Hinomaru Sumo – Mid Series Anime Review
Synopsis: The intense fight for the dream of yokozuna has begun. A new student has joined Odachi High School’s weak sumo club, the small boy Ushio Hinomaru! Although his physique seems ill-suited to a fighting sport where size and weight rule, Hinomaru has an incredible dream. He and the weak sumo club will fight their way to the top! The intense battle of high school sumo has begun! (Official Crunchyroll Synopsis)
Mid Series (12 Episodes) Review (Warning: Minor Spoilers to Follow):
Linny: Hinamaru Sumo may be exploring a rather uncommon sport for anime, i.e, Sumo but its story itself contains a healthy helping of standard shonen tropes. Not only do we start the show off with our very talented protagonist, Ushio, deciding to join a really weak and struggling sumo club (the infamous underdog trope) but we also have him teaming up with past enemies who have now turned into reluctant or even eager teammates.
Tom: Despite Sumo’s tried and true shonen nature, I think it comes out on top, with a fun main cast that feels worth rooting for. Not only is Ushio a compelling underdog thanks to his small stature and never give up nature, but the other members of the Sumo Club have equally compelling stories, either doubling up on the underdog nature, or grappling with regret, aim to go for the top, etc. What really helps keep these guys so interesting is how well Hinomaru Sumo defines their weaknesses in the ring. Too many shonen series have trouble really getting to the heart of what our heroes need to work on for them to succeed. This extends from Battle Shonen and even into Sports series. But Sumo avoids that by really giving us pin-point problems each of our heroes suffer from, making the audience themselves feel like they actually understand the sport, even if Sumo is much the same kind of surface read as any other sports anime.
Linny: Indeed, Hinamaru Sumo does a superb job with its cast, balancing them out and giving them personalities and defining traits that make them feel like real characters and not just empty tropes meant to pad out the cast line up.I’d like to especially point out its treatment of Kei Mitsuhashi, the ‘weakling’ of the group who not only lacks the physique for the sport but also the skill. His enthusiasm for the sport feels genuine and the show also avoids the trope of having him turn out to be surprisingly skilled at it. Not once does the show let him win against opponents simply for the sake of an ‘uplifting’ moment in the episode, allowing this fledgling fighter to wallow in defeat and struggle to become an equal to his teammates.
Tom: Thanks to the heavy focus on tactics, Hinomaru Sumo is at its best when focused on the actual match-ups. There’s so much give and take that each match feels compelling and gripping, even if it can be fairly obvious who is going to win once you’ve figured out the typical shonen formula. That’s an undercurrent of damper for the series, as it doesn’t do too much deviation, making it fairly predictable for more weathered audiences. Also to be noted is that Sumo matches typically occur in the span of a few minutes, and since it’s a one match, one winner mechanic, with no additional rounds or points, the back and forth of techniques can start to feel a bit silly, since who’s winning changes frequently within the blink of an eye.
Linny: That is definitely one of Hinamaru Sumo’s biggest ‘weakness’; the attempt to make these minutes long matches feel intense by constantly spamming the screen with big moves which ends up making it feel a bit too try hard. In true shonen style, they make the move names and depictions really dynamic and over the top as seen in the preview image for this article. The show comes up with all these creative names and flashy effects to make the (in some ways simple) act of throwing someone off their feet into something a lot more grandiose, which could grow old sooner rather than later.
Tom: Despite Sumo’s opening episode featuring some really solid animation for Ushio’s first take down in an impromptu match, Sumo is more often visually decent if not bordering on mediocre. The art and visuals frequently dip, and while it’s no disaster like My Sister, My Writer (a title that stands as 2018’s most visually troubled series) Sumo isn’t one to impress. Still, what it lacks in visual punch it makes up for in those dynamic matches, fun characterization, and allowing the audience to feel like they’re actually learning about Sumo the deeper we go. If you’re a fan of sports anime and are looking for a series that delves into a competition not often depicted in the medium, Hinomaru Sumo is a strong title worth the look in.
Linny: Hinamaru Sumo isn’t the most amazing sports anime out there but it definitely is one of the more competent ones. Its unusual sport combined with its developed and rounded out main cast overcome the curse of its more cliche content and manage to spin a tale that should nab that attention of those seeking a meatier sports show. Yes, it has some flaws such as the reliance on tropes and the average to fluctuating animation quality but they do not hinder the appeal of its content itself. Give this show a chance if you are intrigued by its Sumo theme and like the sound of a sports anime that does more with its characters than most others, even if it does still treat the sports with maybe a bit too much over the top anime flair.
Hinomaru Sumo is available for streaming via Crunchyroll.