Original Run: January 9, 2019 - March 27, 2019 Number of Episodes: 12 Genre: Fantasy, Science Fiction
***Warning, the following may contain spoilers for Kemurikusa. Reader discretion is advised.***
In a dystopian future, three sisters – Rin, Ritsu, and Rina (voiced respectively by Mikako Komatsu, Arisa Kiyoto, and Tomomi Jiena Sumi) – must struggle every day to survive. In their constant search for water, the trio needs to remain on the alert for possible giant bug attacks and the dangerous red fog.
Regardless of the difficulties, the sisters believe they know all there is to know about their world. That suddenly changes when they have the most unexpected encounter.
Rin, Ritsu, and Rina meet a mysterious boy named Wakaba (voiced by Kenji Nojima). The girls instinctively believe Wakaba is just another bug to eliminate. However, each of their tried and true methods of eradication has no effect on their now prisoner.
Over time, Wakaba – albeit with reservations from Rin – becomes another member of the group. Together, the team sets off to the next place they might be safe.
I’m in a weird spot. As I am writing this very sentence, I honestly have no idea what direction this review is going to go in. I still haven’t quite come to terms with whether or not Kemurikusa was a good series.
For the time being, I will be ignoring all this show’s – let’s call them – flaws. If you have seen Kemurikusa, then you are aware of some rather glaring issues I could bring up. Believe me, we will get to those momentarily, but I have a more pressing matter on my mind.
This series really put to the test every theory I have put forth concerning what an anime needs to have to be decent. Mainly, story trumps everything. The stronger the narrative, the weaker the elements that are accompanying it can be. And I must say, Kemurikusa’s story wasn’t terrible. At a minimum, I have to admit, it was interesting.
Now, was this show interesting because it had substance and clever ideas? I don’t think I can go that far in any estimation, but nevertheless, there were aspects of Kemurikusa which legitimately impressed me. For instance, this series provided textbook examples of how a story should always try to say what it wants to say through actions, inferences, and tone. When a narrative is filled with exposition dialogue, it sounds stunted and unnatural; stuff Kemurikusa didn’t need any more of.
Through character interactions between one another and their environment, we were given the clues and information needed to start building an understanding of this show’s world. We were never explicitly told things were A for B reasons. You will need to put many of the puzzle pieces together yourself – a task easier said than done.
Keep in mind, I only said seeing this kind of storytelling in Kemurikusa impressed me. I am not trying to suggest this series pulled it off. The path from beginning to end wasn’t the smoothest, and there were plenty of detours the show got lost in. Still, the journey was never without something happening. Nothing ever went entirely off the rails.
All that notwithstanding, there was something Kemurikusa was extremely good at. This series knew how to create an atmosphere.
The backgrounds, the settings, the vast empty wasteland our characters adventured through, it made everything seem hauntingly desolate. This was not a horror anime, but there was an inkling of dread throughout each and every episode. On top of that, this show’s soundtrack was as solid as they come.
In short, there were things to like about Kemurikusa. Having now sat through this series, I am more confident than ever that story-above-all-else is the key to success. The problem with that is, when a story is bombarded continuously on every front, its skin needs to be as hard as diamonds. Otherwise, the whole structure will come crashing down.
So, did Kemurikusa fall? I can’t say that it did. However, I wouldn’t know that for sure since this show was never quite able to stand up in the first place.
I’m not sure if it will be noticeable or not, but one might be able to describe Kemurikusa’s animation as – utterly atrocious. Other adjectives could also include:
- Hard to look at
- Laughable to look at
- Not the worst thing about this show
As a part of my story-first philosophy, animation – despite this being anime – is not what makes a series worth watching. Beautiful visuals are only the icing on the cake. That said, when the icing is just straight-up gravy, it becomes way harder to appreciate the flavor of the actual cake.
I won’t lie, Kemurikusa’s animation was hard not to notice.
But to give the benefit of the doubt, the studio responsible for Kemurikusa, Yaoyorozu, also did Kemono Friends. Granted, I have not yet seen Kemono Friends, but the show is high on my Must-Watch list because of the reputation it has already built for itself.
Back in 2017, Kemono Friends, despite its extremely poor animation, found critical acclaim with its story and characterizations. I will have to wait to determine if the hype was overblown, but if true, that’s a fantastic accomplishment. Conversely, if our show Kemurikusa is an indicator, my intrigue towards Kemono Friends has gone down significantly.
Earlier in the review, I said Kemurikusa’s story was interesting. I don’t intend to retract that statement. But I will clarify: Me being interested in something isn’t the same as me understanding what the hell is going on. String theory, for example, is interesting to me. The problem is, my brain short-circuits damn near immediately once the topic is brought up.
To cover my bases, I do know that two ONA (Original Net Animation) series were released prior to the Kemurikusa TV anime. The issue, both are incredibly short – one being two fourteen-minute episodes and the other consisting of seven one-minute ones. It is possible crucial plot elements were conveyed in those “installments,” but even if they were, I doubt they would have made the larger Kemurikusa show any easier to follow.
But Odyssey, you said Kemurikusa knew how to convey information without resorting to exposition.
That’s right, this series was good at defining its world. However, it dropped the ball when it came to its characters. And it’s the cast of Kemurikusa that is causing me to conclude this show is not worth your time.
I suppose I could mention how insanely difficult it was to keep track of who was who, seeing how the three main female characters had names that began with “Ri” – Rin, Ritsu, and Rina. And to add fuel to that fire, there were four different versions of Rina. But do you want to know something? None of them held a candle to the pounding headache known as Wakaba.
The majority of Wakaba’s dialogue consisted of him being surprised by absolutely everything and “That’s interesting.”
- Hey, that fog is red. “That’s interesting.”
- Look, that tree is glowing. “That’s interesting.”
- Check this out, the sky is dark. “That’s interesting.”
- A rock. “That’s interesting.”
Oh my god, just shut up.
Everything Wakaba did was infuriating. So you know, his fellow cast members weren’t much better; this series’ writing was pretty damn bad. Wakaba, on the other hand, was the epitome of everything that was wrong with Kemurikusa.
There were good things in this show. Too bad to see them, we had to be accompanied by something more annoying than a yappy little dog whose own fart set off a barking storm at three in the morning.
In the end, I will acknowledge Kemurikusa made incredible efforts in some areas. But its strengths weren’t powerful enough to carry its weaknesses.
If there was one thing this show proved, never write off anything before giving it a chance. You never know where you might find merit.
Now, do one or two impressive aspects equal something worth watching? Yes, sometimes. Unfortunately, this was not one of those instances.
There was just too much burden placed on this story. To be fair, the story gave its best fight. Sadly, its best wasn’t good enough.
If you watch this show out of curiosity, I won’t blame you. For any other reason, though, Kemurikusa is something I cannot recommend.
But these are just my thoughts. What are yours? Have you seen this show? What would be your advice concerning Kemurikusa? Leave a comment down below because I would love to hear what you have to say.
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For Anime Hajime, I’m LofZOdyssey, and I’ll see you next time.