Kemono Jihen Series Review – Missed Opportunities Aplenty

Kemono Series Review

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.

Kemono Jihen - I wanted to like this, I really did.
Got to watch out for slime from sewer creatures.

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.

Kemono Jihen - Inari might not give up on the lifestone but she isn't doing much about getting it either.
And yet Inari-sama is being maddeningly passive about this whole thing and so the story really isn’t going anywhere.

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.

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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.

Kemono Jihen - Inugami
Inugami eating screen time.

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.

Mihai - favourite character from Kemono Jihen
Mihai for favourite character of the series.

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.

How did you find Kemono Jihen?

Images from: Kemono Jihen. Dir. M Fujimori. Ajia Do. 2021


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Karandi James


Watch or Drop? Is Kemono Jihen Worth Watching?

Watch or Drop Kemono
Kemono Ep1 3
There’s a weird, weird world out there.

Watch or Drop? Rules

Rules modified for the Autumn 2021 season.

  1. The anime must be new (not a sequel or spin-off).
  2. I’ll watch as much as it takes to make a decisionas to whether the anime will be added to the watch/review list or dropped and forgotten. For good.
Kemono Ep2 3
Definitely an authentic reaction.

First Impressions:

The short synopsis given on both MAL and AnimeLab of Kemono Jihen largely leave the viewer with little to go on as they both more or less detail the events setting up episode one without giving much in the way of an indication of how this story will develop. Still, it sounded interesting enough and it was ticking off a number of genre boxes that I quite enjoy with its claims of action, mystery, demons and the supernatural.

I will admit though that Inugami’s initial introduction more or less made me want to put this one down to a nice try and move on. With his ridiculous hair and fairly cliche position as a supernatural investigator, I honestly wasn’t all that impressed. Fortunately, once he took an interest in Kabane, a young outcast villager, things picked up and the first episode ended up being quite an enjoyable ride. That said, we then immediately transition away from the rural setting to the city and I’m not sure that the next two episodes have finished really establishing the new setting. With only 12 episodes in the season, it seems unlikely that this one will manage to tell a whole story in its run time, which will be a bit of a shame because there are some very interesting elements at play here.



Series Positives:

An absolute ten out of ten to the dead-pan Kabane in these early episodes. While a lot of the other characters are either pushed so far into their trope they’ve more or less become caricatures, he’s actually managing to pull off a nice combination of dulled emotions, inner strength but odd vulnerability as a child more or less alone in the world. His interactions with the other characters have all been pretty solid so far and when the story focuses on him it gets an immediate lift.

Kemono Ep2 6
Yep, tragic backstory involves either dead or missing parents.

I’m also really loving the world that is being crafted here with the supernatural characters slotting into the modern world either subtly or through brute force. The different approaches to modern existence at play in episode three when the kids under Inugami’s care clash with Inari was really interesting and I’d love to see more of how this develops as we meet more characters and learn more about this supernatural world. It’s the right mix of fascinating, magical and yet dark and dangerous. It is a setting you want to learn more about and you look forward to seeing the characters delve more deeply into the world around them.

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Series Negatives:

So far Inugami hasn’t impressed. It wasn’t just the first episode. Even after that he seems to deliberately withhold information from the kids for the sake of being mysterious and it is really difficult to get any kind of read on his overall motives. I’m sure they’ll reveal some purpose later on for him being like that but really we’ve seen this type of character before and done better, and to be honest sometimes it isn’t so much mysterious to withhold facts as it is annoying. Certainly giving the kids a heads-up before sending them in to deal with Inari might have been wise given how many ways that situation could have ended badly. Characters making bad choices is one thing if it makes sense for the characters; but writers who force characters to do silly things for the sake of a bit of drama just bring down the viewing experience.

Kemono Ep3 4
You probably shouldn’t be arguing with a head inside a police station.

The other negative probably comes from a number of the supporting cast with the other characters seeming to be trying to make up for the fact that Kabane is a pretty quiet and reserved character by being excessively noisy and boisterous. They have their charm and they work playing off Kabane but I think too much of Shiki and Kon simultaneously could definitely lead to eye-rolling unless they both develop a bit as the show goes on.

Verdict?

Karandi Excited Transparent
Watch

Despite the negatives, I really quite enjoyed the first three episodes. There’s enough intrigue here to keep me wondering and the setting has a lot of potential. Also, despite some gripes about the characters, mostly these first three episodes were pretty enjoyable to watch. I’m very much looking forward to more, though I kind of think it would have been better to remain in the village because there was some great atmosphere there. As much fun as urban fantasy settings are there’s just something a bit more thrilling about the isolated village.

Other Impressions:

Images from: Kemono Jihen. Dir. M Fujimori. Ajia Do. 2021


Thank-you for reading 100 Word Anime.
Join the discussion in the comments.
Karandi James