Monsters in human guise stalk the cities of the world, devouring people in the wink of an eye and leaving scenes of bloody massacre. Because of their cannibalistic nature, they are called Shokujinki, “flesh eaters”, and their terror becomes more and more frequent. Only a group of master swordsmen, the Kifuuken, are able to hunt them down and kill them. But the Kifuuken are currently in a contest of succession between Kazuma and Toshihiko, the two sons of their old leader. Toshihiko seems the better choice, but he has fallen in love with the young woman Yuka – one of the Flesh Eaters…
summary by Taleweaver
Highs: New twists for old plot; innovative art, animation and narrative; brilliant seiyuu
Lows: Humor overdone at times
Tragic love between sworn enemies must be one of the oldest stories in the book of drama, spanning back to “Romeo and Juliet” and even farther. At heart, Kemonozume is nothing but that old story, but it’s told with such refreshing chutzpah and energy that it’s hard not to become enthralled with it.
With a fight as obvious as the one between Shokujinki and Kifuuken, it would have been easy to leave the drama at that level. But in a brilliant plot twist, Kemonozume goes beyond cliché and adds several new layers of conflict to the tale, making it much more than what you’d expect. Themes like tradition versus innovation and doing the wrong things for the right causes are frequently addressed and integrated into the plot flawlessly.
On the technical side, Kemonozume’s art and animation are nothing short of unique. The characters have a definite hand-drawn and unpolished feel, but the quality of animation is top-notch – the whole production has the feel of a piece of art. Several scene backgrounds are photos or pieces of film, very much as if everything was intended as a collage. Even the anime’s narrative follows that “pieced together” structure, placing scenes next to one another for maximum effect and not necessarily for chronological coherence.
To top off an almost perfect production, the seiyuu of Kemonozume do an absolutely brilliant job of putting everything together. Not only do they bring emotion and depth to their individual roles, their chemistry with one another is just right and adds a healthy dose of wit and humor to the mix. Not that the latter would have been really necessary; the series is often hilariously funny, lightening up many dead-serious situations with basic slapstick humor. At times, though, the comedy is overdone, and a few jokes are carried to an extreme where they are no longer funny. A little more trust in the seiyuu’s comedic talent from the producers’ sides would have probably prevented this.
A final warning: With its peculiar visuals and very brutal plot, Kemonozume is probably a love-it-or-hate-it anime. If you don’t like unpolished character art, this series is not for you. If you find yourself appalled at the sight of people getting ripped into pieces, this series is not for you. If you don’t mind both, you’ll find an engrossing plot and an spectacularly innovative production well worth mentioning among the great titles of 2006. Studio Madhouse really created an anime befitting their name with this one.
Kemonozume can be downloaded legally in the United States HERE.