This week: blood, sweat, and fighting spirit.
Overview (Spoilers Below)
The team tournament is done with, but the individual tournament has only just begun. This new competition puts brother against brother, as only the top three contenders out of all entrants can move on to the finals. Ozeki is up first, but struggles to win his fight; without his friends there to motivate him, he loses his concentration. Hinomaru goes next, but serves up a healthy slam that brings his opponent down flat. Chihiro is the next up, and surprisingly, he is able to copy Sada’s quarter moon move, much to everyone’s amazement, and wins his fight.
A rivalry develops between Hinomaru and Chihiro, who wants to take on Hinomaru as a way to hone his skills and get closer to becoming a fighting master. The two eventually face each other in the ring. Chihiro continues to be full of surprises as he’s able to use other people’s moves in conjunction with alarming accuracy. However, cunning as he is, Chihiro lacks the strength that Hinomaru possesses, and is ultimately felled to a mighty Demon Wheel Hand Sweep by Hinomaru.
Kei’s fight ends quickly. His opponent is able to predict his clever technique and throw him to the ground accordingly. Next comes Hinomaru vs. Ozeki, a true showdown of captain vs. vice-captain. Hinomaru adopts a spider stance to prepare for Ozeki’s tackle, and the two begin their fight chest to chest. Ozeki, realizing that Hinomaru is having pain in his elbow, hesitates to press the attack, but Hinomaru insists that the two of them go all out. Blow for blow, Ozeki and Hinomaru fight as true warriors using all their training and everything they’ve learned so far. Both of them strain to earn the victory, holding on as long as possible until the very end. At the end of it all, Hinomaru manages to push one foot of Ozeki’s out of the ring, making him the victor. The two acknowledge each other as great rivals and teammates, standing tall shoulder to shoulder.
What an episode! The culmination of several weeks of buildup and hype, episode 10 of Hinomaru Sumo brings the heat, the sweat, and the pain in one powerful body blow of an episode. This is one of those episodes that really rewards the viewer for sticking with it so long, giving us plenty of small moments of character growth and development that cement the reality of these characters and make us want to see more of their struggles. No one gets left out and even minor characters like Kei, who aren’t good at sumo just yet, manage to stir the heart with their steel-hearted determination to do better in the future. Better watch this one when no one is home, because there’s a real likelihood you’ll be cheering at your screen as if you were actually watching our heroes face off against each other.
The setup is probably the best thing going for this episode in comparison to the other bouts we’ve seen. One problem I’ve had with Hinomaru is how underdeveloped the opponents they’ve had thus far were compared to our main cast. Often times villains are just obstacles for the protagonists, and that’s fine, but the best fights are ones where we can feel for the villain and the hero both, intensifying the tension of their conflict. In this episode, by having the main team fight each other, we get that sweet, sweet conflict in spades. Each palm strike, each sweep and muwashi grab, they all have a power to them that hasn’t always been present. Seeing Chihiro, Hinomaru and Ozeki go at it adds a new level of hype to the fighting. In particular, I found it hard to say who I even wanted to win during the Ozeki/Hinomaru fight. Both of them were so filled with energy and fighting spirit that I was just engrossed with the competition between them. Winner or loser, I knew that both of them would be victors in their own right.
If I had to complain, I’d say that there is still the issue of each episode trying to do too much in too little time. I prefer things to go a little slower so we can savor the battles between people, but Hinomaru Sumo really wants to speed along. The entire individual tournament is done in one episode, with about half of it dedicated to one fight. Because of this, Chihiro’s fight with Hinomaru gets overshadowed pretty quickly. I think I would have rather had the two of them fight in their own episode.
Still, its a small complaint in the wake of an intense and exciting episode. This is the level of shounen that Hinomaru Sumo can offer, and I’m glad we can add this show to the roster of great sports anime.