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!