Humanity Has Declined seems unique to me in just how brazen it is in its criticisms of society. The only show in recent memory to go down a similar route I can think of is Sayonara Zetsubou-Sensei. SZS had its moments of social criticism, but I always felt those were delivered with tongue firm in cheek. Often appraisals were two-pronged, as much a parody of (over)reactions to the issue at hand as of the issue itself. From what I’ve seen thus far of Humanity Has Declined its commentary is being played completely straight, insofar as one can play the idea of sentient plucked chickens bent on world domination straight.
The anti-capitalist themes in this week’s episode were obvious from the beginning, picking up where episode one had left off. Perhaps anti-capitalist is too wide-reaching; anti-corporation would probably be more accurate. The chickens taking over the FairyCo factory and forcibly removing the former tenants by placing them in blister packets is an inherently silly concept, but can be equated to the practice of the hostile takeover of a company.
I’d go even further than that and suggest that this is a satire of privatisation – transference of the factory from the public sector (fairy ownership) to the private sector (chicken ownership). The privatization of Japan’s postal service was initiated in 2003 by Prime Minister Junichi Koizumi with the creation of Japan Post (日本郵政公社 – Nippon Yūsei Kōsha). He proposed this as a way of solving the banking crisis, but faced fierce opposition to the bill. In 2005 when the upper house of the Diet rejected it, Koizumi immediately dissolved the lower house and ran a re-election campaign hinging on his proposals. Even amongst his own Liberal Democratic Party the bill was unpopular – 37 of his own MPs, 15% of the LDP total, voted against the plans and were subsequently barred from running for re-election as LDP members.
Fast forward seven years, and as recently as April of this year the debate was still raging on. Japan Post was replaced by Japan Post Holdings (日本郵政株式会社 – Nippon Yūsei Kabushiki-gaisha) in 2007, but in practice this was little more than a renaming exercise. The privatisation was officially put on hold after the Democratic Party of Japan’s victory in the 2009 general election, and finally scrapped less than three months ago after a near-unanimous vote in the upper house. The whole affair has been costly and time-consuming, an indictment of the processes of bureaucracy and capitalistic greed.
If you’ll permit me to return to the subject at hand, consider the people Watashi meets as she explores the FairyCo factory. First is the receptionist, who has been in the job for mere days and has never had physical contact with his employers or his predecessor – who, incidentally, is the next person Watashi comes across. He has been promoted to the position of manager – manager of a completely self-sufficient factory. He is obsessed with power and is responsible for the FairyCo goods being smuggled into the village. For the majority of his time on screen he is plotting his ‘rise’ to the top, utterly failing to comprehend that any further promotion is meaningless.
Two incompetent levels of the corporate structure of the new FairyCo are naturally topped by a poultry excuse (sorry) for a board of directors – the plotting gang of plucked, headless chickens. These are the worst of all, encouraged into suicidal tendencies by nothing more than the fake gunshot sound from a camera. They feed themselves into the food processing machines and throw themselves from a clifftop when faced with this deadliest of weapons. Humanity Has Declined is nothing if not scathing in its portrayal of business owners as incompetent and stupid.