The last thing either of us expected from Jinrui was that it would make us cry. On reflection, we really should have known better.
[trigger warning: bullying, mentions of mental illness]
wendeego: Well, that was something else.
I can’t say that this arc was Jinrui’s best. The first two episodes were probably funnier, the island episode more insightful and the time loop arc my all-around favorite. But when all’s said and done, the very best anime possesses a kind of “sticky” quality that crawls into your pores and stays with you, and the final arc of Jinrui had this quality in spades.
illegenes: I’m always a skeptic when it comes to endings, and arguably enough, I’ve been exposed to enough rushed endings to feel dissatisfied with a finale when I see one. With that in mind, not only was the end of Jinrui both thematically and emotionally fulfilling–without even the benefit of a proper conclusion–but it proved that unlike so many other satiric shows, it really did have a heart all along.
wendeego: Last week, we questioned whether or not it was possible to make bullying funny. This episode didn’t come any closer to resolving that quality, but what it did illustrate brilliantly was how it was possible to make high school funny: by viewing things from a completely different perspective, revealing preconceived notions and engraved societal cliches to be far more complex and twisted than they initially appeared. If the previous episode set up a fairly standard conflict, with Watashi being bullied by Y and finding solace with Curly and the Wild Rose Tea Society, this one completely trashed everything we thought we knew about the set-up, revealing a far more interesting and even horrifying structure underneath. Our aspiring bully Y: an insecure BL fan who pushed Watashi around only because she didn’t know any other way to make friends with her! The Wild Rose Tea Society: a gang of girls with serious psychological problems, ranging from carefully cataloging the mistakes of others in diaries, to collecting pages upon pages of hair samples, to drinking and carousing with the best of them! Our narrator: a girl who not only solved Y’s riddle in the very first episode, but deliberately refused to answer knowing that doing so would only cause her inconvenience! Finally, her friend Curly: who is so distraught by Watashi’s growing independence that she’s turned to feeding, sobbing over and then stabbing a doll replica of her absentee best friend.
In short, Jintai didn’t just completely subvert the paradigm from the previous episode. It exploded it, both proving the original thesis as horribly incomplete as well as making the case for a fuller, more dynamic evaluation of the world–not just as it appears, but as it really is, warts and all. As tempting as it might be, the society we live in is not composed of innocents and bullies, angels and devils. It’s one where skinless, super-intellegent chickens have replaced their fairy overlords. Where Watashi’s grandfather is at the center of a time paradox. Where bullies are lonely, innocents are ferociously intelligent and even the kindest people in the world have skeletons buried deep in their closets.
But even more than that, the most remarkable thing about this episode might be that right after completely shattering the paradigm, it built it right back up again, strangely askew but arguably better than it was before. In another show, Watashi and Y might have completely abandoned the Wild Rose Society after discovering its members to have serious psychological problems. But Watashi enables Y to reunite with the rest of the club instead, bridging two groups of friends and integrating Y’s skepticism and awkward personality with the welcoming structure of the Society. In the end, it’s silly for Watashi and Y to reject outside companionship and remain alone for the rest of their school year, simply because everyone in the tea club is flawed. After all, Watashi knows that she herself is flawed, as is Y. In the end, nobody is perfect. There are no saints. But there is nothing wrong with that.
illegenes: That is what Jinrui both mocks and celebrates at the same time throughout these episodes. It peeks into the terrifying nature of human beings while simultaneously upholding their worth. Jinrui satirizes the arrogant, often foolish foibles of our culture in the face of imminent decline. But it does not forget the small moments: where a grandfather gently rubs his grandaughter’s head, or when Watashi decides to help the probes out fully knowing she’ll be punished for it; or where she asks a robot to come with her, not as an order but out of friendship.
At the show’s end, Watashi finds what she was seeking all along: her first friend, the little fairy she forgot in the previous episode. To think he was watching over her inside the Robot the entire time a lot more sentimental than I asked for – but hey? You know what? I’ll take it. The surprise was so well executed, and the minute Watashi buried a little fairy into her hands as she cried made me tear up. It not only is touching – it lays down the foundations for why Watashi reaches out to the fairies. It’s not just loneliness; if Watashi really wanted to, she could have made friends with humans. But her memories of school have shown her that humans are not to be trusted; that they are cruel, manipulative and dark (ironic considering how fucked up Watashi is, but like Y said – she has no hidden sides). She can’t even emotionally connect with them. So who does she turn to? Twisted, innocuous, delightful and terrifying fairies. While this may have set up Watashi as a stereotypical ‘sob’ character, I feel like this reveal serves two purposes which are so integral to the plot and themes of Jinrui. The first is that once again, interaction is a basic necessity of humanity. Interaction may not always stem from friendship, nor may it be with humans altogether, but in connecting with another being, empathy is gained. Watashi may have had her empathy erased for the most part (or maybe she just grew up without really using it), but it still exists. Two, it shows that Watashi is not excluded from Jinrui‘s mockery. Watashi is still human, and ironically, that empathy is what allows her to connect with the fairies when humanity is on the verge of fading out completely. The entire show ridicules Watashi in subtle ways or another, but it never laughs at her compassion. Why?
Because in the end, Jinrui has a heart. It may be incredibly well hidden, bruised, and small, but slowly, like layers of an onion, it has been exposed throughout the series, only to be truly uncovered in this finale. Goodbyes are always the hardest for me, especially for a show that’s delivered throughout and ended strong, but I’ll say it anyways: I’m going to miss this show a lot. It’s not every day a show like Jinrui comes along, that is hilarious, tragic, disturbing and yet minimally affectionate. It takes true mastery over one’s writing to combine these elements effectively, and it’s been a wonderful ride for the past months.