It is almost impossible for me to overstate how suspicious I was of Kemono Friends at first, thanks to the current landscape of anime.
An anime with an all-girl cast airing late at night ("Otaku-o-clock") with obvious mysteries surrounding the landscape and identity of one of the primary characters, with nebulous monsters involved? And it's all sweet and innocent and gentle, to the point where critics were calling it "mind-sapping" or "intelligence-draining"? Yeah.
I was 99% sure this would be a cunning trap designed to lure in viewers and punch them in the face with "deconstructions" and "oh look everything you loved about this show was secretly evil and gross haha".
Kemono Friends never does that.
What looks sweet and gentle stays sweet and gentle through the whole thing. The mysteries are tied up well but just vaguely enough there's an opening for a season 2. All through the 12 episode run, it remains a Nice Show about cheerful anime-furry girls. Every one of them is a Friend. However, there's this new girl. She doesn't know what animal she is, but she's very good at solving problems. What kind of Friend could she be?
It is not perfect. The fact is, this is a tie-in show to a mobile phone game that was canceled before the show came out. They basically just handed some 3D rendering software to a VERY small animation studio and went "Whatever, do what you like."
Visually, this is ratty-looking. Vehicle wheels will forget to spin, Friends will skip along the top of the grass instead of walking on the ground, the action scenes are mostly just big jumps, characters "fly" like they're being click-dragged across a Windows desktop and one character (Plains Zebra Friend) in the background of a shot was so poorly rendered the fanart imageboard tag for her is "Savannah Striped Giant Slug".
So it doesn't look great and it's chirpily sugar-sweet, but... I feel like this show just has so much heart. Somebody cared, and that snowballed. Kemono Friends has a loving sense of humor, it treats its characters with respect. It knows what to leave unsaid. The big moments it has are predictable but treated without irony or a wink to the audience. It's earnest and I loved it.
It's still really clearly for kids (WHAT was this doing in a late-night time slot?!) but I enjoyed it as a weird furry adult, and I'm not alone. Kemono Friends was a smash Japanese hit
, to the point where not only will there be a season 2, there will also be a new mobile phone game, one based on the anime this time.
It honestly warms my heart to see that happen. I look forward to season 2.
(If you're going to try it, please note episode 1 is maybe the weakest and reflects -all- the problems I mentioned. By episode 3 and 4, the series has hit its stride and if those do nothing, it's worth moving on.)