Japanese animated tv series (2017-current). Yaoyorozu (season 1), Tomason (season 2). Created by Mine Yoshizaki. Season 1 directed and written by Tatsuki; season 2 directed by Ryuichi Kimura and written by Takuya Masumot. Voice cast includes Kanae Ito, Yuu Kobayashi, Ai Nonaka, Yuka Ozaki and Aya Uchida. 24 24-minute episodes to date (plus numerous shorts). Colour.
This cheaply produced show (the CG animation is particularly primitive) was developed to promote an unsuccessful Nexon smartphone game that was cancelled a month before broadcast; nevertheless it became one of the biggest Anime hits of 2017. Controversially, director/writer Tatsuki was then fired, apparently for releasing an unauthorised short ("Episode 12.1"): despite protests the second season was produced by another animation studio.
Japari Park is an Island safari-park whose animals have been anthropomorphized into cute anime girls (called "Friends"), retaining some of the traits of their source animal. Serval (Ozaki), a cat girl, befriends an Amnesiac stranger whom she names Kaban (Uchida). The pair journey to "The Library" to identify Kaban's species, accompanied by "Lucky Beast" a Robot Park Guide.
On the way they meet many other cute Friends and have (usually) gentle adventures. We learn of "Sandstar", which transforms animals into Friends (always female, regardless of original sex, though ex-males will have horns or a mane etc.). There are extinct animal Friends too, as Sandstar works on organic remains: thus Kaban is a Clone created from a human hair stuck to an old hat. If inorganic material touches Sandstar it becomes a Cerulian, a hostile blob that absorbs Friends, reverting them back their original animal. Towards the end of Season 1 some genuine tension builds as a Colossal Cerulian begins to ingest Serval: she is saved by Kaban, who is absorbed but, being a Friend version of a human, comes out effectively unchanged.
Season 1 is charming: the Friends are very endearing and thought has gone into the worldbuilding, making the unfolding story interesting. Long ago humans left the Park, with hints that this is a Post-Holocaust world: the archaeologically-minded Tsuchinoko (Kobayashi) remarks of Kaban "so she wasn't annihilated, huh?", whilst the park contains many relics, including a bomber plane. There is much warm humour, such as a Penguin Idol group and a Gray Wolf (Ito) who writes the Manga "Horror Detective Girogiro", inspiring Reticulated Giraffe (Nonakato) to become a detective (not a good one: she "deduces" Serval is a goat).
Season 2 is seemingly a soft reboot: Serval finds a different human and helps her search for her home. Though pleasant, it is forgettable.
The show is usually scientifically accurate (though the nature of Chameleon coloration is misstated) and educational for the young. Amusingly, the island setting and animals transformed into humans means that Kemono Friends partially evokes a child-friendly version of The Island of Dr Moreau (1896) by H G Wells. It won a 2018 Seiun Award in the best media category. [SP]
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