What’s it about? Ushio Hinomaru’s dream is to become a yokozuna, but he’s too short to be allowed into professional sumo wrestling. He’s not going to let that stop him, though. By becoming the greatest high school sumo wrestler, the pros will have no choice but to change the rules so he can join!
CONTENT WARNING for discussion of sexual harassment.
While watching Hinomaru Sumo, I kept having the same thought: “Boy, this sure is a shounen sports anime.”
That’s not a negative, mind you. I like shounen sports anime. There’s nothing wrong with straightforwardly playing genre beats if they’re played well, and Hinomaru is full of vim and vigor and Fighting Spirit. It’s as solid as its sumo wrestlers. But if you’re looking for something that shakes up the formula, based on this premiere, it’s unlikely you’re going to find it here.
Despite its ’90s throwback art style, Hinomaru is adapted from an ongoing Shonen JUMP manga that began serialization in 2014. Perhaps unsurprisingly, given Haikyu’s popularity in the same magazine, this first episode hits some similar beats: a short kid with a big heart has tenacity and enthusiasm that helps him prove the disbelievers wrong.
Unlike Haikyu, though, which practically radiates optimism, Hinomaru has a darker undercurrent to match the show’s rougher character designs. This is a world populated by Bad Dudes that our hero must defeat, from train gropers to high school delinquents.
There’s also a sickly (probably dead) mother, along with the question of how Ushio got all those scars on his body and why he never participated in a middle school sumo tournament. Hinomaru will likely have some Tragic Backstory depths to plumb before all is said and done.
That said, the premiere avoids an overly grimdark tone thanks to its protagonist’s upbeat attitude and the presence of his new senpai and fellow sumo wrestler, Ozeki. He’s a sweet soft boy and I would like very much to protect him. Thankfully, Ushio feels the same way.
Hinomaru may have its share of jerks in the cast, but its two main characters have thus far proven themselves to be good dudes trying to be good to others—Ushio almost hilariously so. They’re not exactly riveting figures (yet), but they’re easy to root for, which goes a long way towards making this first episode enjoyable.
While Ushio does begin the episode by stopping a man from groping a girl, this premiere spends almost no time with female characters. (My Love Story did this beat better because it spent time focusing on the girl’s feelings, but given that Hinomaru can be found in the same magazine as Mineta, they still get points for trying.)
The girl Ushio rescued from the groper looks to be a recurring character (probably a love interest), and there’s a brief shot of another girl smiling evilly at one point, but neither has a name yet and they got about two lines of dialogue total. The opening scene suggests that Hinomaru won’t be actively shitty towards its female characters, but I wouldn’t expect them to have a lot to do, either. This looks to be a series about Manly Guys Doing Manly Things, which is fine, if not exactly groundbreaking.
And that’s kind of where I am after this premiere: “fine if not exactly groundbreaking.” There’s nothing I feel I need to warn AniFem readers about, so if you like straightforward sports shounen or are interested in sumo, then give this one a try. If that’s not your cup of tea, then I doubt this series will be, either.