It is a divine ritual, a martial art, a combat sport—it's sumo!!
A "small" new student, Ushio Hinomaru, appears before the weak little sumo club of Oodachi High School! The words "big" and "heavy" are the rules to this sport, which does not fit this newbie any inch, but this guy goes and does what...?! Ushio and the small sumo club climbs its way to the top!
The goal is Hinoshita Kaisan! - A title for the highest rank in professional sumo, equivalent of Yokozuna.
A fired up high school sumo tale—no retakes allowed!!
There is a lot of misconceptions about the world of sumo. To some, sumo wrestling might look like a sport about fat sweaty dudes in g-sting's beating the crap out of each other, and you know what? They are right! Well, sort of. You see, they are not wearing exotic underwear, and no it’s not a diaper either. It’s what the Japanese call, “mawashi” a heavy fabric loincloth that opposing wrestlers use various maneuvers to grab and hold onto to gain an advantage during matches. This martial art is definitely not for the faint-hearted as it requires courage, determination, discipline, hard work, and dedication. Sumo
is a lifestyle, a holy pursuit of the single goal of one day achieving the rank of Yokozuna—the greatest. It’s much akin to a religious practice with so many ancient rituals and rich history behind it that you need undying passion to walk the path of sumo.
Based on Kawada’s manga of the same name, Hinomaru Zumou is an underdog tale following our protagonist of the story, Hinomaru Ushio. He strived mightily against fierce odds for years of his life just on the off-chance that one day he might have the opportunity to win at the high school national tournament which will give him his only realistic chance of achieving his dream. Hinomaru is an undersized phenom, a prodigy but a product of extremely hard work and sacrifice. He is a genuinely nice guy, passionate, confident and competitive. His love and passion for sumo are infectious, he simply wants to prove to the world that his chosen sport is truly second to none. And Hinomaru’s own challenges are explored here too—to wit, that one must be 167 cm tall to become a pro. While being one of a few National Treasures (someone who has the potential to become a Yokozuna), our hero does not meet the height requirement. He does, however, have another path—through winning the high school Yokozuna title and thus entering the All-Japan amateur tournament, whose winner is seeded into the pro ranks regardless of the height restriction.
To help Hinomaru reach his goal are his fellow club members of the Oodachi High School sumo club: The club captain, Shinya Ozeki. The strongest of Oodachi High, Yuuma Gojou. The wrestling champion, Chihiro Kunisaki. “Hotaru” Mitsuhashi Kei, and the coach in Kirihito Tsuji. Also, can’t forget the club managers in Chizuko Hori and Reina Gojou, who happens to be the vice president of the student council, as well as Yuuma’s younger sister. Throughout this journey, the characters grow from strength to strength after going through a lot of challenges through the training camps and in their personal lives. They have great chemistry together, the conversations between them are not just in service of the plot, they all have strong personalities and feel like real people. They all have their own dreams but share a common goal of winning together as a team. Hinomaru Zumou explores the social aspect of sumo—as in, making pariahs out of boys with the impunity to actually practice it. There are also a lot of emotional stories with these characters covering various themes from courage and heroism, death, love, coming of age, prejudice, and individual vs society.
There are different ways to go about making a positive impression in anime, to be certain. The one shows as Hinomaru Zumou choose certainly isn’t the flashiest, and as a result, they tend to be undersold by most viewers. It simply put one foot in front of the other, does things the right way, and make sure every development is earned and every decision is in-character. While the story follows a formulaic sports shonen template to that of “Haikyuu!!” and “Koroko no Basket”, such as tournament arcs, it’s able to execute it as well as possible with an unusual sport as the vehicle. The training arcs are more about refining their techniques than learning new moves, and this decision makes it all the better. We know each character’s weaknesses, we know what they have to do in order to overcome them and turn them into a strength—which reinforces the idea of the characters having to work for everything instead of having plot conveniences and power-ups. Even rival characters from other schools are given ample screen time, enough to see their personalities, development etc., and it’s done in such a way that you also can’t help but connect with them.
Hinomaru Zumou is definitely one of the best sports shonen series I’ve seen to date, it does everything well, pretty much without exception. And while its devotion to genre tradition and how it makes the series’ appeal more tied into sasuga than surprise, it’s not exactly predictable. Some of that comes down to the nature of best-of-five team competition, even if you know whom precedent says should win, there are myriad ways to get there and also to the scenarios that the story sets up. The Gonzo production team understood this well and made it a fine adaptation. Hinomaru Zumou features a 90’s style to its art and character designs, which are all distinctive and given unique traits and accessories. Despite the obvious low budget, for the most part, the visuals and animations have been consistently good. At its best, it is nothing short of excellence. The depictions of certain bouts are given some extra flair with dynamic illustrations and grand effects that make the action a lot more grandiose. At its worst, you can notice some of the inconsistencies in character-models and the fluidity in animation.
In general, the art design is expressive and appealing, succeeding in its aesthetic goals and more than enough, impressing through style flourishes. The soundtrack is very important when it comes to the sumo bouts as they go hand-in-hand to complete the sense of tension, atmosphere, and excitement. It’s really hype-inducing and James Shimoji is a name I hope to see a little bit more as he is definitely a talented composer. Yasutaka Yamamoto and Kounosuke Uda have done a superb job in directing with a small budget and also offering a lesson on how to rush through a source material the right way, to the extent such a thing is possible. They knew they only have 24 episodes to work with so they knew there is no time to waste. You can rush without giving the impression that you’re rushing, and Hinomaru Zumou has managed to accomplish that almost every week. Surprisingly enough, this anime has both great OP’s and ED’s. To pick a personal favorite, it definitely has to be "FIRE GROUND" by Official HIGE DANdism, the perfect theme song to get you pumped. Gonzo did get talented voice actors and all had stellar performances as well as adding some funny short segments at the end of episodes, a testament to their dedication for entertainment value.
I can’t help but be impressed by the consistency, solidity and sheer effectiveness of Hinomaru Zumou. The personality of the series perfectly matches that of the sport it depicts—there’s no flash or elegance to this show, it just plants both feet and pushes until the job is done, with the occasional slap, too. Rarely have I seen a sports anime so faithful to the tenets of the genre without feeling mundane. The series is criminally underrated and a gem of the 2018 Fall season, fantastic characters, thrilling action, and wholesome comedy. It’s so straight and true, so meticulous and emotionally accurate—as so many of the best sports anime are. You do have to get past the inherently comic visual of sumo. Not everyone is going to be able to do that or want to. But if you can you’ll be amply rewarded, whether sports anime is your thing or not.
Fat guys wearing diapers and sweating like pigs. Over weighted = over powered. Who cares if you can't bend to tie your own shoe lases when can just walks thru walls anyway. Let the slimiest man win!
I never quite understood why sumo was called a sports instead of the male version of plus sized beauty modelling, but Hinomawhatever helped me to open my eyes to the beauty of this art. Partly because it quite closely follows the normal, formulaic pattern commonly seen in sports anime and partly because of its manly and bro cast. I never quite respected sumo nor thought much about it,
but now I kinda do.
The setup for our story will seem rather familiar to anyone who has seen classic sports series. Main bro is a prodigy with the heart, but he can't be the unbeatable sumo Jesus just yet for there are several things in the way. He himself is a manlet, practically new unit between meter and decimeter -tier midget who is too short to officially be able to become a sumo pro. He also can't join the school with the best sumo club in Japan because he is terrible at reading maps, so instead he ends up in a school which sumo club is practically dead and the whole fight sports scene in the school ruled by thugs, delinquents and cool badasses. The nearly-a-Jesus type of character with these hardships/obstacles is used to create some rather interesting mixed martial arts battles very early on and also to introduce bunch of characters who get to discover the beauty of sumo sports in the same manner as the viewers who are new to sumo do when watching the series. Development and awe-inspiring coolness exists for a while, offering a strong start for the series. This commonly slows down the pace later on and requires some back stories, build-up and character depth. And this is more or less like the route that was now chosen, but the route itself is ever so entertaining to follow.
The events are rather simple since Hinomary is a simple series that doesn't try to really be anything more. Our cast contains a wide variety of characters from people who are totally ignorant to sumo to pros whose entire life centers around it. This brings quite a few different perspectives in to the mix and shows many sides of the sports itself. The series can be rather educational from this part and thanks to the colorful cast, the way Hinomary is dealing with the basics of sumo feel very natural and smooth. The author is clearly knowledgeable about other sports series as well as the sports in question and that at least carried all the way thru this season, which main focus outside showing what sumo is and who our main characters are, is a simple interschool sumo tournament where different sumo clubs from different schools face each others.
The strongest sides with the series lie within the awe moments, fights, GAR-like atmosphere and Hinomaru's (sumo Jesus's) personality. The weakest parts are the believability of other club's members success and the lack of a proper training arc + the pacing which can be -- at time -- jumpy and seem like new episodes start off from episodic settings rather than continuing from anywhere that was shown in former episode.
Outside Hinomaru, the most interesting (and relatively bro) main character is Chihiro Kunisaki, who is a talented wrestler that now joined Hinomaru's sumo team. The remaining 4 club members from "our side" can occasionally feel bit filler-ish and much less interesting. We have super shy and skinny dude who looks incredibly unfit to physically even participate in the sports. Fat dude who is practically the exact same as the thin dude (personality-wise) except has always loved sumo and is somewhat good at it. There is also another Jesus in the series named trainer-Jesus person and he is more or less like anyone else in the series except supposedly holds lots of sumo-wisdom and wear glasses and is training our main cast.. kind of. The last club member is a delinquent thug person who was portrayed to be incredibly cool and badass in the beginning of the series, but then his personality was put on a leash pretty much and now he is just another person doing sumo without many visible&interesting personality traits, but even he gets thru some development later on and his personality change gets explained rather well eventually. There is also one more "main"character in the series because all sports series need a mascot girl. Student council president who is the thug dudes sister and has a brother complex over him. The good part is that the opponents of our sumo Jesus themselves are way more interesting and cool than the main cast which is more so portrayed to be "real people" than completely badass sumo pros. Other basic sports elements exist also, such as tragic past story for main bro's mother and a love interest subplot. The series has many things to offer due to these simple elements, but it should be noted that these things didn't really go anywhere during the first season.
In terms of production, Gonzo is underrated as ever. The first ED is beast as hell. Side character bros look awesome. Like really advanced awesome. Some sumo wrestlers still are just big and otherwise they do not stand out, but others have highly unique and manly character design which is also memorable. The music is fitting and those sounds when men fall on the tatami exactly as loud as they should be, meaning hella. The animation is especially fitting for a series of this sort and art design along the color choices do their work splendidly. It's subdued and simplistic and I see no reason to complain about it, much rather praise this simplicity for how efficient it is. Some weird errs still exist, such as sumo Jesus really looking like 1 feet tall compared to the bigger and fatter sumo dudes who are like 8 feet compared to him during certain shots. This may seem ridiculous/annoy some viewers. It stands out, but personally I didn't find it annoying.
I highly enjoyed this series because I am a huge fan of sports series and Hinomaru didn't especially do anything that was there to ruin the experience for me. The story board is somewhat lacking and clearly unoriginal + the other main characters are not as amazing as the real mains and their opponents, but the generic sports pattern itself is being dealt with in respectable manner and Hinomaru's way to deal with its characters and execute the common tropes are pleasure to watch even when the series lacks some depth.
ps, there is a a slice of life oriented sketch at the end of each episode that starts after the ED, highly recommend watching those
You don't find a lot of anime that you can really say tick all of the boxes to being the perfect experience, however Hinomaruzumou undoubtedly comes close. It evokes powerful emotions every episode and had me on the edge of my seat for the outcomes of each sumo bout, which were never predictable and always had an enrapturing dramatic flare. The soundtrack, while not particularly striking among some of the greater soundtracks we have seen in anime, is very fitting and sets the mood brilliantly at every turn. Heavily recommend this series to anyone who enjoys suspenseful action-based anime, martial art-based anime or sport-based anime.
Hinomaruzumou is one of the most criminally slept on anime in recent memory. The 24 episodes it has run is not nearly enough to satisfy my desire to observe Hinomaru's sumo.
Fall 2018 saw a rebirth of sports anime. The trio of Run with the wind (Kaze ga Tsuyoku Fuiteiru), Tsurune, and Hinomaruzumou have collectively transformed the genre. These non traditional sports made room for more character growth and development than I've ever witnessed in sports anime, and I truly hope that Tsurune and Hinomaruzumou each receive second seasons some day. These three anime show us that sport anime have the potential to be less about
the sport involved, and more about human growth, relationships, spirit and passion. If I were to define any of these three anime as being about sumo, cross country, or Kyudo, my definition would be severely lacking. These three masterpieces have ushered in a new era for the sports genre, and I am very interested to see how the industry and the community will react.
Before this anime I knew nothing about sumo, and I feel as though I knew even less about spirit. Sumo is a spiritual engagement, and Hinomaru & co. show us an overwhelming amount of spirit, too much to fit inside any one physical body.
The animation is the only weak point of this series, as I imagine studio Gonzo didn't have much of a budget to put up. This however, did not take away from the intensity and raw emotion of each and every bout.
If your a fan of sports anime or any sort of naturalism, I highly recommend this series. I was constantly reminded of Jack London's White Fang and the Call of the Wild. The kill or be killed mentality, the animalistic instinct and strength put into every move, the willpower to never back down and give your body for the sake of Sumo, all make this title a fantastic addition to the naturalist genre. On top of that the thrill of the mortal combat, watching these characters (and voice actors) give every ounce of spirit, not in the name of victory, but in the name of the Sumo gods, and their teammates. The voice acting was incredible thought the series, and the awesome action scenes were well balanced by a great variety of hilarious comedic scenes. Just watch OP2 of the series for an example of how intense and exhilarating the sumo can be.
I appreciate the reflection of how sumo is viewed in contemporary Japanese high schools, as the country becomes more westernized. I believe this westernization may result in a loss of the spirit that defines much of Japanese culture. But seeing these characters change their mind about sumo, and come to deeply respect the sport as an art accurately depicts my own journey that this series has taken me on. I now respect and am inspired more by those that participate in sumo than in any other sport.
Seeing Ushio and his team put 110% into every slap and throw for the sake of others has made me miss the joy of team sport, and the catharsis which can result from them. These characters continually put it all on the line and the final bout of destiny will have to go down as one of my all time favorite anime battles.
If you've ever enjoyed a sports anime before, I recommend this series that has so sadly flown under the radar, and has received none of the credit which it deserves.
So many elements came together to make this a great anime, and if I ever become a multi millionaire, I'm getting Gonzo to make another damn season!!