Being the lead singer and most popular member of the idol group Sweet Diva for four years running Sakura Hagiwara is on top of the world bathing in the glory of the spotlight and constantly serenaded by the cheers of an adoring fanbase. One day when her idol group strikes a deal to guest star on a wrestling program Sakuras friend Elena starts horsing around in the ring earning the ire of veteran wrestler Rio Kazama. Enraged at the slight Rio humiliates and injures Elena before insulting the pop idol scene... And Sakura has quite frankly heard enough. With the pride of her sisterhood on her back Sakura takes a break from her idol career to jump in the ring herself and no matter how long it takes she vows she WILL shut Rio up once and for all. Will this outsider to the world of combat sports be able to prove once and for all that who the fuck cares Ive already put way more effort into this paragraph then the writers of this show put into their story. Hey remember Studio Arms? Weve talked about Studio Arms before oh lord have we ever and this outing is no more impressive than the last two I reviewed. I havent seen every anime that theyve produced but Im pretty sure the only ones I thought had any sort of visual quality to them were Valkyrie Drive Mermaid and some three episode OVA about puberty. The budget for this series was very obviously paper thin which is kind of a problem when you consider the fact that it explores not one but two forms of entertainment that require heavy choreography and a lot of physical movement in real life professional wrestling and idol culture. Now Ive stated in the past that a low budget should not hold an anime back from looking impressive there are ways to manage your budget so that the strengths of your production are highlighted over the weaknesses and to its credit Wanna be the Strongest in the World which Im just now realizing might have gotten its name as a reference to the 1986 OVA Wannabes which also revolved around womens wrestling does actually have one pretty impressive trick up its sleeve... In theory at least. What this show does to cut corners at least for the most part is abuse the fuck out of submission holds. There is some brilliance to this as submission moves are often jokingly referred to as rest holds by wrestling fans as a reference to the fact that wrestlers will often do something like this when they need to take a short break or communicate the next few moves so its not the worst idea in the world to use the same principal to save on your animation budget... Again in theory. In practice though results are just as important as your method and regardless of whatever money they saved by showing lingering shots of Sakura struggling to break free of the boston crab the rest of the series still looks like ass. There are frozen key frames all over the place movement within them is minimal and awkward a lot of the striking and grappling is portrayed through extreme closeups and actionlines and while there are a few fullyanimated shots of idols dancing theyre reused like three times if you dont include the ending credits. On top of the terrible animation every single detail about the design is bland generic and uninspired. That applies to the wrestling promotion Berserk who operates in a minimalist ring and... Is it just me or does the crowd size sometimes change between shots? From some angles it looks like theyre performing in a legitimate arena but in others it looks like a bingo hall. None of the wrestlers are memorable theyre just a bunch of generic anime waifus in skimpy outfits and even the few performers who have their own gimmicks have the laziest gimmicks you could imagine. Ill give them some credit that most of the wrestling moves DO look technically accurate but only most because you still have submissions where it looks like the users legs are bending in unnatural directions and people slapping dropkicks away with their bare hands. The blandness also extends to the inuniverse idol group Sweet Diva who are generic from their name to their kisekaedefault outfits. Everything is poorly framed tilted like youre watching fucking Battlefield Earth it is just a constant eyesore. The voice acting was a Funimation effort and God bless them they put way too much effort into this. Lindsay Seidel is on her A game as Sakura and no matter how ridiculous or degrading the material is whether shes giving dumb speeches about her characters motivation or screaming out in agony while also sounding suspiciously sexual she is holding nothing back. I was also kind of impressed by Caitlin Glass who played an offscreen ring announcer for the entire series and actually did a good job conveying the action and storytelling in the ring to the audience in a way that sounds way more cool than it actually is just like the pros do. There are actors who sound like they might be phoning it in... Its legitimately hard to tell how much effort Monica Rial put into playing Elena for example... Because out of the entire cast theres maybe one character who has a shred of personality outside of what the plot needed out of her. That character is played by Cristina Vee and because the character is hyper and enthusiastic its probably the first time Ive ever found that specific actor to be annoying. But once again Funimation has taken a sledgehammer to a simple job that only required a hammer and I have mixed feelings on that but I do appreciate the effort. So its weird how little anime there are about prowrestling right? Its not like there arent any to choose from but for a lot of reasons youd expect there to be more. Storytelling in professional wrestling is typically overthetop and corny but it can also have a hidden depth to it especially when those stories are told over time and that sounds like an anime to me. Its not even a cultural issue because Japan is one of the top wrestling markets in the world alongside the US Canada and Mexico. Even stranger is the fact that while the Japanese wrestling scene is highly prestigious in general they are on top of the world when it comes to womens wrestling. If youre even slightly interested in the medium I highly recommend you look up a few Joshi matches theyre on another level. The only womens wrestling Ive seen in the western world that comes close to it was early NXT. But yeah as big as wrestling is over there youd expect more anime to cash in on the craze. I mean hell theres a ton of Idol anime right? Well there is a womens wrestling anime its this one and it is probably the dumbest anime Ive ever seen and while I could point fingers at a series of idiotic decisions made throughout it all boils down to one specific decision the anime made... It portrays wrestling at face value. Now quick disclaimer here Im not going to be using the terms real and fake in reference to wrestling because for one we all know wrestling is scripted. The results are predetermined the match is a performance people who hate each other on screen are sometimes really good irl friends and people who seem really close and even work together in a tag team might actually hate each others guts. Its a TV show but you cant really call it fake when the people involved are beating the shit out of themselves and each other all year with no offseason and theyre the only actors who do all their own stunts. Its easy to immediately reject pro wrestling as fake but theres a lot more nuance to it than you think. This show ignores all of that. Characters are really fighting each other and trying to win and it never ever makes any sense. Before we get into why this doesnt work plotwise lets talk about why wrestling is the way it is. There are two reasons. First off and the most serious is the level of physical risk. When I said before that wrestling was a performance I meant it. People rehearse. Wrestlers train not just to toughen themselves up and rise above pain like the anime suggests but to have the coordination to take other peoples attacks in as painless and safe a way as possible. Yes there is a ton of cooperation involved and I dont think its unfair to say that more than 90 percent of pro wrestling moves if used in any other context would result in a serious injury for worse for one or both parties. Wrestlers in Wanna Be have to take 100 throws and suplexes to be initiated into the promotion but in real life its far more important to learn how to safely perform a move that looks painful than it actually is to learn how to deal with pain. Some of the best inring performers of all time have dealt with painkiller addictions after all. And the second reason is that if youre actually fighting someone to try and beat them before they beat you the kind of fighting they do in pro wrestling would be horribly inefficient. Professional wrestling is a spectacle first and foremost. Its style over substance and for the most part it looks nothing like mixed martial arts for a damn good reason. There are plenty of submission moves that you could easily punch kick or even scratch your way out of. When youve knocked somebody out cold you cant just pick them up by grabbing the back of their head and dragging them to their feet and then throw them into the ropes in such a way that theyre the ones running and they have the wherewithal to turn around at the right time to rebound off the ropes. If you were really trying to battle someone into submission you WOULD fight like MMA fighters do... Strike from a distance get close enough to bind their movements and then pummel from close range. You wouldnt even dare pin someone without kicking them in the head first just to make sure. The reason this anime fails on a basic level is because in order to take a concept like this seriously youd have to be extremely young and naive and its an ecchi show aimed at adults. Its target audience is old enough to see through the illusion and to understand how fucking stupid every aspect of the scenario is. No selfrespecting idol group would let their stars wrestle for a company where the fighting was genuine because bruises would hurt their looks and injuries would hurt their ability to dance. No wrestler after being put into a boston crab for an extended period of time by someone who was actually trying to hurt them would be able to stand afterwards let alone keep going. Characters take unprotected weaponshots to the head and it doesnt cause a concussion but they break their legs by falling off the turnbucklemaybe. Theres blatant interference in these matches outside individuals getting involved with no repercussions whatsoever yet nobody looks at this as a precedent that THEY can start bringing backup to the ring too. But hey what can you expect from a show where an idol singer becomes a professional wrestler right? Thats just silly right? Well no it has happened before and its really not that uncommon. Theres a short shelf life for idols and a good amount of them transition to voice acting or other media afterwards including wrestling. The most famous example is probably Maki Itoh a former member of the idol group Linq. She kind of struggled in the group at first as her looks and style didnt conform to the groups aesthetic and she wasnt very popular. She never really stood out until Linq did a guest start spot at a wrestling show and she used the appearance to her advantage to play to the crowd and promote herself to a new audience... A gambit that worked but not how she expected. Her popularity as an idol never really increased but she was a smash hit among wrestling fans which inspired her to pull double duty until Linq decided to cut her from its lineup. Being cut allowed her to pursue wrestling full time and after adding The Fired Idol to her monicker it paid off big time for her. Now I want to be clear about something Maki Itoh is not a great wrestler. Shes not technically gifted or some unlikely prodigy. If you want an example of how limited she is in the ring look up her match against Riho at AEW Dark Elevation and compare it with the rest of Rihos work to understand just how slow she had to work to carry Maki to a decent match. It doesnt matter though because you dont have to be a tough as nails ring general to succeed in that business. Maki Itoh has succeeded primarily as a comedy jobber endearing herself to fans through character work and force of personality combining her history of failed endeavors with her abrasive sense of humor to create a complex persona that people cant get enough of. Not only did she find more freedom and acceptance as a wrestler because its a business that rewards individuality far more than idol culture does but its probably going to last a lot longer as well. If Maki Itohs story sounds way more interesting than the story of Wanna Be its because the truth is professional wrestling is far more interesting to watch if you know its a work than it would be if you were taking it at face value. Wrestlers have far more interesting stories behind the scenes than they do on stage and knowing about it is an essential part of the experience. If they make us believe that theyre actually fighting to win its not because were stupid but because theyre good enough at what they do that theyre able to tell a story thats worth getting lost in. Compared to all that Wanna Be is just pathetic. Watching Sakura fall to the same three submission moves over and over again until she learns how to exploit a weird transition nobody does in real life in order to escape... Even though grabbing the ropes to escape didnt work earlier in the series and her opponents just dragged her back into the middle of the ring which they mysteriously stop doing at this point in the story... is just insulting. I can say without exaggeration that this show is the most embarrassing thing to happen to wrestling in an anime since they mispronounced the word suplex in the Angel Beats dub. As for how it handles idol culture... Ill be honest with you Im no expert on that stuff but it felt pretty bad too. For example Sakura is the lead singer of Sweet Diva which... Do Idol groups have lead singers? I dont know Im just used to the idea of everyone getting more or less equal time singing. Maybe each group is different. What I do know is they seriously downplay the amount of exercise and physical conditioning an idol has to go through. Yeah being a wrestler is hard a lot of working out goes into it but the thing is you can be a successful wrestler with a wide range of body types but idols have a consistent standard they have to meet both for dancing and aesthetic appearance. Also theres a story... It isnt terrible... Sakura goes pro to defend the honor of idol singers which is stupid but she does realize its stupid which is I havent given her any shit for it. She falls in love with it has to deal with being torn between two worlds some convoluted stuff happens towards the end... Its fine. Its a perfectly functional character arc but I seriously doubt youre going to remember any of it afterwards. But I guess before I wholeheartedly condemn this waste of space theres one more aspect of the anime I should address. The first time I ranted about this show way back in 2017 the one and only comment I got was from someone who claimed they enjoyed it as an ecchi title because they werent triggered by the same things I was. Now ignoring how meaningless rightwing buzzwords are if my criticisms thus far count as me being triggered he does raise a good question. Its an ecchi show so how sexy is it? Well I can only talk from my own personal viewing experience but honestly it doesnt do anything for me. Im not immune to fanservice but bad animation is a barrier for me and if Master of Martial Hearts couldnt excite me this series never had a chance. Im not sure what kind of fetish its trying to satisfy with all the extreme closeups on womensclothed privates while theyre screaming in erotic pain but its a fetish I do not personally have and while there IS some proper nudity in a handful of shower scenes theyre still badly drawn with inconsistent proportions and Im just picky like that. Is it as bad as Master of Martial Hearts? Well thats complicated. Its not as objectively awful on a fundamental level but it IS however twice as long meaning you suffer just as much while watching it. Theyre equally shitty in my opinion. Wanna Be the Strongest in the World is available from Funimation. The original manga... Dont worry I didnt know it existed until now either... Is not available stateside. Theres no other supplemental material to mention but I actually would recommend following Maki Itoh on Twitter because shes hilarious. Seriously she roasts people like a Japanese Wendys. The question Id like to end on is why did I put myself through the torture of watching this series again? What was I ever going to get out of it? Lets be real people do not read reviews for anime that are as obscure as this. Once I post it its probably going to get four upvotes before it gets knocked off the front page by three different Jobless Reincarnation reviews. This show hasnt been relevant since Brian Zane tore it up a few years ago so why am I reviewing it? Because its an excuse to talk about wrestling. That is literally it. Im at a place in my reviewing tenure where Im more concerned with reaching the 150 review milestone than actually seeing any success and I just felt like using my 141st review as an excuse to talk about wrestling on an anime site. This isnt the worst anime Ive ever seen or even the worst Ive reviewed but its a serious candidate for the dumbest and Ive already taken it more seriously than it deserves. I give Wanna Be the Strongest in the World a 1/10.
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