Do you need the perfect antidote to whatever apocalyptic metaphor the world is right now? I think I have the cure.
The show is called Kemono Friends, yes. The poster won’t inspire confidence within you, but I’ll put it up anyway.
It’s basically all about gijinka cosplayers. You’ve ever heard of that? People dress up as animals-and-maybe-other-things as humans. The people in this show are that way because of a chemical called “Sandstar”, which is really just a substitute for marijuana. Yeah, you know it. So there’s a human girl with a bag who comes in… her literal name is “Kaban-chan” (long for bag), and she meets up with a humanized Serval cat (“Serval-chan”), but she (as in Kaban) doesn’t know what species she is, because it should be obvious for all of them, and so they go on adventures in this gigantic nature park on an island, which is called Japari Park. And there you go, that’s your super happy and fun premise. Of course, they also find a lot of other Friends along the way.
The first thing you’ll notice about the anime is how interesting the animation looks. They clearly only wanted to get this show out the door for a low cost. It being CG is one thing, but the actual animation of things is… not impressive. The characters mouths move like they’re permanently stuffed with popcorn, their models lack any sort of good lighting, and they’re just low on polygons in general. Like, if nobody told you that this was one of the most popular shows on Japan for the season it came out, you’d think they were the ones shooting Sandstar up their ass.
How could anyone watch this, you wonder? But the show is great, honestly! It’s so fun to watch, even despite how it’s made for kids. Really little kids, in fact, since the show is educational (teaching you about animals) and it doesn’t really feature any significant objectionable content (some of the characters say “sucks”, but that’s it). Some characters wear swimsuits, but they’re all one-pieces with no skin shown. And many of the Friends are memorable, I’ll tell you what.
The show is all about being a beacon of positivity and having positive interactions with your friends (and/or Friends). For example, in the second episode, Kaban and Serval want to find the Japari Bus so they can more easily drive across the park (their pudgy guide robot Lucky Beast will drive it). They find two friends, the Jaguar and the Otter, to help them make a bridge across the river so they can pull the pieces of the bus back together. It works and they have fun along the way, except Serval gets hit by the bus as it starts moving for comedic value. It doesn’t stop there, either. A lot of the episodes have general themes about being happy for one another, understanding problems, and working together to solve them, and all that jazz without ever talking down to the audience. It’s quite amazing, honestly.
And the show even has a bit of an arc, with Kaban finding out that the island is not all its cracked up to be. An evil menace known as the Ceruleans stands in the Friends way of peace. People really like the show for its post-apocalyptic connotations, but I won’t say much else. Actually watch it to find out what happens, because I won’t spoil it, as that is not kindness, and what the anime is really all about. And no, you can’t cheat by looking at the artwork on Danbooru. I’m pretty serious about this.
This doesn’t sound bad for an anime based on a mobile game, right? And said game actually ended before the anime started up, which makes the show’s success even more inexplicable. I actually passed it off after I started for that reason in particular, as well as that the Anime News Network previews didn’t make it out to be that good. But yeah… Kemono Friends. Please watch it, because we could use more positivity in this world.
And, if they make a second season, I really hope the animation style stays the same. Obviously, they could make do with a higher budget, but the non-traditional style of the show is what gives it a unique charm.