An apocalypse has brought the collapse of civilisation. Once mighty cities crumble, replaced by isolated rural communities where people scrape together what little food and electricity they can. Meanwhile, fairies overrun the Earth. Yes, that’s right, fairies. Happy, fun-loving little guys in bobble hats with pointy ears and permanent smiles. A nameless mediator appointed by United Nations (voiced by Mai Nakahara) who refers to herself solely as Watashi (which is Japanese for “me”) arrives in sleepy Camphorwood Village, with the aim of helping locals cope with various fairy-related mishaps. Aided by her sagely grandpa (Unsho Ishizuka) and a mute boy known only as Assistant (Jun Fukuyama), our heroine uncovers a string of suspicious food items smuggled into the village. She traces them to a mysterious food factory originally run by fairies but co-opted by cigar-chomping, super-intelligent, skinless, headless chickens out to take over the world!
Featuring quite possibly the most appealingly idyllic depiction of a post-apocalyptic society ever envisioned, Humanity Has Declined puts a whimsically upbeat spin on the dystopian genre. It is delightfully demented comedy with philosophical undertones, hitting some of the same themes as found in conventional survivalist scenarios only playing them for laughs. The beautiful pastel shaded production design is exceedingly cute, but the script packs an irreverent edge. Seiji Kishi melds inventive sight gags (e.g. our heroine dons magic glasses that provide subtitles for the mutant chicken’s profanity-laden speeches) with sharp verbal humour. Watashi’s internal monologues as she attempts to retain her composure in the face of increasing absurdities are routinely hilarious. Beneath her sugary sweet demeanour, our nameless heroine makes some acerbic observations about society that prove surprisingly smart.
As is so often the case with speculative science fiction satire the filmmakers may be depicting an outlandish future but are satirizing the present. Over the course of Watashi’s increasingly zany adventures, the anime serial touches on the subject of genetically modified foods, capitalism run amuck, governmental incompetence, corruption in big business, the so-called shonen ai (gay love story) craze among teenage Japanese girls, and even the insanely competitive nature of the manga industry. This later thread occurs with the arrival of a rogue mediator named Y (Miyuki Sawashiro) in Camphorwood Village. Given the breakdown in society has robbed Japan of its beloved comic culture, Y seizes her chance to strike it rich by flooding the nation with a self-printed gay porn love story called Sweet Love! It sparks a national craze that ends in disaster when those fun-loving fairies get in on the act. Watashi, Y and Assistant find themselves trapped inside a giant manga where whatever they draw becomes real. To escape they have to create some compelling human drama to ensure their manga stays at the top of the charts.
Then there are the bizarre non-sequitor gags that catch the viewer off guard, as when Assistant attempts to charm one little fairy with a cute picture book telling the story of lovely story of ten kids who die increasingly gruesome deaths! Or the John Woo spoof shootout set to “Ave Maria" that concludes the aforementioned super-intelligent chicken episode whose feelgood punchline is among the most inspired ever. Kishi maintains a pleasingly hyperactive pace so that even when the occasional gag falls flat another five zip by before viewers have time to notice. Even the credits are funny as Watashi and the fairies shake their stuff to Ko Otani’s bouncy J-punk rock theme song.