm that she is also a character, in every sense of the word: living, breathing, sewn out of flesh and blood.

Watashi has made plenty of observations over the course of Jinrui, but episode 9 might be the first time she (very briefly) turns the magnifying glass on herself. Maybe I’m making a mountain out of a molehill, but I think that she learns something from her experiences on the island. It’s a feat I suspect the fairies may be incapable of, and perhaps proof that while humanity continues to decline, it might not be obsolete.

Enjoyment Level: 10/10

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