Cerval (Japanese: セーバル Hepburn: Sēbaru), initially identified as Fake Serval, is a major character in the original Kemono Friends game. She is the Cellien counterpart of Serval, and much of the game's plot is focused on their interaction.
Cerval is a Cellien-like mirror of Serval, possessing a very similar appearance. However, there are several differences - her skin and clothes are, for the most part, green. The ears are unlike a real serval's ears in all regards and are more reminiscent of large wings. Like other Celliens, her ears exhibit gradient coloration, going from green, to yellow, to red, and finally to blue. Her skirt is tied with a single ribbon, whose tips also end in a gradient. Her shoes, unlike Serval's, have no ribbons at all. Her eyes are red, and are drawn with a distinct outline, and the 'M' pattern on her forehead is not only distinctly shorter, but it glows white. Her hair is 'rounder' instead of having sharp ends like Serval's, possibly to represent the 'rigid and wiggly' texture Celliens have.
Her original version as a Cellien is still similar to Serval, but incredibly simplistic. She could be described as more of a 'silhouette' of Serval than a mirror image. Her ears, while still exhibiting gradient coloration, do not resemble 'wings' at all. She lacks any sort of distinctive spots or Serval-like marks, including the 'M' pattern - the shirt even seems to lack sleeves and integrates itself into the body of the Cellien instead. She also lacks ribbons or any sort of other decor. Unlike her Friend form, her feet and tail still have a gradient.
Cerval is introduced as a mysterious Serval-like Cellien who often gets herself into trouble, much to the chagrin of the actual Serval, who ends up receiving the blame. Her speech patterns are slow and vague, with heavy usage of ellipses and disconnected, incomplete phrases characterizing much of her dialogue in the story. She initially speaks only in Katakana, a literary device employed by Japanese writers to denote that a character's way of speaking is robotic or even possessed.
After her initial confrontation (and battle), she is not particularly hostile or aggressive, instead concentrating on returning to the side of the Cellien Queen with all due haste. Despite this, however, she is prone to becoming distracted, especially by Japari Buns, a fondness she shares with Serval. It is revealed that there are a great many things she does not understand, but she gradually learns from her experiences over the course of the plot and develops her own identity.
Throughout the story it becomes clear that, despite her Cellien background, Cerval is not an enemy and even comes to identify Serval as a friend. This becomes a source of conflict in the story as the only half-aware Cerval is torn between her instinctive loyalty to the Cellien Queen and her newfound friendship and experiences with Serval and the other characters comprising the protagonist's party.
After becoming a Friend, Cerval's personality transforms and becomes more defined, with her speech patterns becoming more normalized and comprehensible, albeit still brief. She is eager to do her best in battle and have new experiences and is particularly vocal about her love for her bonds with Serval and the protagonist.
Role in the Plot
The player and their party encounter Cerval shortly after the beginning of the game, amidst the second battle of the tutorial sequence. Her appearance is a brief one, and while she piques the party's curiosity (in particular that of her lookalike, Serval), she disappears as suddenly as she appeared, claiming "she must go" and escaping before the protagonists can investigate her.
Cerval, remembering the smell of Japari Buns thanks to Serval's memory, happens upon Caracal and attacks her to steal some buns. This action causes a misunderstanding and drives a temporary rift between Serval and Caracal, with the latter mistaking Cerval's actions for those of the real Friend. In order to prove Serval's innocence, the player's party pursues Cerval and -- unbeknownst to them, with the slight aid of Silver Fox, who is collecting data on her -- manages to catch up with her for a confrontation. Not wanting to be bothered, Cerval attacks them but is defeated, uttering a cryptic line about "the Queen". Serval, not knowing what she's referring to, asks for her name, but Cerval does not seem to understand and flees the scene. The party, now including Caracal, makes the decision to pursue her out of concern that she would end up falsely incriminating Serval of further wrongdoing.
Cerval does not directly appear during Chapter 2, but the player's party receives information from Northern White-Faced Owl and her assistant Eurasian Eagle-Owl suggesting that a Cellien matching Cerval's description had been sighted heading towards the Desert Area. After their business in the forest is complete, the protagonists pursue her there.
The Thomson's Gazelle nicknamed Lulu happens upon Cerval when she has been surrounded by Celliens and, not knowing what kind of creature she is, calls out to her for help. Cerval responds, but doesn't understand what "help" means. Lulu attempts to explain, but Cerval misunderstands further, calling forth even more Celliens and making the situation even more dire. Erroneously believing that she's "lent her power" as requested, she exits the scene promptly.
At the end of the chapter, when Lulu is safely reunited with her friend Rabi-Rabi the Arabian Oryx and the rest of the party, the subject of the Serval lookalike is brought up again amongst the heroes. Lulu, remembering the girl who tried to help her, mentions that she seemed to head off towards the Waterfront Area, and thus they head in that direction in pursuit of Cerval.
During this chapter, a mysterious disease has been spreading in the Waterfront Area, which White Rhinoceros and Black Rhinoceros -- after initially believing Serval to be the culprit -- suspect the "Fake Serval" to be behind. Together with the protagonist's party, they investigate the area in hopes of getting to the bottom of the outbreak.
During a short break where Hippopotamus offers the group some Japari Buns, Cerval (lured by her favorite food) finds the party herself, to their surprise. When she finds they've already finished their meal by the time she gets there, though, she leaves promptly, but the group gives chase, accumulating in another direct confrontation between the player's party and Cerval. To Serval's surprise, Cerval is actually able to understand her words despite having contracted the disease ("Gaogao Disease", which makes it impossible for Friends to speak in anything other than animal noises by stealing away the Sparkle of Words from them). The confrontation with Cerval accumulates in another battle, where she is yet again defeated and this time bound by a rope so she cannot escape.
The captured Cerval accompanies the group for a leg of the journey and exhibits subtly different behavior during this time, even expressing interest in seeing a scenic waterfall they pass by during their travel. However, once they reach their destination -- the water regulation facility called Undine -- she suddenly reverts to her more familiar aloofness, escaping from the ropes she'd been bound in with ease and disappearing again. Interestingly, she calls out to Serval once before leaving, bidding her farewell in a warmer tone before becoming cold once more and fleeing the scene. Serval laments (although no one can understand her due to the Gaogao Disease) that she still hasn't given her a proper name.
Cerval is encountered once more, at the side of the chapter boss, a huge Cellien which is responsible for spreading the Gaogao Disease. Still cold to the protagonists' party, she aids the monster in a trance-like state, her body aglow, enabling it to produce its disease-spreading liquid at an accelerated rate before fleeing once more with the words, "everything...in the name of the Queen". The heroes manage to defeat the Cellien, and Crested Ibis deduces that she's heading in the direction of the Snow Fields Area next. As usual, they pursue her.
Out of view of the player party, Cerval can be seen saying that she must hurry, that the Queen is waiting -- waiting for her.
Cerval is first encountered in the Snow Fields Area in a strange hot spring, to the surprise of the player's party while they are searching for a cure to Silver Fox's sudden case of amnesia. The hot spring bizarrely produces an effect comparable to that of alcohol consumption and Cerval, too, appears to be somewhat inebriated by it. Despite this, all she seems to do is mumble quietly to herself.
When the party comes to their senses after their time in the Mumble-Mumble Hot Spring and is about to leave, Cerval seems to want to tag along, a sentiment which Serval reciprocates, having taken an apparent liking to her by this point. The others express a bit of apprehension with the idea, but ultimately agree that she seems harmless and acquiesce to having her join them on the search for a cure to Silver Fox's amnesia. It is at this point that Serval gives her the name "Cerval" -- it should be noted that, until this chapter, Cerval was invariably referred to as "Fake Serval" or some variant thereof. Serval justifies giving her a name with the sentiment that somehow calling her Fake Serval is confusing and feels "wrong" for some reason. Although the name is met with lukewarm reception from the others, it makes Cerval happy indeed.
The newly named Cerval accompanies the protagonist's party through the Hokkai Region, enjoying herself in her own way. She even joins the others for a snowball fight, a testament to how comfortable she's grown to be in their presence. She pays attention to what the others have to say and feel, echoing the sentiments of the group as she learns to socialize with others.
Eventually, when Silver Fox's memories return to her and she explains that she was sent by Oinari-sama to watch over the protagonist, Cerval comments to herself that the mention of that name makes her chest feel uneasy. It's not long afterwards that, during a conversation about the origin of the protagonist's special amulet, Cerval suddenly flees the scene and reverts to her cold demeanour, which prompts the party to pursue her. When they catch up to her they see her, with her body glowing like before, raising her hand to a giant boss Cellien to power it up. Like before, she mentions in her trance-like state that she's doing it "for the sake of the Queen". Serval, determined to protect her friend and not believing that these actions reflect the "real" Cerval, charges boldly into battle against the giant Cellien to save her.
After emerging victorious, Cerval appears to come back to her senses temporarily, but falls in and out of her trance-like state and leaves the area in order to achieve her stated goal of returning to the Queen's side. Before leaving, she nearly calls Serval her "friend", but refers her as a "clumsy troublemaker" instead, to the Friend's comical chagrin. After the party decides (like always) to pursue her to the next region, Fennec mentions to them that she and Arai-san are planning on pursuing Cerval as well, along with a cryptic implication that she is "the enemy" after all. This does not seem to deter Serval's spirits, though, and she and her friends boldly pursue her through the Hotoku Region.
During the Hotoku Region's special "Sky Race", Cerval appears riding on the back of a mighty winged Cellien (dubbed "Birdien" by Silver Fox), which interferes with many of the racer teams for much of the chapter. Her direct interactions with the protagonist's party are somewhat limited while she's riding Birdien.
Shortly before Fennec and Arai-san are disqualified from the race, the former posits to Serval that Cerval in fact stole something important from her which enabled the Cellien to take on her current, Serval-like form. Silver Fox chimes in as well, wondering if this has some relation to Cerval's strange travel patterns around the Park. Serval is surprised by the theory, not being able to wrap her head around it, but doesn't object to its potential accuracy either.
Birdien is eventually confronted and battled by the protagonists' party, falling from the sky after its defeat. To the surprise of the onlooking Friends and humans, however, Cerval (who was riding it) is unharmed by this and lends power to Birdien, increasing its flight speed tremendously. Fennec comments to herself that she's never seen a Cellien capable of such a feat, further establishing that Cerval is a very unique specimen indeed. With her newfound speed, she escapes the Hotoku Region, bound for Gokoku. Serval and company give chase, determined to find out more about her.
Whilst helping Margay shoot her movie, the party happens upon an ominous "ghost ship" on the water in the vicinity of their film set. Upon examination, it's revealed that Cerval is, in fact, at its helm, and its crew is comprised entirely of black Celliens. Rather than attacking the protagonist and their group, however, "Captain Cerval" -- which she introduces herself as -- informs the protagonists that they are playing pirates, going off of Margay's script (which the Celliens stole to begin with). Cerval and her crew of Celliens receive the compliments and admiration of the film-making Friends for their impeccable coordination and acting skills, and Margay makes the bold decision to invite them to help her finish the movie. Captain Cerval (and her Cellien crew) readily accepts the offer, expressing that she wants to be in a movie, and their collaboration begins.
In the film story, Cerval is cast as (Captain) Serval's former friend, whose mind is manipulated by the ghost ship in order to force her to protect its treasure. The scene opens with Serval boarding the ghost ship and trying in vain to snap the Cellien back to her senses (not unlike some of their past interactions, which were not acting). The possessed Captain Cerval commands her underlings to attack Serval and her crew, and due to the Cellien crew's incredible coordination they are able to easily overwhelm the heroes. The battle rages on, however, and with the help of multiple dolphin Friends, Captain Serval is able to turn the tide in her favor.
After a climactic final battle between the two pirate crews, Serval emerges victorious, bringing Cerval to her knees, but (both in character and sincerely) does not want to cause the Cellien harm. She strikes Cerval with the back of her sword in hopes of snapping her back to her senses, and evidently succeeds in doing so. As the two captains are reunited at last, Cerval refers to Serval as "friend", delighting the latter, as this was the first time she used the word in reference to her. They finish out the scene by escaping from the ghost ship together, earning Margay's total approval as director.
The celebration proves short-lived, though, as it's not before long that the Cellien pirate crew suddenly becomes hostile, attacking the protagonists sincerely. The Celliens are quick to turn on the former co-actors, but Cerval herself makes a desperate effort to resist needing to attack Serval and her friends, an involuntary temptation that was evidently brought on by an order from the Cellien Queen. As the heroes defeat her former pirate crew, Cerval assures them that she is okay, repeatedly referring to her own Serval-given name as a sort of mantra, implying it carries a great deal of meaning for her. Notwithstanding her resistance, however, Cerval is swallowed by a giant, squid-like boss Cellien that has beset the heroes. Serval fears that she's been eaten whole, but Silver Fox and Mirai posit and then confirm that she's simply inside of it. They battle the boss Cellien bravely in a gambit to save her, and while they are successful in defeating it, the monster spits Cerval out with enough force to send her flying off to another region -- this time, Riukiu. The party comments that they can see her waving as she flies away, confirming her safety if nothing else.
After the battle, Fennec returns to greet the heroes (after having parted ways with them at the start of the chapter) and segues into a serious conversation about the nature of Cerval and, more specifically, what she stole from Serval to result in her unique form, echoing her conversation from the previous chapter. Fennec presents a theory -- which she believes to be grounded in reality -- that Serval had experienced a "miracle" in the past, and in the context of Kemono Friends, "miracles" are caused by a special phenomenon known as "Kemo Harmony", unlocked by something "special" in a someone's heart. Recalling a tremendous act of selflessness and bravery during a hospital evacuation amidst the outset of the Cellien invasion on part of Serval, who magically caused the escapees to have their good health restored, both Fennec and Silver Fox (who is also knowledgeable in this subject) seem to agree that Serval had something "special" about her that enabled her to cause miracles. That "special something" was in turn stolen by a Cellien, which in turn became Cerval. Fennec goes on to theorize that the reason the Cellien Queen has been beckoning Cerval is to bring her to Park Central, where she can use the stolen "special something" and its Kemo Harmony to break the current stalemate between the Queen and Oinari-sama. To this theory, Silver Fox points out that (like in Cerval's previous appearance) there have been times where she's attempted to defy the Cellien Queen's orders. Ultimately, all parties agree that somehow they need to reclaim Serval's "special something" -- and the miracle-working Kemo Harmony along with it. With no time to waste, they pursue Cerval into the Riukiu Region in hopes of doing just that.
The party follows Cerval's path to the Riukiu Region, where they meet Shisa Lefty and Shisa Right. The Shisas inform them that she has fallen onto one of the region's islands, and since then, large numbers of black Celliens (much like the ones who served as her "crew" in the previous chapter) have gathered around the island, as if to protect her. Wasting no time, the Friends of Riukiu have already begun preparations so that the protagonists can break through the Cellien barricade and reach her again. They stay the night in Riukiu as further information is gathered on her situation.
When preparations have been made for an invasion of the island, the Shisas also take the time to inform Serval and her friends of some key details regarding the Cellien Queen's plan -- and how Cerval figures into it. They tell them that the Queen, knowing that Cerval possesses the "special something" necessary for Kemo Harmony, plans to invoke a Cellien equivalent called "Cell Harmony" instead using her power. They point out that in the time Cerval has been active, she's powered up other Celliens in various ways, not the least of which being the new black Celliens, which are revealed to be evolved from regular specimens. The Queen's plans, however, don't end there -- it intends to spread these properties to all Celliens in the Park, accumulating in something called "Ultimate Cell Harmony", wherein all Celliens would evolve monstrously together. If that happened, the Shisas propose, they'd be able to steal all the Sparkle in Japari Park without opposition and take over this world with ease. Expectedly, the party is unnerved by this cataclysmic prospect, and their resolve is strengthened to retrieve the "special something" that Cerval stole to prevent it all from happening.
Shortly before the invasion of Cerval's island, though, the Shisas drop a bombshell of a revelation for the protagonists' party to digest. Silver Fox inquires more about the method through which they can retrieve the "special something" Cerval stole, and they inform the group that, in order to do so, Cerval will need to die. They explain that it's only thanks to the stolen "special something" that she can exist to begin with, and taking it away will surely bring about her end. Hearing this, Serval immediately and decisively declares that they will absolutely do no such thing, and no matter how much the others attempt to dissuade her, she won't change her mind. Despite this fundamental disagreement, the party presses on together in hopes of meeting Cerval in Riukiu.
Meanwhile, Cerval herself is straddled with mixed feelings of purpose and loyalty, emboldened and humanised by the experiences she had with Serval and her friends. She acknowledges that Celliens exist to serve the interests of the Queen, but it's made quite clear in her monologuing that she does not truly want to follow its orders.
The conversation about Cerval's fate continues as Serval's party makes its way through the island. At last, Toki proposes to the others that they leave the decision up to Serval, reminding them the ways in which she has been there for everyone as a leader, support and friend throughout the whole journey, a sentiment which is echoed by the rest of her party. Ultimately, they all trust Serval, and by extension they trust her judgement on the best way to approach the dilemma with her Cellien counterpart -- and their mutual friend.
Upon reaching what they believed to be Cerval's whereabouts, the party is disappointed to find that she's nowhere to be seen. Investigating the room, though, Serval is sure that she was there at some point, and they find some writing which they deduce to have been Cerval's. The writing itself consists of nothing but the phrase "I should go" over and over, which they immediately recognize to be an indication that she's already made her way in the direction of Park Central -- where the Cellien Queen awaits. What's more, when they try to leave the island, they find that the increasingly intelligent black Celliens have been waiting to ambush them, surrounding them on all sides. Thankfully, the denizens of the Riukiu Region enable them to escape in one piece.
Before leaving the region, Serval and her friends explain to the Shisas that they've made the decision to find another way to stop the Ultimate Cell Harmony, one that doesn't involve erasing Cerval. Although they don't discourage them from pursuing their chosen course of action, they give Serval a special tool as a fallback measure -- a "Salt Amulet" imbued with the power to take back the "special something" from Cerval, even if it will destroy her. Whether they use it or not, the Shisas tell the group, is up to them. With the Salt Amulet in their possession, as well as the determination to create a happy end to Japari Park's story, the protagonists press onward to Park Central at long last.
The chapter concludes with a diary entry from Cerval herself, wherein she weighs her inner feelings -- knowing that she "should" go and follow the Queen's orders, but simultaneously admitting that she doesn't want to, thanks to the friends she made.
The protagonists cross paths with Cerval once again during their exploration of the Cellien-infested Park Central. When she's first encountered, she is in a clearly distressed state, muttering to herself and alternating between sentiments of duty to the Cellien Queen and her own personal wishes to defy the orders she's been given. As Cerval is en route to Kemono Castle -- an amusement park built in the center of Park Central -- Serval and her friends hope to catch up to her and bring her to her senses. Unfortunately, they're too late, and once Cerval has entered the building, they are unable to pursue her further, thanks to a special and seemingly indestructible barrier erected by the Cellien Queen's powers.
Conveniently, Professor Konoha and her assistant arrive shortly thereafter, informing them that the barrier exists thanks to seven powerful Celliens, scattered around Park Central. By defeating them, the owls maintain, the barrier will dissolve and they'll be able to head inside. Determined to save Cerval, the protagonists' group splits up to take care of each of the seven Celliens as quickly as possible. Serval, Mirai and the protagonist stay behind to wait for the barrier to dissolve.
As the remaining party members await the barrier's dissolution, Serval confides in the protagonist her own conflicted feelings and anxieties about the upcoming confrontation. Although she's come this far, she hasn't really developed a plan to save Cerval from her fate, and fears that if she doesn't act and reclaim her "special something", the Queen will steal everyone's Sparkle and take over Japari Park. She doesn't want to harm Cerval, either, so her heart is uneasy on what exactly is the right thing to do. Cutting this scene short, the barrier vanishes thanks to the other party members' efforts, prompting the three remaining heroes to enter the castle. Simultaneously, within the castle, Oinari-sama comments on the pitiful nature of Cerval's existence, lamenting that she lacks the power to save her from her fate -- for when she turns over her "special something" to the Cellien Queen, she will cease to exist.
The chapter begins with Serval calling out to Cerval, who is accompanied by Oinari-sama. Under the influence of the Queen, the Cellien is not particularly articulate at this point, only able to call out to Serval in return (when she isn't moaning in pain). Although beckoned to the Queen's side, Cerval is unable to reach it thanks to barrier that Oinari-sama herself has been maintaining in order to keep the Cellien Queen locked in the castle for the protection of the rest of the Park. Unfortunately, shortly after the protagonists' arrival, that barrier gives out at last, setting the Queen free and opening a path for the half-possessed Cerval to meet it at last.
With Oinari-sama's barrier shattered, Cerval bids farewell to Serval, to the immediate objection of the latter. Before she can say more, though, the Cellien Queen itself interjects, reminding the party of Cerval's imminent fate: Once the "special something" is delivered, Cerval will revert to being a regular Cellien. All Sparkles, the Queen asserts, eventually disappear, but Celliens are preserved and restored forever. Despite the Queen's ominous messages, Serval will not give up on trying to save Cerval, and the heroes press further into the castle, bearing the confidence and hope of Oinari-sama to save "that poor child". When they see her next, she is at last by the Cellien Queen's side, about to complete her fated duty.
Between scenes, the player is able to read another short diary entry by Cerval, where she expresses the simple sentiment that "with a diary, even if I'm gone, the things I feel will still exist afterwards".
In order to save Cerval, the party fights their way to the Queen. The rest of the main cast returns to Serval's side at this point, joining the effort to defeat the villain and rescue their friend. As the fighting rages on, however, it seems that Cerval is already completely under the Queen's influence, and Mirai fears that more than half of the "special something" has been absorbed already. In the process, they need to wage battle against Cerval herself once again, and after winning, Serval finds herself in a position where she can use the Salt Amulet that she received from the Shisas.
It is at this moment that Cerval, seemingly returning to her senses, addresses Serval flatly and directly, to her surprise. She thanks her friend for "thinking so, so much about her", but informs her that "it" is all gone now, and that she can't stay her friend now. With that, she attempts to bid Serval a final farewell once again, bringing Serval to hopeless tears.
To the surprise of all concerned, though, the attraction monitor within Kemono Castle suddenly activates, and Margay appears on the screen with a special announcement for Serval. She goes on to explain that she's finished her movie and is going to broadcast it for everyone (notwithstanding the fact that this is happening amidst the final battle), but due to Arai-san's interference, accidentally shows the climactic scene where "Captain Cerval" tells "Captain Serval" that she can always hear her voice -- and, most importantly of all, that she is her friend. Margay is disconnected shortly thereafter, but this occurrence is enough to reinvigorate Serval's feelings. She echoes the sentiments contained therein, boldly proclaiming that she can still hear Cerval's voice, too, and that she's her friend as well. Rather than using the Salt Amulet as intended, Serval abruptly stuffs it into her mouth and eats it whole, probably as an impulsive, symbolic gesture. This causes her to collapse from excessive salt intake.
As over-the-top as this display is, it touches Cerval's heart deeply. She calls out repeatedly to the collapsed Serval, and her body begins to shine brightly, to the surprise of the (still conscious) party members, who wonder what it could mean. The Cellien Queen herself confirms for everyone that Cerval, a Cellien, has somehow produced a Sparkle of her own, wondering aloud how this could possibly have happened.
Cerval -- who has now gained a new and upgraded form as a Cellien-gone-Friend -- confidently informs the Queen that she's not a Cellien any more, and that she'll no longer be listening to her commands. The Cellien Queen, seeing no more use for her, orders her underlings to "dispose of the mutant". Cerval is undeterred, joining the heroes in their battle against the Cellien Queen's minions and vowing to do her best for everyone's sake, including that of "Serval, who died". (She is quickly informed by the other party members that Serval is, in fact, still alive and just ate too much salt at once.) It is at this point that Cerval becomes usable in gameplay as a regular Friend. Serval regains consciousness, and the heroes -- Cerval included -- take the fight directly to the Cellien Queen. It doesn't come easily, but at long last they triumph over the monstrous final boss of the main plot, freeing Cerval once and for all from the proverbial chains which had bound her the entire plot prior. And just as Serval hoped, it was done without ending her life or the friendship the lookalike pair fostered over the course of the story.
After the Cellien Queen's defeat, peace returns to Japari Park, and Cerval is able to freely enjoy herself with the friends she made throughout the adventure at long last. When Mirai suggests that the everyone take another trip around the Park, this time for leisure and not to chase Cerval around, the former Cellien happily agrees to accompanying them on the adventure.