Kemono no Souja Erin

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VivisQueen's avatar By VivisQueen on Oct 28, 2010

Story

Here comes another marvellous adaptation of the works of Nahoko Uehashi, the author of Seirei no Moribito. Just like Moribito, Kemono no Souja Erin uses the interdependence of nature and humans as a canvas on which to paint its story and gives the mother-child relationship central place in that picture. What sets this unassuming series apart from (and maybe even above) the character-focused Moribito is the subtle way it immerses us in the politics and ecology of its fantasy world, Ryoza. This is family viewing extraordinaire, an emotional escapist journey not just for kids, but for Mum, Dad and older siblings as well.

Kemono no Souja Erin depicts the life of a girl who wants to be a beastinarian (Ryoza's equivalent of a vet) mainly in the guise of slice-of-life. In a similar approach to Radix's Haibane Renmei, it uses banal, everyday adventures to reveal a wealth of deliberate detail. As the titular hero Erin and her mother Soyon make grass balls for polishing the dragon-like Touda's scales, we subconsciously note the painstaking effort involved in their trade. I also adore the little lectures Soyon gives Erin about the uses of 'special water' or why beastinarians hunt for Touda eggs, and the quiet moments in which they cook bizarre local cuisine or share baths make heartwarming statements about the value of nurture.

But the show shines brightest when it ties in all its animal lore with the exceptional civil conflict between the Queen of Ryoza and her second-in-command, the Grand Duke. For instance, the bizarre giant winged wolves called Ohju mean more to the Queen than your average corgi; as symbols of power, weapons of war, commodities to be handed out as gifts, and instruments to prove one's godhood, they essentially represent her legitimacy. Moreover, the Ohju's rank in the food chain matters militarily. In the same way the existence of gunpowder makes spears redundant, their higher rank in the food chain cements the Queen's tactical might over the Grand Duke's legions of Touda.

There is certainly a strong environmentalist message here and of course the language is pitched mainly at children, but despite that, Kemon no Souja Erin never becomes a trite pro-animal rights show. By tying in human conflict with animal welfare, the series controversially implies that true social harmony means not just forming bonds of understanding between humans, but between humans and the natural world as well. Perpetual peace amongst people remains a mere theory without the security and happiness of the beasts. While not new, this argument is far rarer than the one that simply says 'harming the environment is bad' or 'harming the environment is bad because it causes natural disasters', which is about as far as Moribito goes.

What the show gains in nuance, however, it sacrifices in visceral power. Erin's growth as a herbalist and beastinarian takes up the bulk of the narrative, with every scene laid out slowly and meticulously. At its worst, one episode made entirely of dream sequences is followed immediately by a slow, reflective one full of dialogue. Some viewers will find these moments of lag frustrating, although anyone with a taste for world building should have enough fun lingering over every one of Kemono no Souja Erin's details.


Animation

Stylistically and technologically, the show might as well be the same age as Anne of Green Gables. With character designs seemingly lifted from Studio Ghibli's waste bin and backgrounds like a watercolour picture book, it neither looks nor moves like a 2009 production. Nevertheless, while the show suffers glaring aesthetic shortcomings, its involving story ensures we hardly care.


Sound

Significant flaws exist in the soundtrack too. At best, the cheerful first opening theme, which I love, feels like a reflection of Erin's nature and highlights the show's positive outlook. A more haunting but also less appealing cover version opens the second set of episodes to match the sober events therein. Unfortunately, its musical creativity dead-ends there as the same handful of synthesised tunes repeat through all fifty episodes. The worst example is this faux rock theme that accompanies the action scenes and sounds horribly misplaced in a children's fantasy drama.


Characters

Most of the cast are marginal spin-offs of stereotypes that the script rarely presents with any subtlety. In one scene we see a man standing in the shadows of a room while at his feet lie dead people who evidently just drank some dubious wine. In a following scene, Erin meets her creepy new school teacher Kirik whose class happens to be about poisons. Similarly, if we care for any characters, it's because they are obviously kind or obviously unfortunate people.

Notable exceptions do exist, and they include Ial the elite royal guard, Shunan the Grand Duke's heir, Soyon, and of course Erin herself. Yes, she is a cheerful young woman of courage and with great moral conviction beyond her years, but where the cliche stops is that she attains this towards the end of her journey. Her inner strengths are borne upon the wings of experience, adding power to her arguments. When she says to a man of the Mist People, 'Shouldn't we, the humans, be the ones to change? Not the beasts?' we hear not just her obvious common sense but remember the thorny path she has taken to attain it. Like the story, Erin is steel sheathed in a soft, shoujo coating and thus a welcome addition to the small number of great female protagonists.

8/10 story
5/10 animation
6/10 sound
7/10 characters
8/10 overall
OnLittleFeet's avatar By OnLittleFeet on Dec 5, 2009

Hurting your main character.

As a story teller, it is one of the hardest things to do. We often grow attached to our creations and wish to see them suceed. We don't want them to suffer--everyone loves a perfect ending.

But can you sympathize with a character whose life is perfect?

Enter the masterful, often heart wrenching (and yes, some times sappy) story of Kemono no Souja Erin.

The animation itself is a pleasant mix. Near-charcoal like textured outlines with water colored inspired shading gives this animation a simplistic feel, but the combination of unique buildings and intricate world seem anything but simple.

Character animations are also spartan, yet perfectly convey the emotion needed to carry the scene. Distinct faces aren't truly common, what separates are the excellent stories that develop the main characters from their personalities, quirks, hopes and pain--bringing them a quality that the uncomplicated drawing style lacks.

The story however, is where Erin the series, shines. And truly, story is what draws me and keeps me with a show far longer than anything else.

The writers for Erin are not afraid to hurt their main character. Truly, deeply, nearly oh-my-god-give-the-girl-a-break hurt her from time to time that plays on the audiences sympathies, making the main character someone we can empathize with and begin to root strongly for. You end up wanting better for Erin, for those who know her, for those around her and for the story line in general.

This, my friends, is how you know a good story from a mediocre story. You catch yourself shaking pom-poms and chanting for the good guys.

There are some wonderful light spots, some cliche cheesey-goodness too that while easily recognized as a plot point (or filler) that's been done for many other shows, one can't help but find themselves mentalling bro-fisting for triumph even when groaning and rolling their eyes at the obvious sappiness of it all.

Between all of this delicious nouegetty sweet story telling there's also a pretty heavy political intrigue plot working behind it all, grinding slowly to a higher presence in the series as you get further in. In a way, Erin reminds me of a faster paced, milder Twelve Kingdoms, without any glaring simularities--Erin's writers are able to convey a sense of a rich, other fantasy-ish like world without taking eighty-four episodes to get on with it.

The soundtrack is a damn good fit as well. They've managed to choose music which solidly fits both the genre as well as scene moods. I actually quite enjoy the opening and closing themes, with one exception (and why I marked the sound a 7 out of 10 instead of 10 out of 10.) Several episodes in, they changed the singer for the main theme song from a male singer to a more traditional female singer. And while it's grown on me, I cannot say that I like it half as much as some of the other well-known series to incorporate more traditional musics. I think the song change was not something that fit the series. Or, as it is often said: if it ain't broke, don't fix it!

I would not recommend this anime for those who are searching for a much darker themed and or bordering on adult series. You won't find flashes of nipple, panty shots, overabundance of blood, gore or anything of the like. Kemono no Souja Erin tends to lean toward hinting or representing violence with symbolism instead.  

 

Kemono no Souja Erin is a wonderful, wonderful anime for those of us looking for stories about conquering overwhelming odds, joy through sorrow and meeting the hardships of life head on. If you agree then do not hesitate to get your hands on this show. Well worth it.

10/10 story
8/10 animation
7/10 sound
10/10 characters
9/10 overall
AirCommodore's avatar By AirCommodore on Apr 21, 2010

STORY

Kemono no Souja Erin's first twenty or so episodes are offensively slow-paced. This, combined with the fact that it's a children's show, will probably turn a lot of people off, which is a shame.

Even though the first two arcs of Erin were slow, they weren't needlessly so. The pacing eases the audience into Erin's world, while introducing the characters and customs at a pace the target demographic could keep up with. As a fantasy series, a lot of background information is required to "get" the world, and Erin does a wonderful job at that (the only thing I wish had been explored more thoroughly were the Mist People). Additionally, oodles of information introduced in this build-up will be important to the story later on, even though it seems pretty minor at the time.

Once Erin finally gets going, it is quite an experience, though. Her experiences with Lilan were especially moving, and showed just how great of a story this is. The middle twenty-ish episodes, if judged on their own, would easily get a 10/10 from me. I wouldn't change a thing about them, I teared up at least five or six times.

The quality decayed slightly, yet again, in the last handful of episodes, as the focus shifted from Erin to the politics of the world. I personally couldn't care less about the various nobility and their issues, and felt the civil unrest was being milked for cheap drama instead of focusing on the clear-cut best part of the series- Erin and her beast raising.

ANIMATION

For the most part, Erin's animation was thoroughly average. Flashes of brilliance (such as the stylishly abstract scenes whenever a beast attacked, or the hauntingly beautiful dream sequences and second OP) were hampered by character designs that were too plain to adequately express a full range of emotions and rampant cost-cutting in the form of an over-reliance of flashbacks and reused footage (which happened at least once per episode, without fail).

SOUND

Super. There were a few really excellent songs that were played again and again at emotional moments, and after a short time the songs themselves start tugging at your heartstrings because you associate them with all these beautiful scenes.

CHARACTERS

Erin is amazing. And why wouldn't she be? There were fifty episodes almost completely devoted to developing her character, and she evolved so much during that time, it'd be impossible not to like her. She shows enormous feats of courage, strength, insight and maturity.

The other characters are much more of a mixed bag. In what I assume to be an attempt at humor (Erin's humor is terrible, by the way, thank goodness it rarely attempts to be funny), the egg thieves Mokku and Nukku were added who never failed to grate on my nerves. Them and John (who I also found annoying, though your results may vary) made the second arc rather less enjoyable than it should have been. Most of the other characters are interesting but don't get anywhere near enough screen-time to become attached to. The main villain in particular was really shallow.

?/10 story
?/10 animation
?/10 sound
?/10 characters
8/10 overall
animelover1477's avatar By animelover1477 on Aug 13, 2011

I started to watch this anime yesturday when i was bored and then i was so into the anime that i would stay up as long as i can to watch what i can. This anime is a good family or all-round aniem that you will love and become one of you favourites.

Story:In this anime viewers get to watch a beutiful story through and through about a young girl that faces many obsticles throught the anime and her mother with is a single parent. the writer of this story made it a very beautiful one that got you asking all these wuestion and you wont find out until you keep watching the next episode. Which is why this anime is so good the writer has made it so you will want to continue what you have left off. But the story is indeed a good one but it has some flaws(sp) one being that with the rightous protagonist that is loved you get the typical villian that viewers see all the time in the anime that center around politcal or historical or ones that involve a plalace etc. Other than this the anime is one that will bring tears and smiles to your faces.

Animation: The thing about the animation in the anime is that because it is made a while back and also it has a theme the characters are designed the way they are. The scenery that you see in the background is very beautiful and good. The designs and animation are fit perfectly with the anime. The reason it is a 6.5 is because when it comes to a certain areas or scenes in the anime it goes into a sorta different way than you will see usually which is why i feel it takes away from the animation.

Sound: The sound i found very fitting for the theme of the anime. The opening i felt was very good and beautiful and it is also heard as background music in the anime which fits perfectly. Other sounds and music are also heard through out the anime that add an edge to the scene and adds emotion which is why it is a perfect score.Not to mention the sound of the beast in the anime are very unique and cool.

Characters: What can i say about he characters without given something away? Well in the anime Erin which is the main character is a very lovable person, which no one will hate. She is the one people will be routing for to make it thrugh life to become happy for sure. Although on the other hand, when dealing with the antagist they can be spotted very easily and are typical. This is also another reason why this anime is so good it gets you into it. routing for characters, cheering , hating on them, getting angry. 

Overall: Overall this anime is very good but drags on a little. It may be very slow but it picks up. There may be chacters that you dont like but there will be some you do. There will be music that you want to listen to over and over again, learn japanese and there will be soem you will skip. But all theses dont change the fact that this anime is a very heartfelt , touching and moving story that any one will enjoy. Dakara please watch until the end, you should not be dissaponted at this anime.

PS: excuse the spelling mistakes if there is any, not proof reading.

 

8/10 story
6.5/10 animation
10/10 sound
8/10 characters
9/10 overall
choum123's avatar By choum123 on Oct 27, 2010

I didn't know what this anime was about at first. I saw it on Crunchyroll one day and decided to watch it. I fell in love with it. It is sort of a kids show, but it is really dramatic. At the beginning it starts out slow, then it just hits you in the face with all the dramatic stuff.

Once it starts going, you go through the main girl, Erin's life. You see all the tragedies and the corrupted live she lives. I would say this anime is really unique. If you are looking from something different than normal anime this is going to be one of your new favorites.

Story Line:

Wow, how do you explain how awesome this story line is without spoiling anything. The story line is beautifully written. This story like fits in with everything you see and hear. This has a bunch of irony in it, situational and dramatic. Sometimes you can expect it, or predict it to happen. Most of the time you don't know whats going to happen next. The story line will bring you to tears.

Animation:

The animation seemed normal. The vibrant colors the artists chose fit right in the storyline though. The only thing that bothered me was at the end, there was an episode with a blizzard, and you can't really see whats happening during that time. The best animations were when the Ohju (birds that represent their "country"). The animal animation was beautiful.

Characters:

The main character, Erin goes through so much in this series. She's really smart. I don't know why anyone would hate her. She has a great personality. The writer is very creative with her. 

The other characters were very different. The two comic relief characters Nuk and Mok are really funny. Some characters are sub-characters, but you don't really get to know them much because they aren't shown most of the time.

9/10 story
7/10 animation
9/10 sound
8/10 characters
9/10 overall