This Week in Anime
Kemurikusa is the True Successor to Kemono Friends

by Michelle Liu & Steve Jones,

Kemurikusa is the newest post-apocalyptic fantasy from TATSUKI, the creator of Kemono Friends. This week, Micchy and Steve explain why you should be watching "Smokeweed the Animation" instead of the in-name-only Kemono Friends 2.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by the participants in this chatlog are not the views of Anime News Network. Spoiler Warning for discussion of the series ahead.

@Lossthief @Liuwdere @A_Tasty_Sub @vestenet


You can read our weekly coverage of Kemurikusa here!

Micchy
So Steve, I've been watching the Kemono Friends sequel airing this season, and is it just me or does Kaban-chan look different now?
Steve
The more things change, the more
they remain the same.
Just kidding, this week we're talking about SMOKEWEED.
I know we're probably going to call it that for this entire conversation, so let me just put it out there that yes, SMOKEWEED is a legitimate translation for KEMURIKUSA. That's likely the reason why no licensor will translate its title.
Look, I'm just saying it's highly suspect that Rin inhales green leaves to blow huge vape clouds at her enemies.
They are legit powerful plumes of cotton.
Jokes aside, it is funny how we got both the "official" Kemono Friends sequel this season and the OFFICIAL Kemono Friends sequel: Kemurikusa.
Now that sounds like a joke, but Kemurikusa really does feel like the successor to the post-apocalypse narrative of Kemono Friends, like a fuller realization of its late-game story. Kemurikusa is what happens when Kemono Friends doesn't pretend to be an edutainment mobile game ad for six episodes. In SMOKEWEED, you've got unfiltered TATSUKI, janky CG models, and all the weird charm that comes with them. It's very cool and good if you like TATSUKI, and very disappointing if you were on board with Kemono Friends for the animal facts alone.
To complicate matters even further, Kemurikusa actually predates Kemono Friends by a few years! It started out as an independently-produced animation (that you can still find on YouTube) by TATSUKI and his team, and now it's been expanded into a full TV series. So a lot of the concepts that seem similar to Kemono Friends were actually things TATSUKI had brought to Kemono Friends from the original Kemurikusa! In other words, weirdly cozy post-apocalyptic travelogues seem to be his wheelhouse, and if you liked Kemono Friends, there's no reason why you shouldn't also like Kemurikusa, because under the surface, they're the same anime (minus the animal girls).
Okay, mostly minus the animal girls.
I gotta say, "perpetually tired catgirl/plant who talks through vines" is a powerful character concept.
Ritsu is so good! She's the exhausted mom friend everyone needs. Really, the whole cast is great, which is a big part of why I like the show so much.
They're a cozy bunch, that's for sure. The sisters (plus Wakaba) are just trying their best to stay optimistic and survive the post-apocalyptic hellscape, each of them with their own unique ways of helping out. While Ritsu is the mom friend, Rin, the primary fighter of the lot, shows her love through a real bad self-sacrificial streak. She's quick to defend, slow to trust, and fiercely protective of her family. It's all a product of the (supposed) loss of three of her sisters to the Climate Change Metaphor Fog.
She's kind of the co-protagonist alongside Wakaba, and their journey has been just as much about finding safety as it's been about her learning to be a leader. This is a warm show, but it gets dark. Like, the very first scene is about her dealing with the loss of another sister.
These traumas follow all of the sisters, but they find resilience and confidence in each other.

Mind you, her sister doesn't totally die in that scene, because Kemurikusa is super weird, and Rina is actually four (formerly six) distinct clones of herself.

In light of her theoretically limitless cloning, Rina's attitude toward death is pretty interesting. They're in the unique position of being able to tell what the fallen Rinako would've wanted, so it's almost like she never died. And even if one goes, four still remain, so they're not too upset about it. The Rinas are weirdly cavalier about the whole deal, even though Rin and Ritsu don't necessarily see it the way they do. They're strange, but they also offer a comforting perspective in a world of decay.
I feel like the Rinas are the most distinctly TATSUKI-esque of the sisters, if that makes sense. They're goofy and bratty while also embodying some of the strangest aspects of this world, and the show extracts a lot of deadpan humor from that, mostly at Wakaba's expense.
Also they can eat literally anything, which I respect.
In a single scene, they can go from reminiscing about an entire building they once ate to reflecting on their dead "sister" in the most cavalier fashion. It's great.

That contrast between lighthearted goofiness and heavy stakes really defines TATSUKI's work. It was what made Kemono Friends a sleeper hit, and it's absolutely present in Kemurikusa too. He handles the inevitability of death and the eventual deterioration of the world with the gentlest touch, never dwelling on the bleakness, always looking forward.
Also, having the tree bus do a muscle pose is an extremely good visual.
TATSUKI seems to understand that post-apocalypse iyashikei is the most important genre for our modern times.
Is it really iyashikei if they get attacked by sicko mode roombas all the time? Then again, the trotting bots can also be very cute.
I guess you have a point there. These don't exactly scream "healing".
But those roomba bots are very worthy successors to the legacy of Lucky Beast. I freaking lost it when they found an entire colony of the little guys.
Yeah, I didn't expect to feel so sad for a stack of roombas, but here we are. Eons into this post-apocalypse, and all they want is a leader who cares about them. :'D
Mmmm, I love those Nier: Automata feelings about abandoned robots trying in vain to find purpose in a broken hellscape! Incidentally, I think Kemurikusa is the best Nier: Automata of 2019 so far, which is only appropriate because Kemono Friends was one of the best Nier: Automatas of 2017, just a few places behind the actual Nier: Automata.
Now I can totally see how some folks would find Kemurikusa unbearably slow or simplistic, but I'm with you in completely loving these leaf girls and their adorable robot friends.
And of course we can't forget our lovable
Normal Human Boy.
Wakaba fills the Kaban-chan role of innovator and clueless outsider in the cast, but he also has Serval's personality: easily excitable and constantly curious. Where Rin hesitates to risk her sisters' lives in search for more water, he has innocent faith in a better future. Essentially, he's keepin the Friends spirit alive.
He's here to do two things: get really excited about Kemurikusa leaves and get savagely roasted at every possible opportunity.
 
 
And I also have to commend the show for
being so kink-positive!
Steve...
Look, I'm not the one who decided Wakaba should be wrapped in vines for the entire first half of the story!
I'm still losing it over how he keeps that dumb vine coiled around him long after Rin dispenses with the leash. He doesn't even have a rope trailing from him or anything. He's just wearing a vine. What is that supposed to accomplish. His arms aren't even restrained, he could easily take it off.
It's letting him know who's boss.
Wakaba's pretty much a big excitable puppy, so the leash is thematically appropriate. But over the course of the show, he gains courage and confidence, growing closer with the sisters to the point where they're all in this together as equals now. He even gets to share one moment of reckless badassery.
But mostly, the boy loves his Smokeweed.

You know what I love? Shark-toothed anime girls.
Riku is very Good and Relatable, yes.

Oh yeah, the three "dead" sisters aren't actually dead, who'da thunk it.
Well, kinda? They all seem to be sharing the same body, which isn't ideal.
It's definitely not the best-case scenario, but you'd think three sisters in one body would be preferable to three dead sisters. So it's kind of fucked up that they insist on hiding from everyone, especially since the surviving sisters are still so hung up over the loss.
Yeah, there's a lot that remains sketchy about all this, and many mysteries in general that Kemurikusa keeps dangling in front of the audience. It's good that the lingering questions—where Wakaba came from, what happened to the world, why are Riku and others being so secretive, etc.—definitely keep me coming back. But I like that they're not the main focus of the show.
The scene with Ryo and Ryoku has some neat revelations, but it's mostly about Wakaba being intimidated by another pair of weirdos.

Yup. Kemurikusa is about healing, whether it's the world's gradual rejuvenation via enormous trees or how the gentle bullying of this pure boy gives me life.
It's all about celebrating kindness and curiosity, which is a welcome break from a lot of post-apocalyptic fiction that revels in darkness and despair. These characters are constantly caring for each other, and that's where Kemurikusa's heart shines.
 
 
The world might be disintegrating beneath their feet, but at the end of the day, sincerity and genuine compassion prevail. And that's pretty rad.
Kemurikusa is a big 2019 mood.
Wakaru wakaru, I feel ya Ritsu.
I also think Smokeweed has one of the strongest aesthetics out of all the winter shows. Janky 3D be damned, its sense of color and composition is gorgeous.
 
 
Oh yeah, I'm totally with ya there. The sunken skyscrapers, the ruins of houses dotting the landscape, the towering tree roots, this show consistently delivers outstanding setpieces. Coupled with the shitty CG, it's quite a viewing experience!
The show's backgrounds do so much work instilling its uncanny landscapes with a sense of awe amidst the decay. It's so good.
Conceptually, this world's design is real special. In execution, I do kinda wish the animation were 2D. When one aspect of the production is so stellar, the crappier parts stop being cute and just become crappy to me. But it wouldn't be a TATSUKI project if it weren't a little janky, right?
That's part of the charm, for sure! Kemurikusa rises above its limitations to deliver something truly special, and it's one of my favorite shows to catch up on each week. It's warm, inspiring, and encourages you to flex in the face of danger. What more could you want?
I want even more savage Wakaba dunks.
Ask, and ye shall receive.

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