Kemurikusa is well contemplative, but what does it contemplate?

Wakaba enters the world saying “WAHHH!” I wanted to make GIFs to show the janky 3D, but Amazon Prime Video doesn’t even permit screenshots so I got a little nervous about recording anything

[I thought about making this more about the social-media-driven auteur mythmaking surrounding Kemurikusa’s director Tatsuki but… nehhh, I gave up except for some gripes at the end. With just two major projects (Kemono Friends and now Kemurikusa) plus a handful of shorts in his directorial portfolio, it feels premature to discuss Tatsuki’s supposed auteur status, even in an attempt to refute it. Tatsuki seems like a fine director, but I don’t understand why anyone would bother with silly neologisms like “TATSUKI-esque” for a creator with such a young career. And ohhh my god, I need to stop reading stupid online discussions, but boredom always brings me back…]

Does anybody here remember Kemono Friends (read that in rhythm, I’ve got Pink Floyd stuck in my head!)? Back in 2017 it exploded in popularity despite its uncanny 3D animation and apparent focus on school-age audiences with educational bits about animals. But ever since the publisher Kadokawa fired the mononymed season one director “Tatsuki” and changed studios to produce a popularly reviled second season (I liked it, but whatever), much of the excitement for Kemono Friends shifted to Tatsuki’s next project: the post-apocalypse, plant-based adventure Kemurikusa (literally meaning “smoke-grass,” to repeat the weed joke). And I dunno, it’s just alright, an ambitious passion project hamstrung by clear production constraints with money and probably time.

Kemurikusa departs from the child-accessible style in Kemono Friends to instead go on a desperate journey to find water, defeat a menacing red fog corroding the world, and discover something to enjoy in life. It sounds nice in a synopsis, but then Kemurikusa packs itself full of clumsy contradictions: the gorgeous drawn backgrounds establish an artistic gravitas that the awkward 3D-animated models don’t quite gel into; the otaku-ish cast of a tsundere, a cat-girl, and a loli-maid suck the seriousness out of the heavy thematic narrative; and most frustratingly, the simplistic message about “finding what you love” deprives the well-built, contemplative world of any interesting nuance to actually contemplate. It’s meh, I guess.

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