In the last five minutes, the anime tries so hard to satirize modern society’s dependence on mass production that it makes me wonder if the show wasn’t actually poking fun at individuals with like-minded beliefs. I love artisanal baking as much as the next guy, living as close as I do to the Acme Bread Company, but I wouldn’t equate factory-produced bread to literally garbage:
But these days, you can use any ingredients you want. What’s important is that it tastes like bread. Synthetic bread is cheap and healthy. It belongs on the food honor roll. Well, to be honest, it tastes worse than real bread! You can even synthesize bread from garbage, so there were issues….
Let’s just tackle the points one-by-one. I know that this is only tangentially related to anime, but I don’t care; bread is too awesome to let this slide.
First, the least contentious:
Well, to be honest, it tastes worse than real bread!
90% of the time, this is true, but taste is not always the utmost concern. Am I really going to hop on the train and ride it across town because I want to make myself a grilled cheese sandwich? Not likely.
But these days, you can use any ingredients you want. What’s important is that it tastes like bread.
We’ve all heard horror stories regarding processed food. Here’s an excerpt from a book specifically about white bread:
Supermarket white bread can pick up difficult bits of broken glass, clean typewriter keys, and absorb motor oil spills. Squeezed into a ball, it bounces on the counter. Pressed into my palate and revealed in a big gummy grin, it gets giggles from my kids, who can also use it to sculpt animal shapes. But should they eat it? Among its two dozen ingredients, the loaf on my desk contains diammonium phosphate, a yeast nutrient and flame retardant produced when ammonia and phosphoric acid react. Is this stuff even food?
But this doesn’t mean that white bread necessarily has to be this bad. Rather, this calls for oversight; companies need to be held to a higher degree of responsibility. Unfortunately, the answer, though simply put, isn’t so easily attained. Everything comes with a price, including safety regulations. After all, we want the following to remain true:
Synthetic bread is cheap….
White bread is cheap. 16 million kids in the US go to bed hungry each night. You want to tell their families to pay extra for artisanal bread? I know that this is anime and thus Japanese. As a result, employing statistics from another country might seem a tad out of place, but it’s not as though poverty doesn’t exist in the glorious Far East. It’s easy to raise questions, but where are the answers? How do you propose getting cheap but healthy food to the poor?
Plus, you can’t make a judgment on white bread without also making a judgment on those who consume the product. And for a lot of people, white bread is the only realistic option.
The history of white bread is fraught with social and economic implications. When factory-produced white bread first came to be, it was triumphed as both nutritious and patriotic. Factory-produced bread was often fortified with vitamins, a feat that an early 1900s baker couldn’t feasibly boast. At the same time, companies capitalized on the fact that bread from a machine is superior from bread likely produced by a “dirty immigrant” (nevermind the fact that an immigrant probably ran those machines…).
As an interesting aside, during the occupation of postwar Japan, Allied forces tried to “[teach] Japanese schoolchildren to eat white bread [so that it] would improve their “democratic spirit.”
You can even synthesize bread from garbage
I know that this is nothing more than a half-minute, sardonic mini speech about the horrors of processed white bread, but the issue just isn’t this simple. The hyperbolic argument put forth by the anime does itself no favors. I won’t deny that there’s something magical about freshly baked bread, but there are a lot of reasons the supermarket has replaced the farmer’s market. None of those reasons includes mankind’s proclivity for consuming garbage, unless, of course, you’re the sort of organic-thumping, green activist who thinks any sort of “synthetic” food is poison.
The rest of the anime seems to adopt a similar stance regarding a whole range of issues, from making marmalade to UN leadership. Our unnamed heroine is not as innocent as her Little House on the Prairie looks may imply. Upon failure to catch a headless chicken (I’m not sure if additional context would help this make any more sense), she dispenses with advice that should sound familiar to anyone with any political awareness:
Hide the truth.
This small bit of subversiveness is somewhat entertaining, but the key to satire — to me, anyway — is reductio ad absurdum.
For the most part, the anime is, as another commenter puts it, “soporific.” When Jinrui wa Suitai Shimashita finally does reach for the surreal, as demonstrated by the last few minutes of the episode, it instead jabs at a strawman. If the first episode is thus any indication, the anime won’t be sharp enough, witty enough, nor nuanced enough to be anything more than socially conscious fluff, the sort that gives well-intentioned but naive college liberals a bad reputation.
Let’s hope the following episodes can do a little better. In the meantime, have this awesome bread-baking video: