Sometimes I’d really like to figure out how my brain works because every now-and-again it does the oddest thing. This time I was minding my own business last week when I suddenly had the urge to start trying to catch up on the backlog I had with Kemono no Souja Erin. The last episode I had watched was episode 6 back in March and, while I was generally positive about the show, I had slight problems with it and concerns on how it could fill it’s 50 episode run with enough goodness to make it worth my while. I never intended to drop it but when several things happened that forced me to put my watching on hold, I didn’t rush back to it.
But there I found myself last week, loading up episode 6 to refresh my memory before going on towards the new-to-me episodes. A few days later and catching up to the latest episode (number 26), I find myself with a new perception on the series and the desire to try to convince other people to catch this great show (without spoiling it).
The biggest thing I was worried about with this show was that it would be too much of a kids anime that I wouldn’t be able to enjoy it. Turns out that after 26 episodes I can say I was right about it being a kids anime but wrong about not being able to enjoy it.
I might catch some flak for calling Kemono no Souja Erin a kids anime but it is. First off, the fact that the series will occasionally touch on a more mature or dark topic then what’s normally found in kids’ shows does not automatically make it not a kids anime. If you want an example just look at the movie Bambi. It was done by Disney, the very company that virtually everyone thinks of when you mention wholesome, kid-friendly animated shows but in the movie Bambi they kill Bambi’s mom all while staying within the confines of being an animated show meant for kids. And remember, just because our society has progressed towards a point that disease, death, and other sad, morbid things only rarely intersect with the lives of kids does not mean that they never do.
Second, there’s various things done in the show that all point for it being meant for kids. The most obvious is the frequent use of a narrator to tell the audience the reasons, meanings, and emotions of how the characters act even when it should be glaringly obvious to the viewers. Another is the frequent use of flash backs to remind the viewers of events in the past. This show isn’t some sort of complex story that requires these flash backs and I don’t think Production I.G. is this lazy and the use of retelling things over-and-over is a well used way to reinforce things in kids shows. Then there’s the two sidekick characters that would fit perfectly in a Disney movie and the one character that farts – I love his character but bodily noises done for comedy is a frequent technique of shows aimed at kids because kids find bodily noises funny (so do adults but that’s another story).
And lastly, I’m old enough that I no longer feel the need to convince others that I’m grown up by showing that I only do grown up things. If a kids show interests me, I don’t mind saying so.
Okay, with that settled, you might wonder if a kids anime is worth the time, especially since it’s going to run 50 episodes. That was my worry, as I already mentioned, so let me be the first to say that it is very worth it. I was most surprised by the complexity of the story which I’d like to go into but since my policy on this blog is to stay as spoiler free as possible I can’t go into specifics. What I can say is that the plot of the show has contained a couple very unexpected twists to them and has developed much differently then I thought it would. It somewhat reminds me of Gurren Lagann in the way that looking at the first few episodes of the show does not readily reveal the scope of the show to follow. And even at the halfway point of the show (as we are) it’s apparent that we’re just now moving into the true plot and story of the show. I can’t wait to see how the rest of the show unfolds.
Another thing that Kemono no Souja Erin has going for it, is it’s characters and with good characters, almost any show is at least watchable. The previous work adapted by Production I.G. by this author was Seirei no Moribito and one of things that slowed my liking of that title was that I didn’t quite like the characters as much as I should have. This wasn’t the case here. From the very beginning, I’ve liked the main character Erin even when I was sure that I wouldn’t. She’s an idealist in the way that younger people can be and oftentimes in shows that features characters like this – they annoy me because they come off an whiny when life doesn’t fit their idealism. Erin does not however, she has a depth, inner-strength and the will to go the extra mile to live up to her ideals which is praiseworthy to see and she’s also a kind, likeable person to boot. The show is also full of interesting and engaging supporting characters, of which John the Bee-keeper is my favorite.
One thing that Kemono no Souja Erin shares with Seirei no Moribito and many of Miyazaki’s classics is how the show doesn’t really feel like an anime. Sure it looks like an anime but it lacks the use of stilted character arch-types like a tsundere, common plot devices like onsen episodes for fan service, and catering towards the kinks that some anime fan have like including cat ears or maids. I’m not saying any of these are bad but it’s nice to sometimes watch a show that’s different in this way.
Looking at the show, now that I’ve caught up, I find it a bit depressing that it’s not being covered more – outside of Kitsune’s posts and hey say anime and The Deathseeker, I really haven’t seen much about this show. I know this show isn’t for everyone but I would definitely recommend giving this show a chance if you’re in the mood for a good character-driven anime with a story that appears (at least at the halfway point) to be well-plotted and will keep the viewer guessing.