Kirin has long hair with multiple colors; dark green at the top and front bangs fading into colors representing the Four Gods: navy grey, sky blue, white and red. There are a few swirls along her long hair. Her whisker-like sideburns are white transitioning to yellow. She has blue eyes and thick eyebrows. A pair of yellow antlers and ears on her head. She has a pair of fin-like blue wings and a blue tail with a thick 'switch', the brushy tip of a tail.
She wears a short, white puffy dress decorated with yellow scales, and blue flame-like patterns and multiple dark straps. Her chest part is a white shirt with a large cleavage window. Her neck, right thigh and lest ankle are strapped with a blue ribbon. She wears short white gloves and yellow low-wedge pumps.
Kirin is a hooved chimerical beast originated from Chinese mythology, where it is called ‘qilin’. Kirin is the name commonly used in Japanese and Korean cultures, while in Vietnamese mythology it is known as ‘kỳ lân’.
Description of Kirin’s appearance varies with cultural difference between dynasties, religions and regions in historical China. Yet it is generally described as a Chinese dragon-like creature with features of antlers on the head, thick eyelashes, manes flowing upward and beards. Different from a Chinese dragon it is believed to have a scaly body shaped like an ox, deer or horse. Sometimes parts of its body have flame and smoke on it. On occasion, it may have feathery features, fluffy curly hair on parts of its legs as well as whiskers of a carp on its face. Though it is always depicted with cloven hooves. It comes with a variety of colors, with which it is often golden like its dragon counterpart.
The image of Kirin became associated with that of the giraffe in the Ming Dynasty when the fleet of Zheng He, a renowned Chinese explorer and mariner, brought two giraffes from East Africa back to China in 15th century. With giraffes’ horn-like ossicones and scale-like pattern on their body, people drew an analogy between the animals and the legendary beast. This association has lasting influence on cultures of Japan and Korea where people still use the same word for both the giraffe and the mythical beast in their languages.
Kirin in China is thought to symbolise luck, good omens, protection, prosperity and longevity as well as a symbol of fertility for families. Kirin in legends tell that its appearance bore testimony to the kind-hearted nature of the emperors. Its arrival is also believed to foretell the birth of the sage Confucius.
- In Japan, Kirin is ranked as the most powerful creature, followed by the phoenix and dragon. A contrast to the post-Qin Chinese mythology where Kirin occupies the third place, after the dragon and phoenix.
- Description of Kirin rarely mention having wings on its back. This raises speculation that the design of Kemono Friends's Kirin is modelled after the winged variant of Kirin statues in Tokyo instead of the traditional image of Qilin. The statues created by the Japanese sculptor, Osao Watanabe (渡辺長男), share a number of similarities with the character design, such as the chest pattern, the shape of and the flame patterns on the wings as well as the appearance of the tails.