Crouching Yuma, hidden wrestler.
Overview (Spoilers Below)
Chihiro is up to the ring, taking on Kano, the sumo wrestler who made fun of Kei’s valiant effort to win using his brilliant, but ultimately ineffective, strategy. Kano is confident in his ability, having fought on the same team as Tennoji for some time, but Chihiro has a fire in his belly that’s ready to consume the ring in an inferno. As the match starts, Chihiro surprises everyone once again by imitating another wrestler’s moves and using a flurry of strikes to push Kano back. Kano is taken aback by this, but is able to close the gap and get in close to Chihiro. The fight starts moving closer to a draw, with neither of them moving an inch, but Chihiro gathers his strength and begins to push Kano forward for a ring out, despite how unstylish ring outs are. With that, he’s able to score the victory with a brutal ring out.
The next fight has Yuma enter the fight against Bato, the Mongolian wrestler who came to Japan to conquer sumo with his powerful skills. Bato is wild and unpredictable, and uses an ultra aggressive strategy with Yuma matching the signature karate strikes that Yuma has been known for. Yuma, who was facing a lot of anxiety before the match, is able to keep his center and focus strong. He’s able to stave off Bato bit by bit, punch by punch, and presses his advantage with a powerful reversal combo that nearly takes Bato down. The Mongolian wrestler still has fight left in him, however, and isn’t going to go down just yet. Yet, Yuma pushes and pushes and pushes some more, and with his flurry of strikes, he’s able to inch Bato out of the ring, winning a hard-earned victory.
Things are really heating up here on Hinomaru Sumo as the level of intensity with each match is increasing by the episode. What initially seemed more fun and friendly in its early episodes has brought home just how cutthroat this sport really is. The combination of physically exhausting training with the all-or-nothing style of the tournament makes these last few matches all the more intense. Hinomaru’s team lost half their members in what felt like an instant. Now is the do or die moment of the tournament. This is the strength of Hinomaru Sumo’s storytelling, developing this intense narrative of brutal, savage combat. It doesn’t always work, but when it does, there is a fire lit in the viewer that makes it worth the weight.
The strength of this episode lies entirely in its physicality. Chihiro proves to be a surprising fighter who is constantly pushing his limits in the middle of a fight, making him feel more like the protagonist of the show than Hinomaru is. Furthermore, Chihiro’s fight isn’t just about proving how badass he is like usual. It’s revenge for Kei’s loss and the humiliation of Kano looking down on his teammate. That anger is captured excellently here, and adds tremendous value to the fight at hand.
Once again, though, there are pacing problems at every turn in the episode. Each and every aspect of the show is explained by audience members and other sumo wrestlers, making the episode have more in common with an audiobook than an anime. There are far better ways for a show to get its information across without resorting to plain exposition. It’s unfortunate that this show, which has so much potential and heart, can’t manage to pull that off.
In addition, Yuma’s sudden cowardice in the ring was a strange turn to make in the episode, especially since it gets turned around almost immediately as its introduced. Yuma has never been a character to exhibit that kind of fear, and while developing fear of the ring would work from a character development perspective, its done too suddenly here, and just seems like a cheeky way to try and add something a little extra to the fight.
I enjoyed the episode quite a bit, and I think that comes from understanding just what kind of show Hinomaru Sumo wants to be. It’s a show that has a lot of problems and some less-than-stellar dialogue, but, much like professional wrestling, that doesn’t get in the way of the larger picture.