First Contact; Jinrui Episode 10

illegenes: Every beginning has an end, and as it’s almost time to bid farewell to this great satire of the season, we go back to the past to see the beginning of Watashi’s interaction with the fairies.

One could argue that the lack of chronological order of episodes for Jinrui would be to emphasize the nonsensical attitude the show already has. Why would you bother airing a prequel episode every other week except for careless purposes? But if we’ve all learnt one thing from Jinrui, it’s that nothing is careless or pointless in this show – even the ‘pointlessness’ has a purpose. Likewise, the scattered order has been crucial in understanding the setting and context of Jinrui. The abundance of prequels in the show has not just furthered Watashi’s development but has also fleshed out the fairies as a civilization. Each installment so far, has given us a certain perpective on Watashi’s motivations and ideals behind her life as a negotiator in contrast to the fairies’ innocent and carefree life. Last week we talked about how ironically dependent the fairies were on human civilization; this episode supports that argument as we’re introduced to the earliest prequel yet: Watashi’s first job as a negotiator.

It’s the perfect way to give some depth to our lovely female protagonist. Not only do we now understand why Watashi became a negotiator in the first place, but we also understand the history of her relationship with the fairies. Oddly enough, Watashi has been the only one in the UNCC to strike a friendship up with the fairies (so far, none of the characters introduced have had a similar relationship with the fairies except her), and this episode explores the reasoning behind that. For starters, Watashi only decides to become a negotiator for the UNCC because it’s the only job that fits her physique. Watashi is at best, a lazy and usually unmotivated girl; she wants a job with little work but great profit. Of course, it’s ironic that she ends up doing far more work than she asked for when she signs up to become a negotiator. But beyond her sarcastic, manipulative thoughts, we see that Watashi more than anything (although she’d like to admit otherwise), is curious. Her curiosity for the fairies and the sort of lives they lead is ultimately what brings her back to the once-debris area where the fairies reside. It’s that same curiosity that’s gotten her into trouble plenty times in the past. But that curiosity, paired with cunningness and imagination, is ultimately the same thing that saves her, as seen in this episode where she then passes on the title of “God” to a fairy.

Likewise, the fairies also got their share of background development. Not only do we learn that they even focus their cities around human waste and ruin, but that they lack any sense of individuality. They don’t know where they were born, or the concept of having a name (something I talked about some episodes ago). In fact, they seem painfully unaware of their own surroundings, but are intelligent enough to create a giant mecha to protect their colorful city. The fairies are creatures who take everything at face value. Thriving on candy, admiring human culture by imitating it to the perfect degree – but lacking any depth within – it’s like they read a Dummy‘s book cover to cover, but never bothered to read between the lines. It doesn’t mean our fairies lack intelligence; they have plenty, but it’s more to do with the fact that they don’t need to use it on self-awareness, because they function coherently as a group. But it also raises the question: if biologically, humans were the first to be conscious of their own actions, does this mean that fairies have regressed down that chain, or have progressed to something more inhuman? As always, Jinrui provides no singular, defining answer, but leaves us to our thoughts, but something tells me that the fairies are both a power to be feared and be amused at.

wendeego: Jinrui has dabbled in everything from social satire to parody of the manga industry, from star-crossed probes to banana-fueled time loops, but it hasn’t been until the past two episodes that it has addressed one of the central mysteries of the series: the fairies, and what makes them tick. The previous episode literally abandoned Watashi and a group of fairies on an island in order to see what would happen, and while this most recent episode doesn’t go quite as far in sidelining the rest of the cast, it remains squarely focused on everybody’s fun-loving, seemingly immortal sprites. In the process, it asks two very important questions: how fairy society functions, and whether, in the end, they are more or less human than we are.

To this point, I’ve honestly imagined fairy society as something akin to the factories from the very first episode; masses of techni-colored blocks stretching across the surface of the earth. But as this episode makes clear, fairies are a little more complicated than that. They cannot build on their own. Rather, it takes a spark of inspiration, or a little bit of fun, for them to come to life and enter a civilization-constructing frenzy. What is truly scary about this, as Watashi finds out, is that this spark of inspiration can be extremely limited. It took humans hundreds of years to gather the know-how to design the wheel. All Watashi supplies to the fairies is a flag and a plate of candy, and that is just enough for the fairies to build and build until they have a functional (if tiny) metropolis of their own.

That said, what I found most interesting about the fairy metropolis was not the architecture, the complexity or even the giant defense robot that showed up in one of the episode’s best gags. It was the fact that despite how alien the fairies have appeared at times in Jinrui, their society is very similar to our own. They have skyscrapers, highways and roads. They go into hiding at the first sign of danger. They jump at new fads, like naming or other things. Even their giant robot is reminiscent of similar robots from Japanese pop culture. The fairies may build remarkably fast and possess unimaginable technology, but nothing they make is original. Remember the ED, and the previous episode at that: when the fairies build monuments, they don’t build their own monuments but instead copy human monuments. They may be incredibly productive, but this episode proves that as enraptured as they might be by fads they may be incapable of creating new fads of their own.

But here’s the kicker: the fairies of Jinrui may be forever bound to replicating the achievements of humanity for eternity, unable to think of a single original idea, but so are the humans. Think back (or forwards, chronologically, if the case may be) to previous episodes of the show. The first two episodes saw a gang of children flinching from killing chickens to feed themselves, even though their lives depended on that sustenance. Later, the indefatigable Y managed to resurrect the  manga boom, but only through drawing her ideas from the digital copy of a long-lost volume of manga. Also note that as soon as manga becomes popular again, the marketplace becomes flooded with knock-offs. That is, as Watashi points out, how culture works. In each of these cases, it is impossible for humanity itself to pull itself out of decline. Their only means of innovation, in the end, is copying things that have already been done centuries ago.

That doesn’t mean that change cannot be made on an individual level, of course. Think of how Watashi let Oyage and Pion escape, or how the previous episode revealed her as someone not only capable of not only making, but also learning from her mistakes. Despite their collective genius, the fairies lack this individuality, and it may be the one thing that truly separates them–for both good and ill–from Watashi and her friends. But it is the very fact that they are a collective that has allowed the fairies to thrive while humans stagnate. In the end, the very real and terrible truth behind the decline of humanity and ascent of the fairies may be that on a societal level, creativity is dead. For the fairies, masters of imitation, that is a blessing. For the humans, lost in post-societal malaise, that is a curse.

We live in a society where imitation is the highest form of flattery, where every story has been told before just as well or better and where Hollywood remakes are the order of the day. Humanity may have already begun to decline, but that’s precisely why I’m glad there’s anime like Jinrui around to point out our own foibles and insecurities with a good eye and nasty sense of humor. Jinrui may have been scattered and inconsistent at times, but this episode certainly proved that when it is on point–as it has been these past few episodes–it has real bite. Our narrator Watashi might be one more for making snarky comments about society than providing helpful tips for improvement, but I’m glad we have her with us.

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