That Moment When Kemono Friends Made Me Cry

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Image source: けものフレンズ@公式アカウント on Twitter

I thought it was supposed to be light-hearted.

Kemono Friends is the series that has been gaining traction on the internet in Japan this season. Billed as a cheerful, casual story in a fantastical wild-life park, it’s been my weekly escape from real life. Then, the events of the latest episode clearly made by room all dusty—because there’s no other reason that a manly man like me would have been brought to tears.

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[Note: This article contains major spoilers for Kemono Friends.]

Image source: けものフレンズ@公式アカウント on Twitter

Kemono Friends takes place in a strange wild-life park, Japari Park, inhabited by anthropomorphic animal girls called “Friends.” The story follows an amnesiac Friend, “Bag-chan,” on a quest to find out what animal she is and where she can find others like her. Together with the serval Friend, Serval, the two have been trekking across Japari Park towards the park library to find the answer.

In the recent episodes, it has been revealed that Bag-chan is in fact a human—something that was fairly obvious from the very first episode. The next step now is to find where the humans of this world have gone.

Throughout the series, there have been hints scattered as to why has happened in this world. The park has been abandoned by its human caretakers. Strange enemy creatures, the Ceruleans, apparently appear in greater numbers when humans are present. The strange material that fell from the sky, the Sandstar, is responsible for turning regular animals into Friends… Everything paints the picture of a post-apocalyptic world.

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Then there is the automated guide/park maintenance robot, Lucky Beast, who will only speak in the presence of a human. Every now and then, Lucky Beast will replay audio logs apparently left by a human who previously was in the park.

Image source: けものフレンズ@公式アカウント on Twitter

In episode ten, Lodge, after learning that apparently the humans have left Japari Park by boat, Bag-chan and Serval head towards the park port. On the way, they find a woodland hotel being run by a campo flicker Friend and decide to stay. Rain prevents them from leaving and they two decide to stay until the rains stop.

During their stay, rumors of a ghost Friend haunting the lodge circulate among the guests staying there. Eventually it is discovered that the ghost is actually the malfunctioning Lucky Beast as it projects a video recording by a human individual named Mirai who was conducting research in Japari Park before it was abandoned. In the recording, Mirai wears safari hat that is very similar, and in better repair than the one Bag-chan is wearing. (Side note: Mirai is a character from the discontinued Kemono Friends smartphone game who served as a guide for the player.)

During this video, another serval Friend appears briefly. Obviously, this is a different serval Friend from Serval who has been traveling with Bag-chan. Serval mentions that sometimes multiple Friends of the same animal are born. The serval in the recording talks about defeating some enemy together with others and Mirai notes that if they’re successful, everything will be solved. The recording ends and Bag-chan turns to see that Serval has begun crying, although neither seems to know why. It’s about at this point that my room suddenly got really dusty.

Up to this point, Serval has been the heart and soul of the series. She is always bright and joyful, showing genuine enthusiasm and wonder whenever she encounters something new or that she doesn’t understand. She’s been the positive emotional engine that has helped propel Kaban towards her goal. To suddenly see her confused and in tears was a massive emotional gut punch. The invincible pillar of cheerfulness had been broken.

The fact that she couldn’t comprehend why she was crying felt even more heartbreaking. Because we as the viewers have been given more information, we can piece together that something potentially very tragic happened that the characters can’t understand. Serval was crying but she didn’t know why. We do, but there’s no way for us to tell her. It makes it all the more tragic.

It was this sudden revelatory shock that made me realize that I was far more invested in this story and these characters than I had first thought. Honestly, Kemono Friends is the last anime this season that I thought would hit me in the feels. It was supposed to be my weekly block of light-hearted escapism and now I find myself not wanting it to end.

Kemono Friends can be viewed with English subtitles on Crunchyroll.

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