Kemurikusa (2019) [REVIEW] | Leaves Of Tree

After the Kemono Friends anime made a fairly forgotten (and at the time even freshly axed) free-to-play thing become one of the biggest sensations of that year…. Kadokawa fucked the series director over, basically, and in a way of karmic retribution, many resented the second season when it came around, both out of spite for Kadokawa’s behaviour. And because the Kemono Friends gravy train was gone by then.

Regardless, TATSUKI continued to work on other projects (see Keifuku-san and Hentatsu, which i already reviewed), and in 2019 he decided to adapted an older work of his, an original net animation called Kemurikusa (released between 2010 and 2012), into a TV anime series (which so far only streaming on Amazon Video), once again tasking the same animation studio of Kemono Friends (studio Irodori, which he was part of) and the same production company (Yaoyoruzu), culminating into a project that didn’t seem raise much interest online.

People knew the director of Kemono Friends was behind it, definitely, but i guess it wasn’t enough, so the Kemurikusa TV adaptation came out without causing much clamor (outside of some circles) or attracting much attention even from dedicated outlets or anime enthusiasts who knew it existed. At least i got that impression.

And sadly it’s not totally unfair, because at first glance seems very familiar, not just for the same style of very rough “3D CG anime” seen in Kemono Friends, but because the story and the world itself felt a lot similar, with a vague post-apocalypse scenario, where the main characters are humanoid but not exactly human, fighting off insectoid robot enemies (the Cerulean equivalent), and in the first episode the protagonists find an amnesiac human who tag alongs.

Yeah, it sounds VERY familiar. So i don’t begrudge people for not sticking along, but it’s worth saying there is more to it, and this isn’t a Kemono Friends re-do. First, we have a more defined – even if still kept vague – post-apocalyptic world where three sisters try to survive against the aptly called Red Bugs” using the titular glowing leafs, a mysterious phenomenon known as Red Mist, and foraging for water. And yes, eventually they come along friendly robots that are either info banks or helpful by design, though it’s more a thing on the side and not essential in learning more about the world and its past.

They don’t so much search for food but more for water, because despite claiming to be human, one of the sister, Rika is actually 6 sisters bundled into one (multiples Rikas, yes) and she can shed in multiple smaller version of herself (among other things), the main one, Rin, it’s very strong and capable of regenerating limbs, and the older looking one, Ritsu, has fox ears and can basically extend roots like cables from the Kemurikusa tree they have, using the “root wires” to hear and speak remotely (she can even move her cat ears around those, somehow), or just uses the normal roots of the tree to move around, because of her hailing health condition.

Another character is the amnesiac dude, Wakaba, who is a wide-eyed enthusiast, timid and weak, and he seems to be a proper human, but after being presented as the “common man”, you get to see he’s just as weird as the rest of the cast, and so instintually knowlodgeable about the Kemurikusa leaves themselves you get the “hint” he’s more than it seems, and he’s connected somehow to the titular, strange transparant leaves that are the main mystery of the narrative.

If you were able to watch through all the first season of Kemono Friends, you will mostly have no problem here as well, but boy, is the 3D CG by studio Irodori rough, especially for a 2019 anime release, the same year we got Lupin The 3rd – The First showing this style can actually make for incredibly good looking “3D anime”, without the various issues and compromises and whatever the fuck was “Berserk 2017”. But then again, that Lupin movie costed million times more and was made by TMS Entertaiment with a gigantic staff, so this comparison it’s just plain cruel, despite necessary for some context.

Still, there is some charm to this style, and money can’t buy you good direction, but once again i feel comparisons with Kemono Friends are kinda necessary, since it does even share the same direction, as in it’s mostly exploration and eventually some brief action.

What’s even odder is that this has more going on than that series, there is structure and actual pay-offs, actual characters and some drama to it. But, for absurd as it may sound… it’s kinda harder to follow because of that.

Sure, Kemono Friends had a z-style charm and the source material was almost pointless for a tv anime, so you basically went along for the charming snd cute ride it was, with zero expectations and confusion as where the hell was it actually going, if anywhere. Kemurimusa instead does actually have some stakes, it has a more defined and constructed worldbuilding, but it may come across as an odd case where it’s both vague enough AND you get a bit too much info.

Given how the pace can be a bit slow and revelations of some significance take their time, this may stop you from caring to find out the truth behind the apocalypse and what lies beyond the red mist engulfing everything. You never feel bored, but at the same time you’re not that compelled to find out even halfway through, and i kinda had to force myself through it at that point. It was worth it, i’d say, but this just happens to be a very slow burner… and not one that delivers great action as the “fire max output”, it’s more about exploring and seeing what this world is and what it holds, etc.

And it’s intriguing to learn what these strange leaves do or by who or what are they used, or to see what weird sights are there, like mountains held in place by weird wires where the ground should be, there are some surprises and some nice final twists. But i can easily imagine most people giving up before the half-point, especially since most of the fights are in the latter parts, and the action is well directed when it happens. With battle music that actually fits the tone, this time.

I’m quite ok with the ending, without spoilers… it’s not a downer but it’s not too saccharine, so it evens out, and the various twists and revelations seem to all connect.

On the technical side… it’s still better looking than some of really, REALLY low budget crap Adult Swim decides to peddle out, like Assy McGee, i can say that much.

Still, you can see some drawbacks from this style, as everyone seems to basically be unchanging appareance wise, and a tendency to avoid this kind of changes. For example, i don’t think it’s accidental Wakaba still has on that rope they previously tied him up with, like for entire episodes he still has it on, he basically get so used he doesn’t even bother to try just get out of it, and the rolled up rope seems to make him look like he has a lifeguard on or something. They eventually remove it, so i guess it was an error or they figured out it’s best to remove it regardles of intention.

It’s a Yaoyoruzu anime, no one will get out of that dress or designs too much, heck, by design the characters don’t even need to bathe or do any activity that requires undressing or going to the bathroom, as they are not human, so we won’t need to animate any of that. Maybe lose a hat but not much else, the animation can’t really take it, let’s be honest with ourselves. On the upside, the designs are cool, and the various sisters have some fun designs, i quite like them. On another hand, you can see the animation style and budget struggling for the more elaborate mouth movements, as you can see they skip some frames all together, with some mouth “waving” looking choppy as a result. And some of the CG in later episodes… it’s rough.

The voice acting is a bit on the annoying side, as most of the dialogue is given to the multiple Rina sisters/clones/scissions, which obviously share the same voice, talk in a childish manner (often with the third person, always in fairly high pitch).. because they’re weird children, dryad children or whatever, but still. That or Wakaba, who isn’t annoying sounding per se, but it’s by design always amazed and wondrous joyful to learn new things. And the random choice to have the older sister end every sentence with a “nya/meow”, i guess because she has cat ears, but i’m not even sure they even know what a cat IS, given they were not aware that Wakaba was a regular human.

Overall, it’s an interesting series that i would encourage to stick with, because sure as shit it’s not an immediate cult classic, it doesn’t hook you right away, it really takes its time, the animation style is cheap 3D CG anime, but director Tatsuki wears this niche like a glove, creating another interesting post-apocalyptic world with the right amount of vagueness to it, and overall making this series worth watching as well.

Even if has quite the number of similarities with Kemono Friends and the output of the Iro Iro studio overall, and the title is an obvious “weed joke”, and not by accident. 🙂

This was also the final production for Yaoyoruzu, which was dissolved and merged into “8 million” this year, whatever that is. Apparently with no real change to the staff and the studio overall, doesn’t seem like itsince they did the TV version of Hentatsu (which i already reviewed) this year.

In the meantime, i will try to watch the original ONA version of Kemurikusa, and maybe write an article on it… eventually.



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