Title: Kemurikusa (Smoke Plant; ケムリクサ)
Aired: January – March 2019
Genres: Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Supernatural
Number of Episodes: 12
Source: Original Net Animation (ONA) [2 episodes]
[This post contains light spoilers]
This hidden gem was released in Japan during the Winter 2019 season and unfortunately was not picked up by anyone here at AngryAnimeBitches. I recently discovered Kemurikusa on Amazon Prime during a quiet evening on a day off, and got so hooked that I marathoned this entire series in one go! (I feel like I got my nerd card back, I haven’t done that in years! xD )
Story and Setting
Kemurikasa takes place in a post-apocalyptic world where humanity is gone, similar to Shoujo Shuumatsu Ryokou (Girls’ Last Tour). The year in which Kemurikusa takes place is unknown. What remains of the world is made up of a series of islands, each abandoned, crumbling and surrounded by a dangerous red fog. There are no animals and no wildlife; rather, the only other living beings aside from our main cast are robots called Bugs. Most are tiny, harmless little machines, but any bugs infected by the aforementioned red fog are called Red Bugs. Once contaminated by the fog, they seek out and attempt to kill all other living beings aside from other Red Bugs.
It’s made very clear from the beginning of the series that the most important commodity left in the world is water. It is the thing upon which all living things need to survive. Unfortunately it can also be contaminated by the red fog, so the characters of Kemurikusa are constantly on the search for more of the clear liquid. The near-constant underlying tone of worry permeates the series in every episode. How much water is left? Where is the next source of fresh water? Will our cast reach more water before their remaining water runs out?
The overall focus of the series is the characters’ journey to Island Seven. Past Island Six is rumored to be a large fresh water lake, something which would solve all of the team’s concerns about water. However during their one prior attempt to leave Island One and find this lake, they were unable to reach it. As a result the sisters have only limited information regarding the other islands. Will they survive the expedition? Are there more than six or seven islands?
Another component of this show I found really intriguing were seeing the different type of kemurikusa and what they could be used for. An example of this is Midori-chan’s green kemurikusa leaves, which Rin uses to attack Red Bugs and which also provide nourishment for the sisters. Then there’s the blue plant Ai-chan, which floats in a half-full fishbowl and points the way to the next closest source of fresh water. Lastly yellow Kiiro kemurikusa can be used to as sources of light. Plus there are several other types of assorted kemurikusa which the cast encounters along their journey, and each of them have their own unique characteristics too. Once Wakaba is introduced, it’s interesting to see how his relationship with kemurikusa differs from how the sisters use the plants.
Characters and Voice Acting
Our main cast is made up of a quintet of sisters, each specializing in a specific sense. The protector of the group is Rin, whose specialty is sight. She is a physical fighter who protect her sisters from the Red Bugs. Rin is initially very arrogant and aloof, but as the series progresses she learns to loosen up and relax a little. She is also completely unfamiliar with the feelings of attraction to another person, resulting in her repeatedly making assumptions that she is “sick”. Of all the sisters, she is the most concerned about their journey.
Next in the family roster is Ritsu, the oldest sister and my personal favourite character. She’s quiet and cute, wears a shrine maiden outfit (miko) outfit and has cat ears. x3 Ritsu also plays a very important role in that she can control the kemurikusa tree (named Midori-chan) which grows in the broken train carriage she and her sisters live in. Ritsu uses her ability with Midori-chan to allow her family to leave Island One by pushing their carriage along train tracks, or walking it along like a bug when there are no tracks to use. Ritsu’s health also appears to be fragile so she doesn’t usually participate in battle aside from using Midori’s roots to do some reconnaissance for her sisters.
Three of the other four sisters are really clones of one other sister, Rina. Rina and her clones all look identical to each other, and they all wear maid outfits. Rinamu is the original third sister and her clones are named Rinaji, Rinacchi, and Rinayo. There is another clone named Rinako, but she dies in battle at the beginning of the first episode. The Rina sisters can consume pieces of rubble they find in the world, which helps them grow stronger. The Rinas can also use the “balls” on the ends of their dress as weapons or as security scouts. The Rinas’ special sense is taste, evident by how they love to eat new pieces of junk they find in the world.
The wild card in this cast of ladies is Wakaba. He appears on Island One out of nowhere, sucked up into the sisters’ water tank by Midori-chan. But how did he get there and who is he really? He’s lost his memory unfortunately, so details about his life are few and far between. Wakaba’s alright and he has a good heart, but he’s a bit of an idiot. ^^;; Not a lot above his ears. Also, Kemurikusa plants have a strange affect on Wakaba too – but why?
Animation and Music
I seem to become interested in many titles created with CGI, eh? I think back to Berserk (2016) and Berserk (2017), and how those two seasons were dragged over the coals by many fans online for the quality of their animation. It makes me consider how far CGI animation has come even in these past few years. It’s still possible to tell that Kemurikusa was made with CGI animation, of course, but character movements have gotten smoother (compared to titles like the aforementioned Berserk, as well as Knights of Sidonia) and I imagine that this will only continue to improve as technology progresses.
When it comes to the music, I very much enjoy both this show’s opening and ending themes. The opening theme is “Kemurikusa” by Nano and the ending theme “Indeterminate Universe” is sung by Hatsune Miku featuring the voice seiyuu for Rin, Rina and Ritsu, respectively. I feel like both songs match the energy of the series, right up until the very end. Both songs are very catchy and I found myself singing along more than once.
Kemurikusa was not quite what I was expecting. The haunting twist at the end of the show really puts the cast and the show’s events in a totally new perspective. I’ll leave you with this question: what does it mean to be human?
If I have any complaints, it’s that I wish we got more time with the secondary cast (you’ll see), and we had a little more information about the world. (That’s a common issue of mine though, and it’s the same reason why I had a hard time with Girls’ Last Tour.)
Final Score: 8.5/10
Do I Recommend This Title?: Definitely, especially if you’re a fan of CGI animation. The plot is a little vague at times, but the cute cast makes up for the lack of environmental information. I’d love to see another season, especially since the director Tatsuki dropped a short epilogue titled Episode 12.1 on his Twitter in April. It’s in Japanese with no subtitles so I can only understand a few words here and there, but if another season were to spring from that scene? That’d be pretty awesome.