I’m been grinding on trying to figure out just why director Kishi Seiji and AIC decided to adapt these stories in the order they did, and to be honest I’m not having much luck. Certainly it’s not due to author Tanaka Romeo, whose LNs are sequentially much more linear than the anime. You can reverse engineer the question and look at the effect, which is that the landscape of the series has been constantly shifting under the audience’s feet like sands blowing in the wind. This leads to the question of whether, perhaps, that was the whole point. In a way it’s almost as if every arc has been a premiere, and there was never any way to know what might be coming next. For a show whose appeal lies so strongly in mind-expansion and a sort of intellectual shock and awe, perhaps this has been the best way to maintain effectiveness.
There’s a downside to this approach, at least for me, and it’s this: by jerking the characters back and forth in the timeline so much with no preamble or ceremony whatsoever, they aren’t really able to have an “arc” in the traditional sense – even Watashi, the one constant running through every story. When Jinrui started I instantly fell in love with it, the only skepticism being my initial view that the series wasn’t trying to win much emotional investment in the characters. Well, that changed quite a bit over the course of the series, to the point where I was totally hooked into the emotional side of the show by the time “The Fairies Time Management” came to a close. Especially the relationship between Watashi and Joshu-kun, which was the most resonant part of the series from the outset. But due to the adaptation choices Kishi-san has made, that climax was an anti-climax – perhaps that arc should have been the one to end the series, because I find myself disappointed that there’s been no further development in that relationship, and indeed almost no role for Assistant at all. It seems odd to have built him up so strongly as a figure of importance, only to effectively write him out of the story for the final four eps.
Indeed, that does appear to be what’s happened, as the current “Fairies Secret Tea Party” reveals itself to be a two-episode arc and thus, the concluding arc of the series. So what Kishi has effectively done is taken the first chronological story and placed it last, assuming there’s no extended postscript. It’s an odd choice, and it’s an odd episode – certainly the most joyless of any in the series so far. The subject matter of Jinrui has unfailingly been dark, but there’s always been an element of black comedy rooted in the sheer absurdity of the situations, the Fairies themselves, and/or Watashi’s world-weary snarkiness. This ep, a flashback to Watashi’s first days at school as a ten-year old, is brilliantly atmospheric and creepy, but lacking in the bleak exuberance of the ones that preceded it.
Fittingly for this dystopian world, it appears as if children rarely attend school before the age of ten. Then they’re dumped into a kind of free-for-all, with the smart kids being given opportunities to advance in grades. In fact this is very much how education worked in pre-industrial societies and still does in some corners of the world today, where the luxury of grades formally segregated by age isn’t an option. Watashi, sent to a school run by an old friend/rival (lots of subtext here) of her Grandfather, enters the story as a ten year-old who’s already quite morose and anti-social, and stubbornly refuses to allow others to get close to her (indeed, one almost expects an even earlier arc, a prequel to the prequel, showing us how she got that way). Her only friends are a hapless maintenance robot named RYOBO 230r (Yuzuki Ryoka) and a lonely fairy she finds atop “Mt. Olympus”, where she hides it from three schoolboys trying to find and dissect it. She’s also hazed from the first day by the schoolgirl version of fujoshi maven Y (who looks remarkably similar to the way she did as a young adult).
Once again I’m struck by how fascinatingly odd it is to place this arc last. Why does ten year-old Watashi already describe herself as an “outsider” from the moment she enters the school, and assume the blonde moebomb Curly (Kanemoto Hisako) – the one person who shows her any kindness – is the secret ringleader of the bullies? Perhaps the answers will come next week, though given the structure of the narrative I found Watashi’s eventual breakdown and admission that she was actually lonely and craving affection a bit jarring. Then there that Fairy, the first one Watashi has encountered, seemingly. Once again we see the Fairies take their cue from humans – he describes himself as happy and talks of how much fun his solitary existence has been, until she expresses concern that he must have been lonely – at which point he falls into a deep depression that Watashi reverses only by giving him sugar (which he keeps referring to as “the white powder”, much to Watashi’s chagrin). There’s clearly a lot of projection happening here on Watashi’s part, and it’s an interesting demonstration of how different are the minds of humans and fairies. The relationship between them continues to fascinate me even as its exact nature remains elusive.
The end of the episode is full of the trademark subtlety and mysterious symbolism Jinrui has made a trademark. I was struck by the teacher telling Watashi “Clean up your mess” after the boys knocked over her tray in the cafeteria – given that this was exactly what Grandpa told her at the end of “The Fairies Survival Skills”. After her breakdown Watashi runs down the school hallway (a beautifully animated scene) and ends up in a room full of bones, crying “I don’t want to be alone” – at which point the Fairy in her pocket tells her that this is an easy wish to grant, and she wakes up outside her room with no memory of the Fairy.
At this point Watashi has also advanced a grade, and Curly too – and this time it’s Curly who’s on the receiving end of the bullying. Watashi comes to her aid, and Curly proves to be practically stalker-level in gratitude. When Watashi arrives home she finds she has a new roommate – Curly, who’s gotten herself moved into Watashi’s quarters. She invites Watashi to join her at her “Wild Rose” tea society a few days later, and that’s where things stop – leaving a lot of questions to be answered in next week’s series finale. The most interesting one for me, I think, is whether it will feel like a finale at all – and as always with Jinrui, I have absolutely no idea what to expect.