Pro-Wrestling Meets Isekai Fantasy
While I’m a fan of isekai stories and fantasy I’ve never been much for straight out comedy and I am really not a fan of wrestling so the synopsis for Hataage! Kemono Michi (or Kemono Michi: Rise Up) didn’t exactly fill me with a sense of excitement. Surprisingly, despite some of the comedy not landing for me, the slightly repetitive nature, and visuals that seem increasingly lazy, I can’t say I actually disliked Kemono Michi. For all the things I might criticise about it I still actually had fun watching it most weeks and when you go in expecting nothing that’s actually enough.
The story is about Genzo, a pro-wrestler known as Animal Mask, who during his ‘final match’ is transported to another world by a Princess who is summoning a hero to defend her kingdom from the demon beasts. Only, Genzo loves animals, including his dog Hiroyuki who was summoned with him, and so he uses his wrestling moves to plant the Princess on her head, exposing her butt to her guards, before running from the palace. After a bit of dithering, he concludes that he is going to open a pet shop in the fantasy world given it was the dream he was working toward before being summoned.
And that’s pretty much it. Genzo joins forces with Shigure who ends up being the voice of reason as Genzo does ridiculous things but the two work reasonably well on screen as Shigure berates Genzo about something and Genzo continues to just do whatever he wants. They are also joined by a dragon girl and her vampire servant and other characters such as members of the adventurers guild, a banker, and various others drop in and out of the story usually to bring one gag or another to life. It isn’t exactly deep and though there are a couple of attempts at commentary on the isekai genre, that really isn’t its overall point.
I really did like that Genzo didn’t just go along with the whole ‘summoned hero’ role. So many isekai stories has a character summoned and whether they do it grudgingly or willingly they step into the hero role without all that many questions. Genzo outright refuses to slay the demon beasts. When pressed later in the season about defeating the demon lord he asks why that’s his responsibility. At no point does he take being the hero particularly seriously. As Genzo points out, he’s a pro-wrestler.
Another thing I really liked was the inclusion of the giant ant. They never really explain where it came from as it just shows up drinking with Genzo and Shigure and then every episode you see it working in the house or yard with Genzo. The ant is an incredibly valuable character taking care of a lot of the menial work and at times being the most useful member of the crew, but the character never speaks and isn’t really directly acknowledged by the other characters until the final episode where Genzo directly speaks to the ant. The ant appearances each episode were definitely worth watching for.
The other characters, such as Carmilla and Hanako, are more hit and miss and depending on your sense of humour, mileage will definitely vary. I wasn’t a big fan of episodes that focused on that pair but they weren’t annoying enough to kill the show for me.
What the anime does less well is keep things fresh. Shigure starts out as a pretty amusing character and her ongoing gag of ‘finding’ swords dropped by other heroes (usually after Genzo has thrown them through a wall) was funny enough. She’s also the one really looking out for Genzo in terms of helping him achieve his dream, even when he seems to lose sight of the goal. Yet, by the mid-season, Shigure was definitely getting less screen time and largely that is because other than her standard jokes she didn’t bring anything new to the table.
The anime opted for introducing more and more characters rather than developing the ones it had, but even then a lot of the jokes started to feel repetitive. How many times can someone call Genzo a ‘beast killer’ and be taken out by a wrestling move before that gets old? Again, it depends on how amusing you find it in the first place but by the end of the season I was more or less happy it was done. The story also chooses to summon a rival wrestler mid-season which does at least give the final some direction but again, none of the fantasy characters really get more development beyond their basic trope.
Another problem is the wrestling itself. Throughout the series they contrive a number of reasons to have wrestling tournaments, which are kind of amusing as we watch this pseudo-medieval fantasy world get introduced to the antics of pro-wrestling, however it is in these sequences that the animation quality lets the show down. While still images of sick moves might work for some viewers given I wasn’t really keen on watching wrestling in the first place I kind of wanted to see some fluid animation rather than montages of moves.
None of these complaints are deal breakers but they do mean that this anime isn’t exactly packed with rewatch value, nor is it a must see. Basically, Hataage! Kemono Michi manages to be amusing enough without ever being hilarious and it manages an interesting enough gimmick on the isekai genre to be worth a look but does little with it that will be remembered. This will be that ‘wrestling isekai’ and no one will ever really remember the specifics, except perhaps the giant ant. He was memorable.
What might be a a deal breaker though is Genzo’s excessive touching of furry characters. While they establish early on he loves animals, people with animal characteristics being pinned down and petted makes for some uncomfortable moments within the story. They play it off as a joke and have one particular character as the ‘victim’ more often than not but to be honest it really just felt like they pushed that too far. While this settles a bit in later episodes, I’m not entirely sure playing off one character’s trauma as amusement is in the best taste and this may rub some viewers very much the wrong way.
The OP gives you a fairly good idea of what to expect in terms of content, visual quality and characters. Again, it is fun enough but seems to think it is more exciting than it actually is. Still, if you are on the fence about the anime, watch the OP and you’ll probably know whether this one is going to work for you.
As I said at the start, I mostly had fun watching Hataage! Kemono Michi. While I’m on the fence about a lot of things in it, there were few moments that really felt dull or like they pushed it too far. I am glad it is finished though as I don’t think it has much more to say and the characters have definitely run out of mileage. Like a lot of anime, this one is good enough for a watch but that’s about it.
Your turn: if you watched Hataage! Kemono Michi I’d love to know what you thought of it so be sure to share a comment.
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Images from: Hataage! Kemono Michi. Dir. K Miura. ENGI. 2019.