- Titles: Taiso Samurai
- Genre: Sports!, family
- Episodes: 11
- Studio: MAPPA
Joutarou Aragaki is a bit of a legend. He is the one and only gymnastics samurai. He even has a moved named after him. Once upon a time, he was the future of the sport and even managed a silver at the Olympics. But ever since his wife’s accident, he’s been struggling a bit. Gymnastics isn’t kind to the body nor does it age well. There comes a point when you need to hang up your tights and start looking for a reasonable way to support your daughter. It’s foolish to hang onto a dream once it’s past its prime. It’s a good thing that Joutarou is a huge fool though. With the unexpected addition of a new house ninja, this samurai is going to prove that he still has some fight left in him.
If you’ve been around here for a while, you know that I’m a sucker for an underdog story. Who isn’t? But you know what I like even more? A hasbeen story. That’s like an underdog who’s paid their dues. Even better. Now in real life hasbeens are often hasbeen for a reason. At some point, the world can pass us by and those who fail to adapt, well, it tends to be bitter. We all have limitations. But fiction doesn’t!
This is a tough one as far as production goes. I quite liked the character designs and the colours. In fact, Leo almost convinced me to try out a teal ombré like he has. It looked awesome. I still might, at least for a little while. It’s not just Leo though. All the characters were fun to look at and the backgrounds were varied and colourful.
Also, I realized that I really enjoyed watching animated gymnastics. More than most animated sports. Maybe it’s because I find gymnastics fun to watch in the first place which is not the case for most sports. And the animation was pretty solid.
However, there is some use of CG throughout the series that is blended in just well enough to become extremely uncanny. I would say I noticed it most in Minamino’s routines. And it annoyed me a lot. He looked like a stiff 3d model on several occasions and sadly it took me out of it.
It’s a shame because I think it was an otherwise solid production. But with a story that is so centred on gymnastics, it’s difficult to avoid that flaw.
Story & Characters
I sort of already gave myself away. I like hasbeens. A lot. And Jo happens to be an optimistic and almost unfailingly good-humoured one. Yup, a happy hasbeen. Now that’s an archetype we need more of. Like tons more of. Did I mention he’s also a proud papa and a good if a little dense friend? It’s very difficult not to like Jo.
The same can be said for most of the cast. Leo is a clueless otaku foreigner who happens to be deeply earnest and almost completely devoid of malice. Coach Amakusa balances his soft heart with consummate professionalism. Grandma Mari is a badass! Of course, Rei is the perfect most darling little girl. If anything, I could see these characters getting on someone’s nerves for being too perfect. But not mine. I loved everyone here.
Also, I carefully avoided the mention of both drama and comedy in the genres. That’s because I would call Gymnastics Samurai either both or neither. Fact is, it’s not exactly a comedy, there are funny moments but no jokes or slapstick or anything of that sort, like you often see in Sports! anime. And there are many dramatic events but the characters are all very resilient and move on quickly, it never feels like that’s what the show is about. It’s sort of pure Sports! anime. It’s about gymnastics and a little bit about found families.
And at 11 episodes, it’s perfect as it is. I was never bored and I don,t think there was too much fluff. I hate to say this because Leo is one of my favourite characters (I have a lot of favourites in this show) but I guess he could be considered superfluous. But then again, he was often the comedy sidekick or the one to break the tension. He also personified the fan aspect of any public figure. That parasocial adoration athletes get. And that was a nice theme to explore in the show.
As boring as it sounds, I have no complaints here. Hmm… I guess my takeaway is you should watch The Gymnastics Samurai. It was way better than I thought it would be! Oh, and did I mention the OP? GREAT OP!
You might like this anime if:
Gymnastics. Happy nice people doing their best. You happen to have similar tastes to mine.
My favourite character:
This was so difficult! Leo was an early contender, but Britney sort of steals any scene he’s in. And he has a pivotal role. His presence sort of changes everything. But in the end, I just have to give it to badass grandma Mari! She owns a bar, you guys…
- Every time anyone calls Jotaro a samurai – take a sip
- Every time Rei takes care of her dad – awwww
- Every time grandma is being grand! – raise your glass
- Every time Jo’s at his wife’s altar – pour some out
- Every time Leo makes a new friend – take a sip
- Every time Leo is a ninja – take a sip
- Every time the bird talks – take a sip
- Every time Jo is being very optimistic – yay!
- Every time Leo resorts to ninja dogeza – take a sip
- Every time Britney shows up – cheers!
- Every time Minamino is being all tsun – take a sip
- Every time anyone thinks Jo’s too old – take a sip
- Every time we see past coach with long hair – take a sip
- Every time Leo says indeed – take a sip
I save all my screencaps on my Pinterest and you can find more there if you are interested. But I still like to show you a few in the post. If you’re like me, screencaps are something that really helps you decide to watch an anime or not.