Jinrui wa Suitai Shimashita Ep. 1: Heavy-handed would be a nice way to put it

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.

…and healthy.

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.
Manipulate information.
Use intimidation.

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:

15 thoughts on “Jinrui wa Suitai Shimashita Ep. 1: Heavy-handed would be a nice way to put it

  1. Mira

    That video’s awesome. It’s always great to see how much passion people put into doing something they love.

    On Jinrui, yeah the show could’ve benefitted from having a little more subtlety. It almost feels preachy so I couldn’t really enjoy it as much as hoped I would.

    Reply
    1. E Minor Post author

      It’s always great to see how much passion people put into doing something they love.

      And it easily shows. Fresh baguette with sweetened, condensed milk at six in the morning? Awesome way to wake up.

      Reply
  2. wanderer

    I see you made it to the lost chicken scene. It’s not the show it appears to be but far from good, yet. Early diagnosis: confuses “not being explicit” with “being implicit”, then compounds it by confusing being “implicit” with being “subtle”. It has time to redeem itself with the rest of the show but still has to redeem itself. Pity because it’s at least a bit novel, or potentially so.

    Reply
    1. E Minor Post author

      I dunno. Even if it was a little more subtle as you suggest, it’ll be hard to follow a show if it continues to be so sanctimonious. A show like this needs to be really, really funny rather than just clever to pull this off. I’m not sure the first episode even elicited a chuckle, much less laughter.

      Reply
      1. wanderer

        Fair enough, it came off a bit more even-handed to me, even-handed but too heavy-handed to turn out well if it continued with that tone. On the one hand you have the factory scene, on the other hand you have the villagers treated as morons lucky to still be alive. But that’s all FWIW, and with a “promising” first episode like that there’s good odds it winds up being worth very little indeed.

        Also FWIW the parts that made me laugh a bit were the quieter parts (the chickens running away the first time, the grade of “fair” from the pajama-wearing assistant guy), but too soon to know if the quiet humor will outweigh the unfunny heavy-handed stuff.

        Reply
        1. E Minor Post author

          Fair enough, it came off a bit more even-handed to me

          I just think that if you’re going to point out problems, you should at least propose solutions. I’m not sure the anime will provide that. It seems content to hold everything at arm’s length, and tut tut with mocking disdian.

  3. Roghek

    Must resist commenting about the baking video…So badass bread

    What I found entertaining on this episode wasn’t the making fun of mass production but I can’t quite point my finger on what it was.
    Also, even though the plot is still quite obscure the setting was well presented, a society where humanity is disappearing yet nobody seems to care.

    Another thing I noticed is how the headless chicken (of unknown origin) supposedly a living creature (before being turned into meat of course) is shown moving but not quite alive and yet the robot bread, a supposedly inanimate comestible is portrayed more like a living creature, even to the extreme of dying and suffering from pain.

    Also welcome back E minor, nice to see you blogging again, hopefully you’ll like one of the new shows enough to keep you blogging it …hopefully

    Reply
    1. E Minor Post author

      Another thing I noticed is how the headless chicken (of unknown origin) supposedly a living creature (before being turned into meat of course) is shown moving but not quite alive and yet the robot bread, a supposedly inanimate comestible is portrayed more like a living creature, even to the extreme of dying and suffering from pain.

      I just saw it as the anime’s example of how unnatural FairyCo. renders everything. Something that used to be alive becomes weird and freaky; something that never was alive (was even garbage, at one point) puts on airs as though it is human.

      Reply
  4. Anonymous

    >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.

    Yeah, but they aren’t. It’s completely fair for the anime to rail on processed food when _current_ processed food is pretty terrible. I also don’t think the anime’s talking bread robot filled with carrot juice was meant to be taken as a literal commentary on the current state of processed food. Do you really think factories are molding garbage into a bread-type shape, or they’re able to make loafs of bread out of any and all ingredients? It was a hyperbole to highlight our world’s obsession with processed foods that often times have many ingredients we wouldn’t even consider food.

    The rest of your review was alright, but I think you’re taking this show a bit too seriously. It isn’t supposed to be an accurate depiction of society, nor is it supposed to present any serious solutions (like how to feed the poor healthy, cheap food). It’s a form of social commentary that merely points out a few negative things in a ridiculous way from the perspective of a person living in a post-apocalyptic, pre-industrial era.

    Reply
    1. E Minor Post author

      Yeah, but they aren’t. It’s completely fair for the anime to rail on processed food when _current_ processed food is pretty terrible.

      This is debatable. I’m not arguing that we should eat processed food when whole foods are equally available, but that’s the caveat, isn’t it?

      It was a hyperbole

      I think it’s pretty cheap to make a hyperbolic, potentially misleading statement, then when said statement is criticized, conveniently retreat to the “You’re taking it too seriously” defense.

      It isn’t supposed to be an accurate depiction of society,

      Obviously not, but it’s making some pretty pointed implications. You could argue that said implications were not intended, but I don’t subscribe to the validity of authorial intent.

      Reply
      1. Anonymous

        I don’t think it’s cheap to do that. The point of the hyperbole is to emphasize by exaggeration, so to criticize it by taking it literally means to miss the point of it.

        My other comment came off as needlessly combative, so my apologies for that.

        Reply
        1. E Minor Post author

          There’s a difference between reductio ad absurdum and attacking a strawman. Both are exaggerations but only one is valid in an argument. Also, I’ve always taken hyperbole to have a negative connotation.

  5. Magic-man

    In the last few minutes of reading this, the author tries so hard to satirize an anime’s plot. That it makes me wonder if the post wasn’t actually poking fun at individuals with like-minded beliefs. I love anime as much as the next guy, living as close as I do to the Japanese goodies store, but I would not equate this anime to literally garbage:

    Reply

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