Anime of the Week: Kemurikusa
This little story starts in late 2016 with one person. A man named Tatsuki. An artist told to direct a tiny little show known as Kemono Friends. It would be a media tie-in for a mobile game that would shut down before the show even starts airing. Tatsuki and his tiny production studio – Yaoyorozu Co. – would try their absolute hardest to make do with what extremely little they’re given, and boy, do they make do. Kemono Friends airs in early Winter 2017 and spreads through the anime community like wildfire. People start begging for a second season, and what should Kadokawa, the company holding the rights over Kemono Friends, decide to do? Why, announce a second season, of course! …without Tatsuki, that is. Kemurikusa is what Tatsuki and his team at Yaoyorozu Co. aired last season in Winter 2019 while the second season of Kemono Friends was airing, two years after the first.
With the show starting en media res, the audience gets plopped right into the world of Kemurikusa and is left to figure out what the heck is going on as they’re shown several sisters who are trying to scrounge and survive in this desolate wasteland while constantly evading the threat of ginormous mechanical bugs that would want nothing more than to kill and maim them. Each episode has the red-headed family go from island to island in search of a lake rumored to have a near endless supply of drinking water and a permanent residency for the girls in this time of crisis, away from any gigantic centipede monster that could suddenly appear and kill one of the family members…again.
From the gorgeously dystopian setting of dead apartment homes and abandoned theme parks to the amazing visual storytelling present within the ending theme, Tatsuki’s passion as a director absolutely shines in how he drip-feeds information to the audience. Just like the dilapidated setting of Japari Park in Kemono Friends before it, both the world and the sisters in Kemurikusa have long stories that occur before the main events start, and Tatsuki makes it so the audience will want to ask what happened in that time. Like, who are these girls? What happened to the islands? Seriously, what are kemurikusas? And who is Wakaba, the amnesiac-ridden boy that randomly appears one day after almost drowning in the family’s drinking water?
While these questions are being asked (mainly by Wakaba), another positive for Kemurikusa is how it functions as a character piece. Except for the occasional fight scene, Tatsuki paces most of the scenes in the show to be relatively slow and quiet. There’ll be moments where characters are just walking along railroad tracks or looking up at a broken Ferris wheel while they ask hard ethical and philosophical questions. Should Rin and Wakaba still try to find that mysterious lake, even if it risks actively endangering the lives of their family? How do they deal with their own mortality, or the mortality of their loved ones? How does someone keep on living after the person they love most is gone?
Here’s a question. Does good animation in a show really matter? Well, if you’re a creative writing major who’s as blind as a bat, perhaps not. But to anyone with a decent set of eyes and cares anything at all about how the cute cartoon characters in front of them look, then that might be a warning before watching this show. Why? Because this show looks GODAWFUL. Like Kemono Friends, Kemurikusa is animated in rough CG, akin to RWBY, Knights of Sardonia, and Ajin, except much worse. Because both of Yaoyorozu Co.’s shows are animated so poorly, one could question their talent as artists, but it’s important to note that the company only has an animation staff of like, twelve people. Kemurikusa’s story is still amazing despite this technical limitation, so I want to say that animation quality shouldn’t really matter but when I saw the opening for the first time, it did make me want to throw up a little. And if you think this show looks bad now, you should have seen the Original Net Animation (ONA) by Yaoyorozu Co. that this is a remake of. It’ll make you want to cry (despite winning a CG award).
While this show does kind of look awful, the story is still amazing. Other negatives include how the first episode isn’t exactly paced the greatest and the last episode still leaves some questions to be unanswered, but the journey that Rin, Ritsu, the Rinas, and Wakaba take is something completely like no other. If you’re like me and able to overcome the extremely low-budget CG, this show is currently available to watch stream on Anime Prime Video. Please watch this show and tell us at the CON-fidential what you think of Tatsuki and Yaoyorozu Co.’s extremely depressing but ultimately hopeful Kemurikusa.
Rating: 8.5/10 Confikeys