illegenes: Out of all the interesting shows to air this summer, I would have to say Jinrui was the most pleasant and daring surprise. In fact, I had no plans on watching Jinrui at the beginning of the season, but it unexpectedly ended up becoming my favorite show. How, you ask? What could a show dealing with fairies and a negotiator possibly do to become so great?
Well, that’s exactly it: Jinrui is bizarre, perfect satire. Combining almost-nonsensical topics with excellent execution and an excellent narrator, the show manages to take a look at a variety of topics – manga, time loops, factory and the economy, and the shounen genre – in a very hilarious way. The show focuses on Watashi, a negotiator, and the relationship, or rather events, she goes through in a world where humans are declining and little fairies are taking their place. The story sounds a bit whimsical, if sweet – let me tell you now that the show is nothing what it seems.On the surface, Jinrui is a brightly colored, cheesy and ridiculous show. Underneath the surface however, is something much more subtle, dark, and alluring. In most cases of anime, this “more than meets the eye” sort of idea would tend to be clumsy. I can assure you that it does not fail here.
The reason behind this is due to how fantastic the direction is. Watashi herself is an excellent protagonist, if not one of the more refreshing and different ones in anime as of late. She’s manipulative, creepy, delightful and extremely cynical; her deadpan snarky tone can often become the moments of perfect comedy. The fairies are also something different: their innocent smiles and naive nature mask a rather horrifying and disturbing view of human culture. The writing is pretty solid for the most part – while some episodes are better than others, the show never really takes a huge dip in quality, which is saying something for a 12 episode series. What may be confusing is that the show isn’t really plot-driven; the show doesn’t deal with how humanity is declining as to why it’s declining through a series of events which are all satirical pokes at humanity and its foolishness. You could almost label Jinrui a slice of life series because of this, although the themes are anything but.
What also may be a little unexpected for watchers is the lack of chronological order. Many, if not most, of the episodes are prequels and it’s only by the end that you are able to find out the true order of Jinrui‘s events. This doesn’t lessen the impact nor the message of these episodes, but for those who prefer linear storytelling, this may confuse you a bit. People who are expecting a regular format of storytelling may also be disappointed with how untypical Jinrui‘s format really is. There’s no set ‘problem-climax-resolution’ kind of composition. Jinrui really just goes for a wide array of topics, all about human culture: about how we are foolish, impulsive, egotistical, uncreative…but also about how those same qualities are the things that make us human in the first place. In this aspect, the show almost functions in its own cultural vacuum: secondary characters don’t really get the typical development we see in standard series, and some questions are just explained through the use of fairy magic. This could be extremely aggravating for people who need an explanation for most things, as Jinrui is all about subtlety. But it’s also what makes the show brilliant. I’m going to go as far as to say that a lot of Jinrui‘s elements are unconventional, but when put together, make for a hilarious, tragic, and disturbing show.
Overall, Jinrui is when one adds sugar, spice, everything sweet and nice, along with the chemical of nitric acid (substitutes Chemical X) into a bottle. It’s hard to find a show like it anywhere, which makes it all the worthwhile to watch it. If you’re into satire, both overt and subtle sarcasm, with a great female protagonist, I’d check out Jinrui, but if you’re not so into non-traditional elements and social commentary, Jinrui might not be for you. Either way, if you do check out the show, you’re bound to get a little surprise in return.
wendeego: I knew that something was up about Jinrui from the instant I realized the series had been written by Romeo Tanaka. The author of such works as Cross Channel (which Fate/Stay Night scribe Kinoko Nasu has referred to as “the insurmountable wall of the eroge medium”) and Kana: Little Sister (the porn game equivalent of anime classic Koi Kaze,) it was unlike him to pen an unassuming slice-of-life about a pink-haired girl’s dreamy post-apocalyptic adventures with adorable fairies. I didn’t know what the twist would be, and any excitement I had was lessened a bit by the fact that from what I could pick up, Jinrui had nowhere near the amount of acclaim of his other works. That said, I was curious: if Tanaka could so thoroughly skewer visual novel cliches in Cross Channel, the prospect of a Tanaka-penned light novel turned anime held the potential to be interesting, at the very least.
To my delight, Jinrui turned out to be quite a bit more than that. Make no mistake, the series is a grab bag. It encompasses everything from organic food to science fiction cliches to manga parodies, viciously roasting any and all topics with a glee that borders on sadistic at times. Some have criticized Jinrui by proclaiming it to be too scattershot to really be effective, and as much as I enjoyed this show, that criticism probably has merit. While there are plenty of good ideas in Jinrui, some are clearly better than others and the quality of the show’s individual arcs clearly varies. This is only compounded by the direction of Seiji Kishi, which while energetic and fun unfortunately lacks the polished style of somebody like Akiyuki Shinbou or Akitaro Daichi. Couple that with the alienating non-chronological order, the mostly nameless cast of characters and the fact that Jinrui is constantly in your face, tone-wise, and it’s easy to see how the series might not be for everyone.
That said, there is one ongoing thread that unites practically every arc in the series, and that’s the fact that for all its digressions and horrible puns Jinrui might ultimately be about human nature. From our love of consumer products, to whether our own selves or the perceptions of others define us, to how human civilization is both enormously resourceful and terrifically flawed. The fairies, the show’s adorable but also terrifying mascots, are today’s culture in an nutshell, greatly exaggerated: phenomenally creative but easily misled, invincible but pathetic, simultaneously empathetic and coldly inhumane. Even worse, they ascend while humans decline, profiting off of the very same things that lead society in the world of Jinrui to collapse in the first place. They’re both a fantastic satirical device as well as compelling characters in their own right.
But the secret of Jinrui is that despite all impressions to the contrary, it’s not just about the fairies. It’s about Watashi, too: brilliant, sardonic and probably one of the most refreshing narrators in ages. At first she appears to be nothing more than an observer, a very well-written placeholder for the audience, but as the series continues it becomes clear that Watashi is more than that. Rearrange the series in chronological order, and it becomes clear that Jinrui is her story most of all: blossoming in reverse, regaling the viewer with her adventures as mediator before turning back the clock and exposing her vulnerability. More than that, though, it’s about people. The last two episodes of the show contain hardly any fairies at all, instead focusing on Watashi’s school years. While Jinrui is a show without many legitimate solutions despite addressing so many of society’s problems, the final arc is the exception: in the end, human empathy is offered up as the ultimate painkiller to humanity’s decline, not biting sarcasm. It’s moments like that which cut through the satire and prove that Jinrui really does have a human heart after all, even if the show refuses it wear it on it’s sleeve.
It has to be said, in the end: I liked this show a lot. It may be imperfect, and probably doomed to be a footnote in anime history, a quirky show released at the best possible time and swiftly buried by the heavy hitters of the fall. But when it comes down to it, anime needs more productions like Jinrui, undeniably wise-ass but ultimately heartfelt. As much as I loved Tsuritama this year, Jinrui may have usurped its position in my heart. For what it is, consider that the highest recommendation I can give.