One of the works which were a hot topic in the first half of this year is Kemono Friends. The anime finished its broadcast in March but its popularity didn’t fade and there are many fans calling for more. Then, almost like an answer to the fans, for 4 days from 14 – 18 June, there was a short run of a Kemono Friends stage play at Shinagawa Prince Hotel Club eX in Shinagawa, Tokyo.
The Kemono Friends stage play, just like the game, anime, and manga, is set in a large zoo called ‘Japari Park’ which is located somewhere in the world. In Japari Park, through the power of the mysterious ‘Sand Stars’, the animals turn into anthropomorphic creatures called ‘animal girls’ one after the other. The animal girls call each other ‘Friends’ and they go on adventures throughout the park and battle the animal girls’ enemy, the Cerulean.
Orignally, Kemono Friends was a character contents project that started in 2015 with a mobile game which was available on Android and iOS. The game ended its service at the end of 2016, just before the broadcast of the anime. The comic was entitled Kemono Friends -Welcome to Japari Park!- and was serialized from 2015 until March 2017.
In the TV series, the lines, ‘Amazing!’ and, ‘So fun!’, said by the main character, Serval, became known as lines that melt you brain and the number of viewers who seemed almost addicted began to rise. After this, as the construction of Japari Park became clear, there was a rise in theories that this was a world in which the human race had gone extinct and just like many hit anime in times gone by, there were many tweets and blogs discussing the show. Kemono Friends became a big hit.
And so, a stage play set in the same world was born. The stage play is a story about the animal girls and the human Friend, Kaban-chan (Bag-chan), does not make an appearance. The Friends that are featured in the play were played by their voice actors which was bound to make fans happy. The anime’s theme song, ‘welcome to Japari Park’ was reviewed favorably by famous artists and the singers of the song, Doubutsu Biscuits x PPP, also made an appearance.
The voice actors who performed in the stage play are as follows:
Doubutsu Biscuits: Yuka Ozaki (Serval), Kana Motomiya (Fennec), Saki Ono (Raccoon)
PPP (Penguins Performance Project): Mikoi Sasaki (Royal Penguin), Ruka Nemoto (Emperor Penguin), Kyoka Tamura (Gentoo Penguin), Aina Aiba (Southern Rockhopper Penguin), Ikuko Chikuta (Humboldt Penguin).
The rest of the cast was comprised of Hotaru Nomoto (Okapi), Moeno Nito (Mammoth), Misaki Nishikawa (Sheep), Ran Sakai (White Tiger/Saber Tiger), Yuri Kouno (Greater Flamingo), Rihona Kato (Tanuki), Azusa Inamura (Black Panther), Reika Ishii (Cheetah), Rikako Aida (Blue Whale), Miwa Furushou, Izumi Niihashi, Hinata Koizumi.
There was an interview with the cast during the dress rehearsal on 14 June before the first show.
Ozaki said, ‘The stage play is full of charm that is different to the anime. I want the audience to be soothed’, mentioning the charm of the stage version. Nomoto drew attention the Friends that appear in the play saying, ‘I would like everyone to come looking forward to seeing Friends that do not appear in the anime.’
Hiroki Murakami, the director and screenwriter of the play, said ‘The reason we got to do the stage play so soon after the anime ended in the middle of the boom is because we concentrated on making it. It was a fight against time. Seeing how we made the Kemono Friends world come alive on stage is the highlight. the voice acting team became the characters themselves even onstage. The actors who performed together with them are also very good. Right now, we have gathered almost all the cast that we want onstage. Please watch the “Japari Park that you can experience”!’
Nemoto, who plays the role of Emperor Penguin said, ‘So as not to bring shame to the name of the Emperor, I will try my best until the end.’ Sasaki also expressed her desire to do well onstage saying, ‘While biting back the joy of being able to play a princess, I will work hard until the closing show.’
As stated before, human Friends do not make an appearance. The Japari Park set is made to look decrepit showing that humans have gone extinct. Imagining that aspect of the story is one of Kemono Friends’ charms.
The story begins with the birth of Okapi. Serval takes Okapi around the park and introduces her to the other friends. When they try to watch the concert of the water area’s idols, PPP, they can’t get in because they do not have tickets. There, they decide to get the tickets illegally, referencing the illegal resale of tickets which is currently a problem in Japan. After that, they meet Cheetah in the Jungle Area who owns the shipping company called Japari Post which is a reference to the global giant, Amazon. References to current issues are included in the story and adds to its charm.
While watching PPP’s concert, Serval says that she wants to be an idol. At the time, the number of Friends in the park increased exponentially and so a commemoration festival was planned.
Serval sets out to find members for her group called ‘Savannah Girls’ to compete with PPP at the commemoration festival.
PPP tries to find a new song in a ‘box that plays music’ (a radio cassette’)but the music doesn’t play. When Serval and friends find the cassette tape, PPP is able to sing the new song. Meanwhile, Serval sets off to a ‘mysterious place that plays music’ that she heard about from Cheetah and tries to make the park’s closing song their own.
Of course, ‘Welcome to Japari Park’ is sung onstage. The cast includes actors familiar with stage plays and seeing all the Friends dancing and singing live was a great experience for the reporters.
It was been decided that there will be more performances of this stage play. It will be performed at AiiA 2.5 Theater Tokyo in Harajuku, Tokyo from Saturday 13 January until Sunday 21 January 2018. The advanced ticket sale begins on Saturday 18 November 2017 from 10:00. Won’t you enjoy Kemono Friends at the beginning of next year?