English Dub Review: Hinomaru Sumo “Charge!! Shibakiyama Stable”

Hinomaru brings the pain.

Overview (Spoilers Below)

Hinomaru has been sent to the Shibakiyama Stable, a legendary stable of sumo wrestlers, for some special training with their powerful wrestling team. Once Hinomaru arrives, Shibakiyama, the stable’s owner, is immediately disheartened at Hinomaru’s short stature, but the team still wants to help, even though they don’t really believe Hinomaru has any real shot of being a sumo wrestler. They even go so far as to put him up to a kid’s “Push the wrestler out of the ring” challenge for a free t-shirt. Initially, Hinomaru’s opponent, a wrestler named Terahara, plans to let Hinomaru win, but once the match begins, Hinomaru blows Terahara out of the ring with a mighty push.

Meanwhile, Kirihito explains to the others on the team that Hinomaru being at Shibakiyama is no coincidence. The stable is renowned for its intense training, and their leader is used to training short wrestlers. In essence, this serves as a tryout for Hinomaru, to try and impress Shibakiyama and earn his favor. While Hinomaru is wrestling, a quiet wrestler named Saenoyama, who is one of the country’s elites, arrives and agrees to duel Hinomaru. To Hinomaru’s delight, he gets absolutely crushed by Saenoyama, which is exactly what Hinomaru wants. Saenoyama tries to explain how much Hinomaru has going against him, both in stature and technique, but Hinomaru insists on a final bout against the pro.

In their final bout, Hinomaru uses the skills of being “like water” that Saenoyama speaks about to maneuver himself beneath Saenoyama and charge him from below with a demonic strike. Saenoyama is able to push Hinomaru to the ground, but Hinomaru manages to make Saenoyama take a knee. It would seem Hinomaru has earned the pro’s respect, as he insists that Hinomaru come back the next day for more sparring.

Hinomaru stays the night at the stable and dines with his new compatriots. They discuss Hinomaru’s successes and his competitors, and he spends the rest of his time at the stable living the life of a sumo wrestler, doing chores and training with the others. The next night, while the others rest, Hinomaru shares his thoughts with Saki, a sumo club manager, and they’re soon interrupted by Shibakiyama. Shibakiyama tells Hinomaru that they need to start training right away, and that he sees himself in the young Hinomaru.

Our Take:

Hinomaru Sumo continues to push itself to new heights as it develops its story out more and more in a sterling episode six. From beginning to end, you’ll find an episode that’s involving and satisfying from both an action and a character perspective. Whether you’re a fan of this series or a newcomer looking to dip their feet into something new, this week’s episode of Hinomaru Sumo is sure to delight as a fresh, interesting development episode that opens up its world to new possibilities.

So what this show has been doing for a good while now is laying down the groundwork for a long-running sports anime, and its doing this really quite well. We have yet to really get into the meat of what this show has to offer in terms of sumo battles and competition. In fact, basically all we’ve seen so far is the assembly of the team and their training, while Hinomaru has stood as being the dominant force for the rest of them to follow. This could have made the show stagnate a bit, but this episode changes things up, and not a moment too soon. By having Hinomaru face opponents that much stronger than him in an episode that’s focused almost entirely on him, we both spend some quality time with our hero and see him truly struggle. He’s strong, but the show doesn’t make the mistake of having him be undeservedly powerful. He’s at a severe disadvantage most of the time and the show is sure to remind of this, both through action and dialogue.

Not to mention, this episode is just entertaining as hell. It’s got funny moments, charming moments, moments of intensity, all while keeping the story moving at a good pace. The characters feel fun and interesting, if not a little tropey, but things never go into “cliche” territory here. And to top it all off, its got an affirming ending that speaks to the core of what Hinomaru wants out of his life, and gives him a taste of being a pro. Just a little bit, to keep us interested and our hero humble.

Hinomaru Sumo has continued to keep gaze and my good graces, as the show demonstrates that you don’t need a huge budget or an immensely popular property to tell a good story. While other shounens these days sit on their laurels and play it safe, Hinomaru Sumo pushes itself a bit harder, and it shows. You’ve just gotta respect that.

Score
8/10

Erich Hau

Erich is a northern California based writer on the front lines of the nerd frontier. When he's not burning the midnight oil he enjoys musicals, smooth jazz, and a good cup of dark roast. Cream and sugar not included.

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