The Winter 2019 Anime Preview Guide
Kemono Friends 2
How would you rate episode 1 of
Kemono Friends 2 ?
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How was the first episode?
Back in the winter of 2017, the director TATSUKI and his small team at studio Yaoyorozu were tasked with adapting Kemono Friends, a mobile game, into CG animation. By the point the anime was released, the mobile game had already been discontinued; by all means, this production should have been a tossed-off and quickly forgotten lark. However, TATSUKI and his team managed to turn Kemono Friends into a genuine hit, building off the game's world to create an evocative and consistently charming mix of slice of life shenanigans and post-apocalyptic adventure.
TATSUKI's clear passion for this project resulted in him continuing to produce short episodes in the Kemono Friends universe, which parent corporation Kadokawa used as justification to fire him, fire Yaoyorozu, and bring an entirely new team in to commence milking this newfound cash cow. TATSUKI was left with no control over the franchise he made a hit, and now Kemono Friends 2 arrives, with Kadokawa hoping to somehow recapture lightning in a bottle without the man who conjured the lightning.
The results aren't quite as bad as you might expect, though this episode was still a pretty disappointing experience. With new, weirdly stiff character models and animation, plenty of direct callbacks to the first season, and the reprising of many familiar narrative turns, watching this episode felt a bit like seeing beloved friends killed, stuffed, and forced to dance on strings for me. But once I got over the frustration of this season's mercenary genesis, I was left with an episode that seems interested only in tightly repeating all of the narrative beats of its predecessor. The original Kemono Friends ended on an optimistic conclusion that promised a broadened scope for its successor… here in Kemono Friends 2, the events of the first season are literally forgotten, and we find ourselves running through the exact same events of the first season's early episodes. From its strained callbacks to familiar season one refrains to its total reset of Serval's personality, it's hard to shake the feeling that this season is too beholden to the first season to really offer any of its own appeal.
There are some bright notes, though. Kemono Friends' brightly deadpan sense of humor carries through into season two, and there were some fun Friend-specific gags like Giant Pangolin and Armadillo curling up in response to loud noises. The sights and sounds of Japari Park also remain an inherent pleasure, creating a cozy sense of atmosphere throughout this episode.
Still, on the whole, it feels like Kemono Friends 2 lacks the vision to match or improve on its predecessor. “Let's just repeat the story and hope they like it again” feels characteristic of all of Kadokawa's decisions regarding this property, and with TATSUKI himself directing Kemurikusa this season, there's no need to settle for the ghost of an old friend. I loved Kemono Friends, and I'm happy to let it rest in peace.
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