Kemurikusa – Ep. 1 (First Impressions)

At least from a behind the scenes standpoint, Kemurikusa merits some attention. For those who don’t know, this anime is created by Tatsuki, the man who made a surprising breakthrough in his directorial and writing career with the first season of Kemono Friends back in 2017. Kemurikusa was originally an OVA he made as a passion project and then decided to expand into a full fledged TV show after Kadokawa booted him off the the production of Kemono Friends Season 2. Now, I personally found Kemono Friends overrated but it was clear that Tatsuki’s involvement was a big reason behind that show’s success and I was curious to see what his abilities are like when left entirely to their own devices.

…The result is, uh, interesting to put it kindly.

I don’t know if this is purely coincidence but Kemurikusa is awfully reminiscent of Kemono Friends. You have a post-apocalyptic world (albeit more obviously so than it was in Kemono Friends) infested with strange monsters as well as a cast of humanoid girls with inhuman atttributes and special abilities. There’s even a normal human character introduced in this episode though this time it’s a boy and it looks like he got teleported into this world…OH GOD, IS THIS ANOTHER ISEKAI ANIME?!

Ahem. I’m okay with Kemurikusa being a little similar to Kemono Friends. Given that it’s the same director, it was likely that the two shows would share some DNA. I’d also argue that Kemurikusa looks and feels different enough. As mentioned earlier, the setting is more blatantly post-apocalyptic complete with a grimly colored sky and ruins upon ruins. There’s a neat color scheme going on with the characters; all the girls all wear clothes colored in maroon, white, and black, evoking a sense of unity within the group. The cast is also smaller than Kemono Friends’, even with one of its members seemingly having quintuplets of herself. Having less characters means that the story could stay more focused and give more depth to the characters.

Where I really take issue with the premiere is how much information is withheld. There is something admirable about the story beginning in the middle of things but a lot of questions are raised here. What are the girls’ goal at the end of the day? They consider themselves humans but are they humans at all compared to the one they meet in this episode? How come their tree provides them special leaves that can combat the monstrous Red Bugs? What exactly is the deal with the Red Bugs?

I suppose Kemono Friends was just as mysterious but I could also argue that it may have framed its mystique a lot better. For starters, you’re flat out told at the start that Friends are anthropomorphic animal girls, that is in of itself an easy concept to understand. Plus, all they really do at first is enjoy their lives like a normal animal would, only paying attention to the Cerulean monsters when they directly pose a threat. Most importantly, the show begins with Kaban waking up, confused and afraid. You’re able to buy into the initial lack of explanations since your understanding matches Kaban’s. Compare this to Kemurikusa where most of the main characters claim that they’re just human and act like they’ve been doing whatever they’ve been doing for ages. Not to mention, the show chose to introduce the clear viewpoint character in the middle of the episode which seems odd and only muddles our ability to feel engaged with what’s going on.

Moving onto visuals…well, this is Yaoyozoru we’re talking about. I want to say they’ve gotten better since Kemono Friends but that show set the bar so low so I really don’t know if such praise could amount to much. Characters look like they move and talk more naturally and the action is a little bit more choreographed but only marginally so. I suppose the background accurately show the world in ruins but the fact that it looks bad from a technical standpoint almost feels counter-intuitive to whatever kind of atmospthere it’s meant to convey.

It is possible that this first episode is a fluke. Hell, Kemono Friends started on a severely rough note and look how that show turned out. Still, First Impressions are crucial in a show’s longevity and I can’t deny that Tatsuki’s first project after making it big in anime isn’t off to the most glowing start.

Thanks for reading!

Watch Kemurikusa on Amazon

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