Humanity Has Declined Ep6 1

Humanity Has Declined #6: Space Oddity

Two kindred souls… hurtling through space at thousands of miles per hour? I feel fairly confident in claiming this is the first time that space exploration probes have been portrayed as star-crossed soulmates. However, today’s post concerns itself not with this tale of anthropomorphised spacecrafts, but instead with what seems like a throwaway line from Watashi:

Watashi: Your name is P-Pion, right?
Pion: I think so.
Watashi: Mind if I call you P-girl?
Pion: No, but why?
Watashi: I’d be mortified to call her by that other name, but I can’t tell her that.

A number of people have already picked up on this, but not one human in Humanity Has Declined has a conventional name. I mentioned dehumanisation in passing in my last Jintai post, and this is just another part of the mystery. Names are deeply personal; there are good ones and there are bad ones, but they identify us. Names personify us and humanise us, but the attitude in Humanity Has Declined’s world seems to be that personal names – as we know them, at least – are somehow considered improper. Even the unnatural names of Pion and Oyage are derived from the real names of the probes, and so Watashi prefers to call them P-girl (P子, P-ko) and O-boy (O太郎, O-taro). This is clearly echoing the name of Y in The Fairies’ Subculture – she with Pion and Oyage are the only three characters to have been identified by a proper noun rather than as, say, ‘Assistant’ or ‘Grandfather’.

So the obvious question here is why does this ‘denaming’ occur? To answer that, I think we have to understand the extent to which it occurs. It could be a societal phenomenon, a shift amongst all quarters towards what we consider very unusual naming conventions: a whole culture of denaming. How would humanity end up that way? What would cause this shift? This might have coincided with the rise of the fairies as the dominant species on Earth, as humans subconsciously show deference. It’s an extension of the idea I presented last week, but it seems perhaps a step too far. Self-preservation is an all-pervasive quality among living organisms, so I can’t imagine that humanity would take that sort of thing lying down.

There is another possibility here, and one that seems much more likely given Romeo Tanaka’s propensity for social commentary. It’s hardly the biggest of targets, but the unusual names may be a criticism of exactly that in real life. In 1993 two parents in Japan tried to give the name Akuma (悪魔) to their child, and you only need a basic knowledge of Japanese vocabulary to know that ‘akuma’ means ‘devil’. In other countries, parents have tried to name their children Anus (Denmark), @ (China) and Brfxxccxxmnpcccclllmmnprxvclmnckssqlbb11116 (Sweden, supposedly pronounced as Albin). Japanese are expected to choose names from a list of 861 characters (which, incidentally, does not contain 魔, the second character of Akuma) – names containing kanji characters other than these are illegal. The list is often added to, however, and these can be somewhat unsavoury – 癌, 糞 and 屍 were added in 2004, or ‘cancer’, ‘shit’ and ‘corpse’ to you and me. Indeed. Still, I guess it’d be no worse than, say, calling a town

Returning to the question of the extent of denaming, there is some evidence to suggest that this is limited only to Watashi. Recall my last post where I questioned the reliability of her narration. This could apply here. Note that Y never identifies herself with that name – the only time it is heard is when we are privy to Watashi’s thoughts. Perhaps she is dehumanising everyone she encounters? It’s a peculiar way to live, and the only explanation I can think of is that she does this because of her job as a UN Mediator. A mediator is a neutral third party, dissociated from both sides – in Watashi’s case the fairies and the humans. By refusing to properly name the people she meets she finds it easier to remain impartial, and soon it becomes second nature. Proper names become almost fetishised, something so immodest that she feels the urge to rechristen people with these ridiculously generic monikers.

3 thoughts on “Humanity Has Declined #6: Space Oddity

  1. Ku ku ku nice post and wow those names are horrible! Who would do that to their kids, but this happens in good old Hollywood as well when those famous people use fruit or other random objects as names? Yeah…those kinds of names always make me laugh!

    I noticed that as well with Watashi not giving anyone a real name like that boy that follows her? She refers to him simply as “assistant” and I wondered about Y and we can’t forget about the fairies, but if you tried to assign names your head might explode…maybe she can use a number system? LOL

  2. Great post! I think the author of this series may have just been keeping characters nameless for whimsical/artsy purposes, but there are certainly ways to interpret Sensei’s penchant for never calling anyone by their real names.
    In the context of Japan, perhaps there is some cultural commentary at play as well? Any book on Japanese culture will be quick to discuss concepts such as how individuals generally don’t wish to bring any attention upon themselves. At least there have been themes of community-wide compliance as well as a constant deference to authority in Humanity Has Declined.
    As for Sensei herself, I kind of imagine the author may have wanted readers to place themselves in her shoes and imagine experiencing all the madness for themselves. Keeping the protagonist nameless may make this easier to pull off.

    • “In the context of Japan, perhaps there is some cultural commentary at play as well? Any book on Japanese culture will be quick to discuss concepts such as how individuals generally don’t wish to bring any attention upon themselves.”

      Yes! I wasn’t quite confident enough in my assessment of Japanese values to include something like this in the post, but that sums it up very well.

      “As for Sensei herself, I kind of imagine the author may have wanted readers to place themselves in her shoes and imagine experiencing all the madness for themselves. Keeping the protagonist nameless may make this easier to pull off.”

      Well, it’s a classic device from gaming, which of course would chime with the thematics of the last two episodes. I would imagine there’s more to it than just that, but it fits here rather nicely.

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