Reflecting on Kemonozume – Too cool for otaku

It’s fair to say that the creative staff “working on” (more like playing with) Kemonozume must have had so much fun, from flying heads and sexed up monkeys to a perverted old man shoving a pair of severed female arms down his skanky speedos – this is a show that clearly had no pretension of sensibility and instead embraces insanity, playing out like a giddy reimaging of Neon Genesis Evangelion’s apocalypse. If there is an on-going theme, it is love; and the sad things that love can do to you! The end result is a spectacular if rather superficial show, it leaves us with no sense of tragedy or enlightenment, but one can’t help but be enthralled by such an enthusiastic and eccentric stab at animated story telling.

It’s important to note the word “animated” here. A lot of anime seems to revolve around depicting everyday cold, hard realism – so much so that we almost forget that this is actually animated. It’s a shame because the beautiful thing about animation is that anything is possible, why the need to ground us in reality when there are no limits? Actually that’s wrong, the only true limit is the artists imagination, and imagination is rare. Just look around – most anime looks the same, borrows the same boring old archetypes and sticks to tried and test formula. The industry is still looking for a new Miyazaki; an innovative and important new director able to speak to fans beyond the typical otaku crowd, but they struggle because for years they have been stuck recycling shounen, slice of life, harem and fan service anime for the masses.

In the sea of generic trash that largely makes up today’s anime and despite its somewhat limited popularity even within anime fandom, Kemonozume is one of the few shows unique enough to find a lasting audience. If there is hope for the future of anime, it’s to be found in a show like this or Mushishi, where whimsical and exciting animation takes precedence over easy money.

Author: bateszi

A huge bloody nerd. I apologise in advance. I live in Cambridge, England. That's not an excuse, by the way.

15 thoughts on “Reflecting on Kemonozume – Too cool for otaku”

  1. Kemonozume was too good to be true. Though sometimes over-the-top, I thought it was a fantastic experience. It’s true "animation", as you said, and creative above everything else. Of course not everything was perfect, the sex scenes were sometimes just too many, and some things didn’t work so efficiently, but Kemonozume’s value is huge. I think Masaaki Yuasa is one of the most talented people in the anime industry out there. Mind Game is by far my favorite anime movie of all time, and Kemonozume became also one of my favourites.

    PS. "Too cool for otaku", you’re so right. Otakus just watch their crappy Kanon and let such diamonds pass before their eyes.

  2. Thank you for championing Kemonozume. I got into anime with Furi Kuri, and haven’t really seen anything as cool or ambitious since – till now.

  3. I’ll eventually get around to seeing the entire series but after seeing the first ep a while back and reading various blog entries, I wasn’t impressed enough with the show to give it a high priority. I came away with the impression that Kemonozume could pretty much be summed up as Romeo and Juliet with humans and monsters as directed by someone who wants to copy Takeshi Kitano’s style of directing his crime/Yakuza movies. While animation tastes vary per person, Kemo’s animation just didn’t do it for me.

  4. nooneofconsequence, just continue watching. It starts off like a ‘Romeo and Juliet’ with monsters, but evolves into something I’d never imagined of. Watch at least 3-4 more episodes.

  5. Totally agree Kemonozume was great. Any long-term otaku (generally speaking) will feel the same way especially with regards to the art. Its "ugly" by definition but spectacularly animated in a non-typical sense.

    The length was just right too though the plot got kind of quirky towards the end.

    Still a great show!

    Ojisan – if you enjoyed Fooly Cooly you should definately see Diebuster 2 for a familiar but totally beautiful visual treat.

  6. I’d been waiting till I finished the series to comment here, but I have to agree – Kemonozume was brilliantly concluded, and overall is one of the best anime I’ve seen in the past few years.

    It really does come down to the art direction, as you pointed out. Without animation, Kemonozume would be as lifeless and drab as Samurai Champloo without the hip-hop soundtrack. The series never took itself too seriously, and always made the effort to keep things as "realistic" in a surreal environment as possible, both of which I applaud. The mere fact that the staff was allowed to create something so original is shocking, in this world of look-alike shounen and shoujo series. Glad to see that you finally managed to wrap things up for the series, and with your usual flare. Great post, great series.

  7. Hell yeah, I have to comment here. The animation on Kemonozume is so goddamn unique to full otaku or partial otaku fans… that it blew me out of my mind.

    I thought there would never be anything close to Miyazaki’s Spirited Away or Princess Mononoke… but this anime had such a dark and bittersweet theme to it, that it stole my heart away immediately.

    Oh… so damn deep and I don’t just mean the sex scenes >_>, there are some grand mature themes in this anime and I wouldn’t judge it right away, if I had to.. I’d watch all 13 episodes all over again.

    Yuka and Toshihiko are indeed.. star-crossed lovers. I did feel bad for Rie, honestly, but… what can I say? The man stayed true to his heart and went for the girl he desperately wanted to be with.

    Kudos to any other Kemonozume fan ^_^V

  8. I enjoyed the first half then felt let down by the plot and I was also disappointed the monkey wasn’t featured more! I wanted to learn the secret martial arts of the monkey. Loving the salt lake reflecting the sky, so very beautiful.

  9. I cannot find the right words to describe this anime. It’s just so over the top and crazy, that I don’t even know what to compare it with. At first it looked like another dumb love story with a very unique art style (I loved it), but then all the insane things started to happen. I just couldn’t stop watching – I wanted to see what are the creators going to come up with next. Even the short, often gory, scenes at the beginning of some of the episodes are little works of art. A must see for every anime fan tired of all the generic stuff out there. Madhouse is gradually becoming my favourite studio.

  10. @Johny: If you liked this, I’d recommend you take a look at Kaiba. Same director, same animation studio, same creative staff, and you know what, it’s even better than Kemonozume. It’s still airing in Japan at the moment, but it’s shaping up to be the best anime of 2008 so far. Anyway, I’m glad that you liked this, as its always great to see another person enjoying anime that’s creative and challenging.

  11. @bateszi – I’m planning to watch Kaiba, as it already caught my attention thanks to the director. I’m wating till it’s fully subbed though, as I still have 2 series to watch – Dennou Coil and Shigurui.

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