Title: Hataage! Kemono Michi / Kemono Michi: Rise Up!
Length: 12 x 24 minute episodes
Genre: Comedy, isekai
Year of release: 2019
Hataage! Kemono Michi is drenched in gimmicks. Its premise is overly convoluted to allow for its main gimmick – a pet-loving wrestler who is transported to another world to slay monsters, only to give up on that quest immediately and open a pet-shop. It’s a slice-of-life with overtly ridiculous characters partaking in an absurd day-to-day life, going on quests to tame gigantic, terrifying beasts and failing to stay financially afloat. Kemono Michi is expectedly funny, but not any more than you’d expect from the stupid ideas it pulls out of its ass, but it is often worse.
Much of the humour arises from the synopsis. Genzo, aka Animal Mask, is animal crazy. Like, over-the-top, completely unordinary insane about animals. He swats away ‘boring’ humans and goes after animals, or animalistic traits, attempting to woo them to become pets. And it doesn’t matter how big or dangerous they may, lining up a series of gawks at his dumb actions. The show plays this aspect up big time, with lots of anime-style romantic visuals and bubbly, pink backgrounds supporting the joke. Often, his actions and general shouty demeanour and skin-exposing outfit are met by weird looks from his surrounding friends, but all the jokes are simply shouted loudly with brazen punchlines that earn chuckles at best, and overstaying their ‘laugh-now’ cue at worst.
There’s a ‘party forming’ aspect to this isekai’s opening chapters too, which is Kemono Michi’s biggest mixed bag.
Shigure is a wolf girl that Genzo runs into while he’s on the run, and falls in love with her doggy ears. It seemed like Shigure was being set up to be the heroine of the series, but Kemono Michi thankfully would rather use that aspect as a joke, where she begins to run his pet shop financially and moan about him to a local bartender without mentioning Genzo isn’t her romantic partner. Most of the time, Shigure is just a reaction-bot that manages the money, but she occasionally shows a sly, sneaky side.
A handful of episodes in, Genzo and Shigure are joined by Hanako and her mitress, Carmilla. Hanako is a gluttonous dragon prince,. The only thing she added to the entire show was a girl who looked like a little kid with a big appetite. That said, a simple joke goes well with the show’s loud-and-proud humour – but in a surprisingly shallow cast, she was somehow a standout in lacking depth.
The gothic vampire Carmilla, on the other hand, is where the show goes so wrong. Carmilla is a terrible servant, only loyal because of her lesbian infatuation with Hanako, which is an aspect exaggerated to creepy degrees for by-the-books gags. However, while her feelings aren’t validated meaningfully, they represent some of the only emotional development that the show goes to, as she is given an arc where she attempts to prove herself worthy of being Hanako’s servant, and it’s almost sweet. Despite the occasional creepiness, it’s quite easy to root for Carmilla, because you get the sense that she takes any sign of affection she can get because of systematically brutal narrative and scene-to-scene decisions made against her, without any of her character playing a part in the matter. Throughout Kemono Michi, Carmilla is never allowed to be treated fairly as she is made into a comic punching bag, where the majority of jokes she’s involved in revolve around her being punched, beaten or suplexed – and consequently having her bum exposed – by Genzo, or just straight up being eaten by the various monsters Genzo tries to tame. The sheer volume of abuse she takes is enough to push the show from amusing slapstick over into ‘just cruel’ territory, but the fact is that these jokes are often tired punchlines and rarely given the gravitas to be her failing or paying the price for her comic inability. Carmilla’s unending spunk makes her the standout character, and being the only member of the cast with sufficient characterisation means she is the factor determining a lot of Kemono Michi’s long-term success, but the writing squanders that potential.
And thus, what we’re left with, is largely forgettable. Kemono Michi’s only attempt to score jokes is in stupid situations, with the writing within these scenes becoming either mean-spirited or overlong. I felt sorry for Carmilla, and that’s the only emotion the show drew other than a few elicited smiles at its silliness, but little of this is going to be transported to the long term memory. Watchable, but never a show that thrives, Kemono Michi is a difficult show to recommend.