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Humanity Has Declined (2012)

The end of the world is serious business. Which is why most fiction dealing with apocalyptic, or post-apocalyptic situations tends to lean towards the more dramatic, serious end of the spectrum. Not so with Humanity Has Declined, which may well feature the most adorable, candy-coloured vision of the post-apocalypse you've ever seen.

AIC's  2012 TV series, which was adapted from a series of light novels depicts the human race on the brink of extinction. No reason is given for the fall of humanity, but it's clear that the population has fallen massively and what's left of the species has now regressed to a simpler, almost feudal lifestyle. Humanity's decline may or may not be related to the rise of 'New Humans', pocket-sized creatures more commonly known as fairies. These are not the traditional winged, Tinkerbell-style variety, but mischievous, fun-loving sweet-toothed critters that would be more likely labelled as elves in western folklore.

The pink-haired heroine of the series (who is never named) works as a mediator between humans and fairies, tasked with keeping the little ones happy and stopping them getting in too much trouble. The fairies are referred to as extremely 'technologically advanced' beings, but their tech is essentially magic- and this is where much of the show's storylines spring from.

For the most part, the episodes come in pairs, with two stories that relate to each other- although not necessarily in the form of a direct cliffhanger. The plotlines here are extremely creative and varied, and always unpredictable. For example, a story centring on the revival of the manga industry leads into a follow-on story where the heroine and her cohorts find themselves magically trapped inside a manga. They then have to work out how to get to the end of the story, without getting cancelled midseries, in what has to be the series highpoint.

Other standout plots include malevolent chickens bent on world domination, a Groundhog Day style timeloop and the rise and fall of a miniature fairy civilisation. Comedy in anime can be tricky, as humour does not always translate too well. All too often comedy anime can mistake obnoxiousness for humour. Fortunately, Humanity Has Declined is an example of anime comedy that works brilliantly- although of course, your mileage may vary.

The show is often very funny, not only through the dialogue, but most often through the absurdity of the situations themselves. There's also a fair few cultural references but it never goes overboard with them. Although the synopsis (and the artstyle for that matter) may lead you to think this is a kid's show, the occasional burst of unexpected comic violence or salty language proves otherwise.

The fairies themselves are responsible for a fair few chuckles.Their innocence and misunderstanding of the human world create many of the storylines, but the series is also smart enough to be sure not to overuse them. It feels that they are featured just enough- and like the series itself, they don't overstay their welcome.

The series is beautiful to look at, with a lovely pastel-coloured feel to the character designs. Combined with some gorgeous impressionistic backgrounds, this is a series that's worth picking up on Blu-ray if you can. Some nicely chosen music completes the all-round quality audio-visual package.

The series ends on a two-part flashback to the heroines' school-days, that in all honesty is not as interesting- or nearly as funny- as the rest of the series. It's a shame that the series fizzles out in this way, but really it's a minor bum-note in what overall is a highly enjoyable series. The series is also available subtitled only, which will disappoint dub fans.

Humanity Has Declined is an unexpectedly sweet treat, and a nice reminder that anime still has the capacity to surprise. In fact, it's a lot like the fairies themselves- funny, adorable as a bucketful of kittens and deceptively smart. It's (prepare to groan...) fairy good indeed.

HUMANITY HAS DECLINED is now available on DVD and BLU-RAY from ANIMATSU in the UK and SENTAI FILMWORKS in the US. Also Streaming Via Crunchyroll. and Hulu (US only)

*Review disc supplied by Animatsu/Manga*