Kemono Michi: Rise Up
by Rebecca Silverman,
How would you rate episode 8 of
Kemono Michi: Rise Up ?
Given that this is the episode that finally brings wrestling back to center stage, it really should have been a much better time. Instead it's negatively impacted by a return to using Gang's trauma as a running joke. While I realize that not everyone will agree with me on this front, sexual assault is never funny, and the fact that Gang has been so traumatized by Genzo's need to “pet” him that he's stopped leaving the house does not make the fact that he's forced into the ring at the end of the episode work as a comedic moment. Heck, the fact that Gang cannot leave the house isn't joke fodder, and the continued use of the character as such is just in poor taste. If there's any one thing that brings this show down, that's definitely it.
In some ways, that's what makes it surprising that Hanako's part in this episode works so well, not because she's another tasteless joke, but because she's another weak point in the writing – “hungry” doesn't really count as a personality trait. However, it's used well this time. After she's banned from the ring for trying to eat all of her beastman opponents (and it's a good touch that we only see her bite Celes and don't witness the snack attack that apparently was the last straw, when she tried to munch the kobold), she's set us as one of the commentators for the matches. While her co-hosts (an orc and a bird of some kind) are talking about the actual fights, Hanako instead gives a rundown of how yummy each one is and how best to cook them. It's her usual schtick, but it's so out of place that it works, made even better by the fact that no one calls her out on it. The same can be said for Shigure's “special” wares at her merchandise booth – yes, we expect her to be only invested in the bottom line by now (because again, that's her so-called “personality”), but that she's gone so far as to get beefcake posters of Genzo and the other muscular half-clothed men for her extra-special customers makes the gag work.
It is a shame, however, that the actual wrestling doesn't get quite as much time as it could have. We do get to infer a lot about their training, for which an argument can be made that Kemono Michi: Rise Up is learning that it doesn't have to broadcast everything, but wouldn't it have been fun to see Genzo actually teaching them? How did they figure out that no weapons were allowed? Because that must have been a hard sell for a few of the guys. It would have also helped us to see how Genzo could have been so busy with the rules and whatnot that he forgot to construct the narrative for the bouts as a whole – there's no clear hero and heel, something he only realizes at the end. Given the wrestling story Genzo was involved in when he was summoned, it does seem like an odd oversight, which is why I'd have liked to see more of the actual difficulties of teaching orcs, beastmen, and adventurers the rules of the game. (Disclaimer: all I know about pro wrestling I learned from GLOW and the fact that one of my parents' friends was a wrestler.)
Now that the wrestling has come back into the plot, though, things could ostensibly get more interesting once MAO figures out what's going on. Presumably that's where the narrative portion of the matches is going to come from, as the Hero and the Demon King work out their differences in the ring, which could be a very fun twist on the traditional isekai narrative. The title of next week's episode (“Princess x Panties”) makes me nervous, but since I'm now here for Genzo and MAO having an epic wrestling battle in a fantasy world, I'm still tentatively hopeful, especially since MAO's new plan is to turn the animals against Genzo somehow. (If he's done to others what he did to Gang, that might not be hard.) This may not be nearly as good as it started out, but hopefully it'll manage to get better from this point on.
Kemono Michi: Rise Up is currently streaming on Funimation.
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