First things first – was there a timeskip somewhere I didn’t catch, or a reference to this episode being a flashback? I can’t think of obvious reason why Watashi seemed to meeting the UNESCO CLT Director for the first time, and hearing about the Human Monument Project for the first time (Y spent several minutes talking about the latter at the beginning of episode three). The thing is, I’m not sure whether her ignorance is supposed to be some sort of clue, or simply reflects a continuity gap – I know the LN chapters are being adapted out of sequence.
Setting that aside, this episode was quite the change of pace – but I’m getting used to saying that with Jinrui, which is proving itself a series of many moods. Nowhere near as frenetic as the conclusion of the “Factory” arc or as overtly satirical and meta-comical as the “Subculture” arc, this was something close to a world-building episode – heavy on the information download and on the mysteries, which were piled up pretty heavily. As a consequence it didn’t end up being one of the more entertaining efforts so far, but I suspect it’s filling the same role that episode 3 did, setting up a faster-paced and funnier second half of the arc.
Here’s what we know, and what we’re left to wonder about. A “monolith” appears in what looks to be an asteroid crater at the start of the episode – a black rectangular object about the size and shape of a tablet PC. Grandpa is convinced it didn’t come from space as it didn’t burn up on re-entry, but there’s something distinctly odd about this clearly artificial object – and the first thought that naturally springs to mind for me is “2001, A Space Odyssey”. That monolith, if you recall, was alien technology that, when discovered by prehistoric man, seemed to influence his development into a technological society for the express purpose of eventually making contact with its creators millions of years later.
That’s a big leap, of course, but there’s lots of other interesting stuff here to grind the teeth on. The CLT Director, as part of the launching of the Human Monument Project, is using a “newly discovered functioning satellite” to provide electricity to Camphorwood and the adjacent city ruins, and having a “Culture of Electricity Festival” to celebrate it. Electricity from space – orbiting solar power station? In any case, the rub here is that the Fairies are hightailing it out of town – apparently EM waves are deadly to Fairies – but not before giving Watashi a dire warning of “death and disease” to follow (could these little bastards get any creepier?) along with a good-luck charm and a book hilariously and meticulously explaining the equation “no fairies = humans SOL” via real-life-ish examples.
Further complicating matters is the arrival of what appears to be a cat-eared android, Pion (Mizuki Nana). Pion’s arrival seems suspiciously coincidental with the discovery of the monolith, and she’s complaining of “memory leakage” – and she tells Watashi she’s looking for someone named “Oyage”. That these names are conspicuously in English (we see the latter written clearly later in the episode) is interesting, as if the fact that they almost spell out the names of the two spacecraft man first sent into space looking for signs of alien intelligence, Pioneer and Voyager. Further fuel is added to this fire later as Watashi and Joshu-kun explore the city ruins and get trapped underground, only to discover that Watashi’s “good luck charm” is actually a Fairy who’d twisted himself into another form – and is reconstituted as a fairy when she accidentally drops him in her hot mug of tea. That’s where they find the “Oyage”, not to mention another monolith that looks exactly like the one that fell to Earth above ground. Courtesy of the Fairy a lot of information comes out here – first off, that the ruined city was actually one that was built specifically to block EM waves for residents afraid to go outside – a “City of Hikkomori” as he calls it. There are also weird alien blobby things, which the Fairy says are “something we drink”. One of these blobs seems to merge with the monolith to plug itself into a wall and turn into a robot dog – one which attacks Watashi and Joshu-kun before Pion shows up, defeats it and thanks Watashi for “providing the electricity”.
Lots more questions than answers here, but there’s certainly circumstantial evidence to suggest alien involvement (and a possible clue as to where the Fairies came from?). It’s fascinating stuff, even if it lacked the sheer volume of entertainment Jinrui has shown at it best. The moment when the Fairy popped out of Watashi’s mug and said “Hi!” in English was probably the funniest anime moment of the week, though…