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.