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So-so Sunday!: Kemonozume (anime)


Directed by Masaaki Yusasa  (who also did Crayon Shin-Chan and Samurai Champloo...both of those are awesome). Madhouse Studios, 2006.

Admittedly, I selected this show to review because it was rated so poorly on the site animeseason.com.  Sometimes I find it difficult to find bad things to discuss, and it isn't because there isn't quite a bit of bad anime and manga out there, but because I don't have the patience to sift through the crap long enough to figure out if it is bad or not. So, this week I looked at the lowest rated series on animeseason.com to make my selection. I was a little surprised to find an anime by Masaaki Yusasa on the list. I mean I love Samurai Champloo--which reminds me, that should go on the "to review" list. Long story short, I was intrigued...here was a good director, with a big fan base, and a very low 45% rating from viewers. I wanted to know what made this anime so unpopular, so I started to watch.

First off, I can't call this a So-Bad Sunday! post, because I don't know that Kemonozume IS so bad. It certainly has some obvious things that could turn off viewers, especially viewers looking for anime that meets their expectations. So, it's not bad--but, it isn't good either.

One of the things bothering viewers may be the animation style. Yusasa doesn't do your average slick, super-beautiful, boys and girls with big sparkly eyes kind of style. Those of you who have seen Samurai Champloo or Shin Chan  know this already. And the angles of the work in this particular anime are visually strange as well. There are odd close ups and unexpected perspectives...this, I think, is a good thing. It isn't pretty, but it is interesting, and artistic. Unfortunately, strange and artistic doesn't work in every panel of this anime, and it may be part of what's warranting this series such low acceptance among viewers.

The good news is that the story seems interesting enough, at least on paper--Our hero, Tohihiko is the heir to a familial duty to destroy cannibalistic yokai (demons) called shokujinki, or flesh eaters. He does this with his "ogre sealing sword." His family runs a training academy for would-be shokujinki killers and he is next in line to take over the family business. So far so good, but here's where the conflict arises. Due to a monkey/skydiving fiasco on the beach, Tohihiko is introduced to pretty blonde Yuka.

Just your average night time monkey/skydiving fiasco leading to love-at-first-sight situation.

He, of course, falls in love with her instantly. Then he starts seeing her face everywhere (even on a monkey). She seems to be having similar "love at first sight" feelings about him and the two wind up making out on the beach in a rainstorm. Then they have sex, during which we, the audience, realize that Yuka is a flesh eater. WHAT? NO! Things play out as expected and the story evolves into a Flesh eating Ogre version of Romeo and Juliet. This isn't horrible, right? It's actually pretty interesting. A standard sort of lovers conflict pitting family, destiny and love against one another. I'd watch that. But there are some problems I feel I must address, Dear Readers.

Problems:
-Well, there's a lot of crazy monkey as plot device, which I can't say I approve of in an otherwise serious series.
Weird looking monkey likes butt fruit!
-There's also a big issue with our hero pooping his pants during battle scenes. I'll give you a second to let that sink in before I say "Um, no, Dear Readers, I'm not kidding, and I wish I were."

- Grandpa has a robot hand! (Why is this on the problems side? I don't know.)

- The bad guys, flesh eaters, are almost cute when they change from their human form into their blood-thirsty, rapey-death-machine forms.

Oh, my god, that thing is precious, even if it does have a half-dead woman
hanging off of its junk as it runs.  Don't worry, it stops and eats her in the
next scene. So cute! It reminds me of Captain Caveman!
- The weaponized "buster suits" Tohihiko's creepster (yes) brother invents are also kind of precious looking.

- The music is weird as hell (although that is kind of to be expected give the director's style).

This isn't enough to make me definitively say this anime is bad enough for So-Bad Sunday!, though. I mean it has some good things going for it.

Good Things:

- The story is still strangely compelling, although it does seem pretty standard and predictable in some ways.

- The first scene of each episode is really stark and beautiful. A stylistic depiction of the mythology behind the flesh eaters and the warriors pitted against them.

- The mythology is interesting. That alone makes me want to watch more.

- This director takes risks that usually pay off very well in the end. His work is not conventional, but that's part of what makes it almost always interesting and inventive.

Would I watch more? Yeah, if I was bored. I give this a So-So. There are things that make me want to turn it off, but there are just as many things that make me want to keep going. It isn't bad, but it isn't everyone's cup of monkey butt fruit juice. Maybe take a look and see for yourself?

2 comments:

o t t o said...

This sounds terrible in a glorious way, if that makes sense. Stylistically, it sounds great! Especially when you consider the people behind this. But some of the problems you listed sound absolutely ridiculous, yet not enough to turn one away completely, I guess lmao

M said...

@otto, it does make sense, This series was at least sort of terribly interesting, instead of outright terrible. It is inventive, and the creativity of the animation is worth a look, if nothing else. That monkey, though...too much monkey as plot device for sure!