Professional wrestler Genzou Shibata sports the body of a mountain, but beneath his hulking appearance is a man with an extreme affection for animals. Facing off his opponents in the ring as the legendary "Animal Mask," Genzou wins the hearts of crowds everywhere with his iconic tiger persona. During the bout for the title of World Champion against his greatest rival, the Macadamian Ogre, Genzou is suddenly summoned to a fantasy world by a princess. With her kingdom being threatened by a monster infestation, she pleads the wrestler for assistance—to which he answers by knocking her out with a German suplex! Escaping the castle and finding himself stranded in a mysterious land, Genzou decides to begin his career as a beast hunter to capture and befriend creatures far and wide. Joined by the wolf-girl Shigure, the dragon-girl Hanako, and the vampire Carmilla Vanstein, the professional wrestler pursues all kinds of dangerous requests for the sake of fulfilling his dream as a pet shop owner. [Written by MAL Rewrite]
I must admit that I was a bit intrigued by this unique twist on the standard isekai format, so this was one of my most-anticipated Hataage! Kemono Michi of the season. The first episode, if anything, exceeded my expectations. It may be really, really wrong in some regards, but it’s also maybe the funniest opening episode to a series that I’ve seen all year.
Really, I’m trying to remember the last time that I encountered a first episode with so many laugh-out-loud moments in it. The whole concept of applying pro wrestling to the isekai format is in of itself a stroke of genius. Animal Mask gets to be summoned right out of the middle of a match, so people have to wonder if that was part of the show or not, and he gets to introduce a very different fighting style to the fantasy setting he’s arrived in; I’ve seen people in tabletop fantasy RPGs build characters around grappling and pinning attacks, and Animal Mask is doing exactly that. The way he’s dressed for the ring also opens up a whole line of cracks about how he’s a pervert because he’s only wearing wrestling shorts, even though there’s nothing in the slightest perverted about it.
However, the writing wisely does not rely on that gimmick alone; they make him a complete kook as well. Animal Mask is not just over-the-top as a top-rate wrestler; he’s also over-the-top as a dedicated animal lover. His wrestling moves on beast people and cerberus monsters are finished off with submission cuddling and his zeal for showing his love for animals can come across as quite creepy, especially when directed towards beast people. That his antics can come across as sexual even though he’s (probably) not intending them that way is the one place where the humor falls a bit flat, and I could see this getting uncomfortably edgy at times. What he does to the princess who innocently summoned him – by dropping her in a German suplex, complete with the princess’s perspective as it happens – is the defining moment so far and definitely something we haven’t seen before in an isekai title. I did also find it a bit amusing that the princess did not seem completely averse to the idea that Animal Mask might be getting sexual towards her when he was setting up for that suplex. I hope the series comes back and addresses that again at some point.
The technical merits of the first episode are actually pretty good, the character designs so far are quite appealing, and kudos go to the composer for how the musical selections are used. Parts of this could easily get too edgy for some tastes, but I found the first episode plenty entertaining enough that I will almost certainly be following this one. You can also free Hataage! Kemono Michi anime watch online and free download.