Jinrui wa Suitai Shimashita (lit. “Mankind has Declined“) certainly would have gone underneath my radar this season if not for that little clip there. But scathing social commentary on the nature of Big Food aside, I’m struck in particular by how popular the aesthetic shift has become away from burnt-out desert wastelands to lush overgrown cities as the backdrop for classical post-apocalyptica; more Jungle Book than Mad Max.

Certainly Mankind has Declined is not the first show to attempt this; other notable ones that come to mind are Fractale and Shangri-La, and if you go even further back you could even make the argument Blue Submarine No. 6 is an example of this sort of shift, sort of a realization even if man doesn’t survive the apocalypse, the rest of nature probably will.

But what’s particularly interesting about the look of Mankind has Declined is that it’s consciously artificial – the colours are all bright, cheery pastels and our protagonist’s village is a picture-perfect European rural town idyll, all straight out of a storybook. The unreality of it all adds a subtle edge to the satirical proceedings about the origins of food production and how food preparation is at heart a form of artifice – a way to distance yourself from “step 2″ of the process from living chicken to chicken meat, to quote the show.

If anything, the show feels a much closer cousin to the recently aired Tsuritama by A-1 Pictures; insofar that they are both on some level about getting back to basics – namely, the basics of food acquisition. Where the vivacious colours in Tsuritama serve to provide an impressionistic experience of what it might feel like out fishing for wild food, the pastels in Mankind has Declined highlight the artificiality of processed food. In a sense, both narrow in on a facet of the post-apocalypse that’s often glossed over: surviving the destruction of our food “know-how” – and one could certainly make the argument that most modern humans in developed societies have already lost quite a bit of it!

Pilot Charles Karino is tasked with a daunting assignment: fly a special passenger on a journey of over 12, 000 kilometres. The script is by Satoko Okudera, known for his work on Summer Wars and The Girl who Leapt Through Time. It’s coming out this month, so it will likely be some time before a BD release is available.

It turns out that we do not get to see Kinkakuji in this episode, but rather Nobunaga’s rebuilt Azuchi castle – built not only to be a defensive structure, but also a testament to his power and wealth. The location of Azuchi Castle is not far from the capital of Kyoto, however, and was intended to safeguard the approaches into the city. As usual, more notes to follow after the jump.

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Mamoru Nagano is working on this project.

That’s all I need to say.

Episode 2 begins by introducing us to Sen no Soeki, who seems to be standing in for Nobunaga`s historical tea master Sen no Rikyū. The writers likely have decided to use a different, less well-known name, as most famous individuals in Japanese history had several, or have created a fictionalized counterpart to better fit the intended story. In any case, Soeki’s influence is at least comparable to Rikyū’s, and even his appearance is similar.

As usual, due to the density of the material being covered, I have opted to highlight my more important points in bold. Specifically Japanese terms are italicized. More notes after the jump.

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Boy, this show is rich. Incredibly rich. Hyouge Mono is a 13 episode series being produced by Bee Train – and more importantly, Japan’s public broadcasting station NHK – about a retainer of Oda Nobunaga who is caught between loyalty to his lord and loyalty to the art he is most passionate about – the Japanese tea ceremony. Thanks also to bateszi for alerting me to the fact that we finally do have some translation available.

The series is flying under the radar of most blogs, likely due to both a)it’s relative obscurity, and b)the fact that it draws on a deep reservoir of Japanese culture and history. Hopefully, this blogging series can help ameliorate both of those issues, by providing some historical background commentary and explanation.

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Makoto Shinkai has been hailed previously as the “next Miyazaki”, and he seems determined to claim the title with his newest offering, Children Who Chase Lost Voices Deep Below. Some of the design choices and colour palette are very reminiscient of Tales from Earthsea, Nausicaa, or other Ghibli films. While his previous works have been absolutely ground-breaking in terms of visuals (Place Promised and 5cm per second were both absolutely stunning at the time of their release, and still are), I get the sense that the visual standard, as it were, has only increased with the last few years. Here’s hoping Shinkai has something interesting up his sleeve – the release is set for this May, but a DVD/BD release may still be a while away.

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