Kemono Michi: Rise Up
by Rebecca Silverman,
How would you rate episode 9 of
Kemono Michi: Rise Up ?
For every fun aspect of this show it seems to have an equal number of uncomfortable or simply distasteful ones. This episode is a good example of that – we spend a ridiculous amount of time looking at Princess Altena's underwear-clad butt and crotch, but we also get to see MAO finally starting his conquest of the world, only to get creeped out by a cute purple puppy. Aqua, er, Carmilla, is up to her usual stupid shenanigans, but the Ant Caretaker plays with Hiroyuki in the yard. Neighbors count the number of butts in Genzo's yard…but there are a lot of butts (well, two, repeatedly) in Genzo's yard and the women take the blame for their undies being on display despite not being willing participants. It's pretty much the definition of a mixed-bag, and I can't help thinking that the show was a lot more enjoyable when it was focused strictly on Genzo's obsessive love of all animals.
The upside here is that the plot may actually be gearing up for the confrontation between Genzo and MAO that's been on the backburner since Genzo was summoned in episode one. Not only is this something I, at least, have been waiting to see, a line in this episode indicates that maybe the two aren't going to be playing the roles we've been assuming. Altena describes the Demon King as someone who is firmly allied with the demon beasts and other creatures of the night, while the Hero is he who will defeat them all mercilessly. Maybe I'm wrong, but doesn't that make it sound like Genzo is the Demon King and MAO is the Hero? I could see this fight backfiring spectacularly on Altena and Joanna once people start to put two and two together about the men, and that has a lot of comedic potential.
Something with a bit less promise is the ongoing Gang subplot, which now has the poor beastman too afraid of Genzo to leave the house and his sister and Edgar vowing to get revenge for him. Hopefully that doesn't mean that she's going to fall prey to Genzo's love of beastpeople, because that's a line that's been crossed way too many times already. It also wouldn't be great if saving her “cured” Gang, which is another direction the subplot could go in. That storyline, along with the constant refrain of what's basically “she was asking for it” for Carmilla and Altena's public displays of what by Medieval standards is akin to indecency (or at least is humiliating for them) are only becoming more troubling as the series goes on, not the least reason for which is that it seems to be doubling down on such moments under the apparent misunderstanding that they're funny. More petting salamanders and less sexual assault, please.
That whole “must pet all the animals” plotline is largely what's missing here, or even more of the amateur wrestling matches that are actual fights rather than Genzo using his skills on the unassuming. This particular episode made me begin to wonder if Kemono Michi: Rise Up even has a clear direction it wants to go in or a sense of what holds the plot together at all. Disjointed stories with a variety of storytelling styles, techniques, and plot threads absolutely can work (Pop Team Epic or Chio's School Road come to mind), but this series feels more like it's sort of running around doing whatever until it decides to have MAO and Genzo meet up. Bringing Altena back was a good sign for the overarching plot, but now it's got too many other things going on to narrow the focus easily. It isn't a bad show per se, but it's final three episodes are going to need to get it together and get back to the humor of the early days if it's going to manage to sail cleanly to its conclusion.
Kemono Michi: Rise Up is currently streaming on Funimation.
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