Kemono Friends 2 is plenty of fun! …and some less fun thoughts on fandom


[Here I am, the most cynical, pessimistic person I have ever met, asking people to be less cynical …not that I expect to succeed. After all, you can hardly convince anyone of something that they don’t already believe. Futility! Anyway, Kemono Friends 2 is good fun, even if it disappoints the expectations of the excellent first season]

Well, Kemono Friends 2 is finished. I liked it! It’s so simple that there’s not much to say: a young girl named Kyururu wanders around an abandoned zoo looking for her human home alongside her anthropomorphized cat Friends Serval and Caracal, all while learning about the other animal Friends they meet along the way. It’s cute, it’s kind, it’s fun  …a perfect inoffensive late-night sleep aid. I can’t ask for much more.

But follow the online discussions around the season, and you might encounter some of the most uncharitable comments for any anime I’ve seen:

“What a pile of trash,” “blatant cashgrab,” “failed fanfic attempt,” “the definition of a disaster,” “they managed to do everything wrong,” “an elaborate April Fools joke,” “What a shitfest,” “it absolutely disgusted me,” “abomination of an anime”

Though I won’t try to refute an opinion, most of those seem unfair, hyperbolic, and maybe even a little cruel. I mean… it’s a children’s show! What more could you want than a handful of simple moral tales and some light educational bits about biodiversity?

In many ways the negative reactions remind me of a similar online backlash against another children’s animation: My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic and its spin-off Equestria Girls. Like Kemono Friends, the series’ first season attracted an ironic following of hate-watchers that exploded into a genuine subculture of mostly male adult fans (the so-called “bronies”) when many discovered that the show was actually pretty fun. However, as Friendship is Magic entered its second season and the novelty of the odd subculture began to fade, outrage brewed following the departure of season one’s popular executive producer Lauren Faust amid rumors that the IP-owner Hasbro had pressured her to resign (in Kemono Friends case, this would mirror the actual firing of season one’s fan-favorite director, Tatsuki, by the publisher Kadokawa). A polarizing third season fractured the community after the main character transformed into a princess, but then discontent achieved an absurd vehemence that degenerated into harassment against the animation production studio ahead of the release of the Equestria Girls spin-off movie (again, with parallels to the harassment against Kemono Friends’ season two studio). So much for the fandom catchphrase “love and tolerance,” huh?

Anyway, what drove the vitriol of the angriest fans? I try not to psychologize (or anymore, even read) pseudonymous online commenters, but I think much of the backlash resulted from a failure of empathy.

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