「どん底ザムライ」 (Donzoko Zamurai)
There’s a Jotaro who can defeat an immortal, time-stopping, superhuman vampire. Then there’s a Jotaro who’s just trying to get by in life, as a single parent who loves his daughter, struggling to overcome an injury which prevents him from pursuing his livelihood. And you know what? I can really get behind these down to earth stories about an earnest man trying to honestly make his way through a rough life.
From winning a silver medal at the Olympics, Jotaro comes crashing down from glory to become an outcast who’s vehemently mocked by media outlets after he announced his intention to retire… not. He still believes he has it in him. Yet despite Coach Amakusa’s constant support over decades, this incident breaks the straw in the camels back. Jotaro is fired in a fit of fury and told to never show his face around the gym ever again.
This episode explored two things. Jotaro coming to terms with his injury and realising that he had taken his support networks for granted. I can really respect how he refused to blame anybody for his predicament, and worked tirelessly to overcome his condition. Secondly, people have their natural limits which should not be ignored – and knowledgeable people with your best intentions in mind should also not be ignored. We discover that Jotaro’s injury arises from decades of overworking himself. Although you can admire that work ethic, we can criticise Jotaro for ignoring good advice from others telling him to rest up. Luckily, Leo’s chance encounter with a queer acupuncture specialist of dubious capability rescues Jotaro’s health situation from becoming irrecoverable. Through a combination of rest and acupuncture, Jotaro’s shoulder recovers – meaning he can properly return to the world of gymnastics. Although the prospects of a reoccurring injury still loom.
Furthermore to this line of thought, I can sympathise with Coach Amakusa’s difficult decision. He’s known Jotaro for years. Raised him to become this incredible gymnast who could compete for Olympic medals, saw him through his worst times – slumping out of glory and losing his wife. Then because Jotaro refuses good advice and continues to recklessly destroy his own body, Amakusa has to steel his nerves and force Jotaro to the point of retirement. Even though doing that must have really hurt Amakusa.
No one wants to tell someone they love such cruel worlds, deprive them of their passion, and humiliate them into thinking they’re no longer capable of achieving what they’d spent their life working towards. Last week, it would have been easy to write off the coach with so little context. That he’d grown frustrated of Jotaro and wanted to move him along like broken goods, in order to make way for fresher talent. But this episode revealed how deeply Amakusa cared. And the incredible thing? None of this information is explicitly spoon-fed to us. MAPPA elect to show rather than tell.
It’s there for us to see in how Amakusa keeps pictures of Jotaro, Tomoyo and Rei in his office. Asking around because he was worried Jotaro would go off to join another gym instead. While they might not be related by blood, Amakusa sees Jotaro as a son – his pride and joy, and above all else, family. He’s certainly a great coach, and I look forwards to seeing how the reunion of this coach and athlete partnership can work out competitively speaking. As well as how Leo and the rambunctious newcomer will play into the grand scheme of Taiso Samurai.
Before we conclude, two episodes isn’t enough to make a decision yet, so I will be giving Taiso Samurai one more week before I make my final decision on whether to continue covering this show or not. It’s extremely underrated – that’s for sure. Some of the characters might be quirky, but they’re compelling. And their storylines engaging to follow. So the prospects are looking pretty great at the moment. Anyway, that’s about everything I wanted to discuss. As always, thanks for reading this post – and see you all next week!
ED: 「夢?（ゆめじゃない）」 (Yume ja Nai) by はてな (Hatena)
I liked the concept, but the “cringiness” of the first episode made me drop it. I’m hoping it gets better, because gymnastics and sports injury stories interest me.
The telling the bird to shut up gag feels like it needs someone saying “nandeyonen?” at the end like an 80s gag show. Otherwise it feels a lot like Yuri on Ice. I also feel like I need another week to decide on the show but it’s weirdly compelling despite being kind of not great.