#1 A different kind of apocalypse
Humanity Has Declined is a post-apocalyptic anime where the few remnants of humanity live in small communities that are making do with ever-dwindling resources. What sets it apart from other media like this is that it feels like humanity’s current situation wasn’t due to some calamity, but rather a gradual process that took years. As such, there are no scars of a terrible war, zombies, or nuclear wastelands; the world is actually quite pleasant, green, and lively.
The people may be struggling, but they aren’t desperate or depressed, and many of the storylines are actually upbeat. For example, the second arc of the story deals with the sudden resurgence of manga culture, as the rediscovery of a working printing press brings people from around the world together to once again develop comic books. It gives the impression that no matter how hard life gets, people will find a way to entertain themselves and be happy. And when the show first came out in 2012, that is exactly the kind of message I needed to hear.
#2 The fairies
While Humanity may be on the decline, a new race is rapidly taking its place. The fairies are small creatures with expressive faces who are both remarkably intelligent and dumb at the same time. They are silly and don’t get how many things in the world work, but they are also capable of creating technology even surpassing that of the Humans of old, which oftentimes just looks and feels like magic.
Each story arc has something to do with the fairies, with the first one being about a food shortage in a village that is suddenly resolved when mysterious packages from a strange factory begin showing up, containing tons of supplies that look like real food products. The fairies manage to both be intriguing and absolutely hilarious, which is helped along by their almost randomized designs. I just love it when they start talking about something serious or macabre, but because they all have this high-pitched voice it sounds like a bunch of kids are talking.
#3 The mediator
The protagonist of the show is the pink-haired girl only referred to as “The Mediator”. She works for the United Nations and has the difficult job of helping out in fairy-related problems and leading them to a conclusion that is beneficial to both mankind and fairykind.
The Mediator is a fun character because she is an intelligent lady that is not above manipulating people and often has a dark and dry sense of humor. Despite that, she does really care about her job and can interact with fairies much smoother than anybody else. She’s even developing new candies for them! Essentially the show is about diplomacy, but the problems that the mediator has to fix are often so bizarre that things go wrong anyway.
It’s not the kind of subject matter you find often in anime and certainly not in the genre of surreal comedies. And with a fun, cynical character to tell this story, Humanity Has Declined really elevates itself beyond “that show with the bread gif.”
#4 The short story structure
I praised this in previous reviews as well, but it’s something that I really appreciate in anime writing. Humanity Has Declined has 12 episodes, but cuts these up in 5 independent stories that each take 2 episodes, as well as two single-episode stories. It’s enough time to set up a plot and characters, while still benefiting from the frequent pay-offs that short stories provide.
And each of these stories has its own weird setup and appeal. One will deal with the fairies setting up a new civilization and The Mediator trying to keep that under control, another will send her into a time loop orchestrated by fairies desiring more candy. An important detail to keep in mind is that the timeline throughout all these short stories is all over the place, with the emotional finale of episodes 11 and 12 actually being the earliest point in the timeline. It is weird, but go into it with the same mindset you use for Haruhi Suzumiya and you’ll be fine.
On the topic of the last story arc, I was actually surprised how well the writer succeeded at making his short stories have actual, emotional weight. I certainly felt a tear welling up for the finale and an earlier storyline achieved the same result.
#5 The colorful art-style
Again, for a post-apocalyptic show, Humanity Has Declined actually does things differently from what you’d expect. Not just in the tone and storylines, but also in the visuals and presentation.
The art-style of this anime is very bright and colorful, I actually believe most of the backgrounds are watercolored or at least mimic that style of painting. This especially makes shots of nature or old ruins of civilization look fantastic. In the more indoors environments, it can be harder to notice, but it also helps that the character designs are just as colorful and unique. The Mediator herself stands out well with her pink hair, but all the side-characters enjoy inspired designs and even some of the background characters or one-off supporting casts look great or have unique gimmicks.
The fairies, of course, steal the show in any scene they are in. They are always seen wearing the strangest clothes and having these massive smiles, which combine with their funny voices to make them really cute and a perfect fit for the bright world they inhabit.