With the end of summer season, I found myself quite mesmerized and surprised by how this simple series has managed to leave me feeling all warm and melancholic. It’s a kind of feeling I have long known about; it’s the feeling of parting with a masterpiece. For me, knowing a series is a good series is the most apparent when I have to close the last page or watch the last episode’s credit after the whole journey. Mediocre series leaves me exhausted for having to go through all the effort despite no matter how entertaining it was, good series leaves me agitated and high-spirited because I’ve just enjoyed a good solid entertainment medium, however a masterpiece leaves me a taste of melancholy akin to the feeling a person has when he or she does not wish to part with a close friend. It doesn’t matter whether the tone of the ending is happy or sad or the medium it is conveyed in. It could be a movie, novels, animu, mango, or video games; in the end my initial emotional response after the whole experience determines whether it can be considered bad, mediocre, good or a personal masterpiece.
That is how I know the series called ‘Mankind Has Declined’ or Jintai for short is an instant masterpiece. Despite its simple delivery, lacking in orgasmic animation or special effects, it truly delivers solid entertainment. The story basically tells how in the future humans have dwindled in numbers and those left behind are trying either to rebuild societies or just keep on living with their daily lives. At the same time, creatures known as fairies began to appear. This little fellas are considered as the ‘present-humans’ and hold strange powers and technology allowing them to create items that seemingly work in unnatural and illogical manner. Our main character is a girl (whose name remains disclosed through the series) who works as a mediator between the humans and fairies. It originates from a light novel of the same name. Now, I usually dismiss most LN-based anime adaptation because of shallow most of them are. However I became intrigued when first learnt the author is none other than Tanaka Romeo, the genius who brought us Kana Imouto, Kazoku Keikaku, Yume Miru Kusuri, Cross Channel and I/O.
Post-apocalyptic setting is not rare especially in present days’ work of fiction however Jintai is special in its own way because it doesn’t portray the world as some kind of despotic wasteland filled with ruffians and instead normal people trying to live their simple lives. Mankind in Jintai is a contrast to those in other post-apocalyptic works as they still hold their identity and knowledge in their forgotten technology despite having to cope with the fact there are only handful of them now. The setting is not portrayed as dark and bleak (despite the sarcastic comments from the protagonist) yet the condition of vast world with only small number of humans allow the creation of a new fantastic world that is not too far detached from our current reality. As a proof on how engaging the setting is: Jintai is probably one of the rare works of its kind that makes you want to enter the post-apocalyptic setting rather than scaring you from it. The simple and idyllic setting feels like a slice-of-life fantasy utopia without becoming too preachy about the consequences of technology, etc etc. Yet, Jintai is not without thought-provoking material. The portrayal of the fairies really makes you question the nature of our humanity in a funny humorous way without trying to be loldeep like most shows. I don’t want to spoil much about the series but this is most apparent in ep 9 and 10, my two personal favorites.
Of course, what can a great setting do without compelling character? Just like its overall atmosphere, Jintai has great characters albeit nowhere as complex and convoluted as the usual fares in this kind of setting. The main protagonist is an interesting one. To be honest my first impression of her was not too great. Her design somehow makes her either looks like a moe uguu character or just typical canon mary sue (YES! I USE ‘THAT’ TERM! HATE ME!) in the style of Lacus from Gundam Seed. When I learned that she also acts as a narrator for the story, I was also not too thrilled because I feared she will be nothing but your typical tsukkomi character or a normal one among the antics. Boy, I’m really glad being wrong this time. The protagonist is simply the most amusing character this season. She is cynical without being too pretentious; she’s cheerful and sweet yet is nor afraid to voice her discontent and sarcasm; she can act as a caring onee-san character yet can be cruel with her words. In a setting filled with strange character, she is the most natural one yet not being the most normal. She blends in perfectly with the setting without alienating us, the audiences. I found her gold moment to be in the last two episodes and in the span of those two episodes, her behavior and interaction with the other students (because in most episodes she rarely interacts with those around her age) cemented her status as a well-built character.
I was also quite surprised by how I really love the fairies in the end. Their first impressions to me look more like your typical cute mascot characters. I really braced myself to being annoyed by their presence but Tanaka Romeo instead offered me the most amusing fairies I have ever seen. Their silly and nonsensical demeanor is their true appeal and not once feels forced. They are also not your typical fantasy elfish race with ‘greater than thou’ attitude with raging boner for respecting nature. They truly deserve their in-series title of ‘present-mankind’. The more I watch their antics the more I feel they somehow mirror our own foolishness and brilliance as a race. Add their interaction with the protagonist into the formula and you get fresh and genuinely funny dialogue that is quite rare in anime medium that is seemingly saturated with lolsorandom or manzai humor.
However Jintai is not without flaw. Partly thanks to its soothing atmosphere, it can get slow and dragging at some parts or episodes while other parts or episodes feel more hectic and lively. It’s not rare for me to drag the cursor to the progress bar of my video player numerous times mainly because either I’m afraid the episode will end soon or I want to know when will the episode end. Episodes 5-8, especially episodes 7-8 which I found to be very confusing and repetitive, are the low point of the series for me which is unsettling because I’m afraid this will make people drop the series in the middle without touching the high points that are episodes 9-12. But I personally feel even the lowest points of Jintai is more entertaining than what we get nowadays in anime.
All in all, Jintai is a very good series with the score of 9/10 from me. It worth well my time although there are some points when I feel my time seems very dilated. The characters are pure fun time with great dialogue and atmosphere to accompany the story. If the translation of the LN is available in English (though… various means) I will certainly follow the rest of the series because I know I’m not prepared to depart with the protagonist, the fairies, and the others yet.