A few young girls with strange powers and a tree that has grown through a railcar cling onto life in a desolate land, searching for its last reservoirs of water. Their routine struggle to survive is interrupted by the arrival of Wakaba, a boy with no memory beyond his own name. The girls and their new companion commit to a perilous journey across seas of burning red fog—all in order to find what they need to sustain themselves on the more distant, dangerous islands swarming with robotic bugs. Their ultimate fate will be decided by their own strength, along with Wakaba's curious ability to understand the Kemurikusa: mysterious glowing leaves with wondrous powers. Besides the girls, Wakaba, and the hordes of ravenous bugs, the Kemurikusa are the last sparks of life surviving in this land. How did things end up this way? Why are there so many empty buildings with no one to live in them? Wakaba and the girls lack the answers to these questions, which means the truth can only be found within the Kemurikusa. [Written by MAL Rewrite]
Director Tatsuki has been on a turbulent journey these past few years. He became a household name after the unparalleled success of Kemono Friends in 2017. Kemono Friends was a no name franchise from a failed mobile game and manga until the airing of the anime, which turned it into the industry giant it is today. That was largely thanks in part to the talent of Director Tatsuki. The man is a master of mystique and a world building wonder. He incorporates adorable characters into dark and sometimes even twisted stories, but in a meaningful and endearing way.
After the success of Kemono Friends, we all thought the sky was the limit. But thanks to corporate greed, Tatsuki was kicked to the curb when they thought his usefulness had ended. Following this incident was a massive social media outcry from not only Japan, but around the world. Despite the hardship,Tatsuki and Studio Yaoyorozu picked themselves back up and went to work to tell another compelling story. This time, with an entire fandom in tow.
Kemurikusa is a brand new series by Tatsuki and animated by Studio Yaoyorozu. It’s set in a dystopian world following the sisters Rin, Ritsu, and Rina. I have to preemptively say, there are a large amount of similarities to the first season of Kemono Friends. Obviously because they both share the same director, but it’s something worth pointing out. This time around the story is much darker and bleaker than Kemono Friends. The characters are constantly trying to survive as they attempt to find water and fight off Red Bugs. They come upon a mysterious person named Wakaba, who may very well help them find the paradise they’ve longed for.
The characters are the first thing I want to touch on. I found this cast of characters delightful and a joy to see them interact with one another. Tatsuki is incredibly good at making adorable, likable characters. They contrast very well with the dark, mysterious, and dystopian backdrop. And again, like Kemono Friends, the characters have a synergistic relationship with one another. The sisters have special powers and are able to fight the Red Bugs, while Wakaba is both intelligent and is able to think outside the box thanks in part to his insatiable curiosity. This relationship works so well because it allows everyone to be useful, and no one is left to irrelevancy. Rin is serious is always on the lookout for the enemy, Ristu is motherly and kind, Rina is goofy, innocent, and childlike, and finally Wakaba is easy going, sometimes air-headed, and easily frightened. It’s a nice mix of personalities that you are quickly charmed by. Seeing these cute, endearing characters struggle in this twisted world only made you cheer for them more.
Continuing on the story itself, it’s a story of survival and trying to find a better life with the ones you love. The plot strings you along the entire time as there are numerous mysterious elements that keep you hooked. This is another aspect Tatsuki is very good at; his stories never lack mystique. How did the world get this way? Where did everyone go? What’s the story behind the mysterious, yet powerful Kemurikusa leaves? Because of the survival element, tension was consistently present. The characters’ lives were constantly in danger as they walked into the unknown; be it from fighting off Red Bugs or running out of water.
I did however, find myself bored a handful of times. At least one or two times an episode it’s nothing but showing the characters walking and getting around difficult terrain. While it is interesting to see the world unfold in front of us, I just couldn’t shake my feeling of boredom at times.
There are a number of things that I don’t feel as though they were explained well enough, which left me feeling a little disappointed. However, the entire story is contained in the 12 episodes. Which to me, is a breath of fresh air. There always seems to be room for a sequel nowadays, but this resolves the entire story from beginning to end which gives you a feeling of fulfillment and completeness.
Visually, this was a big step up from Kemono Friends. Studio Yaoyorozu now has more experience, and it shows, but this may have also got more funding behind it as well. While it still retains the simple looking animation, the character designs are attractive and the animation is much smoother and more intricate. However, the animation still looks rough at times and at best it’s only middle of the road, at least for industry standards. I think what helps set it apart is the art style, which is cute and round. It’s basically becoming iconic at this point.
As for backgrounds, it was filled with crumbling buildings and structures, empty cars filling some streets while others are completely barren. You’ll see a variety of structures like an amusement park, a residential district, an industrial district and more. What happened to what appears to be this once great society? Tatsuki uses this to his advantage as a “show, don’t tell” technique that he did so well in Kemono Friends.
The music wasn’t anything to write home about. It served it’s purpose as I don’t have anything particularly positive or negative to say about it. And from what I can tell of the voice acting, it was great. Everyone had a distinct and innocent sound to them that I just loved.
It’s been a long road for Tatsuki since the end of Kemono Friends. But I can happily say he has another winner on his hands. At the time of this review, volume 1 of Kemurikusa has sold 15,000 units. Kemurikusa is an interesting world with a great cast of characters. The story leaves you with a sense of satisfaction and is an overall enjoyable experience. While it does lag behind in couple of key aspects, Kemurikusa is still a memorable show that I found myself loving by the time episode 12 rolled around.
After the way he was treated, it’s terrific to see a director like Tatsuki land back on his feet with Kemurikusa. His blending of cute and dark along with a twist of mystery, Tatsuki has found a successful formula that works, and I can’t wait to see what he has in store for the future.