「誇りx忠誠」 (Hokori to Chuusei)
“Pride × Loyalty”
Before the curtains close on Hataage! Kemono Michi, Genzou is tasked with curating and preparing for one final wrestling tournament to fight against the demon realm’s anointed warrior. But before this, the climactic rematch between Genzou and MAO is kicked off with exhibition matches that offer closure in one way or another to the supporting cast while pitting Genzou’s friends against rival warriors.
But with the opening matches, the anime continues its trend on punishing its easiest targets and the positive growth any of the supporting characters could obtain from having trained/befriended Genzou is highly dependant on whose jokes are the kindest. Celes doesn’t have anything damning holding her back nor has Hanako’s eating habits ever been portrayed at their expense so they’re off the hook. Similarly, the Kobold wife’s shared interest between her husband and Genzou gives her leeway to be captivated by her husband’s fighting prowess once again.
From this trend, having a satisfying conclusion to your character arc depends on how many instances you’ve been dealt with kid gloves. This is evident with how the people and creatures that Genzou has previously wronged are treated horrendously. Misha and Wolfgang are brought back only to be further debased as Wolfgang is briefly violated again and the pair are unceremoniously defeated by nameless wolves on MAO’s team.
The trajectory of Princess Altena’s character development takes an abhorrent Swanton Bomb into the depths of Hades when all of the unwarranted violence and sexual harassment she’s faced at the hands of Genzou and her entire kingdom leads her to evolve into a masochist who gets high off of being humiliated and beaten in front of a wide audience. It’s the kind of moral deterioration that you would only see in ryona videos or corruption doujinshi, but we’re all supposed to treat Princess Altena’s humiliation like it’s nothing when, in the grand scheme of things, the fight would’ve been over. Tournament over. The Demon King has won. Come on in and take over. This town’s princess has not only been mentally broken by her kingdom’s corrupt, perverted hero but would likely be excited and aroused by the possibility of enemies taking her kingdom from her. Game over, man. Game over.
Camilla’s fight as easily the biggest slap in the face in this episode as all of that build-up towards a match that she owed it to herself to win blew up in her face when she “celebrated too long” to remember she had to pin her opponent. It’s one of those reminders the show has that, no matter how much you might try to respect its characters or grow to like/appreciate any of the characters, they will still be considered a joke no matter what, and any efforts to legitimize them as complex or fleshed-out characters will always be quickly undone for the sake of a joke. The lesson here is to never get your hopes up because Camilla’s motivation to win against Rose and pay Hanako back from having to bow to Joanna was the one motivation on Camilla’s behalf that made her more than just being a “useless” lush who always received her just desserts even when she didn’t need to have them.
To Hanako’s credit, she did see Camilla’s effort into doing something for herself as a victory she should be proud of, but that’s quickly undercut when we end up getting a joke about Camilla being proud of having Hanako share food with her for the first time. It draws attention to one of the major flaws the show has in being ashamed of its potential for giving its characters emotional depth. Whenever there’s a point where we could explore how a character feels or how much they’ve changed or what exactly is bothering them, there’s never any time to let these moments sink in or digest because we’re jumping from joke to joke to joke as if it’s embarrassing to have its characters be more than just the jokes attached to them.
At this stage in the anime, it doesn’t need to be this guarded in showing us just how Genzou or MAO feel about reuniting for their last big match or allowing Camilla to have her one true victory be for a match she put effort into training for and conquering the odds to win. Hopefully the last episode will give the characters more to work with in proving to us that our time with them wasn’t all for nothing and that it was silly to think that they would follow through on some of the emotional ties they’ve introduced throughout the anime’s run time.