Watching Kemono Friends benefits from knowing some general spoilers
Kemono Friends was a series that didn't even make my radar for the winter season, but it's been steadily picking up buzz and good press and I recently started watching it. This experience very much benefits from knowing some general spoilers due to what I'm going to call the Symphogear effect.
Much like Symphogear but more so, the opening episodes of Kemono Friends are not particularly attractive on their surface. The CGI is frankly janky (although I can get used to it and I even find it kind of charming now) and the general plot of each episode is not particularly deep. While the show is laced through with mysteries and allusions, it's all too easy for a show to drop lots of hints that amount to absolutely nothing and plenty of shows fumble their ending this way. Which is where the general spoilers come in, because they do the crucial work of letting me know that Kemono Friends is not one of these.
For example, those mysteries and allusions are in fact our old friend incluing at work doing subtle worldbuilding. Those uneasy feelings I get when I watch the show and see things in the background are entirely intentional, and paying attention is thus actively rewarding; I'll pick up things and have fun theorizing. And things like Nick Creamer's review of Kemono Friends lets me know that the smart writing I think I'm seeing is not an illusion and the show has a real and satisfactory payoff in the end.
All of this elevates the show well above its relatively modest surface appeal. When watching Kemono Friends with this advance knowledge, I can both enjoy the surface, which is decently entertaining in a lightweight way, and amuse myself by thinking about all of the things in the background. I'll also admit that seeing all the memes and artworks of various characters on Twitter has helped to prime me for their actual appearances in the show. If I'd tried to watch Kemono Friends cold without this general background, I suspect that I'd have bounced off the show entirely on the grounds that it was very little more than it appeared to be and didn't have enough promise.
(The surface show of Kemono Friends is okay but it's not deep; it's goofy friendship slice of life and learning experiences, mixed with lectures on animals and ecologies and so on. I might have watched it for that alone if I was sufficiently bored, which I actually might have been last season.)
Written on 06 April 2017.