Erin is a young girl who lives with her mother in a village which raises war-lizards, called Touda. We see her daily life, which changes as she grows up. Meanwhile, there is growing tension between the two provinces of the country she lives in.
Based on the fantasy series written by Uehashi Nahoko, also known for Seirei no Moribito.
Kemono no Souja Erin (The Beast Player Erin), is a surprising anime. Not in the way it looks or sounds, or in any aspect of it's production. Not even because of it's story or characters (which are wonderfuly by the way). No, it's surprising for being the most recent example of a genre that is slowly disappearing in anime.
Many people will be confused by that statement, especially as the show is very clearly labelled and marketed as a children's series, and as everyone knows, kids shows are rife in anime. The problem, however, doesn't lie in the fact that this series was initially aimed at children, no, it lies in the fact that this is one of those rare anime where age boundaries are no longer relevant.
The majority of people may not consider that to be a problem, however one should remember that whenever a series is labelled as a kid's show, the majority of older audiences will automatically avoid it, regardless of how good it is (and before you ask, yes, I have done this too).
Kemono no Souja Erin is based on a series of light novels by Uehashi Nahoko, a name that fans of Seirei no Moribito should recognise. Directed by Hamana Takayuki (Toshokan Sensou, Sisters of Wellber, Chocolate Underground), the anime adaptation, like SnM, follows the plot of the light novels as much as possible.
The story is about a 10 year old girl with green eyes called Erin. She lives with her mother Soyon in Ake Village, a place where creatures called Touda (large, lizard-like animals with horns), are bred, reared and cared for. Soyon works as a "beastinarian", and is considered by many in the village as the best, and Erin, who is a quick learner and very clever, wants nothing more than to follow in her mother's footsteps.
Fate, however, is a cruel mistress.
This series is truly remarkable in several aspects, not the least of which are the scope and complexity of the plot and the huge amount of detail in the story. At 50 episodes though, it's not surprising that the series would have a good deal more depth than the norm, however in this case the fact that the show is based on a series of books also plays a major part. The story itself covers a number of disparate, seemingly unconnected, threads and, as the plot progresses, these are deftly woven together to create a tale the likes of which hasn't been seen in anime since the advent of The Twelve Kingdoms.
Now one would think that an adaptation of a novel would feature some decent writing, and Kemono no Souja Erin is no slouch in this department. The pacing and dialogue are all exceptionally well handled, and the plot is allowed to flow rather than to stop and start. That said, there are some recap episodes scattered throughout the series, however rather than simply being a simple cut and paste episode, there has been a conscious effort to include these as part of the narrative.
And speaking of narratives...
One big surprise while watching this series (at least for me), was the narration of the story. Throughout each episode there is a voiceover providing summaries of certain events and occurences, both historical and otherwise, however it's the style of the narration that is surprising as, at times, it can make one feel like they're listening to a fireside fairytale rather than watching an anime.
One of the sticking points for many people is the look of the series. Goto Takayuki's character designs, while being charming and expressive, reinforce the perception that this is simply a kid's show due to their simplicity. The backgrounds and settings are unusual in that the series adopts a simplistic, yet stylised, approach, giving the anime the feel of a picture-book for the most part.
The animation throughout the show is very good, and both characters and creatures move in a very natural manner. There is also a small amount of cel shaded CG in the show (they just couldn't resist - it's a Production I.G. series after all), however this is limited to the Touda and Beast Lords. There are also some extremely good visual effects throughout the series, especially where creatures are concerned, and these add to the quasi-mystical element of the series as a whole.
One unusual aspect of the visuals is the artwork, and by this I don't mean the backgrounds. While Kemono no Souja Erin is marketed as a children's show, some of the artwork, while being stylised, is actually quite graphic at times. Violent scenes are sometimes depicted in a manner similar to animated cave paintings or aboriginal works, however there are also occasions when death and violence are shown in a straightforward, no nonsense manner.
I've heard it said that this series is sanitised in certain respects in order to appeal to children more, however I have to disagree with this argument. The depiction of how the kingdom of Ophalon fell is, by the standards of any kids show, very graphic indeed.
In terms of sound and music, both are very good throughout the series. The show makes great use of aural effects, from the crooning and growls of Beast Lords, to the rumbles and wistling screams of the Touda. The effects provide the anime with a depth that is often missing from other "kid's shows", making the world more alive, more real.
The voice acting throughout the series is exceptional, with the biggest plaudits going to newcomer Hoshii Nanase. Her protrayal of Erin possessed a charm and brevity that is surprising given that this is her only anime role. The rest of the cast, all of whom are experienced seiyuu, are equally as good, which makes Hoshii's achievement all the more impressive. As far as seiyuu go, one can fairly expect good things from her in the future.
Kemono no Souja Erin is one of those shows that not only uses music as an emotive tool, but also as an integral part of the story. Thematically the music ranges from some rock style guitar tracks to melodic piano and harp pieces, with a number of different styles and renditions used throughout. While this may seem like a haphazard approach, the wide variety of tracks available works extremely well throuhgout the series, often enhancing the mood in an extremely subtle manner.
One key thing about the music though, is the OP and ED, as the series has two of each. The OP for the entire series is called "Shizuku", and from the beginning up to episode 30 the track is performed by Sukima Switch. From episode 31 though, the track is then performed Hajime Chitose, and adopts more of a kabuki style than the previous Peruvian flavour. The first ED, "After the Rain" by Cossami, is an upbeat, yet slightly bittersweet, ode that has a distinctly childlike feel to it. However, from episode 30 onwards the ED changes to "Kitto Tsutaete" by Takako Matsu, a track that is both more melodic and more mature. This change is actually significant in terms of the series, and not something that has occurred on a whim, and by the time you reach episode 31 you'll understand why the ED was changed before the OP.
As for the characters, suffice to say that Kemono no Souja Erin has some of the best development I've seen of a main character in anime. While the majority of characters are developed to greater or lesser degrees, the show is focused on Erin in particular, and her growth from a ten year old girl to a mature young woman is handled in a sensitive and realistic manner. Granted the series has periodic time leaps and some episodes focus on other characters, but these are very minor deviations from what is effectively a continuously developed character. I haven't seen this much concerted growth of one character, well, ever to be honest, and that's part of the beauty of the show. The fact that it devotes so much time and care to Erin, but doesn't ignore the other characters in favour of this, makes for a character that you can truly care about.
One thing that did standout for me though, was the amount of symbolism ascribed to each of the major characters. The Queen's symbolic nature is mentioned heavily in the series, as is that of the Beast Lords and Touda. However, there is one major symbolic aspect that many people miss because it's so obvious. Erin's name means "wild apple", and as everyone knows, the apple is the forbidden fruit from the tree of knowledge. When one considers Erin's life throughout the series, her inquisitive nature, curiosity, and non-conformity make far more sense
A point about Nukku and Mokku though. While their inclusion is very much comic relief, they are noteworthy for providing Erin with a sense of continuity, and their continued presence is more to help with her development than to amuse the audience.
So don't hate them too much please.
I will be honest and admit that I was both surprised and enthralled by Kemono no Souja Erin. The series is both charming and original, and while there is a degree of sanitisation to make it appeal to children, this never actually goes to the point where adult would be put off watching the show. The anime is adventurous and playful, yet sombre and deeply political at the same time, one of the many dichotomies and conflicting ideals that occur within the series, and it's great to finally watch a series that harks back to those around when I was a child (e.g. The Mysterious Cities of Gold, Ulysses 31, etc). Nowadays they may not be considered decent viewing because of how they look, however those shows, like Kemono no Souja Erin, all had a deep and complex tale to tell, one that was far more mature than most would initially believe.
That said, it's a given that some people may not enjoy this show. Fans of Seriei no Moribito should definitely try it, as both series are equally enjoyable for very different reasons. The show may also appeal to those who want something charming, yet with a little bite to it, or to those who are looking for worldbuilding in the style of Twelve Kingdoms.
A word of warning however. Younger children may not enjoy this series as even though much of the violence is stylised, the aural effects and music enhance the visuals, and all three give the imagination a good old kick. Older kids may enjoy the series though, especially as it's one of those rare anime that doesn't assume it's audience is made up of morons who need everything explained to them.
This show has pretty much everything one could want from a series: politics, love, betrayal, assasination, history, religion, war, friendship, joy, sadness, terror, a touch of mysticism, and more besides.
Given the content though, I can only wonder how anyone could consider this to be simply another "kid's show".
[Edit: This review was written when I was still at episode 14. The anime turned out to be a real gem, a true masterpiece. Hopefully my review was a help to get you watch this amazing anime. "Kemono no Souja Erin" was my best random pick. Finally being able to finish it, I am glad that my short review during the premature stage (then still a very new show and just started) got many fans interested, and by the time it finished airing, entered Top 100 Anime of all time. But to all honesty, this anime is worth a place in Top 20 in the shelves of Anime Masterpieces.10/10.]
First of all, don't judge an anime by its art-work and NO, this is NOT a children's anime.
Before I start writing a review, here is a quick advice: Watch the First 6 episodes and then rate this anime and tag it as a children's anime if you want. After watching first six episodes, you will not be able to avoid this anime anymore, because it happened to me and now i know how wrong it would have been if i dropped this anime without even going to the main storyline.
The plot is set in a world of fantasy beasts. Erin, a ten year old orphan is the lead character of the anime. Her father, the son of village chief had long passed away leaving her mother Soyon, a beast doctor when Erin was a toddler. Brought up in a single parent family by her mother Soyon, Erin is a quick learner, and everyone loves her for her intelligence she has been gifted with.
The village breeds and nurtures wild beasts called "Touda", in our world, it appears to be a larger species of Komodo. Ref: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Komodo_dragon
Erin's mother Soyon looks after the Toudas, the fearsome beasts that are used for military purpose. Great wars have been decided by the superiority of touda-army and thus upbringing toudas have become a profession of many villages. Erin, with her amusement and delight watches as her mother Soyon looks after toudas. from aka-chan (baby) touda to monster kiba (huge touda reared up using special treatment and care) Soyon looks after many of these wild beasts and the best beast trainer and beast doctor in the village.
However, Soyon always faces harsh remarks from some villagers as she has been from the Kiri tribe. The Kiri tribe is a tribe that isolated themselves from regular people for long and rumors say they rely on forbidden teachings and beliefs. A notable appearance of the Kiri tribe is that, they have midori (green) eyes and hair, which Erin genetically got from her mother.
But most of the villagers love hardworking Soyon and her lovely little girl Erin, as Erin's energy and enthusiasm runs through every corner of the village and her presence can be felt always.
Erin, growing up with the teachings, the wisdom and the warmth of her mother, and days ahead are full of promises as she decides to follow her mother's footsteps and become a beast doctor herself until....
(this is where you pick up the anime from, episode 6)
The story is by far the best in recent times. this anime has so much to offer and I am amazed with the settings it made up (first 5 episode) before turning into an absolutely heartbreaking and at the same time heartwarming story.
Most of the characters are already developed, it is only Erin and the two sons of the duke, and the heir to the queen, Seimiya who are going through the age of development.
The sound is amazing. the background songs give a nudge of tenderness and at the same time fills your heart with warmth.
The animation style is different and probably the reason why this anime scored so badly. I myself decided to hang up this anime after watching the first 3 episodes since I didn't like the animation style at all. but I had plentiful time and ran out of ongoing anime and decided to give a go after a friend suggested me that i will miss it if I don't pick the show up.
I did and watched two more episodes and thought "Is it really worth it?" I am glad I decided to give another try, but was telling myself episode 6 will be the last if this anime doesn't pick up any pace. And boy am not i glad that I did!
Episode 6 and onwards have been absolutely amazing. I am now at episode 14 and cannot wait for more. This anime is probably the best anime of all the anime that started since January 2009 and sad but true, people will overlook this anime because many couldnt bear the slow pace of the anime at the start and above that, there is this animation style.
Overall, this anime has been almost a masterpiece.read more
Now how good is Kemono no Souja Erin? So good in fact that I decided to create my first account on a anime-related site and write my first anime review (ever)...
After I received a small hole in my heart after watching The Twelve Kingdoms, I was searching around for a nice fantasy anime with a certain scope and detail in a fantasy setting. I did not know that my small open wound would be ripped further and leaving me *gasp* in further pain; anime is my heroin.
We begin the story that would have had the typical children's story feel, yet as the memorable character Erin encounters her major lessons in life particularly of death and passing, she develops a strong trait of maturity and her resolutions after each trial is really admirable. Yes, Naruto might have a similar lesson, but the story of Erin is something that I find more invoking of feeling and somehow more consistent as she continually remembers her saddening past and tackles the future.
The presentation of Erin is without a doubt unique, with its rustic-fantasy themed colors and selection in music. The only potential flaw that I see in the series is the continual reuse of certain scenes. Everybody's tolerance differs, but even as a person who might finish a 20 minute episode in 5 minutes (hell why not read the manga), I found myself watching through 99.9% of each episode. The pacing is that good.
In terms of pacing, the series has two time skips, which implies a total of three sections to Erin's life (about equally divided throughout the series). Each segment of Erin's life is again, well-paced with enough development in each episode to seem seamless. There are two filler episodes however, before the third time skip and I skipped over them to get into the real meaty juicy part of the main plot. What one should note, however is that Kemono no Souja Erin is an anime with several layers and three very different stories. In the beginning is the childish dream/anime that is similar to the story of a small blonde haired girl who lives in the mountains. As we progress it's the academic life of a beastarian scientist, and finally it's the story of a national hero who is involved in court intrigues and romance. It is this miraculous bilsdungroman across genres that I think makes Erin not just a 9.8-star anime, but a 10-star.
The realistic lessons and involving, touching lines, dynamic character portrayal, and a plot that is just "so right" all deserve a good watch.
There is the end of my review, and I have to say, I was really finding myself in withdrawal, but I'm more seriously addicted than I ever expected...this is more serious than heroin
I find that one of the more critical, compelling, and powerful moments in a series, just like human life, is in its poetic end. This series has been adopted from a series of novels, and as expected, the level of a conclusion of this anime is to me, so touching. Hell I've been crying throughout all the sad parts in this, and the last time I can remember crying was that first pokemon movie when I was really young...heck
This series to me has been a really moving piece with a similar impact to the Studio Ghibli movies, only that the artistic force has been slowly growing since each episode. To me, this is one of those animes that I will remember and cherish, a true masterpiece in my eyes.
I think that I've learned that it's not the special effects and sophistry of an imagery that makes a series worth watching, but the cumulative effects that pass to its viewer a deep sense of understanding. It appears to me that this anime focuses on a very beautiful story on the nature of relationships between species and the question left unanswered- will human relations be the same? This is a question I've also considered and I'm sure that many others have also wondered, thought, and perhaps gave a small sigh of despair.
I think that this is a masterpiece with a few small flaws if one considers them flaws. The messages throughout this series become increasingly complex and always emotional and powerful. How will I ever find an anime to match this I wonder (funnily I was watching Morbito: Guardian of the Spirit) before this (same author and animation studio(?) I believe). It's just a small coincidence.
Again, I think that most can understand and truly appreciate this series. It goes beyond simple "character development" and the sense of realism and life is apparent. I do hope that you'll all take the moment to enjoy this experience.
My mistake, there were actually 3 time skips ;)read more
Nahoko Uehashi’s Kemono no Souja Erin is a “hidden gem” anime. While more people have seen/heard of Uehashi’s Seirei no Moribito, not nearly enough people have seen this beautiful series. I could babble about how much I love this series for hours, but, instead, I’ll try to tell you why (and why it’s 9/10 instead of 10/10!).
This review is spoiler free! :D
While it’s story made for children, Kemono no Souja Erin addresses adult topics at a mature level. The target audiences’ age is somewhat irrelevant, because the characters bloom, especially Erin. She’s a child character the viewer can admire and adore. Following her journey through childhood and into her teenage years, she comes to life as one of the most well developed characters I’ve come across.
But her light does not darken the supporting cast. Each character presents a unique personality ranging from quirky to noble. The show masterfully explores the inner conflicts of good, bad, and neutral characters.
Better yet, most characters have significant relationships with more than just Erin. Erin serves as the story’s heart, but each relationship adds another dimension to the story.
Erin, though, does form many relationships, most of which I find touching, healthy, and beautiful. Each person Erin knows shapes her life and identity, guiding her and creating a strong, passionate woman and one of the best female protagonists of anime.
The cast is flawed but well explained. It’s easy to fall in love with at least half of them, and you’ll understand their motivations. The series also presents different point of views. While it usually favors Erin’s, other people are not condemned for their individual beliefs.
There is a catch.
This anime was made with children in mind. In light of the dark concepts this story touches on, the anime added two characters not included in the original novel. Unfortunately, these characters simply distract you from the story. They, unlike the others, receive little to no development and serve mainly as comic relief. To me, they degraded the show a bit, which is why the characters are 9/10 instead of 10/10.
The journey starts slow and gradually grows into an epic battle between countries. The first episodes seem very slice of life, but, in truth, Kemono no Souja Erin is a story about Erin’s life. Erin is like a fly with a spider web being woven around her. She becomes central to the conflict that builds during the show’s many episodes. However, she remains unaware of this and follows her own path without realizing where it’s leading her. Masterfully interwoven into her story are characters that move the central plot forward.
The show advocates protecting nature and bonding with animals without condemning humans or those who use animals. It presents each point of view fairly and shows that life isn’t always black and white, that what’s “right” is not always feasible.
Again, however, the anime has a knick that the original story didn’t include: two clip-show episodes and dozens of flashbacks. There is even one critical scene that is often shown two or three times in an episode. The series political labyrinth coupled with young age of its intended audience, it recaps plot points constantly. Without all of these flashbacks, the show could have been 5 or so episodes shorter.
Nevertheless, the show focuses more on characters than plot, showing how their personal experiences, beliefs, and choices move the plot forward. With characters as fascinating and complex as Ial, as conflicted and passionate as Shunan, and as wise and sweet as Shinou, letting the characters lead the story was a wise decision. Instead of having plot throw and toss them around like a ship at sea, these characters’ well-developed and explained actions guide the plot.
Art (and cinematography in general): 10/10
Drawn in a unique style I find reminiscent of Native American art, the anime feels like a work of art. That alone makes it worth watching at least once. The style is flat and geometric with bold, bright colors that help bring the story to life.
However, the symbolism in the art is blatant—remember, kids are supposed to understand it.
A weak point of the show, the music leaves much to be desired. While most of the songs are fine, the action songs distract the viewer more than anything else. It threw me out of the story once in a while, but Kemono no Souja Erin had the power to quickly pull me back in.
Clever, very clever. This show uses its unique art style to help express emotion, dramatize scenes, and avoid more graphic content.
This show has two intros, though both use the same song sung by different artists. I enjoy both the intros and believe they do a good job of capturing the heart of the show. The first outro is clever and cute, but the second is more a string of pictures than anything too creative.
Female Representation: 10/10
This comes as no surprise. Erin is amazing, and she is not the only female. All the women have their own strength. We see them in positions of power while others are powerless. They are allowed to stand on opposite sides and are just as interesting as the boys. No one is sexualized either. And, thankfully, the men are not thrown to the wolves to make the females interesting. The entire cast is very well done.
Sub vs Dub:
The show has not been dubbed, but the sub is filled with emotion and well done.
The flashbacks will likely irritate you after a while, and you can skip the clip-show episodes. There is one bizarre scene with singing . . . It’s supposed to be cute, but it felt out of place to me. Despite being for kids, this show has moments of gore and violence. It also deals heavily with death, so just keep that in mind. Also, the two added characters are extremely bothersome. Just ignore them and don’t let it take away from this beautiful tale.
Without the excessive flashbacks and additional cast members, this show is an easy 10/10. I fully believe if this show wasn't labeled a "kids anime" more people would've have seen it. There is a very good reason why this show is ranked #110. It is heartwarming yet heart-wrenching tale, a story for all ages.
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