Cultivation of the Mind: Jinrui wa Suitai Shimashita Episodes 3-4

“Ah… Yeah, we’re living monuments to culture.”

-Mediator/Watashi, Jinrui wa Suitai Shimashita Episode Three

In the fourth episode of Jinrui wa Suitai Shimashita, the individual jabs at the manga industry are numerously applied with scalpel-like precision, neatly getting their cuts in before moving on to the next target. They come so furiously that one can hardly be blamed for missing the line above, which is more akin to being bludgeoned with a surprisingly sneaky baseball bat.

A clear definition of culture is hard to pinpoint, as its very nature is ever-shifting. It is defined by what one, a particular society, or humanity at large, creates. What is most important in understanding Jintai‘s third and fourth episodes is one’s own perception of what culture means.

Tasked with researching the Human Monument—a celebration of humanity’s history, technology, and culture—Y chooses to become a boys’ love manga tycoon instead. Framed within Watashi’s claim that she’ll fool around until she’s bored and then submit a reason why she couldn’t complete the project, one is supposed to see Y as someone who is fairly intelligent, yet frivolous, undisciplined, and whimsical. The fault falls to her when the manga boom spreads to the fairies, who in turn trap Y, Watashi, and Assistant into the pages of a living manga.

“I have become a driving force in this cultural phenomenon. And I’m not talking snobby high culture. We’re dealing with down and dirty subculture.”

-Y, Jinrui wa Suitai Shimashita Episode Three

The colossal joke is that Y could have easily submitted the BL manga revolution as her cultural research for the Human Monument. The manga was first uncovered in the dusty remains of a mansion and is, as Watashi says, a “lost technique” qualifying it as history. Y uses supposedly ancient technology to produce her manga, and she herself admits that it is “culture.” However, she is quick to point out that it’s not high culture—an elite ideal established by the ruling class—no, this is a subculture, a completely different and exotic entity.

There are a few different ideas encapsulated in this monologue by Y. The low-hanging fruit is the commentary on subculture, and how it ceases to exist once it’s being exploited for mass production. It is no longer exotic or forbidden but instead, becomes mainstream culture, a cog in the capitalist machine. More interesting is how the series is requesting that its audience, along with its two heroines, bring their own views of what is cultured to the table so it can bludgeon them with its proverbial baseball bat.

As a human being, one tends to naturally separate things within the scope of their understanding, neatly putting things away into imaginary boxes. High culture includes lofty things like artistic masterpieces, classical music, and haute cuisine. Returning to the narrower focus of manga, and Jintai‘s fourth episode, one would presumably rather admit that they own Drops of God than Hot Gimmick solely based on the common perception of both works. Y didn’t think to submit her manga empire to the Human Monument Project because it wasn’t the right type of culture: the lofty kind that upholds how wonderfully productive and meaningful humanity is.

Except, as the series so eloquently points out, one can be a living monument to culture every day, casting their votes through the things that they choose to consume. In Episode Four, an unseen audience casts their votes for which will be the most popular manga, with Y and crew vying for the top spot. Presumptions are thick as Y pulls out ridiculous stops to keep the favor of what she perceives to be an unintelligent audience, while said audience responds to her tricks but only up to a certain point. Thus, they are creating and actively reinforcing the current culture. As a final jab to the manga audience, Y and crew attempt to reclaim their lost popularity by turning their manga into a retelling of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, a tried and true classic and perceived high culture story. The audience reacts by dropping the manga completely, leaving it to be cancelled by the fairies.

“The fairies manzines are too hard. Onto the ban list they go!”

Jintai ends its fourth episode with a curious punctuation mark that further pokes at its audience’s perception of culture. Upon returning from her harrowing adventure as both manga heroine and mangaka, Watashi declares the fairies’ manga to be “too hard” and relegates them to the ban list. Banning books is as old as written culture itself—one of the first known book bannings was of Anaxagoras  in 450 B.C. whose writings dared challenge the gods—reflecting the contemporary popular idea and its possible conflicts with up and coming ideas (see: anything that challenges the religious/political status quo). In this way, the series is placing Watashi, being one who is seemingly in charge of regulating culture, into a far higher position than previously established.

And thus, this subculture found and subsequently mass-produced by Y begat the living manga culture of the fairies which in turn was banned by Watashi for being too dangerous.

A monument to humanity indeed.

Recommended Reading: JoeAnimated discusses Episode Three and copyright law at We Remember Love.

5 Comments

Filed under Jinrui wa Suitai Shimashita

5 responses to “Cultivation of the Mind: Jinrui wa Suitai Shimashita Episodes 3-4

  1. windyturnip

    I found your explanation for Watashi’s “living monument” quote quite interesting. I didn’t really pick up on in the first time I watched the episode, but it makes a lot of sense in retrospect.

    For all those who complain about the decline of culture, their active participation in that culture is constantly reinforcing it. For better or worse, we have the ability to alter our society over time. Some choose to embrace and exploit that fact while others desperately trying to ignore it. It’s the elephant in the room and people who actively deny it are just trying to avoid their responsibility.

    Simply put, claiming you can’t affect your world is a poor excuse because you can, even if by just a little bit.

    • In all honesty, upon rewatching these two episodes, there are at least five different posts I could have written on thematic elements touched upon in this arc alone. This series is far denser than I had given it credit for, especially after the first two episodes when my own personal feelings towards it were still blasé.

      I’m unsure as to whether people who actively deny it are attempting to avoid responsibility or are simply unaware of it. As I said previously, we tend to organize things into figurative boxes, and one of those things is our own personal view of what is “cultured.” People tend to separate “things that are cultured” or things that they perceive as “high culture” from the box of “things that they enjoy” and this is certainly a problem that the series is touching upon.

      Say that Y had decided to submit her BL manga revolution as her research. Chances are that her superiors would have laughed her out of the room because boys’ love manga doesn’t fall within their perception of what should represent humanity as “culture.”

      Thanks for the discussion!

  2. To me what really stuck out is: look at all of this valuable, 21st century technology that’s been marvelously preserved. You could be using this to save and spread all the knowledge that’s been lost…but instead Y uses it to produce pandering entertainment. And you think about what most people—ourselves included—use technology for now and…

    Yeah. It’s that kind of satire. :)

    BTW if you haven’t already seen it, the short post-credit epilogue to episode 4 is actually quite revealing. The last word isn’t quite Watashi banning the fairy manzines—though it does reinforce the general point of these episodes.

    Finally, time for some English major spazzing. :) I found the choice of A Midsummer Night’s Dream to be very interesting. For one, the plot of the story prominently features fairies working behind the scenes. The play itself is a jumbled and overlapping set of concurrent stories, not a bad analogy to what’s going on in the show itself as it makes fun of manga cliches. (Part of the satire too is that despite their cynicism and knowledge, neither Y nor Watashi can create a compelling story themselves to save their lives.) Hamlet also would have been a fine choice to adapt, with its meta “play within a play,” its indecisive protagonist, and above all a chance to use this soliloquy which would have been so perfect for this show:

    What a piece of work is a man, How noble in Reason, how infinite in faculties, in form and moving how express and admirable, In action how like an Angel! in apprehension how like a god, the beauty of the world, the paragon of animals. and yet to me, what is this quintessence of dust?

    I think I would have screamed with delight if that was included somewhere.

    Anyways, fine observations. Definitely my favorite of the season.

    • Oh most definitely. I *love* that of all things, she decides to pursue the thing that piques her interest and, above all, entertains her the most. It’s just lovely. ^ ^

      I was going to touch upon that, but it opens up an entire other discussion that could have been a whole other entire post. Watashi ends up banning the fairies’ manzines, but then decides to write her own, stepping out from the role of an observer to an active participant (I won’t include her manga exploits as being active, considering that she was dragged into it and was more doing it out of convenience than any desire to). There’s an entire commentary here about her choosing to participate, especially given that her characterization, and the fact that her participation only occurs following the subculture becoming mainstream.

      A Midsummer Night’s Dream was an excellent choice in my opinion if only because it is perceived as “high culture,” being Shakespeare; however, anyone who has read the play will tell you how ridiculous, bawdy, and incredibly irreverent it is, especially when put into the context of the time in which it was written. Hamlet certainly would have been another interesting choice. ^ ^

      Thanks for the comment!

  3. Pingback: Reflections on Animanga Blogs | Draggle's Anime Blog

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