OP:「乗ってけ！ジャパリビート」 (Notteke! Jyapari Biito) by Doubutsu Biscuits
「きおくのかなた」 (Kioku no Kanata)
Paradoxical trepidation and excitement are probably the best way to sum up my feelings regarding the return of Kemono Friends. This sequel, whether down to the staff shakeups that only Konami could rival or the ubiquitous sequel curse—i.e. quality drop—was always going to be a huge unknown, and so far at least such predictions have been realized. What we got here this week is definitely Kemono Friends in all its tanoshii glory, but whether it stays that way is going to be anyone’s guess for the next little while.
At its core Kemono Friends is as simple as they come. The story is (for all intents and purpose) a kids show, where the name of the game is a bunch of female anthropomorphized animals helping our main guy/girl/unclassified mass of cells Kyururu (Ishikawa Yui) find her way home. Each episode (spoiler alert) will see a different challenge to be faced in that objective, with a cute new animal friends (or friends) introduced who’ll help overcome the problems and bring the party one step closer to their goal. And in the end? Well, that’s the million dollar question. As anyone versed in this series can confirm what made the first Kemono Friends work so damn well was that this simple plot and its cute fixings were only the first part of a deeper puzzle. The fact Japari Park is ruins and occupied by aggressive creatures called Ceruleans is hint enough, but add on where Kyururu woke up—and with the glowing material bearing close similarity to the stuff released by dead Ceruleans— and it’s pretty damn obvious there’s something more concerning at work here. Of course all of us Kemono Friends lovers know where the true teaser lies, but that’s a reveal for a later date.
While all the above sounds great at face value, the real concern is that we’ve seen this all before. It’s no lie to say that Kemono Friends 2 (as mentioned in the RC Preview) is pulling the Disney Star Wars strategy, where the story all but copies the first franchise iteration with a few cosmetic changes to help introduce it to a “modern audience”. Kyururu for example is basically Rey, the new successor to
Bag Kaban-chan—i.e. Luke Skywalker—who has mysteriously disappeared and left only memories behind. Serval (Ozaki Yuka) of course is Han/Chewie (with the “classic” comedic relief) and Caracal (Koike Riko) is Finn because, well, a new update calls for a new sidekick obviously. Mind you this crew is infinitely more cute and informative than anything Disney churns out of late, but I’ll be damned if it’s not hard seeing exactly how this season is going to play out—and not in the good way. There’s just too much sheen, too much polish, too much effort spent trying to emulate the 3D indie style which originally gave Kemono Friends such unique charm, and not enough on expanding the foundations previously laid. It surely wouldn’t have been too hard using the ending of Kemono Friends’ first season as a jumping off point for example, but it must’ve been if this episode’s setup is any indication. I’m still quite hopeful we’ll see something good here in the end, but the tiny seed of doubt within me isn’t going away anytime soon.
Persona Pancakes concerns and nitpicks aside however, it’s going to be a while yet before the new Kemono Friends fully reveals its hand. Much like the first season didn’t really begin until a third of the way in, a similar timing should be expected here because if there’s one thing the new staff won’t want to do it’s lose the atmosphere and subtle suspense so defining of the franchise. We may not know yet how well round two is going to work out in the end and stack up to the first, but if there’s one thing you can bet on it’s Kemono Friends doing everything it can to ensure that making friends is fun once again.
ED:「星をつなげて」 (Hoshi o tsunagete) by Gothic x Luck