Kemono Jihen is the latest big anime adaptation to come out of the Shounen Jump family (it’s serialized in Jump Square), telling the story of a young half-ghoul boy named Kabane who leaves his oppressive hometown to join a supernatural detective business in Tokyo. It has a creative, modern approach to Japanese mythology and is much mellower than most shounen, giving it an unusual atmosphere that we’re definitely digging so far. Let’s check it out!
If there’s one big thing that Kemono Jihen does right, it’s worldbuilding. We don’t know the whole picture yet, but the first few episodes do a fantastic job of establishing the reality in which these characters live. Kabane starts off in an old-fashioned village where he’s isolated from others and forced to do manual labor, which saps him of all emotion and leaves him with very little knowledge of normal society. Detective Inugami comes to town and realizes that Kabane is a Kemono (a half-monster hybrid) who was shunned by his family for being different and has no control over his powers. Inugami – secretly also a Kemono himself – whisks Kabane off to his office in Tokyo, where the kid can be among his peers and use his abilities for good.
The creatively designed and thoughtfully detailed background art (such as the kids’ room and the bar) makes this world feel like it’s inhabited by real people with their own distinct personalities, and each of the characters has potential for interesting growth over time. We also like that the enemy Kemono have some complexity to them: the bugs from episode 2 feed on the guilt that the well-intentioned boy feels for shoplifting shoes to help his low-income mother, and Kon is desperate enough for validation that she’ll do anything her cruel master asks of her. Nothing is black-and-white here – it’s just a bunch of people (and supernatural phenomena) trying to live their own lives and clashing occasionally in the process.
Is It Engaging Enough?
As solid as the worldbuilding is, though, we’re not sure where exactly Kemono Jihen is going or if it does enough to stand out from its master class competition. If the goal is to eventually find Kabane’s parents, then why hasn’t that been brought up since the first episode? Kabane is immortal, emotionless, and can’t feel pain, so what obstacles can be put in his way? Will the mellower tone sap the energy from the story, or will the anime switch gears partway through its short runtime and try to be a more traditional high-octane shounen by the end? With all of these questions hanging in the air, it’s easy for audiences to get turned off and switch over to another shounen like the much better animated and emotional Jujutsu Kaisen and Demon Slayer or the distinctively designed Tokyo Ghoul.
If Kemono Jihen doesn’t do something soon to establish itself as a contender in the shounen landscape, it will probably be destined to wallow in relative obscurity and may not get a second season.
We honestly like Kemono Jihen’s subtle storytelling and fleshed out urban fantasy world, but with so many other juggernauts coming out this season, it’s getting overshadowed and overlooked. We hope that it finds its own niche, whether that means exploding onto the scene with a big change or just staying with its down-to-earth atmosphere and entertaining the small group of dedicated fans it already has. No matter what, we’ll be happy!
What did you think of our overview? Have you been watching Kemono Jihen this season? Let us know in the comments, and thanks so much for reading!