Nahoko Uehashi’s original novels entitled Kemono no Souja Erin (Erin – The Beast Player) were published from 2007 and until 2009, a few weeks after the anime adaptation of the books began. The story is unique with the way it covers an entire lifetime of events, of drama and of happy moments, starting from the life of Erin as a tiny little girl who is still sleeping with her mother until the moment this same little girl saves the Queen.
As usual, I will try not to put too many spoilers in this review, but there will be such nonetheless. Read at your own risk!
Kemono no Souja Erin is an anime that not many have watched and it is understandable. There is not a huge franchise of this story, neither is there a computer or a video game. Erin is a character from an old-school novel and the protagonist in a 50-episode series, which came out in the same season as shows such as Hajime no Ippo (new series), Afro Samurai Resurrection, Maria†Holic, Kurokami and Hetalia Axis Powers. Unlucky or just plain wrong – the choice of season was not for a drama-based series for sure. Nonetheless, this same anime managed to get one of the highest scores ion MyAnimeList (8.46) and is favourite by 305 members out of the 4264 who have rated it.
So, to tell you about the Beat Player, about Erin…
Touda – huge lizards that are virtually invincible. Used as a much more aggressive and dangerous horse, they are the weapon which many fear. In a village where touda are being cared for and raised for the battlefield, the bestinarian (beast veterinarian) is one of the mist people, a mysterious tribe that lives secluded and without communicating with the rest of the world. This woman’s name is Soyon and she has a daughter named Erin. Many things lead to drama, codes of honour, rules of the humans and rules of the myst people – everything causes every of Erin’s nightmares to be realised. Starting from seeing her mother die by being eaten alive by the touda, she cared for to nearly losing her life to losing her freedom among other things.
The drama is what makes this show as good as it is. Without it, it would have been childish – a young girl, taking care of beasts and finding love. When you add several deaths, some of which extremely painful and bloody, a royal treason and a conspiracy to overtake the throne, you get a good story that is filled with thought.
The artwork of Kemono no Souja Erin is unqiue. With its rounded faces and basic hairs, it reminds of Naruto and Ghibli while at the same time it has the mystic beasts of Wolf’s Rain. Unlike most of the anime that I have previously reviewed, I have to note that this show is not for the lovers of epic graphics, even though there are moments that will leave a long-lasting impression. This is mainly because it’s made without making use of computer software for the scenes and it’s visible in the sometimes 1D landscapes and lack of movement on the background.
For maybe the first time in ShinigamiList’s history of reviews, I will look at the cast members more seriously. First, the main character Erin is voiced by Nanase Hoshii. She is a known actress, but with only one role that matters in the anime world. Her job is well accomplished and suitable for the par of Erin, not to mention that there is only one seiyuu for the protagonist even though we hear her speak at many different ages from around 5 until her fully grown phase. Probably the second-most important person in the whole series is the antagonist – Duke Damiya. As opposed to Hoshii-chan, his seiyuu is very popular in the anime culture. Akira Ishida is the voice behind Chrono Crusade’s Chrono, Gintama’s Katsura, Gundam’s Athrun Zala, Naruto’s Gaara and many more. His work here, although voicing younger characters currently, is marvellous and suits the Duke perfectly.
The director of this TV anime series is Prince of Tennis’ Takayuki Hamana and he has done a pretty good job with the books. I would have to say that, however, from both him and character designer Takayuki Goto (Appleseed XIII, Ghost in the Shell: SAC) there is more to be asked, especially considering their other works.
One of the most memorable things about Kemono no Souja Erin, apart from the story, is the theme song. Sukima Switch’s ‘Shizuku’ is probably one things that many will recall from this show with a smile. The duo has also worked on Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood’s OP ‘Golden Time Lover’ and Uchuu Kyoudai’s OP ‘Eureka’.
You can hear Shizuku at this 3-year-old LIVE session. That’s the only official video available unfortunately.
Apart of the melodies and great story, an everything-but-ordinary artwork and a silly 10-episode remake, which tells the whole plot, this anime is perfectly enjoyable even if none of these seem remarkable to the viewer and this is because it is made well as a whole.
Video: © Office-Augusta.
Images: ©上橋菜穂子・講談社 ／ ＮＨＫ・ＮＥＰ
Kemono no Souja Erin in The List
Official Kemono no Souja Erin Website