Kemono Friends and the Understated Heroism of Being Yourself

Kemono Friends is a goofy kids show about a girl travelling around with a bunch of anthropomorphized animal girls on a quest to find out what kind of animal she is. It became famous over night for it’s uniquely bad (and somehow oddly charming) animation, it’s stupidly catchy theme song, and the time a Humboldt Penguin fell in love with a cardboard cutout of the Humboldt Penguin girl Hululu (RIP Grape-kun). Needless to say, it’s widely viewed as a meme show by those who haven’t seen it, and while that certainly is part of the appeal, I don’t think it’s a fair assessment of what Kemono Friends really does.

In the very first episode, the protagonist Kaban (literally Bag, cause no one knows what kind of animal she is and she happens to have a bag) is shown to be rather useless in most survival situations. After her newly found friend Serval, the Serval offers to take her to the library, to find out what Kaban is, she’s barely able to keep up: she’s a slow walker, a poor climber, has pathetic jumping ability and needs Serval to save her when they first run into the tiniest Blue Slime of a Cerulean, this world’s strange, blobby monsters.

Kaban is the timid type and these things start cutting into her morale quickly, but whenever she seems to be getting depressed, Serval is there to cheer her up. “Different Friends are good at different things” is one of the central lines of the show, and what the entire first half is here to showcase: a Serval is an athletic wildcat, and her energy and playfulness fuel the show, while Kaban is soon established as enduring and smart, overcoming her weaknesses either through wit or by directing others with more directly applicable skills.

Different Friends

About halfway through, it is revealed that, as the viewers already knew at this point, Kaban is a human being. This revelation changes… well, very little for most of the show. It’s still goofy. It’s still charming. And Kaban and Serval still travel, almost aimlessly, from place to place, meeting lots of other new friends (and Friends) along the way. But Kaban embarks on an all new journey all-together, and while the difference is subtle initially, it becomes quite major as the show nears its climax. Up to here, Kaban has been learning primarily about herself, what her skills are, how she can use them to help others and herself, and who she is as a person. While helping others understand and improve their talents along the way to the library, she’s gradually learning how to be the best Kaban she can be. From here on out, she learns from others how to be even better.

Most of what she learns, she learns from Serval, understandable considering how much time they spend together. As her story progresses, she becomes braver, and far better at taking action in a crisis; both things she directly learned from her friend, who wouldn’t hesitate to throw herself at a Cerulean the size of a truck if it meant helping someone (she literally does this, in the very first episode), no matter the danger.

[The rest here is probably spoiler, though by now you’ve probably heard all about how Kemono Friends concludes anyway, so just move on imo.]

In the penultimate episode, aptly titled “Cerulean”, a giant cerulean forms and grows out of control. Kaban and Serval could take the easy way out, ignore it and head to the harbour. After all, they barely know the Friends it’s going after. But they can’t accept that cowardly action, and so they devise a plan to lure it into the sea, killing it. When Boss, the little blue squirrel-ish robot that has been with them most of the way, messes up, Serval throws Kaban and Boss out of the way and is swiftly absorbed by the Cerulean. And this is when everything comes together for Kaban. Being your best self means not just sticking with what you’re good at. It means learning from your friends, finding inspiration and strength in others. And that’s exactly what she does, gathering all of her best traits (endurance and intelligence) to do what her friend Serval would do. She climbs a tree, makes a leap, dives into the Cerulean and saves her friend. It’s spectacular. Watch Kemono Friends. Ahem.

I don’t wanna say much more cause you seriously should be watching this show, and describing scenes in detail makes for bad posts. But Kemono Friends’ main points are simple and well-made: Be yourself. Help others be themselves. Learn from others to be yourself better, and believe and rely on others when you can’t do it by yourself. Kemono Friends is not the biggest anime sensation of the last few years by accident, Director Tatsuki and Studios Irodori and Yaoyorozu put a ton of work and talent into it and it is every bit as good as you’ve heard.

Thanks for reading and remember toScreenshot (3119)


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