Anime Weekly: Tiger Mask W

Tiger Mask W is a series that I likely never would've noticed if I hadn't gotten into wrestling, and while my enjoyment enhances the show, it's still actually quite a well put together series.  It starts out with two young wrestlers--Naoto Azuma and Takuma Fujii--watching Takuma's dad and their mentor, Daisuke Fujii, get destroyed in the ring by a rival team's wrestler, Yellow Devil.  As Daisuke finds himself seemingly permanently wheelchair bound by his match, the two young men set down two opposite paths with the same goal: defeating Yellow Devil, "ace" of the foreign wrestling company, Global Wrestling Monopoly.

I won't pretend like this is anything deep--it's a simple story that's told effectively, operating on the pretense that kayfabe (the staged events that occur in wrestling) is real, and that each wrestler is winning their matches based on their own strength and techniques rather than putting on the best athletic performance for a match with a predetermined ending.  And while it would've been fascinating to do a show that goes into detail on why matches are booked behind the scenes for the reasoning they are for a wrestling geek like me--it makes sense that on a broader scale they didn't want to ruin the spectacle of puroresu for the younger fans that are most likely watching this.

In the five episodes I've watched thus far, they've explained how Daisuke Fujii's son Takuma chose to take down Global Wrestling Monopoly (obviously a parody of the real-life American company WWF, even down to its 80's like promos) from the inside--joining their training group Tiger's Den, and training until he became the top of the new rookie division and awarded the prestigious title and mask of "Tiger the Dark".   Meanwhile, Naoto was forced down a different path.  The match that let Daisuke wheelchair bound was a part of an event that pitted the fledgling gym Jipang Pro Wrestling against Global Wrestling Monopoly, and after their devastating defeat the wrestlers of the gym all left, causing it to collapse.  As Naoto was figuring out what to do next, he met Kentaro Takaoka, a former member of the Tiger's Den who decided to help him defeat them before they rose again by forcing him to undergo rigorous training, after which he was awarded the mask and title of Tiger Mask, the wrestler who originally shut down Tiger's Den.

Tying itself to the original Tiger Mask series from the late 60's/early 70's as well as utilizing some wrestlers from the real-world New Japan Pro Wrestling company, Tiger Mask W has built up a unique universe that's fun to watch as they explore and develop it further.   It's real-world connection makes me hope we see more wrestlers from NJPW, while it's connection to the original series leaves me constantly wondering how much the former series will end up affecting the current one.  All in all, I find myself thinking about this story's plot a lot more than I should a "dumb wrestling show".

Speaking OF the wrestling, while the matches have been mostly fairly short so far there's definitely been a reason: mostly they've all been INCREDIBLY brutal.  Wrestlers find themselves unceremoniously tossed on their heads onto the mat or into metal ring posts, certain wrestling moves have left limbs dislocated or broken, and my goodness the blood.  Even as someone who watches violent anime all the time, the amount of blood that finds itself into even the more comedic matches is always shocking--perhaps because in modern day real matches, blood is more often than not seen as taboo or a sign that the match has gone wrong.  (Though it wasn't always so.)

With another 34 episodes to go, I look forward to this series keeping me company throughout the Winter and Spring seasons.


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