In 2002 the world of Japanese mens gymnastics was still strong. Jotaro Aragaki devoted his entire life to the sport but things didnt go as planned. His coach Amakusa suggests he retires. But then an encounter comes that changes the fate of the Aragaki family forever. Ill be honest: I pick this up based solely on the image poster? key image? Surely there has to be a name for these things? that Funimation used: Lets see weve got 1 mention of gymnastics 2 a bright and happy color scheme 3 guy who looks like an adult not creepy 4 little girl unsexualized 5 random assortment of weird items. So the vibe Im getting is not serious but not wacky with gymnastics. And gymnastics is cool Im a simple person really. We start off with Jotaro in his late 20s presumably past his prime as a pro gymnast and with few recent wins compared to his glory days as the gymnastics samurai in 90s Olympics the nickname coming from his ponytail hairstyle. With his career stagnating and a daughter to raise he must make changes. While trying to work up the courage to tell his daughter and biggest cheerleader that hes going to retire they take a trip to Edo Wonderland and meet a character who changes everything. This wasnt your typical sports anime though the gymnastics are featured and fun to watch. Jotaro has competitors yes but his main problem isnt a rival its having to change himself. And not just work harder take things seriously as is normal in sports stories but he essentially has to relearn how to listen to people. Jotaro was a nice interesting protagonist. Hes not mean or dumb but he tends to take things at face value and sometimes not even that processing comments through the filter of what hes already thinking about and therefore missing things that arent metaphorically flashing neon signs in front of him. And its not just played for laughs its an actual weakness: hes completely missed things his longtime coach has been trying to tell him and it nearly leaves him gymless. He was emotionally supported by his wife and when she dieda few years I think? before the series startedhe didnt notice that his young daughter started picking up some of those emotional responsibilities. So through the series Jotaro has to learn to listenactually listento his fellow adult professionals if hes going to be a real competitor. Dont mistake this for a show about a manbaby or deadbeat dad though. Jotaro struggles to balance home life and pro life but a large part of the show is him realizing that the balance doesnt just happen and working to pay better attention to daughter Rei so she doesnt feel the need to act as an adult that shes not. And hes a caring and loving dad not just a funloving bro. Theres a theme through the series: whether in gymnastics or personal life what has been happening is not sustainable and needs to change. Not because what has been happening is horrible or bad but because what has been happening is based on expectations bodies people or conditions that have changed. If the characters dont change in response theyll stagnate. Jotaro isnt the only focus of the series however. His daughter Rei and the ninja Leo they pick up from a historical theme park in episode 1 get a lot of the focus in the second half of the series. Both characters have their own issues and insecurities that show more as the series goes on: both have their own relationships with Jotaro and their own emotional investment in his career that they partially use as a proxy for their more uncomfortable personal issues. The setting is 2002 and The Gymnastics Samurai wont let you forget it whether its the characters cell phones or the ganguro bartender Ayu a wonderful character about whom I would watch an entire series. The show while overall light has some deep themes of attachments and relationships how people see themselves and others and how feeling other peoples expectations or even what you think their expectations are can affect you even if you have a different relationship with the thing being expected. Verdict English Dub? Yes Visuals: Very nice modern and clean lines. CG models are used for some of the gymnastics routines but theyre done fairly well. Worth Watching? Yes. Its not particularly realistic ninja Leo is pursued by mysterious sunglasseswearing professionals during several episodes for reasons that are explained later but which you can generally accept as cartoon drama the family owns a talking turquoise bird but it was fun. And more than that I enjoyed a sports show with an adult protagonist and the growth the characters but especially Jotaro have in learning to change.
72 /100
16 out of 18 users liked this review