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The year’s biggest anime suffers major staffing shakeup

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Kemono Friends loses its director, and fans think its future looks bleak

kemono friends header image Yaoyorozu/Kadokawa

Kemono Friends, this year’s breakout anime, is making waves on Japanese social media after the sudden exit of its director. Tatsuki, who helmed the show’s first season, announced in a tweet that the show’s production company had abruptly let him go.

“I have been suddenly released from the anime Kemono Friends,” Tatsuki wrote earlier this week. “I’m sorry. I am very disappointed.”

The tweet has since been retweeted more than 188,000 times. Kadokawa, the company which owns the Kemono Friends property, followed up the next day with an official announcement on the anime’s website. In its note, the company pinned blame for the shakeups on the show’s production studio, Yaoyorozu.

“We have had leaked information [by Yaoyorozu] as well as usage of content without prior notification. Since we have wanted Yaoyorozu to continue with us as the animation production studio for the upcoming project, we have requested them to follow terms of sharing information with us first,” Kadokawa wrote, according to a translation by Reddit user kjwffr. “However, Yaoyorozu’s response was that they could not accept these conditions and wished to withdraw.”

It’s unclear what this “leaked information” is referring to, although Reddit users and others speculate that Kadokawa was unhappy with a bonus, online-only episode uploaded outside of the show’s official airing cycle. But the animation studio’s exit means that the show’s upcoming second season and other projects will be delayed. But fans remain firmly on Tatsuki and his team’s side in the confusion.

Many viewers attribute Kemono Friends’ radical success to its creative team, with Tatsuki leading the charge. The series, based on a mobile game, follows a human girl who finds herself among several anthropomorphic animals — but the cutesy veneer soon gives way to something a little stranger, enticing viewers who were at first put off by the lighthearted tone. The show’s debut episode has since gone on to be the most popular piece of anime in the history of NicoNico Douga, Japan’s biggest streaming platform; it’s been viewed almost 10 million times.

Following Tatsuki’s tweet, Kadokawa and other related hashtags began to trend worldwide on Twitter. NicoNico users also voiced their frustrations en masse, and fanmade petitions called for Tatsuki to be rehired. Other members of the anime and games community spoke out against the firing as well, including producers and voice actors who had worked with him on other shows.

With the wording of the Kadokawa statement suggesting the entire Yaoyorozu team has left the show, Kemono Friends fans have reason to be concerend about the future of the series. After a beloved first season, we’ll have to wait and see if Kemono Friends ends up as a one-hit wonder.