Best Anime of the 00s – Kemonozume (2006)

Masaaki Yuasa’s tale of romance between monster and monster hunter.

Of course, doing a supernatural Romeo & Juliet tale is hardly the most original of premises, though at the moment it is a lucrative premise. Kemonozume breaks from the pack on a number of points, for a start unlike Romeo & Juliet or their hundreds of supernatural imitators, the two leads in Kemonozume, Toshihiko and Yuka, are adults rather than lovestruck teens. More importantly, in a genre where the man tends to be the supernatural creature, here the female lead is the monster. And she’s not a vampire, or a ghost, but a cannibalistic ogre.

It takes this fairy tale premise and weaves a tale that starts out as being about forbidden love, then heads into more interesting areas like disability and ageing, before ending on a surreal, over the top final battle against the villain of the piece.

Of course the main draw for me is that the show is a showcase for some of the best talent working in Japanese animation at the moment (in much the same way Hakkenden was for Yuasa in the 90s). Both Michio Mihara and Osamu Kobayashi produce solo episodes, and the avant-title shorts provide an opportunity for animators to flex their own style free of the narrative of the series. Probably my favourite episodes are Kanji Wakabayashi/Eun Young Choi’s slapstick filled hilarious episode 6 and Soichi Masui/Masakazu Hashimoto/Kayoko Nabeta’s episode 9 with the old couple.

While not as polished and complete as Yuasa’s later Madhouse/WOWOW production Kaiba, I find this series easier to relate to and so it’s my favourite of the two.