Image source: irodoriginal on YouTube
Kemono Friends was last season’s break-out hit in Japan. One week after the series aired its final episode, the director uploaded a supplementary short video that answered a question that nobody knew they had.
[Note: This article contains major spoilers for Kemono Friends.]
Kemono Friends takes place in the fantastical wildlife park, Japari Park, that is populated by anthropomorphic animal girls called “Friends.” The series focused on a mysterious Friend, “Kaban,” who journeys together with the serval Friend, Serval, to find out what Kaban is and where Kaban should live.
After discovering that Kaban is a human—a supposed “lost species” that disappeared from the Japari Park island—and that they might find other humans across the ocean, they head to a port to find a boat that will take Kaban to where there might be other humans.
After further adventures and encounters, the series ends with Kaban driving the Japari bus tractor unit (that’s been converted into a makeshift boat) across the ocean alone. In a post-credits scene, we see Serval in the Japari bus trailer unit (that’s been similarly converted) approaching from behind and catching up with Kaban.
Serval tells someone else who seems to be serving as the trailer unit’s power to stop but collides with the tractor unit, surprising Kaban. We then hear the voice of someone coming out of the water and addressing Kaban and Serval asking what sort of Friends they are. We hear the sound of the intro horn to the opening theme song as the Japanese word for “To be continued” gradually appears in the lower right of the screen and the screen fades to black.
Kemono Friends was an unmistakable phenomenon in Japan. So it comes as little surprise that when the director, Tatsuki, released a supplementary short video on YouTube and niconico Douga, both videos quickly gained over a million views in less than a week.
— たつき／irodori（けものフレンズ） (@irodori7) April 4, 2017
Titled, “Episode 12.1: Basuteki,” the video is a 2 minute 45 second short that takes place behind the scenes of episode twelve. In the episode, the northern white-faced owl Friend, Hakase, and the Eurasian eagle owl, Joshu, tell the fennec fox Friend, Fennec, and the common raccoon Friend, Araiguma, to find a tire to replace one of the bus tires that was damaged in episode eleven. During their search through the Japari Park amusement park, Fennec and Araiguma find a pedal-powered cart that they play around with. The episode ends with Hakase and Joshu commenting that they should get Kaban to make some more food for them before Kaban heads out across the ocean. The short is fairly straightforward with nothing in the way of an overt twist, but it does serve to answer two questions from episode twelve.
Firstly, the identity of Serval’s companions in the Japari bus trailer unit and how it was being powered can be answered with the pedal-powered cart. In the post-credits scene from episode twelve, the sound of pedaling can be heard. Throughout the series, Fennec and Araiguma have been following Kaban so it makes sense that the two would continue their journey after Kaban.
Secondly, and more interestingly, it answers a question that nobody knew they had: Why one of the wheels on the tractor unit of the Japari bus that Kaban is driving is a different color. Looking back at episode twelve, you can briefly see that one of the wheels is indeed yellow instead of red. The view where you can see the different color wheel is only two seconds long, so hardly anybody noticed it or thought anything of it, and yet, the director went out of his way to make a video explaining why it’s that way.
Interestingly, episode 12.1 serves to highlight one of the best things about Kemono Friends: The series doesn’t talk down to its audience. While overall simplistic and fairly straightforward, the series is littered with mysteries that, for the most part, go unexplained. This give the fan base a veritable playground where they can theorize and discuss things like what actually happened in the park to cause humans to abandon it, why Serval cried when she saw a video of another serval Friend, or why Kaban’s hands are gradually turning black at the end. (The popular theory on that is that because Kaban is a human Friend and not a pure human so she is growing her gloves back.)
The popularity of Kemono Friends has turned the property into a gold mine, so anything official that serves to expand its world is welcomed with open arms. I’m sure we’ll be seeing other shorts or similar media before the next screen project comes out.
Kemono Friends can be viewed with English subtitles on Crunchyroll.