It would be pretty fair to say that of all the anime that aired this year, the most surprising was Kemono Friends. Honestly what more is there to say about it? The saga of Kemono Friends has become legend by now, even though a bare year ago if anyone did know about it, it was just as that “upcoming show who’s mobage was canceled before it even aired”.
Now, well. Kemono Friends has become a lot more than that.
I talked earlier this year about one of the reasons Kemono Friends resonated so well with people, and its still relevant now, in light of the events that happened a few months ago. It comes back to, really, the same thing I discussed there. Sincerity.
Staff changes between seasons of anime all the time. Even directors and writers, the only major staff members most fans would really know about. Sometimes this makes a show worse, sometimes it makes it better, and sometimes it doesn’t really make a major difference. Also, by and large, anime fans don’t care that much. Only people who really follow the minutiae of anime production tend to care, most fans just care if the show still delivers what they want.
So when Kadokawa removed Tatsuki from the Kemono Friends project, they almost certainly expected nothing more than a collective shrug from the fans. That is not, to say the least, what they got. They got the biggest reaction I, or pretty much anyone else, has ever seen to a staff change for an anime. Its obvious to almost anyone just how vital Tatsuki was to Kemono Friends, that it was his vision that truly built the world everyone fell in love with.
Kadokawa threw that away, because they wanted more control. Not even necessarily more money, just more control. It was a shockingly arrogant and cruel move on their part, one that they clearly expected to work. They released statements that were obvious falsehoods, and made the voice actors (who for the record are completely blameless here) do a public apology that only enraged fans more.
Everything about what they did ran counter to the very core themes of Kemono Friends. And fans could tell. They knew why they loved Kemono Friends, and who was responsible for its creation. What will happen to Kemono Friends now is up in the air, but perhaps it will pass into legend, as the franchise that rose from the dead, only to be shot down once more just as it was taking flight.