OP: 「上海ハニー」 (Shanghai Honey) by Joutarou Aragaki (Daisuke Namikawa), Leonardo (Kensho Ono), Tetsuo Minamino (Yuki Kaji)
「引退ザムライ」 (Intai Zamurai)
In Japan, gymnastics has seen a huge loss of interest as a sport after Shotaro Aragaki (Namikawa Daisuke), their shining hope at glory, bombs out of an international event. Despite the fact he’s committed his entire life to gymnastics, Shotaro becomes saddled by a shoulder injury. And his coach firmly suggests retirement so that the next generation of gymnast hopefuls can come through. However, Shotaro hasn’t given much thought to life after competitive gymnastics and struggles to break this new to his daughter, Rei (
Honizumi Rina). It doesn’t help that after visiting an Edo Theme Park, some random ninja wannabe named Leonardo (Ono Kensho) trails them home and keeps interrupting Shotaro before he can break this sombre news to his daughter. But perhaps his encounter with Leonardo is exactly what Shotaro needed. At the press conference where he is supposed to announce his retirement, Shotaro goes through the motions before resolutely announcing that he will retire… not. For the samurai of gymnastics who is well past his prime, what will the future hold?
Not sure I would describe the animations or art frames as being the apex. But there’s a distinct style which is pleasing to the eye, even if it needs some refinement. So far, I’m rather invested in the story and characters. Shotaro isn’t an extraordinary character by any means. But his struggles are certainly relatable. Most people will have something they were extremely passionate about, that they had to give up at some point. For me, that something was Badminton – also due to an injury. To add to that, he has a family to support. A daughter that he loves and cares about. No doubt, with most cultures and societies having a negative outlook on jobless people – especially Japan – Shotaro really struggled to break the news of his retirement to Rei. But seeing how he back-peddled on that arrangement, yet still hasn’t recovered from his shoulder injury, I wonder how that’s supposed to work out. It’s a bit selfish. However, this indicates there’s unfinished business he wants to see through. And I think it would be better to reach some closure before closing the chapter, rather than spending the rest of your life wondering about the what ifs.
As for our quirky ninja, Leonardo’s gymnastics seemed really lithe. I was really impressed with his improvised scene – even if his clothes did rip apart at the end of his performance. And his conversation suggests that he saw Shotaro’s gymnastics when younger, garnering respect and admiration towards him. At the very least, I would like to find out why Leonardo came to Japan and what drives him is a character. Could he become the next poster boy for Japanese men’s gymnastics? It’s hard to say, especially if he’s a foreigner who’s at risk of getting deported. But considering that America has many naturalised former Australian citizens for their Olympics swimming squad, I’m pretty sure that it’s a competitors choice regarding the country they choose to represent.
In terms of expectations, I reckon Taiso Samurai will be a story about family – as well as the revival of Japanese Men’s gymnastics through unconventional means. It’s MAPPA – who have an excellent track record with character exploration through the lens of sports, if Yuri on Ice! is anything to go by. My only concern is that significant effort will be expended on the upcoming AoT 4 by the studio, with Wit and other studios refusing to take it up because of the ridiculous crunch required. So if the animation and art frames looked wonky, that could be the reason why. If that’s the case, I’m rather worried things will never improve. But at least there’s a promising story at hand – and a relatable character who I want to cheer on in their struggles through life. I reckon I’ll be giving coverage another two episodes – and then we can decide whether Taiso Samurai will be worth keeping.
Anyway, that’s about everything I wanted to discuss. Thanks for reading this post – and see you next week!