Kemono Jihen is one of those anime that has a lot of elements in it that I like. There’s some darker moments, some supernatural threads, a bit of mystery along the way, and the main characters seem to have a personal investment in most of the events making them feel a little more interesting than if these kids just kind of stumbled into a random encounter.
However, after getting to the end of season one I find myself neither particularly invested in Kemono Jihen and whether it will ever continue nor did I particularly dislike it. All these good ingredients didn’t quite come together and the story itself barely feels like it started after watching 12 episodes.
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Kemono Jihen doesn’t do a great job of selling it’s world building.
It isn’t as though there’s anything terribly wrong with the material deliver in Kemono Jihen.
After Inugami solves the mystery in Kabane’s village and takes Kabane with him to Tokyo, things kind of settle into a series of arcs where the agency, or some of the agency members, go to investigate something that usually ends up being kemono related and then Kabane beats something up until it dies. Meanwhile, Inugami continues to withhold information from the younger members of the agency and Inari continues to plot against Inugami but avoids direct confrontation.
Each little arc or mystery takes an episode or a couple of episodes to run their course and the three kids in the agency build on their relationship throughout the story.
So, it all just kind of works and each story has a satisfying conclusion to the immediate concern. If this had decided to be a mystery of the week kind of gig without any grander aspirations, it would probably be a more enjoyable ride.
The problem is that the adults in this story all seem to have their own plans and agendas but the audience is kept more or less out of the loop other than knowing that eventually this might amount to something. By the end of the series though, it hasn’t gone very far at all.
Honestly, Inari and Inugami and their ‘rivalry’ or whatever it is, is perhaps the weakest part of the narrative overall. It is slow, spread-out, feels like it is distracting from what is actually happening, neither character is particularly interesting and other than Inugami being the one who hired the kids he doesn’t do all that much in this story, and while I know that if this anime had continued this would eventually go somewhere, so far it has gone nowhere.
Basically it is a disappointing preview of a story that may or may not ever get told and it is just unnecessary clutter for the current anime.
Because when Kemono Jihen focuses on Kabane learning about the modern world or interacting with Shiki and Akira, the story is very entertaining. Even Kon kind of grew on me after awhile because largely she only really interacts with Kabane and their different volume levels kind of balanced out nicely.
Shiki confronting his past was excellent viewing even with Inari’s minion dropping in lame hints about future conflicts throughout. Even the plot focusing on Akira’s reasons for coming to Tokyo, the weakest of the little plots, was pretty entertaining and would have been better without Inari’s presence.
Though, while we’re on characters, perhaps my favourite inclusion was Mihai. Admittedly, he only shows up sporadically, but a little goes a long way and his overall personality and the way he interacts with the kids is pretty entertaining even if he really is just personifying the internet troll here (and he’s a vampire).
I don’t think Mihai needs more screen time, because too much would become a little hard to take, but I certainly appreciated his appearances and the mission he accompanies the kids on (through a remote control car) is one of the more entertaining moments as he throws a number of spanners in the works for the kids.
However, even this mission is soured by the ridiculous visuals used for the monsters. Imagine a giant mosquito head on top of a normal sized woman. See, giant mosquitos aren’t scary – they look kind of stupid. Any kind of tension in the otherwise tight plot of the kids infiltrating a facility while being hampered by Mihai because he wanted some entertainment kind of went out the window as soon as the monsters appeared.
Part of me also kind of wonders if the move from Kabane’s village to Tokyo was a good move as the atmosphere from episode one isn’t really replicated again. The closest they get is the story involving Shiki’s background when they travel from Tokyo to investigate.
It is a shame, because I really enjoyed the atmosphere of that first episode and that arc, but most stories were more urban fantasy with a bit of action and comedy rather than feeling like real supernatural mystery. That’s a personal preference, but I’d have enjoyed the supernatural mystery story more.
All and all, I did enjoy Kemono Jihen, but I’m left feeling it never quite did enough to really be memorable. Sure, there are a few visuals that won’t let go after it is done and there’s one or two moments that just perfectly hit the mark. But there’s a lot inbetween that feels like fluffing about and the series ends when it feels like the story is really just kicking off.
With no announced sequel, and no real indication that this anime will continue, it all just feels like it could have given us a bit more closure in the final episode.
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Images from: Kemono Jihen. Dir. M Fujimori. Ajia Do. 2021
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