What’s up everyone! Welcome to Beyond The Panel. Coming at you today with talk about Kemono Michi: Rise Up! As I said above, isekai and wrestling? Why not! At this point you can do just about anything in anime and nail it as long as it knows how to make an audience invest in it. They’ve done it with basketball, badminton, and even ice skating. Wrestling wouldn’t be that hard to accomplish. Personally, if there was anything that really brought me to invest in this series from beginning to end, it was the boldness of this centering around wrestling and stirring up some feelings of nostalgia. The last time I ever watched something of anime quality that was wrestling? That was Ultimate Muscle many years ago.
To sum it up, Genzō Shibata is a famous pro wrestler, known in the world of wrestling as Animal Mask. The night of the match for the title of World Champion, he’s suddenly teleported into a fantasy world by a princess, who asks him to act as a beast killer and free the kingdom from the evil beasts infesting its forests. However, Genzō is also a true animal lover, and he immediately refuses the order. This leads Genzo into the company of the wolf-girl Shigure, which takes them to the local guild and starting a new career as a beast hunter. The twist of course is that instead of killing them, his goal is to befriend and capture as many monsters as possible, in order to realize his greatest dream: become the owner of a pet shop.
I know that seems like a lot to take in, and you might think that it is ridiculous, but it is all very entertaining. Compared to some of those other sports anime, credit where it is due that Kemono Michi actually goes the extra mile to throw the main character into a fantasy world. This could have easily been detrimental to the story, but everything fit perfectly once you came to understand the motivations of the main character. What genuinely caught my attention initially was the fact that Genzō isn’t even worried about leaving this world. In most cases the main character despises the world, the people in it, and is met with the most bothersome obstacles. Though Genzō at the end of the day is just a guy who reached a point in life where he was ready to go after his true calling, and being transported to this fantasy world where demon beasts inhabit it was the perfect opportunity.
It only added to the investment in this story that is Genzō also written to be more than that guy who ends up being overpowered in contrast to most. Yeah, he bulldozes through most of his problems, but at the same time he does it mostly with finesse. That giant demon beast over there that killed how many hunters? Not a problem, Genzō can just wrestle that monstrosity into submission. On the surface that is a bit much, though that is part of the charm of Kemono Michi.
Which brings me to the wrestling. When you hear wrestling, the first thing which comes to mind is NJPW or WWE. You think of the scripted nature of wrestling, rather than the actual sport of it being represented in the anime. However, that is not the case here. I would say they nailed the representation when a majority of the fights and matches were good old fashioned grappling. None of the stuff that would involve choreography either. They went straight for the classic stuff that you couldn’t mistake for being stages. Submissions, German Suplexes, aerial assaults, clotheslines, they left nothing out that you wouldn’t also consider a basic. I would think that plenty out there who viewed this would have a better understanding that real or fake, the impact is always the same. You don’t get dropped, put in a hold, or landed on without actually feeling some pain.
The rest of the characters are all lovable too. Everyone caught in Genzō’s orbit was changed in some way that you couldn’t hep but find entertaining. Shigure is a fun character because it would be hard to manage someone who jerks all of their responsibilities to hang out with animals. People who prefer the company of animals over people have an intriguing way of showing it. Aside from that, she is a humorous parody of what a manager would be like for someone like Genzō. With that said, Hanako and Carmilla were fun as well since this is not even the company you would expect those like them to keep. On one hand you had Hanako who finds herself right where she wants to be around someone who offers her many opportunities to stuff her gluttonous face. Then you have Carmilla who likes to hold herself high as Hanako’s trustworthy vampire maid, but how do you accomplish this when you lose almost every fight you get into? Putting a guy like Genzō in her way was brilliant since of course she would consistently struggle not trying to prove that she was the strongest.
As for the plot, the great thing about Kemono Mich is that there isn’t much for you to understand about how this world works. Genzōs purpose in being there was simple, but it was also secondary to his intention of starting up a pet shop. For the most part you are just along for the ride as Genzō and Shigure are out there trying to put enough money in their pockets to support themselves. Starting up a pet shop is not cheap, and it certainly isn’t cheap to maintain one either. Not when we’re talking about keeping unconventional pets too.
Aside from this, how the world took to wrestling was excellent. What hits you immediately is the fact that nobody in this world knows what wrestling is. This is a style of combat that is something to marvel at. When the time came for the people to take this into their lives as the next big thing was worth the wait. Obviously there was no way they could get through a first season without getting into some real wrestling, and that did not disappoint. Just the first show put on was executed very well. They left no stone left unturned in what it takes to put one on too. I only wished there was more episodes in the season to really flesh out some of the matches instead of just seeing the highlights and reaction shots.
By the end of that season, I actually found myself wanting more Kemono Michi: Rise Up. I was actually shocked that this was something I had to stumble upon randomly. Before I forget, the animation from EGNI was stunning as well. Nothing groundbreaking, but it was quality work which only added to your immersion in this world. This series was drawn and animated by people who understood what wrestling was supposed to look like to us as visual entertainment.