Kemono Friends was a series that should've been dead on arrival. The game that it was based off of was cancelled before the original anime aired, it was being handled by an inexperienced studio, and had incredibly poor animation. However, it turned out to be anime's biggest underdog instead. Kemono Friends was so popular that it sold over 120,000 copies of its first two volumes. A number almost unheard of in the anime community, save for industry giants like Madoka, Monogatari, and Love Live. Live concerts, collaborations with Zoos, special events, and of course an ocean of fan projects flooded the nation of Japan.
how did something so minuscule make such a historic splash? The original Kemono Friends was extraordinarily well written, had phenomenal atmosphere, was a master of mystery, eye-catching and charming character designs to spare, and oozed creativity and fun. This was thanks to a dedicated, hard-working team and a director with a vision. The director Tatsuki was a visionary who took what most would've laughed off as a dead brand into a wonderful story with so many important lessons to be learned. The impact of his work is amplified when you watch the uninspired empty shell that is Kemono Friends 2.
Kemono Friends 2 tried to be everything its predecessor was, and failed at every single aspect. Nearly every single facet of this almost "soft-reboot" was copy and pasted from the original season. When season 2 was announced, the community was thrilled. However, there was a misstep on the stairway to glory. Kadokawa decided to part ways with Director Tatsuki, wanting to go into a new direction. In short, they wanted to maximize as much money as possible from their new cash cow. Obviously this didn't sit well with the community, but the new season was being produced anyway with a new team and director.
As I said, this failed on nearly every aspect, except for the animation. Now that Kadokawa is putting money behind it, Kemono Friends has never looked better. The charatcer models are more detailed and are even more appealing to look at. It's animation actually looks good and the visuals are just head and shoulders above the first seasons. This is one of the few positive aspects of the show.
The story itself, almost beat for beat, copies the original season. We meet a human with a hat who appears seemingly out of nowhere who's trying to find their way home. Kyururu is basically a Kaban clone, but without the charm or development. Of course they meet new Friends on the way, but the meetings aren't meaningful or impactful. I won't reveal any more for the sake of spoilers, but if you've seen the first season you'll know what I'm talking about. It happens so often it becomes off-putting.
The characters of course have always been a strong aspect of the franchise. The Friends are cute, charming, and so much fun to watch. This season added a number of charming characters like Giant Panda, Bottle-nosed Dolphin and Seal, Saltwater Crocodile, Bat-Eared Fox, Gorilla, Domestic Dog, and more. However, their character arcs are incredibly weak compared to the previous season's. Usually when a Friend had a problem, Kaban would utilize what makes the Friend unique to help solve their issue. This would leave them with a sense of self-worth and in a much better place. That was not the case here. They tried to emulate that, but it wasn't impactful.
Now, we have to talk about the elephant in the room when it comes to characters. Kyururu, Serval, and Caracal. This is possibly Kemono Friend's biggest flaw. The relationship between Kaban and Serval was phenomenal. They both played off of each other's weaknesses and it created this wonderfully charming synergistic relationship. And by the end of the season, it was clear that they had both influenced each other in positive ways. This was a highlight of the original season. This time around is just a disappointment. While Kyururu is nothing but a simpler, less developed Kaban, Caracal also joins the fray for some reason. She takes on a lot of Kaban's role as someone who is level-headed and thinks before they act, which counters Serval's often instinctively silly, spontaneous, and impulsive nature. But that inclusion really makes Kyururu a bland character with no real stand out traits.The biggest crime of all was splitting up Kaban and Serval. The writers tried to bridge the obvious gap between the two series, but the writing came off as shoddy and disappointing.
The music carries right over from the first season. Can't say I can't blame them for reusing it, it was a great soundtrack with numerous memorable tracks ranging from whimsical to mysterious. Not much else to say about that.
Another big let down was the refocus the show had. The new director claimed he wanted this to appeal more to young children, and decided to tone down much of the mysterious and often ominous hints the previous season was so well known for. This stuck out like a sore thumb, and took away what made Kemono Friends such a unique property. A marriage of both child-like whimsical fun with an ominous and brooding backdrop that kept the viewer hooked.
Kemono Friends is a franchise that no one expected anything out of. It overcame everything in its path and has become an icon in its own right. Season 2, attempted to ride the coattails of its predecessors success but unsurprisingly fell short. The ending left us with more questions than answers, and just ended up leaving us with an empty feeling of "What could have been?". The lessons we learned and the relationships built are but distant memories in this show that feels somewhat familiar, but just isn't the one we knew and loved. Ultimately, it feels like a cheap imitation.
The world and its characters are charming, cute, whimsical, fun, and incredibly memorable. As a fan who loves the series to death, I can't bring myself to give this a negative score. There were upsides to the sequel with improved visuals and great additions to the cast. But in the end the fans deserved better, Tatsuki and Studio Yaoyorozu deserved better, and God knows Kemono Friends deserved better.
TL;DR: "The creators are obsessed with making mysteries and building suspense with absolutely no direction or end goal". "The "LOST" of anime". Watch it only for the cute moments. If you're a strong fan of the character relationship between the main characters of season 1, be prepared for extreme and consistent disappointment.
As a extraordinarily enamored fan of season 1, i will spare you a long story about how much i enjoyed season 1 and say it's "10/10 for me!". But also keep in mind how important the characters relationships built up through S1's 12 episodes were. What and how much you might expect from season
2 in terms of "Fun" or "cute" content. There were many mysteries and loose ends. It even ends on a cliff hanger involving the 2 main characters and set up a lot of expectations!
"Zutto isshoni/ずっと一緒に" Together forever. Serval and Kaban. A mainline mantra of couple character songs. It's what made the story so great. You expected more of that. Them. Together.
Season 2 takes so much of that away and replaces it with a typical, general anime feel and plot line. Full of emotionally dreadful plot and harrowing violent moments cranked up to 11 (something that was few and far between in season 1). Virtually every episode involves a violent encounter. Past cannon is ignored involving the enemy, leading to further confusion and inconsistency.
Some "True fans" may try and discount such a review by saying "But you have to read/play X media to get it!" The anime should stand on its own. But it doesn't. Instead, it's more concerned with setting up cliff hangers and mysteries so that you'll buy the new "Season 3" game.. Scrambling around the lore so that it fits better with the future game. Season 2 story and plot fell victim to soulless corporate merchandising and profit driven ideas. As much as i hate say this. The original heart of Kemono Friends seems to lay with previous team and/or director "Tatsuki", who was removed and replaced.
This anime not only left me feeling completely unfulfilled and frustrated by the end of it. But it also managed to put me into a net negative state. No mystery was solved. Only MORE questions. More confusion. More pain. As a big fan of Serval and Kaban, it absolutely disgusted me what they decided to do with that wonderful thing.
The cute moments were very good though. It fails to capture season 1's special and unrepeatable tone and brand of humor and cuteness. But it was still a very wonderful part of Season 2.
Kemono Friends didn't die....it was murde- it turned into a franchise zombie.
Kemono Friends was a juggernaut sleeper hit in Japan mostly done by Tatsuki, however with some executive meddling from Kadokawa, Tatsuki was unfairly fired and Kemono Friends went on with a seocnd season without Tatsuki, the visionary and lifeblood of the series itself gone. The second season to say that it felt underwhelming was an understatement but not to the point of botchery, just half assed.
So Kemono Friends 2 starts off with a new character who doesn't know where she is and wants to find her home with a sketchbook, she finds many various
Friends along the way and find out more about Japari Park and the Ceruleans and Beasts that they happen to find. On the basis the new character Kyururu voiced by Yui Ishikawa is an even watered down Kaban from the first season but she is also accompanied by Serval from the first season and Caracal voiced by Riko Koike who's keeps Serval in check.
Now the first season's mysteries made the anime and the audience question Japari Park and it's guests and to be more precise humans and what happened to them, why Ceruleans roam and how they even exist in the first place, it was subtle in it's mystery and utilized well with it's first season to portray something deeper than it was initially, The second season on the other hand has some lackluster and blatant mysteries thrown in without a hint of subtlety and it seemed that the second season cared more about it's slice of life comedy aspect than the mystery which was the buildup of the first season, the second season doesn't have ANY of that and yes there are small mysteries in this second season but they give out such blatant hints and questions answered as quickly the next episode that the mystery is barely there let alone what it was in the first season. YES Kemono Friends IS a slice of life comedy, but it was also a mystery, a GOOD mystery hidden away and dive bombed when it hit it's climax about the revelations, the second season just got the barebones of it, used it's nostalgic callbacks and points of interest and rarely delved into what it was trying to do and when it did, it "tried" but without the hint of solidarity to itself, it felt scattershot as if it was trying to tick off a checklist.
Now as much as LA is harping on the second season and it's major flaws, the second season still has some merit to it as the second season DOES in some form like it's world building and developing it's new and old characters (no not just Serval) and what mysteries are given to us, the biggest and ONLY one being a Beast following Kyururu and co. is the ONLY point of interest as it's never told outright what and HOW Beasts were created.
The animation emulates Yaoyorozu to an ok degree as it's now done by Tomason though some of the character designs did felt a bit nonchalantly done, the animation was just "ok", but felt like a downgrade weirdly enough, Yaoyorozu had a small budget and they managed to pull it off, Tomason's animation just looked like it was aping from Yaoyorozu's low animation as an excuse to keep it low quality jank (maybe as a form of consistency towards the first season, but come on), but what Tomason did...it wasn't horrible, as LA said, it's to keep with the consistency towards Yaoyorozu and to that LA wouldn't outright say the animation was the biggest flaw, ohhh no, the plot was the main culprit for that one.
The voice cast is decent enough though LA didn't expect Kyururu to be voiced by Yui Ishikawa of all voice actors, not saying she's horrible for the role, just that LA didn't expect her to. LA will be here all day if LA pointed out all voice actors, so the only notable ones are Yuka Ozaki reprising her role as Serval and she did well considering the material given anyways. Either way, decent voice cast.
Kemono Friends 2 for LA kinda lost itself with Tatsuki gone, but through watching the anime, it tried, especially with the director Ryuuchi Kimura trying to show a different side of Kemono Friends, that of the slice of life aspect of it and good on him for trying to show it in his own way let alone all the backlash that he really doesn't deserve (that belongs towards Kadokawa), but Kemono Friends was just ALOT more than that and it doesn't show here unfortunately.
People might not have never wanted to see another Kemono Friends after the debacle with Kadokawa and Tatsuki and to the people who do, you STILL have the first season and for the people who sees Kemono Friends 2 as something new and different, that's fine to. But the one lingering thought that Kemono Friends 2 kept giving LA constantly was if the first season was ANY good to begin with and this sequel definitely gave off that vibe time and again, now LA isn't saying this sequel dirtied the franchise but "worrying" to say the least.
Ultimately for all the sides that either hate or praise this second season, LA is more or less on the side of the former, but not to the degree of hate you'd expect as LA did see some potential from all this, but it just didn't have the true spirit of Kemono Friends to keep LA interested like it did the first season and felt more aimless, lackluster and clamoring onto it's nostalgia of the first season more than anything but the second season being sullened?...no...scattershot...yes.
Regret. That's what I felt after watching this. There were so many things I regretted after I finished watching KF2. Among them the three biggest things I regretted was not giving this series the attention it deserved up until just the day before writing this (I started watching S1 last night), binge watching all 24 episodes of both seasons in one go, and not giving myself enough time to let the hype from watching S1 settle down before moving on to S2.
Less than halfway into the first season I kept asking myself:
"Why did I let myself avoid watching this just because of the 3D CGI?"
didn't I give this the chance it deserved when it aired?"
"Why only now?"
Considering that this is supposed to be a review on the second season, I'll skip out on talking about season one. Not much needs to be said about it anyway, Kemono Friends 1 is a legend of its own. The incredibly dark undertones hidden in plain sight where all cute things gathered only brought out more of its charm.
Watching S2 right after the first was probably both the best and worst choice I had ever made. This made it easier for me to notice a few things going on in the background that I would otherwise had forgotten and/or brushed off. On the other hand, this decision made it easier for me to make comparisons. It made me see just how far season two fell in comparison. Especially when my expectations had spilled over from watching both seasons in succession.
Instead of answering old questions, they only piled up even more. I only hope that this was all done in preparation for season 3 (assuming that it will happen) where they at least answer the biggest question in my heart that I want answered: "What exactly happened?"
By no means would I call the second season bad. If anything, I'd even go as far as to say that it was good. Overall quality wise, the upgrades were notably large. It was so good that I even cried at the end whereas season one didn't manage to draw a single tear (setting aside the fact that more than half of the reason for my tears has a heavy connection to that of season one).
I have no doubt in my heart that I enjoyed both seasons.
It's just that KF2 could have been better. So so much better.