The Nagoya training rages on.
Overview (Spoilers Below)
Training for the Inter High tournament continues with each character undergoing more personal training in order to better their skills. Ozeki and Chihiro try to do some scouting at one of the competing high schools disguised as masked wrestlers, but are laughed out of the dojo as lucky beginners. This prompts Ozeki to do his own brand of personal training practicing his sumo form in public in an effort to build up his confidence against the judgmental eye of people passing by.
Meanwhile, Kei and Kirihito train together as well, and Kei reveals the impressive results of his training with his accumulation of muscle mass. Kei turns the tables on Kirihito, however, when he insists that the team manager join in the ring as well, despite his asthmatic condition. Kirihito is resistant, but Kei convinces him to spar against Shibakiyama. Kirihito trounes Shibakiyama, and feels reinvigorated as a pillar of the team.
Their training at the Nagoya stable finishes, but before they go, Hinomaru asks to watch a tape containing an interview of one of the most powerful wrestlers, Shido Tennoji. Hinomaru reaffirms his belief that he can defeat Shido and become the best high school sumo wrestler there is. With their training done, the team enters the arena for the Inter High Sumo Tournament and prepares to fight.
As time goes on the initial charm and personality of Hinomaru Sumo seems to be getting pulled down into its existence as a seasonal anime. This sports shounen comes into a genre that is already densely populated with incredible sports anime, meaning that the problems of Hinomaru Sumo become that much more glaring when compared to other, better developed fare. This episode is indicative of the show’s failure to grow from a curious sports offering into its own story. In the vital time between tournaments, Hinomaru Sumo has not made a story that’s more compelling than “I want to see the guys I like win.” In a word, it lacks complexity. That’s fine early on, and sports anime are always obsessed with victory as their driving force, but their needs to be greater theming at play to make the story more inviting. A sports anime can’t just be about, well, sports.
We’ve already entered into the next tournament, and I don’t feel like any of the new characters introduced are compelling, nor do I feel like there’s a strong conflict driving this tournament other than just winning the next fight. The story is functional, to be sure, but it remains remarkably average at this point, and with the show being 14 episodes in, I don’t think recovery is going to be possible. There isn’t that much to criticize because there just isn’t that much here that the show tries to do. Other than being an entry into the very, very small list of sumo wrestling manga, it doesn’t do enough to make it unique. For example, Kei’s attempt to bring Kirihito into the ring isn’t a bad idea and has the makings of a good moment, but it lacks buildup, and as soon as the idea is introduced, it’s resolved. Where’s the fire? Where’s the juice? Moments like this must avoid feeling like “Business as usual.”
Hinomaru Sumo needs to learn to slow down and smell the roses. Without a powerful visual style to keep interest, it needs to develop out its stories better or else its going to keep falling short as time goes on. Long form storytelling is all about long-term payoff, but this episode doesn’t do much to advance that goal, and further populates a cast of characters and antagonists that are appearing increasingly similar to each other.