The Fall 2019 Anime Preview Guide
Kemono Michi: Rise Up
How would you rate episode 1 of
Kemono Michi: Rise Up ?
What is this?
Genzo Shibata is the great masked wrestler Animal Mask, and he's about to fight his final bout. That's not because he's done with pro wrestling, but more because he's gotten the money he needed to move on to the next phase of his dream: owning his own pet store. Genzo is an animal lover of the highest order, and he's ready to make his animal life a reality. All of that gets derailed, however, when, mid-fight, Genzo is summoned to another world to be a hero in a land overrun by dangerous demon beasts. He's confused at first, but when he realizes that the summoning princess wants him to kill animals, he knows what he has to do: get the hell out. After German suplexing the princess, Genzo heads out to live life on his own terms in this new world – and make friends with all the animals! Kemono Michi: Rise Up is based on a manga. It is available streaming on Funimation, Wednesdays at 10 am EST.
How was the first episode?
Now this is a hero I can get behind – pro-wrestler Genzo's love of animals is so amazingly strong that when he's summoned to a magical world and asked to kill monsters, he flat out refuses (via German suplex) and heads out on his own, because damned if he's hurting the fur babies.
Or is this a hero I can get behind? Genzo's love of animals also seems to leave him without any real idea that beastpeople are actual people, and seeing him wrestle a wolfman to the ground to rub his belly is decidedly uncomfortable, especially since the whole scene is framed like the unwanted sexual contact that wolfman clearly feels it is. To be perfectly honest, that scene almost ruined the episode for me, and it definitely knocked my rating down quite a bit. Ear rubs I could have forgiven; this took it too far.
It's a shame, because otherwise Kemono Michi: Rise Up is a lot of fun. The premise is nicely self-aware without overdoing it, making not-quite-sly references to the slavery conflict of The Rising of The Shield Hero when Shigure the wolf-earred (and tailed) girl is “saved” from paying her debts and Genzo learns that she basically was fully in charge of everything that was about to happen to her, and the fact that absolutely everyone who sees Genzo, who was, after all summoned in the middle of a match and is in his wrestling undies, is a creepy pervert pokes fun at the way no one in these isekai stories ever seems to really care that the summoned hero is dressed differently. Genzo's complete and total love of animals is definitely more in the vein of Elmira from Tiny Toons, and him apparently blissfully sniffing a cerebus' hind end is weird, but the fact that he subdued them by making the leader submit and then rubbing their puppy tummies is still pretty great. I also love that his puppy Hiroyuki was summoned along with him, and that the pup is what the locals find truly weird; a perv they can handle, a puppy is apparently cause for questioning reality.
I'll definitely give this another episode, because if it can tone down the sexual predation aspect, it could really be a lot of fun. Or maybe I'll just give it another episode because of the giant bug that showed up in the last scene of this week. I need to know who that is and how they got there. In any event, it's an interesting take on a saturated genre, and that alone may make it worth checking out.
I must admit that I was a bit intrigued by this unique twist on the standard isekai format, so this was one of my most-anticipated titles of the season. The first episode, if anything, exceeded my expectations. It may be really, really wrong in some regards, but it's also maybe the funniest opening episode to a series that I've seen all year.
Really, I'm trying to remember the last time that I encountered a first episode with so many laugh-out-loud moments in it. The whole concept of applying pro wrestling to the isekai format is in of itself a stroke of genius. Animal Mask gets to be summoned right out of the middle of a match, so people have to wonder if that was part of the show or not, and he gets to introduce a very different fighting style to the fantasy setting he's arrived in; I've seen people in tabletop fantasy RPGs build characters around grappling and pinning attacks, and Animal Mask is doing exactly that. The way he's dressed for the ring also opens up a whole line of cracks about how he's a pervert because he's only wearing wrestling shorts, even though there's nothing in the slightest perverted about it.
However, the writing wisely does not rely on that gimmick alone; they make him a complete kook as well. Animal Mask is not just over-the-top as a top-rate wrestler; he's also over-the-top as a dedicated animal lover. His wrestling moves on beast people and cerberus monsters are finished off with submission cuddling and his zeal for showing his love for animals can come across as quite creepy, especially when directed towards beast people. That his antics can come across as sexual even though he's (probably) not intending them that way is the one place where the humor falls a bit flat, and I could see this getting uncomfortably edgy at times. What he does to the princess who innocently summoned him – by dropping her in a German suplex, complete with the princess's perspective as it happens – is the defining moment so far and definitely something we haven't seen before in an isekai title. I did also find it a bit amusing that the princess did not seem completely averse to the idea that Animal Mask might be getting sexual towards her when he was setting up for that suplex. I hope the series comes back and addresses that again at some point.
The technical merits of the first episode are actually pretty good, the character designs so far are quite appealing, and kudos go to the composer for how the musical selections are used. Parts of this could easily get too edgy for some tastes, but I found the first episode plenty entertaining enough that I will almost certainly be following this one.
Of all the ways I thought I was going to start off this season's preview guide, watching an almost-naked isekai hero gleefully take in a face full of Cerberus butthole wasn't one of them, but here we are with Kemono Michi: Rise Up. This show is proudly, almost defiantly, stupid-as-hell, using the most bare-bones of “hero summoned to another world by a princess” isekai plots to transport its equally stupid protagonist into a cavalcade of goofy (and somewhat gross) shenanigans. Here's all you need to know about the plot: Pro-wrestler Animal Mask, who goes by Genzo Shibata when he isn't suplexing fools on the mat, wants nothing more than to live a life sharing his love of animals with the world. When he is isekai-ed to Generic Fantasy World #453 to defeat the terrible beasts plaguing the land, he suplexes the princess instead, vowing to protect and befriend the beasts instead of kill them.
Naturally, this gets an angry mob on Genzo's tail, and as he flees from the authorities he runs in to a fabulously buff (and shirtless) wolf-man, and his cat-girl sister, the former of whom he proceeds to non-consensually cuddle into a complete stupor. He almost does the same to the cat-girl, until he runs into a wolf-girl named Shigure, who managed to sell herself into slavery with her terrible money management. A hop, a skip, and a quest signup later, Shigure and Genzo are off to deal with the local pack of Ceberuses (Cerberi?), and this the aforementioned butthole revelry commences. Long story short, this anime delivers exactly what it says on the tin: A dumb, goofy, and occasionally off-putting isekai comedy about a guy who likes petting animals just a little too much. Also, Genzo has a cute dog friend.
A part of me enjoyed the show's brazen commitment to taking nothing about itself seriously for even a moment, and there were some genuinely funny gags here and there – the suplexing of the princess, Genzo's general obliviousness, the random ant cameo at the end. Then again, a lot of those jokes are immediately undercut by a general level of skeeviness that didn't sit very well with me. When the princess takes a face plant, the show lingers on her exposed crotch for what seems like an eternity. Genzo's aggressive scritching of the wolfman he meets is explicitly framed as a kind of gonzo assault scene being played for laughs, which is…unfortunate, to say the least. I didn't hate Kemono Michi, but it inspired more groans and befuddlement in me than belly laughs. There's a whole lot of isekai coming at us this fall, and Kemono Michi is already starting to fade into the background.
Rating: I am greatly appreciating the fact that we've apparently moved into the era of delightfully absurd isekai, as opposed to the grimly self-serious kind. Along with the KONOSUBA-reminiscent Cautious Hero, this season is also offering the truly ridiculous Kemono Michi. Kemono Michi stars Genzo Shibata, a pro wrestler who fights on stage as Animal Mask, and soon finds himself transported into a standard fantasy world. Animal Mask has no interest in fulfilling his heroic destiny, though; in fact, after the princess of this realm demands that he kill animals, he swiftly German suplexes her in response, and then rushes off for a rambling series of animal-loving adventures.
Though a premise this silly could easily lend itself to extremely over-the-top gags, I was happy to see it instead embrace a relatively reserved, almost deadpan sense of humor. Much of the comedy here comes from Genzo's dedication to his Animal Mask persona; unlike your usual isekai setup, where the protagonist tends to be the straight man in a very strange world, Genzo is very obviously the weirdo here. The contrast between his bizarre yet wholly self-confident behavior and the understandable confusion of the people around him results in natural gags from start to finish, as he bends the world to his will through his “powers” of loving every single animal, and also being a genuinely buff-as-heck pro wrestler. Whether he's dramatically monologuing about his desire to pet fluffy ears, or protesting that “I'm not a pervert, I'm a pro wrestler!”, Genzo's uniquely bizarre personality makes for a charming twist on the usual isekai formula.
In terms of visual execution, Kemono Michi feels just slightly above-average. There isn't that much fluid animation, and nothing like Cautious Hero's phenomenal expression work, but Kemono Michi's tonal contradictions and situational comedy frankly don't require much visual flair to land. The show also features a reasonable dash of fanservice, though it's mostly played for laughs. Animal Mask would much rather pet fluffy tails than pursue women, after all.
All in all, Kemono Michi's first episode demonstrates the clear comic potential of its very silly premise, while establishing a likable set of characters and even a strong narrative hook. The isekai comedy crop is coming in strong this season!
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