「決闘ザムライ」 (Kettou Zamurai)
I could talk about how gorgeous the CGI gymnastics were. But I’ve always preferred to write up case studies into characterisation. So here goes.
Understanding Tetsuo’s Perspective
Jotaro’s road to recovery looks better than ever – with his fatigue alleviated and shoulder pains dissipating. His coach has even taken him back. However the fallout from his retirement U-turn continues to pile up as Tetsuo Minamino – a rising star from the new generation of gymnastics – challenges Jotaro to a duel with the wager being Jotaro’s career.
As far as Tetsuo is concerned, he’s worked hard to become the Japanese representative. Only some washed up, paycheck stealer is refusing to move on – potentially depriving Tetsuo of opportunities he’s worked his entire life for. From the sympathetic perspective where we see Jo’s struggles, of course we think it’s fair that Jotaro gets a second chance. But does that sound fair to you? Because in hindsight, this whole ordeal stinks of nepotism.
My Problem with Jotaro and How it can be Easily Resolved
When a samurai brings dishonour upon themselves, you would expect them to perform harakiri. And in this case, if Jotaro really was a Gymnastics Samurai in the truest sense, he would have given up on his career after publicly disgracing himself by backtracking on his retirement. Not to mention he lost a duel against Tetsuo, after clearly agreeing to put his career on the line. I appreciate the emotional gravity of the moment, how Leo and Amatsuka begged and prostrated before a young boy like Tetsuo to reconsider ending Jotaro’s career. It’s realistic to plead for the sake of your loved ones. And I do think it would be silly to quit your passion and career over a simple bet. But it comes across as rather wishy washy from Jotaro. That he isn’t a man of his words. And a protagonist lacking integrity is one I personally struggle to get behind.
From his eccentric behavior, maybe he’s lived an entire life of gymnastics stardom that he’s out of touch with normal people and totally lacks common sense. It’s part of his charm as a vibrant character, but it also bothers me – if that makes sense. And I hope the series will bring Jotaro down to earth more often – because I like Taiso Samurai best when we watched Jotaro persevering through his emotional struggles. Be it single father trying to make time for his kid, mourning his wife who died so young, as well as worrying over an uncertain future where his injury puts a huge question mark concerning his lifelong passion and career in gymnastics.
Honestly, aside from my nitpick, the underlying premise provides a fantastic foundation for the series to build from. So some serious praise is in order for the rookie duo of director Shimizu Hisatoshi and writer Murakoshi Shigeru for devising such a compelling premise. However, the onus is on them and MAPPA to work their magic and see through the potential in this series. And for now, I truly believe they can make it happen.
To wrap off, my biggest question about this episode. Why did Tetsuo incorporate the Aragaki into his routine? Was it because he deeply respects Jotaro and hides pain at seeing his idol clearly past his prime? Or was it a cruel and arrogant flex to demonstrate his superiority? It’s hard to get a read on Tetsuo’s stoic expression. But I think the true answer about his feelings will be absolutely crucial in terms of characterisation, and will either establish him as the villain or bring him onto the path of redemption.
Anyway, that’s about everything I wanted to discuss. As always, thanks for reading this post – and see you next week to find out why these Secret Agents who were chasing Leonardo are suddenly accosting homeless people in the park at night.