Original Run: January 10, 2021 - March 28, 2021 Number of Episodes: 12 Genre: Action, Mystery, Supernatural Based on the Series Created By: Shou Aimoto
***Warning, the following may contain spoilers for Kemono Jihen. Reader discretion is advised.***
Force to work the fields in a small country village, Kabane Kusaka (voiced by Natsumi Fujiwara) believed there wasn’t much more to his life. His lot was to stay in society’s shadow and go unnoticed. That then changes when a detective from Tokyo, Kohachi Inugami (voiced by Junichi Suwabe), arrives while on an investigation.
In Kabane’s hometown, an unknown entity has been brutally killing livestock, and Kohachi was called in to solve the matter. Then, to the surprise of everyone, the detective takes a liking to the normally shunned Kabane.
It turns out that Kohachi is actually a tanuki spirit, a Kemono, and runs an agency that deals with the occult. His interest in Kabane stems from the boy’s mysterious past; Kabane is half-human half-demon, and an incredibly strong one at that.
Following the investigation, Kohachi invites Kabane to join him in Tokyo. There Kabane will have the chance to learn who he really is.
If you were to ask me what I thought constituted a “hidden gem,” I would tell you to look no further than Kemono Jihen. This is a series that is easy to overlook, especially since it came out during the winter 2021 season, which had a ton of big-name releases such as Attack on Titan Final Season, Re:ZERO Season 2 Part 2, etc.
Although Kemono Jihen often played the part of an average supernatural action show, it was not afraid to crank up the gruesome and the unsettling. This show could go from silly and lighthearted to downright frightening in a few short moments. Therefore, please be aware that some scenes are not for the squeamish.
If there is one thing that can be said about this series, it’s that it kept things as simple as possible. As I see it, that was a great strength.
A lore-rich story is an ultimate goal, I suppose. People, locations, how a world works, these sorts of details help make a show feel more real and alive. But reaching this level of complexity is a process. A process that is extremely difficult to see completed in only twelve episodes. Nevertheless, I’ve lost track of how many series tried to do just that (looking at you, Fairy Gone).
For its part, Kemono Jihen may achieve a more comprehensive lore structure should it secure a continuation. As of this review’s posting (May 2021), there is no news of any follow-up. With the time it did have, this show placed more importance on providing the information we needed to know right here and now, as well as establishing a core cast of characters.
On both accounts, Kemono Jihen saw success.
Something this series did well was illustrating how diverse the Kemono world was. Rather than overloading us with as many different creatures as possible, we only got a glimpse of a select few. But the intelligent move was with the uniqueness of those creatures.
While including many of the standards – tanukis, foxes, and vampires – Kemono Jihen threw in far less familiar spirits. And to drive the point home even further, these other spirits were the most brutal and terrifying of all.
Early on in the show, there were these bug-like apparitions that were basically my worst nightmare. These vile things had entirely infested a house, and it looked like they were consuming the poor souls trapped inside. Before this scene, there were a few indications that Kemono Jihen had no qualms about going intense, but this really did seal that pact.
I can only imagine what might pop up if we get a season two.
Also playing into the simplicity factor of this show, the characters, at first, appeared to be one-note and generic. Kemono Jihen rectified that by giving most people a rather messed up backstory.
Our lead protagonist, Kabane Kusaka, had no emotions when we met him; he literally didn’t have a personality. Throughout the show, though, Kabane slowly beings to feel long dormmate emotions. I say dormmate because his ability to feel happy, sad, scared, worried, or stressed was sufficiently squeezed out of him by the family that took him in as a child. Before arriving in Tokyo, Kabane was considered to be lower than dirt.
As for Kabane’s two partners, Shiki Tademaru and Akira (voiced respectively by Natsuki Hanae and Ayumu Arase), they too were first portrayed as flat and monotone. It wasn’t until later, when we learned their histories, that their personalities made sense.
In fact, ShikiI’s tale led to the most frightening scene in the entire series.
Along with its story and characters, Kemono Jihen was also a decent action show with entertaining fights and satisfying victory moments. Given the sense of danger this series erected, each encounter was a lot tenser than it otherwise would have been. The possibility of one of our main characters dying was never much of a thing. But the possibility of someone dying, quite gruesomely at that, always seemed likely.
Not bad coming from a show that might easily fly under your radar.
If you’re looking for a series to test your luck with, then I think Kemono Jihen is perfect for you. It won’t wow you in any significant way, but it will provide much more than you might expect.
I don’t know how to say this next bit without sounding snobbish.
Although I enjoyed Kemono Jihen, I have no genuine interest in seeing it continue. That is a problem since the end of this series set the groundwork for a season two. Unfortunately, there was no corresponding anticipation to go along with that.
Should part two come, I will happy, as well as surprised. I do not believe we will get any more out of this series. For the record, I have been wrong on this front before – The Quintessential Quartet 2 and Sorcerous Stabber Orphen 2 are things that now exist (with varying results).
But the point is, Kemono Jihen failed to secure a need for more.
Part of this lack of enthusiasm came from Kemono Jihen falling into one of the classic shounen narrative traps. No matter what was going, no matter the enemy, no matter how many people were involved, Kabane was always the person to solve the problem.
This series went out of its way to mention Shiki and Akira had their strengths. These two’s potential to be of use had chances to come out. Too bad Shiki only ever took care of one opponent, and Akira once bumbled his way into a victory.
Kabane, on the other hand, was the unquestionable center of attention.
As soon as it was clear this was to be the pattern, most of this series’ later fights were significantly duller. If Kabane wasn’t around, a battle was going to drag on until he showed up.
If a story plans on hyping up strong characters, then it better use those characters. However, Kemono Jihen, like so many shows before it, only had eyes for its primary protagonist. Therefore, it’s hard to get excited for a season two when there is every indication this aspect will not change.
Now don’t get me wrong; there were other, better elements to Kemono Jihen. The fights and action scenes weren’t the only things that made up this series. Conversely, there were also elements that have not yet had a chance to shine their brightest.
Don’t write this show off; it is worth more than you think.
This series didn’t try to cram as much information as it could within its twelve episodes. Instead, it took the time to introduce its world and its characters. And what this show lacked in complexity, it often made up for with pure brutality.
Kemono Jihen has earned a recommendation.
But these were just my thoughts. What are yours? Have you seen this series? How would you advise Kemono Jihen? 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.