Swords are not allowed in sumo wrestling.
Overview (Spoilers Below)
Hinomaru and his team, led by their new supervisor, Kirihito, set out to Eiga high school to compete in some practice bouts. Without practice bouts, this team will never make it to nationals, and Kirihito, who has a childhood bond with Hinomaru, isn’t about to let that happen.
When they arrive, the team finds themselves outmatched by the hulking wrestlers that make up the Eiga sumo club. In the initial bouts, only Chihiro does well, since he was already a wrestler before joining the sumo team. Hinomaru, however, has an intense match with Shun Kariya, a sumo wrestler who, just like Hinomaru, is short. His skills prove to be strong, but Hinomaru still manages to take him down.
Following that match, Hinomaru seeks a bout with Kuze, the son of a yokozuna who injured Hinomaru in a match when they were both in elementary school. Since that match, Kuze has been forbidden from participating in bouts by his father, but seeing Hinomaru so fired up forces Kuze into the ring. The two face off with equal strength, but the fight is ended prematurely when the coach finds out about Kuze breaking his “No bouts” rule.
With their practice bouts over, Hinomaru and the others head home to lick their wounds.
There’s a lot to enjoy about Hinomaru Sumo thus far. Believe me when I say that, despite the reservations, I have about this show, its quite watchable. From the outset, I’ll say that if you’re looking for a pretty decent sports anime to watch, you could definitely do a lot worse. However, right now, there are a few major problems with the show that don’t seem to be getting addressed. It’s impossible to predict the future, but this episode does mark the third week of this show’s anime debut, which usually means the style and format of the show is established.
The fighting is this episode’s major draw, and the draw of the series as a whole. There is an intensity to the brutal nature of sumo wrestling that is well captured in the rush of action that each fight is filled with. Hinomaru wants to try and stir up that fire in a person’s heart, and to that end, it’s quite excellent. Where things start to fall apart is not what in this shows does, but what it doesn’t do.
This episode offers some fun sumo action, but the developing problem of the series is that the characters don’t feel well developed. They’re not stupid or poorly expressed, but this cast of powerful men doesn’t feel like they have any real lives outside of this sport. A sports anime can’t just be about the sport, it has to be about the characters within it, and to that end, the story has to take the time to get into some of the finer details about who these people are and the lives that they lead. Take the sports anime, “Eyeshield 21”, for example. Each team member in that show is brought on through the cast earning their trust and respect, which means we get many episodes focusing primarily on just a couple of characters. Because of that, the team feels more alive, more real, and the audience can establish a strong sense of empathy with them. Hinomaru Sumo has trouble with that. These guys are likable, sure, but there’s not much to them. Their lives exist solely within the ring of honor.
I’d also like to note that this show right now takes itself way too seriously. Intensity is good, but without some levity or comedic relief to shake things up, the tone remains way too singular throughout the episode. Comedy would also help add some more dimensions to our cast as well.
Hinomaru Sumo is shaping up to be a decent show, but sadly, not a great one. I like what I see, but the story needs to start taking some quality time for us to just get to know everyone and build the audience’s bond with the characters. Without that, any story, not just a sports anime, cannot hold.