Humanity has Declined 04 — Manga

Another episode about manga. I still can’t bring myself to care.

For me, effective satire has two essential components which these past two episodes have lacked: a) a timely and relevant topic, b) a call to action, and c) a bit of subtlety. Manga readers like novelty and suspense, and are easily bored? Ok, so? Does anyone out there actually disagree with that? It’s a pretty weak satire if your making a point that everyone agrees with. Good satire needs an edge to it, and these past two episodes were blunted since they chose such easy targets.

Besides, what’s wrong with liking novelty and suspense? What’s wrong with wanting to be consistently entertained by the manga you’re reading? I would argue that nothing is wrong with that at all. Readers read manga to be entertained, why shouldn’t they read the most entertaining manga? This whole episode just came across to me as a manga artist whining about how hard his job is. I’m not sure if it even qualifies as satire. A satire is supposed to help encourage readers to improvement. What does this episode encourage its viewers to do? Feel sorry for manga artists? I honestly can’t think of anything else.

12 thoughts on “Humanity has Declined 04 — Manga

  1. “What’s wrong with liking novelty and suspense? What’s wrong with wanting to be consistently entertained by the manga you’re reading?”

    Nothing wrong with either, but I do see problems with readers/audience constantly demanding excessive stimulation, and manga artists / writers feeding this frenzy in order to remain relevant. To me, self-depreciation is whole point of the satire in this episode, because if you think about it, Jinrui is quite “guilty” of overstimulating audience in the first two episodes (bleeding bread & processed chickens)… So to use a couple episodes to scale back the “WTF” level and reflect may not be such a bad idea.

    1. To me, self-depreciation is whole point of the satire in this episode, because if you think about it, Jinrui is quite “guilty” of overstimulating audience in the first two episodes (bleeding bread & processed chickens)

      This makes a lot of sense. You raise an excellent point. I do have my doubts about whether this is intentional though. 🙂

      1. By the way, episode 1&2 correspond to novel volume 4, and epsiode 3&4 are based on volume 6. It’s quite obvious that the anime team decided to maximize the impact by selecting the most bizarre arc to start with. So it’s not entirely unlikely that they are using the next two episodes to tone down the expectation and mock themselves a bit 🙂

  2. The idea was that in our modern era, storytelling has become a lot more about giving the audience “what they want” rather than telling engaging, original stories. Stories today are confined to specific genre and target audiences. There is more pressure for them to be popular and earn lots of money, rather than to be the stories “that the author really wants to tell”. And on top of it all, it’s still often difficult to figure out what actually sells and what doesn’t. Art has largely become a commercial business relying on a logical paint-by-the-number approach to storytelling rather than (to put it dramatically) “a gateway to the artist’s deepest impressions.”
    At least, that’s what I got out of it (in a nutshell). I ramble more on it on my blahg.

    1. Have you heard of dime novels? Everything you said describes them perfectly. And before that there were the magazines that serialized most of Dickens’ work. This complaint isn’t anything new, or specific to manga. It’s just an idealized sugarcoating of the past. There have always been a slew of authors who went after the latest trends and made a quick buck, and there have always been authors who used the exact same medium to make works of art.

      1. Didn’t mean to say that writers in past eras have never wanted to make money either. This is certainly a dilemma creative minds have had to deal with ever since patrons began paying people for their artistic talents (ie at the end of the day, the average artist/writer/etc has always had to please some kind of audience in order to earn a living). And what we deem esteemed storytelling today is often just popular fiction of the past (be it overlooked or otherwise).
        I just believe things have become quite systematic for much of genre fiction, though this viewpoint may be skewed by the fact there’s such an extraordinary amount of content available nowadays.
        Like many writers of satire, I suppose the original author of Humanity Has Declined couldn’t help but analyze and critique the system he was a part of. There’s nothing frustrated writers like to write about more than themselves, after all. =P

        1. True, true. I still think the content of this episode was rather inane though. People have been complaining about the exact same thing for hundreds of years, and this particular version didn’t bring anything new to the table from my perspective.

  3. I think the point with this episode is that if you focus too much on exciting your audience with cliffhangers, big reveals, and wild plot twists, that you risk turning your story into an incomprehensible mess.

    I’m not a big manga reader, so I can’t comment much on that. But I have seen some anime recently where the desire to constantly excite the audience with shocking plot developments has resulted in stories that tend to fall apart near/at the end (two good recent examples of this are Guilty Crown and Aquarion EVOL).

    1. I don’t know, for me the prime example of trying to excite the audience with cliffhangers, big reveals, and wild plot twists was Code Geass. And I loved Code Geass. 🙂

      Guilty Crown was just awful in general, and I liked Aquarion EVOL. I didn’t really think Aquarion EVOL was guilty of throwing out too many cliffhangers, but maybe that’s because I watched half of it at once when it finished airing.

  4. Agreed that it wasn’t something new or unheard of from the manga business. Maybe what this episode criticizes is a lack of patience on the manga publishers’ side. The ep. tells us imo that focus on spectacular plot twists and excessive stimuli risks losing the audience’s interest soon.

    It might be better (in my opinion) to start of slowly and get the audience more involved w/ characters and story. But this would require patience as such a franchise would need to grow a reader base over time. For me (in anime at least) the series w/ a slow start often turn out to be more addictive than the action-heavy ones.

    Apart from that, this episode more or less fulfilled my request from last ep. to see more of this awesome anime-with-blank-background style. I also love Watashi’s snarky comments!

    1. I tend to enjoy series with slower starts as well. I think part of this might just be genre bias— shows intended for younger audiences tend to start faster with lots of action.

      The show does have a great art style, I’ll give it that. And the main character’s snark is fabulous.

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