The Spring 2014 Anime Preview Guide Rowdy Sumo Wrestler Matsutaro!!
Apr 5th 2014
Rating: 1 (out of 5)
Masutaro is a hulking jerk of a middle school student. He blatantly cheats on tests in front of the teacher, he destroys property and steals trucks (or is it kidnapping, since he forces the driver along with him?), endangers his siblings' lives, and abducts the teacher he has a crush on. But don't worry, it's funny, because that's what the background music tells us!
Cheaply animated with what is very possibly deliberate shoddiness meant to emphasize the character's crudeness and the poverty of his Showa-era neighborhood, Rowdy Sumo Wrestler Masutaro is low-brow humor that reminds us that the literary definition of “comedy” involves looking down on others for our own amusement. There is nothing sympathetic about the hero, and frankly kidnapping his teacher to hit on her gives me the creeps rather than makes me laugh. Among his other stellar acts in this episode are taking advantage of an old man, actually stealing candy from a baby, and throwing water on old ladies. He's a grade-A jackass, and while that can be funny, the way it's handled here just isn't. The title implies that Masutaro will eventually become a champion sumo wrestler, and he's certainly built for it, but right in its first episode the show is much more interested in him picking his nose (and various other orifices) and wondering if Minami-sensei farts cutely when she's in the bathroom.
There really is nothing wrong with gross humor, even if I personally don't like it. If that's your thing, you might enjoy this episode. More troubling to me is Masutaro's attitude and treatment of other people, so if that sort of thing bothers you, you may want to give this a miss.
Rowdy Sumo Wrestler Masutaro is available streaming on Crunchyroll.
Rating: 1.5 (of 5)
Review: Matsutaro, a hulking brute of a fellow who lives in the Showa era of Japan, is by any measure a despicable human being. He picks his nose in public, sneezes over an entire class, blatantly cheat, eats other's lunches, bullies people around, splashes water on old ladies who bug him, and forces a truck driver to take him on a joy ride. He's not even above literally stealing candy from a toddler, one who even happens to be his own brother. (See screenshot.) He is also immensely strong, so much so that he can pull a loaded oar cart out of a mine even with the winch broken. Eventually he will discover his calling as a sumo wrestler, but for now he's a reckless, irresponsible youth who shenanigans eventually land him in jail.
So goes an episode that is apparently a chronicle of the origin story of an up-and-coming sumo wrestler. It fully delights in showing how slovenly in hygiene Matsutaro is (one early scene involves nose hairs) and much of an utter ass in behavior he is. This isn't just lovable goof territory, either; when he finally gets arrested at the end about a dozen crimes could probably be pinned on him, including kidnapping, carjacking (if such a crime actually existed at that time), and destruction of property. If the intent was to make people not like him, presumably with the ultimate intent of showing how he later gets his act together, then the first episode succeeds admirably.
Because Matsutaro is based on a manga which originally ran from 1973 to 1993, its character designs have a very classic look and feel to them. Background art is very basic, but the colors on the character renditions are vivid and the animation is actually remarkably crisp. Still, the only real entertainment value the first episode has is in watching just how bad a person can be before he finally goes too far.
Rowdy Sumo Wrestler Matsutaro!! is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
Review: If anyone's starting a pool for "least streamed/liked anime of Spring 2014," I'm putting all my money on Sumo Wrestler Matsutaro, and unfortunately, its assured lack of love is well deserved. On a practical level, it's not a nice-looking show. This is Toei operating at the lowest end of their capabilities, and Matsutaro is a great deal more slideshow than anime. The 70s design sensibilities don't help matters. There's nothing here for the majority of otaku looking for cute girls or guys to ogle and no magical narratives to get lost in either, just the tale of a brickheaded bully named Matsutaro who will presumably become a sumo wrestler someday. That is if he can manage to quit his full-time job as World's Most Loathsome Human Being.
That's the biggest problem, really. Budget constraints can be forgiven, and unusual narratives with strange art styles can be adopted by a small and loving fanbase, but Matsutaro's story has barely started and it's already impossible not to hate him. That's right, impossible. The entire first episode is nothing but a pile of aimless horrible cruelties committed by Matsutaro that culminate in him being arrested. We see Matsutaro bully fellow students, urinate in public, attack old ladies, kick dogs, steal candy from children, assault women after perving on them, steal cars, and just generally be a nasty hunk of brainless meat for twenty minutes, and then he's thrown in jail. The End.
The unspoken implication is that Matsutaro will learn from his mistakes, channel his grumpiness into the pursuit of being a great sumo wrestler, and slowly become a decent person, but why should we care? The show is relentlessly unpleasant both visually and narratively. Even if it improves, there are doubtlessly better heel-turn redemption stories out there than this misguided failure of a family comedy. Absolutely pass.
Rowdy Sumo Wrestler Matsutaro!! is available streaming at Crunchyroll.com.
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