“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.
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.