by Rebecca Silverman,
How would you rate episode 3 of
Kemono Jihen ?
Unless I'm very much mistaken, we've just met our arch-villain for Kemono Jihen. Although, perhaps “arch-villain” isn't quite the right word – Inari Yoko isn't quite a full-fledged bad guy so much as she's the flip side of Inugami, something she readily admits. While Inugami tries to help people and kemono, Inari is only interested in helping herself. Nothing shows this better than when she first saunters into the episode, trailing a fur coat meant to look like the many tails of a powerful fox yokai and liberally unleashing pheromones to enchant the humans around her. Inari is hailed as the superintendent of the police department, but it's obvious that she's only in that position because she both tricked her way into it and needs a foothold in human society from which to operate. She's less evil than selfish; it's just that her brand of selfishness is so extreme that she truly doesn't care about anyone else and thinks nothing of murdering a child to get his lifestone – and if she has to use another child to complete her nefarious plans, who cares?
If there's one thing that this episode amply demonstrates, though, it's that there aren't many, if any, adults that Kabane can really trust. Inugami sent Kabane, Akira, and Shiki to Inari with the full knowledge that she'd probably try to kill Kabane to get his lifestone, something he didn't care to share with the rest of the class. Inari, meanwhile, not only did precisely what Inugami thought she'd do, but she also shows zero compunctions about toying with her servant Kon's emotions while she's at it. This may be where the biggest difference between the two adults becomes apparent: Inugami kind of sucks, but he also did offer Kabane, Shiki, and Akira a home. He does teach them in his own way, and he shows definite kindness, albeit in a trickster tanuki kind of way. Inari, however, doesn't appear to be doing the same for Kon. She instead uses Kon's desperate need to belong and be loved as a tool to manipulate the girl, wielding praise like a weapon and then not even caring enough to figure out what happened to the kid after she sent her out with Kabane's detached head. Kon is desperate to gain (and keep) Inari's approval; Inari really doesn't give a damn about Kon even when she realizes that Inugami's tricked her out of the lifestone.
This sets Kon and Kabane up to be foil figures themselves. Both have been the barely-wanted child in a home that couldn't care less about them, with Inari's use of Kon as an errand girl looking awfully like Kabane's aunt using him as unpaid field labor. Whereas Kabane repressed all of his emotions as a result of his treatment, using his lack of emotions as a way to protect himself, Kon wears her heart on her sleeve, with desperation in most of her moves and words. She so badly needs to be a “good girl” that even Inugami uses that to calm her down after he takes her in; she's basically Pavlov's dog whenever she hears someone say “good girl.” That's just as sad as what happened to Kabane, and if we assume that Inugami is going to take Kon in permanently, it should make for an interesting contrast. (Poor Shiki may have a breakdown, though; I'm not sure his little tsundere self can handle two weird new housemates.) If nothing else, Kabane has already accepted that he was unwanted, while that's something that Kon may have to work through if Inari really has spurned her.
Folklore-wise, Kemono Jihen is using what looks like an interesting mix of traditional yokai and fantasy staples. Kon and Inari are very classic kitsune, with Inari embodying the trickster yako kitsune, who can be very malicious. That both can take on human form suggests that they're in the 50-100 year range in age, and Kon's inability to hide her ears is a good sign of her immaturity. Inari's interest in seduction also fits nicely with a lot of kitsune myths, and seeing how bake-danuki Inugami used his powers to transform a little bake-danuki figurine into a lifestone as opposed to Inari using her wiles is a really neat way of establishing their differences as shapeshifters. On the plain old fantasy side, Inari refers to Kabane as “half-khoular,” which seems to be some sort of ghoul/oni thing. It clearly shares some similarities with oni, but like Shiki's “Arachne” parent, it may be from a fantasy game rather than any mythology. (If you know, please tell us in the forum!) For some reason it's giving me Magic: The Gathering vibes.
In any event, it looks like we may be done with the prologue to the story now. Someone has just walked into the office, so the real meat of the story may be starting next week.
Kemono Jihen is currently streaming on FUNimation Entertainment.
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