Tanaka Romeo and Kishi Seiji have thrown down the gauntlet: is it possible to make an anime that’s too weird? The answer, my friends, is a resounding “No!”
But Kami-sama, how in the world did I get stuck with the job of making sense of it?!
I can hardly begin to describe what happened, so for the sake of my own sanity points I’m just going to assume you’ve seen the episode and not even really try. From my perspective Jinrui is the best series of the season so far, for a few reasons. Mostly because it’s absolutely fearless, making no attempt to dumb down the source material in order to provide a traditional narrative or character development, or to be “tasteful”. Perhaps must obviously, because it’s fiercely, spectacularly funny – I haven’t had this many out-and-out laughs from a show since… well, what – maybe Mitsudomoe? Because it’s incredibly smart and actually about something, whether people want to see that ugly side of it or not. And because it explodes creativity from every pore from the second the episode starts until the moment it ends, and it’s living proof in a season riddled with formula that you can still produce anime that weren’t written by the Marketing Department.
There were several elements that jumped out in this second episode, which actually managed to up the insanity ante from the batshit premiere. The Fairies may not have been the bad guys this episode, but they continue to be subtly creepy at every turn (the “compass” had a Hitler mustache, for example). What do subtle hints like “The Fairies reproduce naturally when they’re having fun” mean, I wonder? Among the first notable turns this week was the revelation that Assistant-kun is someone to watch out for – his picture-book “Story of the Seven Children” (that narration!) had me howling and shaking my head in disbelief at the same time, and actually drove Compass (Kobayashi Yumiko) into Watashi’s pocket to “Reflect on the meaning of life in a dark place.” If that’s Assistant’s idea of a joke…
It’s as this point that the weirdness really starts. We meet the manager of FairyCo., who also happens the be the director of UNESCO (oh, boy…). He’s a sniveling, scheming climber (he cites Nixon as a model of “plausible deniability”) looking for any way to maneuver things to his advantage, and like the factory receptionist he seems to have never met the ones who actually run the plant. One by one Watashi is separated from her companions – Grandpa, Uketsuke-san, Assistant, and finally Manager-san. On a couple of occasions she’s saved from certain death by the mysterious “Hand of God” (the true genius of this will only be revealed later in the episode). Eventually she ends up confronting “The Board”, who are revealed to he none other than the headless, skinned chickens we met last week (or their relatives).
I can’t really justice to the sheer lunacy of this whole sequence. In effect the chickens have gained sentience somehow, trapped the Fairies who ran the plant in blister packs and plan to take over the world. Watashi can’t understand anything they say in their voices (kazoo-assisted) which sound like a cross between – well, a headless chicken – and Charlie Brown’s teacher. But Compass has a handy pair of translation glasses (I’m not at all suspicious of how the Fairies always seem to have just the right item at hand) which add fansubs to the chickens’ speech. The subs aren’t very good but the gist comes across – it’s megalomania mixed with a non-stop barrage of expletives.
Just when things are looking hopeless Assistant-kun shows up and attacks the scheming industrialist chickens with what scheming industrialist chickens fear most – exposure. With his mighty camera he sends them into full panicked retreat, often intercut with Sam Peckinpah-style slow-mo to the accompaniment of “Ave Maria”. As they flee through the factory (the headless chicken factory workers are wearing hair nets) they end up on T-shirts and pressed into DVDs and aluminum cans, and Pan-tan Mark II makes a brief appearance, gaily dancing. Finally Assistant and his camera drive the survivors off the edge of a cliff, “Thelma and Louise” style (“Shall we dive? I cannot fly.”). But like I said, words can’t really do all that justice. And the deadpan nonchalance of Watashi and Assistant in the face of all this is what really seals the deal.
Some other things to watch out for here: while Grandpa is explaining his theory of what happened to Watashi (speculating that things like jars of marmalade and artificial sardines gained sentience too, but had no way to express it) UNESCO Director-san is giving a rambling speech about how he plans to establish an oligarchic “dictatorial democracy” and rule the world. And remember that “Hand of God” that kept helping Watashi out? Turns out the hand of God (“Kami”) was actually her now-sentient hair (“kami”) – the same hair which grew back thanks to “FairyCo. Hair Restorer”. And those headless chickens are still raining down from the sky, including through the stained-glass window of a ruined church were a young girl is feeding her siblings “weed soup”. Turns out the chickens are now “regularly appearing as offerings for the children, and stop moving whenever touched by human hands – as if genetically engineered to do so.”
There, was that so hard? Well, yes it was – and sadly, no attempt to capture Jinrui was Suitai Shimashita in words can possibly come close to the experience of watching it, so I think I’ll go ahead and do that again myself, just to try and pick up on some of the stuff I’m sure I missed. I hope Kishi and Uezo-san are able to keep this kind of manic creativity up for twelve episodes – I know enough of Romeo-san’s LNs to know that there’s plenty of insanity to drive the series, as long as the director and writer don’t lose their nerve. But one of the reasons I was so excited to see those two in charge of this adaptation is that whatever their faults, they’ve shown a willingness to go all-in on the bizarre and not pull their punches – I hope (and believe) this is a case of the perfect combination of original creator and anime staff.