「勇者x魔王」 (Yuusha x Maou)
“Hero x Demon King”
For the final episode of Hataage! Kemono Michi, we reach the climax of the tournament with Genzou and MAO facing off against each other to settle their differences in the ring. Although we race towards the conclusion of the show, the resolution of the match thankfully hits a satisfying point as we’re left with a safe and cozy ending.
Aside from Princess Altena discovering her humiliation fetish, this was a best-case-scenario for a finale since we get an energetic, fun wrestling match out of it. Wish that there was more of this throughout the anime, but the match between Genzou and MAO had a good back-and-forth where the two were evenly matched. Additionally, it was great to see MAO and Genzou have a good time wrestling each other and that the build-up towards reuniting in the ring didn’t cause any love-loss between the two. In fact, it was refreshing to see the two being able to laugh it up and party with each other before they went their separate ways.
Compared to some of the other episodes, Episode 12 was also able to stick the landing with its laughs with scenes like Joanna angrily discouraging Rose from saying anything about MAO since they invested too much time in hyping up his evil nature to admit his faults and MAO’s flashback of fighting animals in a children’s petting zoo because of his fear for smaller animals. My final impression of the show below is going to be harsh and merciless, but Episode 12 did a good job at ending on a note that was far more of a relief than I would’ve expected.
2019 has had a number of isekai anime that have tried to break the mold by cutting its main protagonist from a different cloth than your standard teenage male hero. Some have been librarians seeking to return to their original life, some have been reincarnated as low-level foes, and some are mothers looking to improve their relationships with their children. But with the examples that helped reinvented the wheel and validated their high concept isekai as an enjoyable series in its own right, there must be others that fall flat on their faces. Hataage! Kemono Michi is one of those anime that collapse under the weight of its expectations by failing to live up to the fun that would come with a wrestler entering an isekai world.
It’s a frustrating anime to look back on because it wasted a great idea the moment that we learn about the true extent of who Genzou is as a character. We all had a good laugh about him suplexing the Princess but it, unfortunately, ended up setting the precedent of every single joke where he starts indiscriminately attacking anyone who makes the slightest mention of him being a beast killer. And if the jokes where he just keeps attacking other warriors and princesses he encounters didn’t get old, then his unhealthy interest in animals will always get swapped in to grate your nerves in its stead.
The first episode is the worst offender of Genzou giving animals the bad touch, but it detracts from the whole experience when the world would be better off without a hero like Genzou violating the wildlife and attacking the town’s heroes and government figures. You could still make a goofy, irreverent comedy using a pacifist wrestler with a passion for animals, but the anime doesn’t understand how to execute its jokes in a way that doesn’t feel tired and repetitive. And the select jokes it does hammer on ad-nauseam either involve bringing out a one-note character to deliver their one-note punchline, selecting a target to mercilessly punish for the cardinal sin of being deemed as useless, or highlighting all of Genzou’s worst traits.
There are a few bright spots to the anime where the humor sticks the landing and the plot presents unique twists that were more than welcome. The cruelty in its sense of humor has many genuinely funny moments whenever Camilla makes a decision out of spite, gladly obeys Hanako’s orders regardless of her remarks beforehand, or has her actions backfire on her.
Shigure is also a shining ray of hope for the anime as the straight man who has to gather together the characters to get them to be competent for a change to push the plot forward. She also has some funny gags attached to her money-hungry tendencies with how many get-rich-quick schemes she can’t resist, and manages to salvage Genzou’s unfunny tavern brawls by continuing to steal rare weapons as if she found them herself.
MAO is another character who offers something interesting to the table with his depressive state fueling the insatiable appetite he has for fulfilling his one wish of having a proper rematch with Genzou. He even brought out a funny running gag where Joanna explains to Rose how mundane things he does are actually evil rituals and curses befitting of a ruthless warlord.
Hataage! Kemono Michi is an unfortunate case where you can see many of its ideas working with different writers approaching the material to create more than just a handful of jokes to carry the entire series. For every step the show takes towards the right direction, it takes several giant leaps back. It might not a world I would be interested in venturing into again, but with the last episode being as crowd-pleasing as it ended up being, I can see how the series would be alright to jump into if you want to shut off your thinking cap and have some fun in a magical world where its every man, beast, and dragon for themselves in a free-for-all slobber knocker.