Before I begin, DISCLAIMERS. Rather than write them myself, I’m going to quote a couple of reviewers from animenfo.
“If you're one of those people who laps up anything thats original just because its different, then this is one for you to watch. But if, like me, you only like originality when the resulting product is actually good, then I'd hesitate to recommend this.” – Kaj, for Mind Game
“Do you think later Picasso works are great? Do you think Van Gogh was more than just a nutter who couldnt actually draw? do you like ugly graffiti strewn all over the walls? Then you may like the animation of this. If no, then do not bother. Ugly is one way to describe it, refreshingly different only if you enjoy looking at toilet graffiti.” – Caireen, for Kemonozume
Studio 4C has always been on the fringe. Aside from Comedy, which had a minor splash among people who knew what they were looking for, they’ve continued to make experimental bits that played around with interesting visuals, but never really seemed to go anywhere.
Their “breakout” movie, if one could call it that, was Mind Game. I won’t write much about it here. However, what’s important is that even though the film was just as bold, visually unique and schizophrenic as their previous shorts, the work actually possessed a coherent and intelligent meaning for those willing to catch it. As a result, the film garnered a fair deal of critical praise, including the prestigious Ofuji Noburo award.
…and many people hate hate hated it. They didn’t see any meaning. They didn’t appreciate the unique visuals. They didn’t empathize with the characters.
Now, the experimental minds at Studio 4C have received enough attention to grab funding for Kemonozume, an actual TV series. The problem? Rather than tone down their style for the larger target audience, the show is just as vulgar and violent as Mind Game (perhaps more so). Even more troubling, apart from the relatively cheery and upbeat film, Kemonozume’s tone is almost unwaveringly grim and bleak.
…in other words, many people are going to hate hate hate it. Yet, once again, this is not a pointless, meaningless endeavor, but an honest, ambitious attempt at true art.
Kemonozume is concerned with showing how mankind’s natural desire to love and prosper is often sabotaged by its very own bestiality and self-destructiveness. This has been examined before in Jin-Roh: the Wolf Brigade, Texhnolyze, and Now and Then, Here and There, so the main focus is nothing particularly new.
Like Mind Game, however, the show’s familiar themes are wrapped in a thoroughly bizarre, grotesquely humorous, and largely riveting narrative. Kemonozume observes a simple love story, doomed from the start due to the overwhelming forces of violence, hatred and anarchy. This is the first show in quite some time that I’ve truly binged. As a whole, the storyline is extremely taut, and doesn’t really let go until the final episode. The dark humor, extreme violence, and relentless sexuality combine well to form a captivating, albeit gloomy tale.
The story’s themes are represented quite well in the animation style, which picks up where Mind Game left off and elevates itself to an entirely different level. Make no mistake; the visuals of Kemonozume are violent, graphic and, some would say, quite “ugly.” Excessive gore, gratuitous nudity, and mind-warping scenery abound, and the character designs are some of the most bizarre to ever be conceived – a mishmash of crooked lines and disproportionate features.
However, like Mind Game, the show’s visuals are not the way they are “just to be different,” but work with the storyline to enhance the series’ message. In order to show mankind’s flaws and imperfections, the anime deliberately avoids the clean, simple look that plagues so much of modern anime. Rather, Kemonozume shows mankind honestly: pathetic, savage, and destructive, yes, but also sparked with an intense desire to live, love and prosper. To call Kemonozume’s visuals “ugly” is to call human nature itself ugly.
The voice actors do a serviceable, albeit weird job, but the music doesn’t seem to always fit. The soundtrack uses some rather abrasive and distracting jazz that, apart from being just annoying in general, doesn’t always do the storyline justice.
The characters themselves are far removed from the stereotyped, cookie-cutter personalities that most anime fans will be accustomed to. Without exception, all of them are decidedly imperfect. They impulsively succumb to lust and violence, they devour each other selfishly (and I mean that both ways), and they often seem to have no redeeming qualities… and yet, at the end of the day, their desire to live once again shines through. Of particular note is the villain, whose over-the-top insanity both honors and exceeds the groundwork laid by King Hamdo of Now and Then, Here and There.
First shout-out after finishing this: "WHHHH... FFFFFF, what exactly did I just watch?" As Otaku108 neatly described on IRC:
[Otaku108] sometimes there aren't words in the dictionary to describe some things
[Otaku108] usually I just cover them with "ZOMGBBQ"
Yes, ZOMGBBQ is probably the best way to describe this beautiful monstrosity. Kemonozume is one big experiment in both animation as in storyline.
The story starts out being quite solid, changing into a suspenseful romance with plot twists aplenty quickly after the intro. However, Kemonozume is like a good mindfuck anime, in reverse, after being put through the blender. Let me explain. A good mindfuck series starts out being fairly easy to understand, with a little bit of mystery thrown in. It then proceeds to increase that bit of mystery while it keeps throwing small hints at you, probably only adding to your confusion, until everything falls into place at the climax. This show however is more like a mix between FLCL, Saikano and Higurashi: It starts out incredibly bizarre, yet understandable, then continues adding more and more completely ridiculous ideas to quite a solid storyline, until it completely drowns you in a mix of limbs, sex, monsters, gore and Oba, all hanging on a thin line of what was once a good plot, albeit a tiny bit bizarre. I’d like to be able to describe this anime as a strong romance anime, with elements of gore and mindfuck thrown in, but that would be like calling FLCL an intelligent show about saving the world, while it was just one big colorfest.
The animation in this show is either love or hate. It’s ugly, but just like Hitsuji no Uta, the way it was animated added to the whole feel the show had, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Also, because of the way it’s drawn, the massive use of ridiculous gore is easier to take.
In the end, I wouldn’t recommend this anime to many. The use of violence and sex in this series makes it inappropriate for a younger audience, and the use of gore and randomness will stop lots of people from watching this. However, are you one of those weirdoes like me who is into experimental series? Don’t you mind a little brainmelting? Then this is the anime for you!
Here's a test. Watch this clip:
If you not only survived the entire thing, but were laughing your ass off by the end of it, Kemonozume is definitely a show for you. If you ran screaming... just keep running for the sake of your own sanity, because it only gets worse. For one thing, this clip doesn't even show you the drunken, deranged scribbling of the animation style, with crazy warped perspective and grotesquely disjointed characters that might give you vertigo on top of everything else.
Kemonozume is one of the weirdest, wackiest, sickest, most demented things I have ever seen-- and that is saying something. At one point there's a mostly naked flying fat old man bouncing through the air laughing hysterically and dancing around with a pair of severed arms stuffed down his speedo, while the whole screen is flashing psychedelic colors and turning inside out. Bloody, graphic, violent, nihilistic, and sexual, this is not a series for the faint of heart or weak of stomach. It's gleefully macabre, and I love it!
I don't mind watching anime that have a little weird drawing style, but this is not just weird... It's terrible. Eyes too far apart, characters messy with dark and thick lines looking like they just threw some colours on raw sketches...
But let's put that aside a bit. Even if it does make it hard to realise that some people are supposed to be handsome. It's the story we're looking for.
And that starts pretty good. A romance not meant to be and difficult circumstances, fighting with monsters and all kinds of ingerdients to make a fine story... Untill they make things even more farfetched... At some point you might even start thinking, scr3w this s#!t, I don't want to watch it anymore if it's going to get more and more crazy.
You do get to see some sort of a happy end, get closure and even have a few laughs along the way, but this anime certainly isn't to everybodies taste.
I consider myself to be fairly open minded, and I do try to see through all animes I start and have succeeded with most too. If the anime isn't that interesting I devide it into parts and watch some other stuff in between. THis anime kept me going though, wanting to know what happens next, even if they made the plot a bit too big. It could have been better had they put some more depth into the story, but then it would have probably been too soft to some people's tastes.
It all really depends I guess. Still, I did enjoy it and can't tell you not to go watch it if you like (a bit violent)action and don't mind the artwork being very rough. Just make sure your own eyes don't drift as far apart as these characters have them, that would probably cause you sever headaches all day. ;P