By Jonny Clare
Wanna be the Strongest in the World (Sekai de Ichiban Tsoyoku Naritai)
Episode 9: “The Astounding Newbie”
After Sakura Hagiwara’s valiant defeat to the Shangri-La World Champ, Jackal Tojo, Sakura exclaimed her intentions to be the strongest in the world. However, that quest would have to wait for another time, because there’s a new kid on the block who needs to be introduced. Her name is Moe Fukuoko, she’s a karate world champion at a high school level and the unrelated niece to Inoba, the Berserk Gym President. Turns out Moe’s grandfather was Inoba’s mentor back when the two gentleman were wrestlers. Inoba sees a lot of “fighting smarts” in the diminutive, clumsy, kooky, wide-eyed youngster and she certainly brings a comical dimension to the proceedings.
Within moments of entering the gym, bouncing off the walls like a ball of energy, Moe lays out Rio Kazama with one kick when the Berserk stalwart challenges the newcomer who’s running amok. The sardonic Rio is most unpleased and her stern expression says it all. Whilst I’m on the subject of Rio, with her deadpan one-liners, her music like Mitsuharu Misawa’s, and her ring entrance outfit that reminds me of Akira Hokuto and Ultima Tigrita, I have to say she’s become one of my favorite characters. Now back to Moe, upon seeing Sakura, Moe’s favorite wrestler, the star struck junior flips out, pouncing affectionately onto her hero. It isn’t too long before it’s decided that the unwilling Sakura will train the naturally gifted newbie, leading to some hilarious results.
Meanwhile, at the malevolent Miyabi Team Gym, another new character, Juri Sanada, is sparring with an unnamed opponent. Sanada delivers a Juri Crush, a move similar to Chigusa Nagayo’s Death Valley Bomb, and she follows it up with a Spider’s Web, which resembles a Koji Clutch. As this happens, Jackal Tojo enters and the two go for coffee and an enlightening conversation. We find out Juri used to be a Shangri-La wrestler and left the circuit to start the Miyabi Gym. The gym’s making strides, but they’re not in the Berserk‘s echelon. Jackal then accuses Juri of being Blue Panther, the enigma who crashed the Rookie All Star Match. Juri obliges, admitting she indeed is the masked assassin, albeit with a smirk on her face. Jackal asks what was the motivation behind the heinous attack. The answer’s simple, Sanada’s gunning for Sakura.
I’m not convinced Juri Sanada is Blue Panther. For one, this revelation seemed a bit too convenient and a waste of an excellent angle. It also made something that happens at the end of the episode quite redundant. I’m pretty sure a swerve’s coming and it will arrive in the form of Jackal and Misaki’s friend, the photographer, Kanae. She’s always seen at ringside or in the arena during matches, yet she becomes inconspicuous when Blue Panther makes an appearance. Besides all that, this was a funny and intriguing chapter, if a little predictable and disjointed. My biggest criticism is a perplexing statement Sakura makes in the closing stages. I’d tell you what it is, but I don’t want to give away any spoilers. Although, I will say this, there’s two matches coming up, one of which that could have far reaching consequences for the world of women’s pro-wrestling in Japan.