Japari Park is an untamed paradise where many humanoid animals, known as "Friends," live their everyday lives in all corners of the natural environmental park.
One lazy afternoon in the savannah area, the energetic Serval encounters a peculiar new Friend. Curious, she swiftly takes down the Friend, named Kaban, to try and discover what species she is. To Serval's disappointment, not even Kaban herself knows the answer.
The two become friends and set out on a grand adventure through the many habitats, landmarks, and attractions of Japari Park. Their destination is the park library, where they hope to shed some light on Kaban’s identity. Along the way, they meet many other Friends, looking into their lives and helping them out. However, they soon begin to uncover the sinister reality behind the park and their own existence.
You might have heard that Kemono Friends, a CGI full length anime, is the most popular show of the Winter 2017 season in Japan. It took a LONG time for any western anime fans to even notice this show, yet alone take it seriously. But after giving it a fair chance, I truly believe that Kemono Friends is one of the most special and unique anime we have.
First, I'll get a few things out of the way. The animation and art style are lacking in massive ways. I don't think anyone will try to argue with that. The voice acting is also pretty shoddy in
a few places. However, there is so much more to Kemono Friends than just that.
The biggest draw of the show is that it has some of the best world-building I have ever seen in anime. Kemono Friends truly understands "show, don't tell." As the series goes on, viewers start to learn more and more about the weird and mysterious world this seemingly simple story takes place in. If you're reading this review, it's probably too late for you now, but the theory-crafting and discussions had around Kemono Friends in Japan and the western world were so much fun. By drip-feeding us information about the world, fans were able to come together week to week to discuss their new ideas and knowledge. The mystery of the park might make this one of the best mystery anime too!
The story seems simple at first; a lost girl and an animal girl wander around a park filled with animal girls trying to find out what the lost girl is. Every week, they meet other animal friends and help them with their problems as they progress towards their own goals. But the aforementioned world-building is what draws this all together. In the background of each episode, new things are added to the viewer's knowledge-bank about this unique and interesting world. As your interest in the world grows, so does your love for these relatively simplistic, but fun characters. You grow to love watching them simply have fun, as the dark past of the world unfolds.
It may sound pretentious, but Kemono Friends is not a show that you'll get the full enjoyment of just by watching and forgetting it. Kemono Friends was a show that I spent HOURS thinking about and talking about, because it was simply so amazing that I couldn't get it out of my head. I watch a lot of anime, so usually I'll watch an episode and immediately forget about it, even if it's something I love. I simply couldn't do that with Kemono Friends. It's one of the first shows of the over 300 that I watched that I wanted to discuss in-depth and engage with on all levels. And I know for a fact that it wasn't just me that felt this way, because it has truly become one of the most popular anime in Japan.
I honestly cannot predict how enjoyable this show will be outside of the special environment that existed while it was airing. Thousands of fans, albeit mostly Japanese (luckily, I understand Japanese!), came together week after week to theorize and enjoy the wonderful world of Japari Park. You might not be able to get over the art or voice acting and that's fair. But watching Kemono Friends is the most special experiences I have ever had in my life-long anime career. I don't know if anything will ever be able to replicate this feeling, but I hope that future creators take notes from Kemono Friends.
Give this show a shot, at least until episode 4. If you watch to that point and still can't get into it, it might not be for you. I 110% advise you to make your own theories about the show and THINK about it as you watch, taking breaks when possible. Go back and read the episode discussion threads on Reddit to get a sense of what people thought at different points in the show. Enjoy the wonderful fanart and other creative pieces that the huge, dedicated fanbase of Kemono Friends have made. I hope that this show gains more traction in the west, because it is so disappointing that so many western fans missed out on the magic. If anything, push through it to get ready for the inevitable (considering those sales) season 2 and prepare for a new round of magic!
I don't think anyone expected much after the first episode. Indeed, the first episode was a very much dull program, there was some cute stuff in, but not much to justify continuing with the series,
Kemono doesn't really start until you sit through the credits of the second episode, until which the true nature of the show finally starts revealing itself to you. It's slow it's subtle, but it doesn't bog you down with exposition dumps every five minutes (*cough*LittleWitchAcademia*cough*). Which is even moreso impressive considering this was meant to be a low budget collab for a failed mobage that's so bad it makes Kancolle look
competent. However, unlike Kancolle, which seems like soulless corporate drivel designed to pander to as many people as possible, there's a real heart to Kemono Friends and a real passion behind its team.
So yes, the animation is pretty crap and the anime gets pretty cringy at times, but keep in mind the target audience for this is for really young kids and the fact that adults can get a kick from the surprisingly deep lore hidden in the subtext or enjoy the show for what it is proves the strengths of this anime. And all in all, the charm of Kemono Friends is simply impeccable.
It ain't perfect, but watching this genuinely made me happy, it reminded me of simpler times and simpler shows for babies. Perhaps that's the secret after all. An enjoyable piece that relaxes the mind and puts it to ease without being condescending as most media aimed at a younger audience do.
I have a confession to make. When I watched the first episode of Kemono Friends with my friend we ended up setting the playback speed to 2x to get through the episode.
Mind you this was back at a different time. Before anyone knew that Kemono Friends was going to be good, or be as popular as it was. Actually, it was on the day it came out. Me and my PV and studio ignoring self looked at the summary and I liked it. Kemono Friends was actually one of the shows I looked forward to this season. Before we started my friend said he
had a bad feeling about it. I told him not to jinx it, but he did. So I thought...
Kemono Friends is the perfect example of why you shouldn't drop shows. Or at least you should give shows more of a chance. I was close to dropping it myself but I didn't, and I think it was all the better for that. For each week that I watched the show, the more attached to it that I got, and the more it became to grow on me. The animation was bad but the rest was so great and so enjoyable to watch. The first episode may have been terrible but each one after that only got better and better.
Under the crappy animation and lackluster art there is a really good show here. What the show is able to do is build up this impressive lore and backstory while also exposing the viewer to the comfy times of the friends that live on the island. This gives it the feel of a children's show but it has much more to it. The comfiness on its own is nice but it's the mixture of both the darker undertones and that comfiness that really allows this show to shine. Because the two are pitting against each other in a way it creates a unique atmosphere that the show surrounds itself.
Even more impressive the show was able to foreshadow the events that would happen later as well as slowly leak out information relating to it. They are experts at doing this I would say and many things that you may pick up on early may be important later down the line. In Kemono Friends things aren't throw in haphazardly, they are there for a reason. Their ability to do this hints towards Kemono Friend's wonderful storytelling and narrative abilities.
All of the characters on Kemono Friends are likeable. They aren't the deepest but they do develop and grow over time (or for most characters over their episode). While I'd love for more depth what Kemono Friends has worked well for itself and what it's going for.
As bad as the art is it'd be expected the sound would be too. However, I really like not just the OP and the ED but also the OST. It may not be much but they do a geat job of picking the right songs to fit the right moods. Their chilling music is quite chilling and I like the use of dubstep for the cerulean moments. The playful sounds that they have during the happier moment all match the mood as well. The OST works so well together I even really like Serval's voice as well.
It may look like a bad show but Kemono Friends is anything but. It's able to provide both high moments of hype and soft moments of comfy. The balance between the lore and the comfy is just stunning. Kemono Friends took some of the best aspects of children's shows and worldbuilding lore shows and shoved them together. And the result was something well worth watching.
Answer: If you have any interest at all in Kemono Friends, then you should watch the first episode. If you get through the first episode and like it at all, or still have interest in the series, then you should watch the second episode. If you get through the second episode without dropping the series because it looks bad or seems too childish or simplistic, then you will have no trouble watching the whole thing, and let me tell you, the viewer who sticks around for the whole show is in for an absolute treat. Dig in
So, what is Kemono Friends? There are two main answers to this, depending on what you focus on.
Firstly, Kemono Friends is a show made with the idea of being enjoyable for everyone. It is made in a style similar to that of a children’s show, and the producer has said that it was done that way with the intention of it being family-friendly, which it succeeds at, with only a couple of points that could even be considered questionable throughout the entire series. It is a story about Kaban-chan going on an adventure across different biomes of an expansive zoo; meeting various animals-turned-people, called Friends, along the way; and overcoming the various challenges that present themselves along with the Friends’ support. The story is charming, which even the 3D CG ends up contributing to. Kemono Friends is definitely not the best looking show of the season, but the artists did a great job of bringing what they made to life. The Friends aren’t humans who look like animals, they’re animals who look like humans, by which I mean they maintain their animal traits and behaviors. The Friends don’t know how to read, they don’t know how to use or make tools, and usually they’re found doing things you would expect them to do if they were still normal animals. It’s a kind of characterization that I’ve never seen in anime before, and it works well.
Secondly, Kemono Friends is a mystery series; not the kind of mystery where there’s a crime to solve, but rather it’s a mystery about what exactly is going on. I don’t mean that the series makes you feel lost or confused in the moment, this was never the case, instead the series makes you wonder about larger questions, such as where is this all taking place, is there something more going on here, and what, exactly, is a Friend. There’s a subtlety to the writing and the setting that I’ve never seen anime do as well as Kemono Friends. Gradually the pieces of the puzzle are put into place, episode by episode, rather than in huge lore dumps that fill the whole picture in at once. This means that while the picture is slowly being filled in you can make guesses as to what it will turn out to be, which makes the story engaging.
To wrap things up, I want to say that Kemono Friends has earned its popularity. The series exploded in popularity in Japan essentially overnight, a third of the way into the season. That outpouring of fan support is what originally got me to give the series a second chance myself, and I’ve been hooked ever since. The first episode can be rough at times, but trust me that the staff has succeeded at polishing it into a gem of a show. To those of you willing to give Kemono Friends a chance, welcome to Japari Park.