Kemono Jihen – 12 (Fin) – How to Melt a Frozen Heart

Nobimaru presses his attack on Yui, but learns he can’t even touch the nullstone without freezing and cracking his arm, as the thing literally feeds on life. Nobimaru, who is unquestionably loyal to Inari despite knowing full he’s nothing but a tool to her, allows himself a moment to stew in the knowledge that Inari knew about the damage the stone would do to him…and didn’t care.

But if Inari left him on his own to succeed or perish, Kabane won’t have it, and he steps in as Nobimaru’s flaming champion. The nullstone grabs still more power from Yui to give him an ice suit of armor, and just like that we’ve got a dazzling Ice Boy vs. Fire Lad duel. Kabane’s constantly burning and regenerating body provides some of the cooler images this vibrant series has yet offered.

Akira manages to use all the fog and steam the battle is creating to smash his ice cage and wastes no time coming between Kabane and Yui before either of them do any permanent damage. And it’s here where I must declare my undying love for any show whose MC crumbles into flaming pile of burning flesh and bones without anyone batting an eye.

Moments later, the nullstone has nearly sucked Yui’s life dry, and his own body begins to become brittle and crack. Fortunately, Kabane has regenerated enough to give Akira a hand pulling the nullstone out of Yui’s chest. Kabane then coughs up his lifestone, which merges with the other stone on contact, releasing it from Yui.

Right on cue, Inari arrives on the scene to snatch up the stone, but Inugami is right there to remind her that neither half of the stone is hers, so she an Nobimaru slink off. In yet another demonstration of empathy and fellow feeling, Kabane asks Nobimaru to go with them to the Ohana clinic where Aya can surely heal his ruined hand…only for Nobimaru to politely decline, intending to bear the wound as a warning not to get careless again.

As Yui recovers at the clinic (and Aya calculates the exorbitant bill), Kabane hangs around outside his door, waiting for him to wake up so he can ask him about his parents. Akira sees him out there and immediately apologizing for saying he hated him, which he obviously only did because he was afraid Yui would kill him. On the contrary, Akira reiterates his love for Kabane, and their little making-up dance in the hall is just precious as all get-out.

Yui eventually wakes up, and is ready to talk with Kabane, starting with the “Kemono Incidents”, a period of history forgotten by most humanity when kabane and humans were in devastating open warfare. An agreement was made to end the hostilities, and all the kabane higher-ups had stones like Kabane’s to maintain balance through the threat of force—the only way a group as fractured and ungainly as kemono could be controlled).

While this is a lot of exposition for a final episode, it provides welcome setup for a second season that, while not yet announced, seems likely due to strong manga sales and a studio that often produces sequels. It also includes Akira’s inner voice worrying about falling asleep during all this talking, which is a wonderful little moment.

As for the question of what’s to become of Yui, he’s content to shuffle off into the shadows and bear all of the horrible things he did. Akira won’t hear of it, and it takes a slap to Yui’s face to get him to listen when Akira says they’re brothers and twins and should share the burdens together. Yui is also heartened when Kabane forgives him, though the others know that’s just who Kabane is. He gives and forgives.

The gist of Yui’s stories (as well as Inugami’s contribution to the discussion) is that for Kabane’s parents to have had the lifestone meant they were either kemono chiefs themselves or found it themselves. The best way to learn more about his stone and all the others that are out there is to track down their owners, some of whom Inugami knows.

Meanwhile, Inari, in her appropriately noir-ish office at the police HQ, assures Nobimaru she’s not done trying to get her hands on either stone (now that they’re merged, which one she’d rather have is irrelevant). But she knows she can’t take from those the tanuki is protecting by force. So he tells Nobimaru to relay Kon’s next mission: to seduce Kabane and get him to give her the stone willingly.

While there’s nothing Inugami can do about that scenario, asking Kon to seduce anyone—particularly Kabane—seems doomed to failure. Neither Kon nor Kabane quite grasp the concept of love or romance quite yet, and Kabane clearly knows more since he now has more of it in his life.

But there’s no denying Kon is smitten on one level with Kabane, so it’s just as likely he’d seduce her to his side than she’d get him to give up the stone that—lest we forget—is crucial to keep him under control. As Akira goes on a trip with Yui and Shiki minds the shop, Kabane and Inugami prepare to head to Shikoku to meet the first of many stone-keepers.

Kon super-awkwardly inserts herself into their trip, and Kabane urges her to join them, which is fine with Inugami. He’s no fool, and so knows full well Inari sent Kon to try to steal the stone. But he also knows Kabane isn’t half as guileless and manipulative as he once was, and so he’ll probably do fine against Kon’s inept attempts.

The three board the shinkansen, bound for more adventures in search of answers to the mystery of Kabane’s folks. That should make for a heckuva second season, the announcement of which I eagerly await. Even if for some reason it never comes, I had a lot of fun watching this eclectic and lovable bunch of characters work through their dark pasts, and differences, grow closer as a family…and kick some monster ass together.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Kemono Jihen – 11 – Let it Bro

Let it be said that the system the yuki-onna employ to keep the Snowy Village arrive is patently awful, not to mention extremely inefficient. And yet, with many a human tribe throughout history relied on the suffering and sacrifice of a “special few” in order to maintain their cultural and spiritual identity survival, it’s certainly nothing new, on either side of the human-kemono spectrum.

We take a look back at Yui and Akira’s past in the village throughout this episode, as Yui becomes the chief and is studded out to all of the 200 women of the village, a duty he keeps secret from Akira. Akira assumes he has to deal with difficult paperwork, and cheers him up with sasanqua camellia blooms when they’re able to talk to each other in the night.

Until a woman produces a male heir, his duties will continue; no mention is made of what happens to any new female children produced in the meantime. But Yui’s burden goes beyond simply being the physical tool with which to keep the village going. He has to deal with the constant competition for his favor, which adds to his emotional toll.

Back in the ice castle Yui built for his pure brother, Akira’s plushie informs him the others are frozen, but they are still alive. Kabane even manages to burst half of his body out of the ice. And while his bottom half grows back, the fact remains he, along with the still-frozen Shiki and Inugami, are still at Yui’s mercy.

Not sure what else he can do to protect them, Akira decides to scorn Kabane, saying he hates them and wants nothing more to do with them. When Yui returns, Akira shields Kabane from his frozen wrath and, knowing Yui will do whatever he asks, says he wants to move with him to a new place.

Kabane is left in a state of shock, thinking Akira really means what he said. Then Inari shows up in all her saxophone leitmotif-having glory. She assures him she’s not here for the Lifestone, but the Nullstone, which among other things could provide answers about his parents.

Seeing Inugami sealed up like a Thermos and reduced to communicating through the plushie (which can read his mind waves), Inari remarks that he’s gotten weaker…probably due to how he “makes too much” of “those useless children.”

Inari, meanwhile, uses her children like tools and discards them when they’re no longer of use. But like Kon, Nobimaru is all too happy to serve his mistress in all things, including going toe-to-toe with Yui, who encases Akira in a protective ice cage while he fights an ice-vs.-fire battle with the kitsune.

As the circumstances of Akira’s banishment are revealed—he had his first wet dream, so Yui sent him away before any of the women found out—Yui will do anything to preserve Akira’s perceived “purity”. And while both Nobimaru is hanging in there and the unkillable Kabane is on his way, it’s still looking like Akira will have to be the one to stop his twin brother from causing more harm.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Kemono Jihen – 08 – A Sister Richer

Right in the middle of Shiki considering killing his Uncle Akio with neither Inugami nor Nobimaru not standing in his way, a filthy Akira emerges from the woods having pissed himself with fear. Then a whole mess of Akio’s kemono creations arrive, surrounding the area. Akio informs Shiki that while none of them can produce the golden webbing, they’re still smart and can even speak—in Kumi’s voice.

When the monsters start to rush everyone, Inugami steps in, but his arm is poisoned, keeping him from producing a gun. Hearing his mother’s voice tell him she loves him through all the monsters paralyzes Shiki. Kabane’s lights up as he draws close to Shiki and asks once more “How can I help?” Inugami has Akira freeze his arm, but they’re saved from the charging kemono by the little girl Aya, whom they listen to.

When we cut back to Kabane, he’s already demolished all of the dozens of kemono protecting Akio, leaving Shiki free to kill him, or otherwise ask Kabane to kill him. Kabane is simply “happy to help”, as there’s apparently zero psychological cost to the carnage he causes.

The thing is, Shiki no longer wants his uncle to die. He wants him to live with the torment of all the things he meant to leave behind erased, and dying many years from now a forgotten man with no legacy. Aya doesn’t want Akio killed either, and not for sentimental reasons: he knows the location of a certain cocoon.

A bitter Akio refuses to tell her, but fortunately for her Inugami & Co. are detectives. Aya has no leads, but with one call to Mihai, they get a location: the same secluded spring in a patch of skunk cabbage where Aya had Inugami heal his arm. Aya prepares to plunge in, but Shiki goes in her place; she’s just a little girl after all.

At the bottom of the spring, Shiki finds something he’d never expected: his mother, still alive, encased in the cocoon. A bodyguard kemono attacks him but he defeats it and surfaces with his mom. Aya reveals that she herself is the golden webbing, and created the cocoon to keep their mother alive.

When Akio tries to rant more about “nearing mass production”, Shiki knocks him out with a slug to the face. Aya and the still-unconscious Kumi pile in the car with Shiki, Inugami, Kabane and Akira and they head back to Tokyo. Kabane noticed Nobimaru slipped away at some point, but Nobi doubles back give Akio at taste of his kitsune flames.

With his mom alive and suddenly possessed of a little sister in Aya, Shiki’s had a considerable turnaround in his fortunes. But Kumi still won’t wake up, so Inugami takes her to a clinic in Tokyo run by a diminutive ohana-basan—who doesn’t seem to mind the after-hours visit when she learns it’s Inugami.

If Kumi woke up fully restored, she could presumably pick up where she left off before falling into Akio’s foul enterprising web. That could mean Shiki and Aya would go live with her, either in their hometown or Tokyo. If the latter, Shiki could still work at the agency and hang out with Kabane and Akira. But this is all academic. First Kumi must be revived.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Kemono Jihen – 07 – The Spider with the Golden Silk

At Shiki’s request, the agency gang is off to his home village of Kinshigo, now that he’s ready to learn the fate of his parents. It’s bound not to be a pleasant stroy, but Inugami thinks it’s only right for Shiki to know if he wants to, and he does, for closure and to be able to move on.

After a little girl with pink hair gives Shiki a hard look (my first instinct, these two share mom), Inugami runs into his Uncle Akio, who tells Shiki that his parents are both dead. His father died before he was born, and his mother died when he was five. The reason he’s traumatized is that he walked in on her body at such a young age.

Having heard the news, Shiki returns to his friends to join them for ice cream, but even Kabane can tell he’s putting on a brave face, Akira tells him not to point that out so tactlessly, but Shiki can’t deny something is still troubling him. Enter Nobimaru, joining them at the bath, suggesting they go see the fireflies.

While Nobimaru is clearly still trying to trick Kabane out of his lifestone for Inari, that he takes Shiki into the woods helps trigger a memory involving a peculiar tree. This sets Shiki on a path of landmarks leading to a Creepy Shack, the very sight of his real trauma. It wasn’t seeing his mother’s dead body, but something far worse: her mother being forced to breed with a monster.

As Shiki recovers from the shock, Nobimaru inspects the now-empty shack, where there is still evidence of medical equipment and claw scratches. He recalls a report a year ago involving Shiki’s uncle, who was trying to make the local folktale about “golden silk” come true, which would expose kemono to the world, something both Inari and Inugami must prevent.

Still, Inugami kept Inari from “disposing” of Shiki’s uncle, knowing Shiki himself deserved to face him for what he did. When Inugami meets with Uncle Akio at his house (formerly Shiki’s parents’ house), he’s pleased to find Inugami is willing to spill the beans about his plan, because he doesn’t think what he’s done was wrong.

Shortly after he was born, Shiki came down with a nasty case of the Flu, and Akio coerced Kumi into horrific cross-breeding experiments with various kemono in the forest, hoping to find the pairing that would give them the legendary Healing Silk that’ll make them rich and make Akio famous. And while Kumi died in the process, Akio can report that he was successful in finding that pairing—no doubt the little girl is the result of that success.

Inugami happened to be recording Inugami’s confession/rant on his phone for Shiki to listen, and basically gives Shiki leave to do what he wants. Shiki grabs and suspends Akio from the neck with his silk, and out of deference for the years he took care of him, Shiki is willing to give his uncle a quick death.

While he has every right to make him suffer, there’s no escaping the fact that killing Akio will make Shiki a killer, and likely deprive that girl of her only guardian. Will Shiki follow through on his threat, or further weigh the enormity of his uncle’s crimes with the consequences of taking a life? We shall see.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Kemono Jihen – 06 – Raiding the Pantry

As he tries to hide from the stunned kononba sister, the fear grips Shiki. He recalls little from his earlier life except that he lived happily with his mom, and at some point he didn’t. But when Kanabe contacts him, having easily taken care of one of the other sisters, and offers him words of encouragement, Shiki snaps out of it and gets to work.

When the kononba uses her super-sensitive detection ability, Shiki ensures she senses him everywhere, as he’s distributed his spider webbing and sweat all over the hallway. Essentially blinded by her own heightened perception, the sister ends up getting stuck in the webs, and Shiki delivers a satisfying kick to the face.

Kabane and Akira reunite with Shiki, and the sister Kabane captured is also restrained in his webs. That’s when the lead sister appears, and offers to let the kids go if they forget all this. When Kabane refuses (he has a job to do) she sucks the brains and organs out of her two sisters without a second thought and attacks him.

Proving too strong for him to overpower, Kabane’s mind races; if he can’t beat this monster, Shiki and Akira will surely be killed. He doesn’t want that. Mihai offers a bit of free advice, which is nice considering he got the kids in this mess to begin with: Kabane is only using his human strength; to defeat the monster he’ll have to summon instinctual power from his other half, which he accesses via his heart.

It works, and he tears the sister’s arms off, just as Inugami frees himself from Mihai’s room. He orders the kids to retreat and let Inari take care of the rest. Sure enough, Inari’s shiny new attendant Nobimaru arrives to do just that.

Nobimaru, another kitsune (technically a bake-gitsune) burns the three kononba sisters so there is no evidence of monsters for humans could discover. Kabane doesn’t like the idea of pretending the foes never existed, but doesn’t protest enough to stop Nobimaru (if he even could; for all we know he’s much stronger than Kon).

Nobimaru lets Kabane in on a couple of secrets: first, Inari hasn’t given up on stealing his lifestone, so he needs to watch himself. Especially if he ends up sufficiently manipulated (say, one of his friends is put in danger) to willingly offer it to Inaru, Inugami won’t interfere. He has to not only hold on to it tight, but not get tricked. His other secret? He really doesn’t like Inari. That’s interesting, because Kon basically regarded her as a deity.

Back at the agency, Mihai half-apologizes for his role in putting the ids in danger, but qualifies it by making the point that they won’t get stronger if Inugami only gives them easy missions. Even Akira agrees with that point, as he learned that he can’t make ice without water. He should keep some on him at all times, like Avatar’s Kitara. That night, Kabane compares the heartbeats of a sleeping Shiki and Akira and is glad they’re alive.

The next day Shiki is fine, but Kabane is still watching him like a mother hen. Then it dawn on Kabane: he completely forgot about poor Kon. He rushes back to the part, and Kon falls ungracefully out of the tree to greet him. Kabane doesn’t mince words even when he should, telling Kon that other things came up and he simply forgot about her. And after she’d caught a pair of koi for them to eat together…POOR KON!

Kabane is sure to continue his friendship with Kon, even though Nobimaru says from afar that it’s not wise. As for Shiki, his ordeal at Bugbite has psychologically prepared him to hear what he wasn’t ready to hear before: what became of his family.

Rating: 4/5 Stars