What is Kemono Friends?Mine Yoshizaki. It's about a huge wildlife park called "Japari Park" where a substance called "Sandstar" turns living animals or even their remains into humanoid "Friends". Those Friends gain fully functioning human bodies but retain some of their animalistic features like the ears, tail, behaviour or abilities like flying. To date, there are around 430 Friends including common, well-known, extant species like the raccoon or foxes; more obscure and endangered species like the axolotl and numbat as well as extinct species like the aurochs and gastornis. Not only does Kemono Friends try to educate us and bring us closer to animals as shown by small interviews with zookeepers during the anime episodes and collaborations with zoos, it also teaches us about the dangers and tragedies of extinctions through giving animals a believable voice and representative in the form of a “Friend”.
Initially only a mobile game, manga and TV show were planned. Both manga and mobile game lacked popularity so little faith was put into the show; but despite a tight budget, poor visuals, inexperienced studio and awful timeslot, it became a huge success breaking several records in Japan through its world-building, unique setting, storytelling and adorable characters. Both the intro and outro songs are very popular among fans and show the contrast between the innocent, childish exterior and the darker, more mature interior of the show. Since then, new designs have been shared on Twitter. Two more mobile games also began production: Kemono Friends Pavilion, which is very similar to Neko Atsume, and Kemono Friends Festival, which is similar to JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Shooters, released in January and June 2018 respectively.
After the success of the show six guidebooks were released, all containing more lore about Japari Park and its inhabitants, connecting the series together through a timeline, as well as introducing entirely new Friends and redesigns of existing Friends. Generally, Friends have superhuman strength and abilities; usually, traits their animal base excels at are further amplified. Each entry of the series features a different set of Friends. Some Friends may appear in multiple entries of the franchise; Due to them taking place at different times, the Friends aren't the exact same and may have different personalities, even though they're the same species. Most notable example being Moose from the Anime and Moose from the Nexon Game being completely different. Designs generally share traits with related species but also with friends based on entirely unrelated species. Friends based on animals with long necks, like the Flamingo, Giraffes and Ostrich all wear a long scarf and extinct Friends lack a shimmer in their eyes otherwise present in all other designs.
Media in chronological order
The first mobile game was made by Nexon and ran between March 2015 and December 2016; it was taken out of service just a month before the Anime started airing. While the gameplay and gacha elements were said to be bad, the story was very good and preserved by Japanese players after the shutdown was announced. In the game’s story, the park was overrun by Celliens, the main antagonists of the series. With the help of the Friends, the player character had to reclaim the park from the Celliens, repel their attacks and defeat their leader, the Cellien Queen. Our translation efforts are still ongoing.
A manga written by Furai was released from May 2015 to March 2017. It takes place before the events of the Nexon game and features Nana, a newly hired caretaker at Japari Park, and her interactions with the various animal girls. No Celliens appear during the events of the manga and the park is still intact; in fact, there is even a big city within the park. While the manga initially lacked popularity as well, the release of the Anime caused a significant raise in sales. Official translations of the manga have been released in 2018 with both volumes being released in English in February 2018.
The Anime adaption of Kemono Friends released in the winter season starting in January 2017. Due to the lack of popularity and success of the manga and mobile game, low faith was put into the anime adaption. The small studio Yaoyorozu produced the show on a very tight budget with 3D CGI animation they were not familiar with. The show follows a girl without any memories or knowledge of who or what she is as she explores the park in search of answers while being accompanied by Serval, a Friend based on the serval cat, and a Lucky Beast, a robot tour guide for visitors of the park. While the show is suitable for all ages including small children, it was aired at 1:30 AM on a weekday. Initially, the show received poor criticism but popularity exploded after the 4th episode was aired. Despite the childish, innocent nature of the show, viewers were intrigued by the existentialism, cute and believable animalistic nature of the characters and the dark undertones, such as the mysterious, abandoned state of the park. The show went from the last breaths of a dying, unsuccessful franchise to breaking multiple records in Japan, winning awards such as the 2018 Seiun Award in the media category, causing a significant rise in zoo visits across the country and internationally trending on twitter multiple times.
In June 2017, a stage play featuring a new unique storyline performed by, among others, the voice actresses of the anime. In the play, Okapi, who was just born from a sandstar eruption, and Serval visit a concert of the famous penguin idol group PPP. After the concert, Blue Whale announces a celebration to commemorate the birth of all new friends from the last sandstar eruption where PPP will compete against a new idol group with Serval as the leader. Serval and Okapi are now searching for members for their group and ways to win against the more experienced penguins.
Kemono Friends Pavilion was released on the 26th of January 2018. In the game, the player leaves toys and food to lure Friends into the area to play. The game features a chibi artstyle and up to three special animations for each Friend. Initially starting with 30 Friends and three areas, another Friend is added each week and another area about every three months along with a set of up to seven Friends native to that area. Encountering Friends gains them experience points towards their archive level and as such more information about the Friend. Under certain conditions, like reaching certain archive levels or having certain Friends in a certain area at the same time, “Kemotalks”, little conversations between Friends, can be unlocked and viewed. Our translation efforts concerning kemotalks are still ongoing, a list of all of them can be found here
Kemono Friends Festival was released on the 7th of June 2018. The game has RPG elements with a billiard-esque combat system; the player “shoots” circular icons of his team into opposing icons to deal damage and defeat them to advance. A level consists of three waves with the last one occasionally featuring Celliens which behave differently from the usual icons. The game features a new story about the Japari Festival and a mysterious treasure sought out by Friends. Four more time-limited Friends are added every other week; two are drops from event stages and the other two, one of which is a Friend in a unique costume pic of raccoon in unique costume, are available from the gacha system with increased drop rates.