Kemono Michi: Rise Up
Pro wrestler Genzo Shibata has a dream; he wants to win his last match against felllow wrestler MAO so he can finally start a pet shop filled to the brim with all kinds of adorable, fuzzy animals. He even calls himself Kemono Mask in the ring, accompained by his adorable little dog Hiroyuki. Just as he's about to deliver the final blow to MAO, though, he is summoned to another world by one Princess Altena, who asks him to slay beasts for her country. Having none of that, Genzo instead chooses to suplex her straight into the ground and start a pet shop anyway. And with all kinds of fantastical beasts on display in this world, Genzo is going to have the time of his life.
Stig: The concept for this show was a no-brainer for me. Having a wrestler navigate the cornucopia of beasts and fantastical races that make up his new home, and the skills needed to survive the world he's thrown into, I was almost certain I was gonna have a great time with this show.
Tim: Any show that begins with a wrestler suplexing a princess is definitely not a boring one, I'll give Kemono Michi: Rise Up that. Isekai shows are a dime a dozen these days, but at least here we have one with an adult lead who didn't need to die to be in this new world. The wrestling angle also gives it a unique flair among all the isekai shows where the leads use magic or swords. The lack of romantic crap (for the most part) helps, too. Unfortunately, there are a lot of things that rubbed me the wrong way about this show, too, which Stig and I will now get into.
It didn't take Kemono Michi long to make us starting to feel a bit uncomfortable with the general tone of comedy on display here. Humiliation and aggravation are the show's two main dishes, and if you don't find those particularly funny, you're going to have second thoughts about watching this. Which is not to say you should totally dismiss it, but at best you should expect yourself to laugh nervously at its goings-on.
The opening act is one of those said acts of comedy. It's not necessarily unreasonable of Genzo to suplex Princess Altena, as I suspect no animal lover would take kindly to being asked to kill animals for them, but it does turn into one of the running jokes of the show. No, seriously. A later episode reveals that Altena became known as Shirihime (Princess Buttocks) due to Genzo's suplex leaving her lying with her butt in the air for everyone to see, and her subjects - both in and out of the castle - don't let her forget it. Even worse, Altena's request to rid the beasts wasn't entirely unreasonable, since quite a few of them are extremely dangerous. Well, dangerous until Genzo domesticates them (mainly with some good old head and belly rubs). It's not like Genzo specifically aimed to humiliate the princess, although he remains a bit indifferent to it once he does finds out.
More problematic is some of the things Genzo does to various other characters in the show, especially Wolfgang the, well, wolfman. He and his sister Misha, who is a humanoid cat girl (yeah we don't get it either) are robbers, and they do try to rob the main characters as well. But Genzo, in all his animal-loving ignorance, chooses to resolve that issue by basically wrestling down and molesting Wolfgang into submission, giving him PTSD from the experience. He refuses to leave his home and is completely stressed out by the idea of even just being seen by Genzo at all, which the show tends to milk at times for comedy. In a weird subversion of everything about this, Misha is actually very upset at Genzo for causing this, and wants her and her brother to take revenge on this weirdo that just showed up out of nowhere and humiliated them so very much.
There's also this running joke about Genzo being enthralled by a nearby Kobold woman because of her general furryness, and her somewhat misinterpreting the situation as him coming on to her rather badly. It later gets to the point that she actually considers leaving her husband for him. (A running joke I found rather creepy to watch. -Tim)
This is not to say the show is all bad, though. Genzo has a loud and boisterous personality, but his interactions with actual beasts in this show are just sweet, starting off with the way he domesticates cerberus dogs in a flash. He also makes good rapport with the nonhuman races in the neighborhood (Wolfgang molestation aside), with the local orc societies being the best example of that. Despite his partner Shigure's frustrations about not being able to pay for it, Genzo's increasingly populated pet sanctuary is still all kinds of adorable. And for what it's worth, Genzo bringing all his wrestling shenanigans into a world that hasn't seen anything of the sort before is still amusing as all hell.
Another make-it-or-break-it aspect of the show is probably how a lot of the human cast in Kemono Michi are kind of questionable. It takes a while for the local soldiers/mercenaries to learn that you don't call Genzo the "monster killer" within his earshot and remain unsuplexed. And while the wildlife should not be underestimated, Princess Altena also apparently expected Genzo to take care of the various nonhuman settlements, like the aforementioend orcs. You'd think the princess of her own kingdom would be a bit more open to talk.
It says a lot about Kemono Michi that the thieving scoundrel/fraudster wolf-girl Shigure is far and beyond the most sympathetic character in the whole show. Genzo saves her from some debt collectors (somewhat unknowingly), and in a weird bit of honesty from her, she immediately comes clean about how she borrowed money and then sold herself to slavery when she failed to meet the payback deadline. She is immediately on board with Genzo's plan to make the human populus see the charm of beasts and nonhuman races, and despite performing random acts of thievery later on, is a surprisingly solid straight woman to the many acts of idiocy from her peers, including Genzo. It also helps that she's generally not in the habit of leaving her friends in the lurch, and she really tries her best to keep Genzo's dream going financially, which is not easy when said group gets expanded on by our next two candidates.
Hanako, real name Lindabrea Fafnir Gildmerag, is a half human half dragon girl who's also the heir to her family castle. Much like a certain character in Super Sonico: the Animation, she's mostly known for one trait; her voracious appetite (a tired joke that gets old fast). The reason why she encounters Genzo at all is because she left her castle due to being sick of eating orc meat, and there is a surprisingly small amount of conflict between her and Genzo, despite the only reason she sticks around Genzo is that she finds his menagerie of beasts very...appetizing. She does have her moments where her thought processes ventures beyond "Hmm, what should I eat next?" - she can turn into a badass dragon, for example - but they don't really happen very often. And the few interactions that don't involve food instead involve the person that made her leave her castle in the first place
And that person would by Hanako's servant/maid, Carmilla Vanstein. She is a vampire, and as the series shows, not a particularly strong one. Part of that is due to her bloodline, which isn't really her fault, nor is the bullying she had to endure because of it. But she chooses to deal with this in the two least helpful ways possible: complaining to herself and developing a drinking problem, usually with the former following the latter. She does get a few pet the dog moments, but most of the time she's usually causing problems for people or generally being very unhelpful. (Not to mention incredibly creepy to Hanako.) Her becoming the butt of a lot of jokes doesn't necessarily make it fun to watch her all the same.
Eventually - and by that, we mean around halfway into the show - we find out why Carmilla's such a trainwreck of a human being. It mostly stems from Hanako's self-proclaimed hammy rival, Joanna, who's the closest thing Kemono Michi has to a proper villain. She eventually ends up summoning MAO, Genzo's wrestling rival mentioned earlier, though aside from that, she spends a lot of time trying to get revenge on Hanako, only to be curb-stomped every single time by her. Like, every time. Her own servant, Rose, is the true source of Carmilla's frustration, as she comes from a proper line of vampires unlike Carmilla. Of course, none of this matters to either Genzo or Hanako, and the end result turns into Carmilla trying to fight her at the end of the series in a wrestling match, marking one of the few times she doesn't try to run away through heavy usage of either feet or alcohol. Or both.
The only other secondary character of note is Celes, a lizard-woman with a scaly stomach and back (her clothing being specifically chosen to hide them), but is otherwise mostly humanoid. This is where we also learn she's a bit of an outcast for her half-lizard status, despite this being a world where talking animals exist and they don't seem to get the same kind of racist treatment (at least if you look past the point that Genzo was summoned to this world to deal with people like her). Genzo eventually takes her up as a wrestler under the name of Celes XXL, in one of the series' more harmlessly silly moments. Which is saying a lot for this series.
Speaking of wrestling, what other way to end Kemono Michi than with a wrestling tournament? Yes, a wrestling tournament. Oh, a wrestling tournament. See, if there was one thing this world Genzo found himself in was lacking, it seems some kind of public entertainment was it, and what better way to fill that particular niche than wrestling? This world isn't lacking for opportunists it seemed; despite the rather sword-and-sorcery-ish setup, it's apparently also not a problem to create this arena, fireworks and giant monitors included. And aside from Hanako (who just sits back and eats) and Shigure (who looks over the merchandising for said event), near the entire cast of the series participates in the tournament. And yes, that include Princess Buttocks herself, who we learn has developed a fetish for showing off her butt in public and generally being publically embarrassed. Yep. Nooooothing uncomfortable about that. Nosiree.
Of course, the biggest match is the one between Genzo and MAO, the latter whom we find out went into a bit of a (comedic) breakdown after losing Genzo, unsure of where to go with his life. It's one of the very few times we see the regular world outside of the first episode, and for a tiny bit Kemono Michi almost takes MAO's angsting seriously, with the series implying that even though MAO is probably the strongest wrestler now without Genzo, it's not the same without him in his life. And then he meets the hammy vampire Joanna and kind of causes mischief until he and Genzo meet again. Three guesses who wins.
You really need to warm up to the characters in Kemono Michi if you want to get out anything from it, because the show's art and music aren't really worth bragging about. Even the show's opening animation is kind of...bad. Even the wrestling scenes rely on a lot of stills or speed lines to show impact. There aren't a lot of battles in the show, since the emphasis is more on comedy, but the characters look decent enough in stills. That said, there is some choreography on display during the fights, and some scenes do have some animation to their name, but by and large, the fights are rather anticlimactic, which is a shame.
If you do manage to warm up to the cast of Kemono Michi, however, you'll find what we consider a refreshing take on the isekai genre. As mentioned earlier, it's nice to have one that stars an adult and doesn't need to die in the next world. Genzo actually takes to this new world rather well, another refreshing take on the usual "why did I get stuck here" take of other shows. And in stark opposition to shows with characters that immediately adapt to their surroundings, there's something to be said about this one having a main lead whom almost the entire cast find to be a bit of an oddball, if not outright a huge weirdo. Camilla aside, the characters, while not super interesting, are a decent enough bunch (especially Shigure). It's just that the comedy is very hit-or-miss; if you don't like the jokes in the first episode, you're not going to in the final. It's a very acquired taste, but if you can drink it down, Kemono Michi is a fun series.
Recommended Audience: Violence in Kemono Michi leans more towards kiddy cartoons versus typical isekai fare, though Hanako eats orc meat (amongst other animals), with all that goes with this discovery. Fanservice is fairly light aside from the scenes with Princess Altena, which are done in somewhat poor taste. Fine for teens and older.
Version(s) Viewed: FUNimation stream (Tim) and Wakanime stream (Stig), Japanese with English subtitles
Review Status: Full (12/12)
Kemono Michi: Rise Up © 2019 Natsume Akatsuki / Mosuke Mattaku / Yumeuta / KADOKAWA / Kemomichi Production Committee
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