Kemono Michi: Rise Up
by Rebecca Silverman,
How would you rate episode 12 of
Kemono Michi: Rise Up ?
Holy crap, the ant has a name! It's Jeeg, which I actually think we may have heard before but not registered as belonging to our favorite insect. But even if that's the case, it's part of the way that Kemono Michi: Rise Up manages to go out with, if not a bang precisely, at least more fun than the show has offered for at least a month. In part that's because it has finally reached the point it's been dancing around since episode one: the match between Animal Mask and MAO, with MAO's ego and Genzo's pet shop riding on it.
Of course, that in itself wouldn't be enough to carry the finale if it was just played straight, so it's a good thing that there's plenty of weirdness to go alongside the actual wrestling. The best part is Genzo and MAO having a heart-to-heart while they're actively trying to lay each other out – each move (some static, some not, which balances out better than expected) juxtaposed with them pouring out their hurts and dreams. There's just something about half-naked buff guys realizing that their bitter rivalry was all based on a misunderstanding that's inherently funny, largely because it functions not just as a send-up of enemies realizing that they don't actually hate each other, something that's scattered throughout both literature and shounen manga, but also as a parody of the idea that women talk things out and men fight them out. The fight itself is merely the catalyst for getting the two men together in one place; it's really the talking that does the trick. When you compare it to scenes of guys punching each other Jojo's-style and then laughing afterwards that their fists did the conversing, Genzo and MAO's fight becomes even more delightfully absurd as it points out that talking is what they need to do, while fighting (wrestling) is what they like to do.
As a nice added bonus, the art and animation has some very nice moments to show off during their bout. If you didn't realize it before, this fight makes it nicely clear that Genzo and MAO have different figures and are muscled differently as well, which is just a good piece of detail to include when your guys aren't wearing a whole lot. It makes the still shots more interesting in both a beefcake and plain old artistic sense, and that those are switched out with some well-animated attacks certainly helps. Personally, I'm also always pleased to see the elusive nipple included, if only because of my irrational irritation that they're so often not drawn. (If they have them, draw them!) Given that this is also our one chance in the series to see actual pro wrestling by two trained pro wrestlers, it's very heartening that they took full advantage of it.
Is this final episode, with its sleeping audience while MAO has an internal monologue followed by everyone getting involved in a major brawl, enough to fully redeem the show? Unfortunately, I don't think so. For so many weeks Kemono Michi: Rise Up traded in uncomfortable “humor” about Gang's PTSD from repeated assaults by Genzo, cruel jokes at Carmilla's and Altena's expense, and rote gags about Shigure and money or Hanako and food that one very good finale isn't going to erase everything. That's an incredible shame, because this was a show ripe with potential: a summoned hero with zero interest in fighting the demon lord so that he can pet fuzzy animals instead isn't something we typically see in isekai stories. But by shifting the focus to everyday shenanigans and evolving many of the characters into versions of the people from Konosuba (and Combatants Will Be Dispatched, by the same author; he really only seems to have about five characters he recycles) it squandered that potential, making this feel uncomfortable and a bit dull when it really shouldn't have. I wouldn't say this was terrible overall, but it certainly was no where as good as it had the opportunity to be.
Kemono Michi: Rise Up is currently streaming on Funimation.
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