First Impressions – Shakunetsu Kabaddi
It’s probably not a stretch to say that most of the world has no idea what kabaddi is. And to the extent that some anime fans do, it’s mostly because of a hilariously stupid 3-minute sketch in Chio-chan no Tsuugakuro a couple of years ago. But it’s the very oddity and obscurity of kabaddi that makes it sort of an interesting canvas for anime, and there are a couple of other elements to this series that are interesting as well.
Shakunetsu Kabaddi has kind of an interesting challenge in that sense, and I think the course it chose for its premiere was pretty clever. This episode is titled “What is Kabaddi?” and has the job of explaining the sport to an audience surely ignorant about in the main. It’s true to its title, explaining kabaddi in simple terms in a way that makes sense in the narrative. That would be explaining it to the protagonist, Yoigoshi Tatsuya, who knows as little about it as we do.
It’s interesting that the director of Burning Kabaddi is Ichikawa Kazuya. He directed a very underrated anime called Keppeki Danshi! Aoyama-kun which also featured a high school soccer player who disliked being touched (which was the source of his excellence). What made that show work was mostly its quirky sense of humor, and you can see traces of it in this one too – Ichikawa’s style seems to be a very good fit for the material. Yoigoshi has determined to cast aside his sporting life despite being a vaunted youth star to focus on his true passion – live-streaming. But he needs to work on his disguises.
Eventually Yoigoshi (who appears to live in a dorm) gets dragged to a kabaddi practice by a first-year gopher named Azemachi Souma. He’s initially resistant to any connection to what he considers “an idiotic sport played by idiots” but eventually gets blackmailed into joining a game by the vice-captain. Along the way we get a colorful and quite deft explanation of the sport, which I confess sounds halfway interesting the way Iura-kun describes it. The other two team members present and the hospitalized captain don’t make much of an impression in the premiere, but it doesn’t present a huge problem as both Iura and Azemachi are lively sorts.
I have no idea if there’s enough meat on these bones to make Shakunetsu Kabaddi a compelling series, but the premiere was quite fun. And the fact that Keppeki Danshi! Aoyama-kun improved so much over the course of its run gives me some hope that Ishikawa-sensei has the chops to make this work. It’s a busy season with a ton of prospects, especially on the weekend, but the docket isn’t exactly overloaded with slam-dunk sports series and there’s always room for a good one on my schedule. At the very least I saw nothing in this premiere to convince me Burning Kabaddi isn’t a candidate, so we’ll see what happens over the next couple of weeks.
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