「怪物事変」 (Kemono Jihen)
Discombobulated. That’s how I was left feeling after this season’s finale. I’m torn because we were provided a ‘perky’ ending and a disheartening story that was left feeling…unfinished. What happened to poor Yui was disheartening. We’re essentially speaking of child abuse. There’s no getting around the fact that a young boy was assaulted by grown women. I realize that Yui destroyed the Yuki-Onno village by giving his life to the nullstone but his story, his and Akira’s story still feels very unfinished. It’s not an Instagrammable photo and a face slap that will jolt Yui out from the hurt, trauma, and pain he’s been carrying for both himself and his younger twin.
I’m always baffled by how some series have the ability to ‘sweep’ these issues under the rug. In many instances, characters who suffer from this type of child abuse will grow up to be dysfunctional adults (or young teens) and struggle to trust or build relationships with anyone. But in Yui’s case, the fragmented young boy that lived through that trauma was pieced back together within seconds. The brief moment where Akira volunteers to take on part of the burden acts as a resolution for both brothers. Within moments, Yui snaps out of his grim mindset and into a “Let’s go eat that crepe you wanted me to taste earlier” mode. I guess Kemono are more resilient than humans? Tsk.
With this as an exception, I think the episode in general and this story arc were nicely done. It tied us back to the mystery that was Akira’s origins, introduced some interesting plot points, and made for a very emotional reunion between two brothers. But more importantly, it brought together the magic of Enen no Shouboutai and Kemono Jihen.
Seeing Kabane fly across the field engulfed in flames was so reminiscent of Enen no Shouboutai’s pyrokinetic abilities. Kabane’s regenerative abilities are turning out to be a nifty trick. I can only imagine what else this kid and his comrades have up their sleeves. I imagine that with Kabane, Kon, and Inugami on the road, we’ll be coming across stronger enemies who will require more stealth, strategy, and strength to overcome. This is definitely something to keep an eye out for in the second season, which has yet to be announced but I hope will come soon. In the event that it doesn’t, I’ve made up my mind to read the manga.
As you may already know, I have not read the source material so I have nothing to compare it to. What I do know is that the series diverted entirely from what I had initially expected. When Inugami first found Kabane in a little country village tending to the fields, I imagined a journey more along the lines of Dororo’s or Kagome’s, where they’d constantly be out on the road searching for any and all clues that might link to Kabane’s past. But instead, this first season was all about building Kabane’s strength and personality up, while introducing him to the world of Kemono and humans.
It was nothing like what I imagined. If anything, the series was borderline juvenile, offering some lighthearted humor that seemed, at first, not to fit the mold I’d already boxed it into. But surprisingly, as the episodes released, I realized this was just a refreshing take on the supernatural genre that can sometimes feel overwhelming, grim, and depressing. With this particular ‘good-natured’ tone, the series has more chances of appealing to a larger audience. The trauma each character has gone through – Shiki with his sister and mother, Akira with his brother Yui, Kabane himself – is contrasted with their budding friendship offering just the right balance. It can get heavy when it needs to be but will also remind you of the light that exists even in worlds shrouded in conflict.
With the mention of the Kemono Incidents (kemono jihen), I imagine the next part of the story will touch a little more about the history and perhaps even the politics of this world. I thought that was missing a tad in these episodes as I often came to wonder whether it was considered normal to come across kemono. In some cases, it did in fact seem normal and in others not so much. I’m curious to know more about these powerful stones as well. I wonder if, in light of this revelation about various kemono stones having been forged, the story will now take the approach of a wandering adventure rather than the “hired investigators” route.
This first season did exactly what it was set out to do, set the context for the main story, act as a prologue if you will. Kabane now has a solid foundation, people he can trust, a behind-the-scenes genius tech guy to help support his endeavors, a potential love interest, frenemies to keep him on his toes, new abilities, and friends he can call family. He’s fully equipped, perhaps even overpowered, to uncover the truth about his lineage and find out who his parents are.
Kemono Jihen‘s 2nd season hasn’t been announced yet but you can be sure I’ll be keeping an eye out. I can’t go long without seeing a dismembered Kabane head.