Winter 2017 First Impressions: Kemono Friends – Episode 01 Review

One day, in the Savanna area of Japari Park, a strange new animal is found.  Serval finds this mysterious girl while hunting and, since the two cannot figure out what type of animal (Bag-chan) could be, agrees to guide her to the Library at the other end of Japari park.  Along the way, the two become friends and meet new friends and foes alike.

Kemono Friends appears to be an anime aimed at very young children.  The premise is simple and sets up more of a series of vignettes as they journey around the park meeting other animal friends rather than any interesting overarching plot.  There are also interludes where a narrator teaches you about one of the animals featured on that week’s episode which would mainly benefit a younger audience.  For this reason it’s actually pretty hard to say a whole lot about the show because it would be akin to trying to review Dora the Explorer.

Although the character designs are quite cute, Kemono Friends relies on CG rather than traditional animation.  This can work in some series, such as Bubuki Buranki, but the quality and complexity of the models in Kemono Friends just isn’t high enough to give the character models any level of expressiveness. I also don’t like watching CG anime because of the weird way in which they limit the number of frames to conform with traditional animation, which when applied to CG leaves any movement looking jerky and horrible.

One element of the show that really doesn’t work for me is the inclusion of the “Cerulean”, which are blue amorphous blobs that the girls have to fight to progress through the park.  The reason they’re included is because Kemono Friends is based off a smartphone game where battling the Ceruleans would have been a basic gameplay element.  Honestly though, I think this element of the game could have been cut out entirely and nothing would change.  The fight scenes aren’t especially interesting and don’t do anything for the plot so the whole idea seems superfluous.  Without them Kemono Friends could just be a chill anime about exploring without having to also trudge through boring fight scenes.

If I had to pick something I liked about Kemono Friends, it would be the character designs.  They are simplistic due to the technical limitations of the animation, but the animal characters have some really cute concepts and represent the species they’re based off quite well.  Serval is my favourite design so far and shares enough visual characteristics of real life Servals that she doesn’t just look like a generic catgirl, which could have happened very easily.

Overall, this is an anime that I would only recommend if you had quite young children and wanted to watch a cute, inoffensive and sometimes educational cartoon about animals with them.  I won’t be tuning in again because I’m clearly not the intended audience.

3/10

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