What Is Kemono Friends?

Hello, everyone! Just recently, I came across this rather unassuming title by the name of Kemono Friends, which seemed to have absolutely exploded in popularity among its Japanese fanbase. With nary any fanfare nor marketing, it quickly dominated the Twitter feed, broke records on NicoNico Douga, its theme songs ranking on Amazon.jp and iTunes, even promoted a surge of tourists to local zoos. Being a tie-in anime based on a smartphone game by Nexon which had already shut down its servers due to its low population, the sheer success of this sleeper hit came as a complete surprise, even to its creators.

The premise of Kemono Friends is nothing particular special. It takes place in an idealic but oddly abandoned wildtype theme-park, populated by anthropomorphic animal girls known as "Friends". Into this land mysteriously appears a young human girl with no recollection of who or what she is. With the aid of fellow Friend Serval, the pair aims to make their way to the "Library" to discover her identity. Their journey takes them through African savannas, rain forests, desert plains, and even abandoned ruins as they meet and befriend a variety of new Friends. Most of them seem to be based on endangered or extinct animals, ranging from Tapirs, Fossas, Okapis, Tamanduas, Megapodes, Aurochs to even some cryptids.
Care that you don't end up on the receiving end of an Alpaca's (harmless) spit!
Story-wise, there really isn't too much special going on with this show, with the first episode in particular nearly boring me to sleep. Fortunately it gradually gets going and takes off at episode 4, the basic formula being reaching a new area, meeting new Friends and learning of their varied animal quirks and traits like some lite documentary, all while trying to discover the origins of these abandoned lands. It's a lot about of cute girls doing cute stuff, though refreshingly devoid of any fanservice or typical modern tropes we're so accustomed to, instead relying more of the charm one gets from watching cute animals doing something amusing. It's an easygoing, family-friendly show with plain vanilla fun that appeals to younger audiences, while perhaps also engaging older watchers with its underlying plot, some moe, and likeable characters.
One thing you will immediately notice is the show's use of  3D CG fo its characters, which in this case came across as pretty low-budget with stiff and sometimes janky animations, particularly in the early episodes. It does seem to improve as the show goes on and I got abit used to it, but there's no denying the character animations are still incredibly awkward. At least the problems don't extend to the CG background, which are in fact pleasant to look at if nothing else. It's not a good looking show by any stretch, and may be an utter deal-breaker for some.
BeaverDog Construction Ltd at work. Episode 5 was particular fun to watch
 It's hard to say what exactly what made this strange title the sleeper hit it is now. Perhaps it appealed to a huge new untapped audience for late night anime. Or maybe, like the surprise breakout success of My Little Pony in the west, a young girls focused show that attracted a dedicated adolescent and adult following, offered its audiences something they didn't know they wanted. It is a pure, honest story of adventure and having a blast. Personally, its not really my cup of tea, but I do realized the charm some people might see in it, and I got a small kick out of reading up on some of the rarer species featured in it. Why not give it a go, you might yet enjoy this little adventure.


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