Karate and sumo, a match made in Heaven.
Overview (Spoilers Below)
The Dachi High Sumo Club is riding high after winning their second bout. Chihiro is the guy to beat right now, but Yuma is keen to show him up in the third bout. This puts him up against Kanamori, a strong fighter who prefers to go into his fights headfirst.
The fight begins, and Yumo plans to slap Kanamori in the face before he can press the attack. Much to his surprise, Kanamori is the one to slap first and delivers a barrage of powerful blows against Yuma. Kanamori’s strength in part comes from his rage against the thugs and gangs who once plagued his high school. While Yuma’s getting his face slapped in, he thinks back to how he was kicked out of the karate dojo he attended for being a punk. After starting sumo, though, Yuma came back to his teacher, Takani, hat in hand. Still, she rejects him, but still, he persists, bowing in penance in the rain for his teacher. Eventually, she sees the merit of his apology and takes him back, teaching him karate moves to help him in sumo.
Back in the present, Yuma uses a karate move, a “flip, and switch”, to throw Kanamori off balance, but his opponent comes back at him even stronger. In a stunning move, Yuma reacts by chaining a leg sweep into a powerful palm strike. Unfortunately, though, it isn’t enough. Kanamori brings Yuma to the ground with a belt throw. Still, Yuma has earned his opponent’s respect.
Up next, its Ozeki, the team captain, against Sanada. The two are set to have the battle of the day, but surprisingly, Sanada false starts and knocks Ozeki down in a cheap attempt to break his concentration. Despite that, when the match starts, Ozeki brings a calm fury to the fight. Meanwhile, Sanada’s teammates think back to their past with Sanada and how he took down a bunch of thugs preying on the sumo club. The fight continues and the two are neck and neck, and it seems that the fight might never end. It comes down to a battle of heart, and in the fight’s final moments, both of them go down together, with Ozeki being declared the winner. Ozeki roars in glory, as it seems that his team now has a real shot at taking this thing home.
The battle continues to fight by fight as each and every member of the Odachi High School faces their own challenges in this tournament. Its typical sports anime stuff, having an appropriate enemy to match the skills of each fighter and the challenges that they’ve faced. Still, just because its formulaic doesn’t mean that its bad. This is a strong episode that uses the tried and true to pull the viewer into these intense, sweaty, testosterone-fueled battles. In a show like this, the amount of excitement and emotion that the viewer feels during the bouts is the bread and butter of the show, and that bread and butter can only be churned by having good characters and solid stakes to set them against. This episode couldn’t exist if we didn’t have the good foundation the first few episodes had given us, and its good to see the show continuing to press its advantages.
In terms of economy of storytelling, Hinomaru Sumo consistently tries to stuff as much of its backstories and character struggles into each episode as possible. Given that Yuma and Ozeki both had battles, it might have been a good idea to give each of them their own episode to flesh out their fights a bit more. However, it occurs to me that this might be a strategy on part of the showrunners since sumo bouts don’t last very long, it might present a problem with the pacing to give Ozeki and Yuma an entire 22 minutes to tell stories that have ten minutes of content. Regardless of that, however, both of these stories are told well. The writing is effective, the characterization effective, and the result is two fights that do what anime sports fights are supposed to do: make you cheer as if you were there.
Also, I’m enjoying this ragtag group of different fighting styles that have been established in the Odachi High sumo team. Its a smart move to have people unfamiliar with sumo serve as the main cast; the differences in style keep things interesting, and present challenges to our heroes that are unique to each of them. Hinomaru and Ozeki serve as the powerhouses of the show, while the others unfamiliar to the sport serve the plot in their own ways. There’s a breadth to the story here, something that makes the setup more nuanced and interesting than if it was just straightforward sumo wrestling.
As always, I look forward to the next episode of Hinomaru Sumo, and hope that it can keep my interest even after its initial novelty has worn off.