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.
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.
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.
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.
Clearly, this is not a show for viewers who want something short, fast, and easy, but for those who crave charming world building and an exemplary family adventure. While never playing it safe, Kemono no Souja Erin draws for us such a vivid picture of human and animal struggle, that we absorb Ryoza's unique ecology with the rapt attention of children entering a zoo for the first time. Emotions insinuate themselves through steady, tender development and the climaxes arrive with incredible emotional weight.
Kemono no Souja Erin is a lovely anime, one I do definetely recommend watching. It's a coming of age story that had me crying countless times. It's one of those special anime which are meant to be enjoyed by both children and adults alike, like the Studio Ghibli ones. It's a very long anime, 50 episodes, and at times - especially at the beginning - quite slow-paced, but those 50 episodes are not filler (I think there's maybe two episodes which I would qualify as filler, one about half-way that summarises the story so far and one dedicated entirely to the comic relief duo Mokku-san and Nokku-san); the episodes are all dedicated to building the world behind the story and developing the story itself and the main characters.
The story is an exceptionally good one. And the fantasy world that backs it up is well thought out, in a mythological/fairytale sort of way. At times it's maybe excessively simple and naive, but other than that I don't think there are many flaws. We follow Erin from childhood spent with her mother in a small village at the outskirts of the kingdom, through to her adolescence with Jones the honey-man and then as a student at the beastlord academy, to finally see her grown up with a family of her own. From her mother Erin inherits a love of animals and the natural environment, which will motivate her to become a "beastinarian", a doctor who looks after animals. And the process which takes her there is a heart-warming and heart-wrenching tale. Erin's own story at a certain point becomes intertwined with the greater one of the country in which she lives, a country constantly at war with neighbouring countries and internally on the brink of civil war, so from slice-of-life anime we pass to a sort of political-drama. But even in this transition we do not lose sight of Erin, who is central to the unfolding of the events.
As for the characters, Erin is obviously the main one. It's her story. She has depth and she develops a lot through the disadventures and mishaps she has to go through. She is loveable and believable as a curious and mischievous child, your heart will break alongside hers when she loses the person most important to her, and I'm sure she will pass on to you her fascination for beastlords. As a child she is guided by intuition and curiosity, but grown-up Erin shows independance of thought, going beyond what she is told to find what she believes to be true. The highlight of the story is pretty much the relationship between Erin and Lilan, a baby beastlord (a mythological creature half bird half lion) which is entrusted to her care; what is great is not only how well their relationship is portrayed, but also how it develops and changes and how this changes Erin. Most of the other main characters are also extremely well-portrayed: Soyon, Ial, Jone, Esal. Truth be told, the secondary characters didn't turn out as well as the main ones: the two queens, the grand duke and his sons, and the main villain/buy guy are all little more than caricatures.
As for the animation, it's a mixed bag in my opinion. The characters are maybe a little too plain and simple, but I think the backgrounds, drawn with a watercolour technique, are quite lovely; and the dreams as well as the whole mythological part rendered with very vivid colours are really good.
Sound is ok. The voice actors did a good job. As for the background music, Op ad Ed, there are a few, simple, but catchy and nice tunes that repeat themselves.
So in conclusion, this is a really good anime with a good story and good characters. It's enjoyable and will not only involve you emotionally, but it will also give you some food for thought regarding the relationship between men and animals, as well as human society and its laws and codes of conduct.
Our story begins with a young girl named Erin who is being raised by her mother Soyon in Ake Village where they raise war lizards called Touda to fight in an ongoing war led by the Grand Duke. Soyon is a very gifted beastenarian who was formerly of the Mist People, which are a group of infamous nomads who are known for their mysterious technics. Erin is fascinated by the world around her. Fascinated by the Touda and tells her mother that she wants to become a beastenarian just like her. Soyon isn't so enthusastic by this declaration as Erin is very sensitive to the world around her and she feels that her daughter wouldn't be able to do what must me done. Throughout Kemono no Souja you watch the many ups and downs of Erin's young life as she struggles to find her way in the world and eventually sets her eye on becoming a beastenarian to the Beast Lords. She is utterly captivated by them and wants to understand every little aspect of them. She wants to understand if it is at all possible for beasts and humans to live together in harmony. She has an overwhelming curiosity of the world around her and wants to truly understand animals. Erin's journey is a struggle. There are times where you can't help but feel that the girl can't seem to catch a break but she always persists in pulling herself back up and moving forward. She simply refused to give up on her values or her dreams and that was one of the things that I liked the most about her character.
I haven't enjoyed an anime this much in what feels like a very long time. Kemono no Souja Erin was a truly beautiful and heartwarming anime that I know I won't soon forget. The animation was a unique blend that took a little getting used to as it made the series seem more like a childrens anime, which it isn't, as the plot can attest to that. However, I ended up really loving the unique aspects of the animation which was very reminescent of folk tale art. Which actually suited it's purpose admirably as this was a fantasy anime with quite the tale. The plot, which I gave a short summary of above, was so wonderfully done, so perfectly told, that it was nothing short of 'masterpiece'. There were sad times, happy times, and everything in between. I loved every bit of it. The soundtrack was gorgeous ... if but for one imperfection ... the second OP. Don't get me wrong ... the lyrics were lovely, the music was gorgeous but the singer of that second OP sounded like a dying, strangling cat ... I kid you not! -_-" Every other aspect of the soundtrack was perfect though. Just not that second OP ... it was akin to torture! >.<" The characters were wonderfully developed and really added to my enjoyment of the hidden gem that is Kemono no Souja Erin. Overall I have to say that I wish I could go back in time and smack myself for leaving this in my planned to watch list for nearly two years! Kemono no Souja Erin was a beautiful journey that I will remember for a long time. It's really a shame that so few people give it the chance that it so richly deserves ...
I absolutely fell in love with this anime and the story as it unfolded. Erin is truly an inspirational character and her development throughout the entire series was top notch--kudos to the creator of kemono no Souja Erin. I will not give a synopsis of the story as that is already given but I will take the time to discuss some of the highs and lows of the show.
The story in my opinion was definitely one of high caliber and careful planning. It truly felt like an epic tale that really got you engrossed in every aspect of the story. That being said not every part of the story was carried out as well as the others.
Read on if you have already finished...
Let me start off with the high points. Erin's beginnings were picture perfect. We got a sense of where she came from, the importance of Soyon, and Soyon's death and how it affected Erin. In my opinion, every part of the story from episode one to the part where Erin and Lilan create their bond and grow closer to one another until she is about 18 was spot on. I could go on forever, but it is better to watch it than read this review--I cannot do this story justice in my own words, that's what the writers for this anime are for. For me, the whole political plight of the country Ryouza was unclear and not very well developed. As an example, Avatar the Last Airbender had a great political struggle (i.e. "the fire nation attacked") and set the Fire Nation as the clear cut villains with an agenda. The whole relationship between the Queen's quarter and the Duke's quarter wasn't explained very well and the animosity between Holons and Wajyaku was not very apparent either. Also, many, if not all of the characters involved in the politcal aspect of the show (grand duke, queen harumiya, seimiya, damiya, shunan, kiriku, ngan) did not have adequate character development and their goals and ambitions were never clear. I feel if the political aspect was more direct and there was more attention given to these characters (like backstories for starters) then this could have been a much better story.
Also, throughout the series, I found Ngan to be very annoying. he was such a one-dimensional character that had no purpose in this show. There were many plotholes surrounding him and Shunan. There were also plotholes around Damiya. Why did he want the wajyaku gone and the country to be ruled by a pure queen? what were his motives? backstory? goals? agghh... Also, I felt as though the relationship between Erin and Lilan became confusing towards the end. I thought that Lilan saw Erin as a mother figure (someone to love and respect) yet Erin still had to use the threat of the mute whistle to get Lilan to "obey". This is just ranting and I can only complain about it. I cannot change the story, but I really wish some of these issues were addressed. This series is made from only the first two volumes so maybe a second season would make up for some of this season's lacking features.
The animation was truly amazing and very interesting and diverse at times. This includes the animation when they explain the story of Je and when the touda and beast-lords fight each other/beast-lords eat the touda.
I loved the OP and ED and OST, all of it. Just beautiful to listen to.
Overall, I liked it a lot more than average but still feel as though some things could have been improved to make it a masterpiece. A definite watch and a definite top favorite.
Thanks for reading and let me know what you think in the comments!
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.