By Jonny Clare
Wanna be the Strongest in the World (Sekai de Ichiban Tsuyoku Naritai)
Episode 10: “Sakura’s Fate!”
Just when I assumed I had this show figured out and got the notion it was leading me down the primrose path, it whacks me right in between the eyes and says in no uncertain terms, “don’t underestimate me and I’m a lot smarter than you”. Leaving me eating a large slice of humble pie.
Last week, I foolishly thought things were going awry when the newbie and karate world champion, Moe Fukuoka, turned pro after a month of training, passing the Berserk special test, “Hell of a Hundred Throws”. Subsequently, at Moe’s respectful request, her debut match was arranged with the very girl that trained her, Sakura Hagiwara. So far, so good, but then, in the midst of all this and completely out of the blue, Rio Kazama pointed out that her and Sakura would be having their rubber match before Moe’s debut. At that point, due to the spontaneity of the announcement, I knew something was afoot, and I wasn’t shocked when Blue Panther made an appearance to interrupt their match. The masked assassin beat down Rio and challenged Sakura to a bout with Sakura’s career on the line. She declared Sakura an eyesore on the sport and that the ring’s a sacred place only true wrestlers may enter.
It was a great moment and a fantastic heel promo, but here’s where I had a problem. Firstly, following Blue Panther laying down the gauntlet, Sakura, inexplicably asks for a “hair vs. mask” match. Sakura’s already putting her career at stake, why did she feel the need to risk her hair? I don’t know, maybe she’s hedging her bets and wants a free trim. Whatever the reason, it seemed superfluous.
Secondly, earlier in that episode, the Shangri-La champion, Jackal Tojo, confronted Juri Sanada at the Miyabi Gym, accusing her of being Blue Panther, to which Juri confessed. So where is the drama of Blue Panther losing her mask? Between that scene and the one that climaxed the episode, it became obvious Juri would not be revealed as Blue Panther. I’m probably nitpicking, although if Sanada had denied being the mysterious assailant, she could have been a very effective red herring.
Anyway, none of that really matters, because in this installment, the second issue was cleared up and it played out so well I couldn’t care less about my first gripe. Apparently, Jackal and Misaki Toyoda were right all along and Juri was Blue Panther, but that’s all I’ll say on the matter. However, I will say Misaki put over Juri, mentioning Juri’s higher in the global rankings and possibly her greatest rival. And talking of global, after disappearing for a while, we finally caught up with the members of Sweet Diva as they are on the brink of opening their own theater and about to embark on a fourteen country world tour. They’re all extremely excited with the exception of a forlorn Elena, who claims Sweet Diva’s missing something.
Moving on, this episode shook up the usual standard structure and paid off the story in a big way. The first half being dedicated to Moe’s debut, which, in the shadow of the Tokyo Dome, took place at a packed Korakuen Hall. Moe may be a quirky character, but when she gets in the ring, she’s all business. Even against her hero, Sakura. Moe’s cute smile quickly dissipated and she got the advantage early. Sakura got thrown off by Moe’s karate footwork and the debutant eventually locked in an Octopus Hold, a move that was also used by the Great Fukuoka, Moe’s grandfather. As this happened, we flashbacked to a conversation Moe and Sakura had at the gym. Moe shared her insecurities, asking Sakura if she missed her previous pop-star life and wonders if she made the right decision, because there’s no going back to the world of karate.
There’s little else I can say about this enthralling chapter, except that it was exceptional. Throughout the ten weeks of this show, the writers have performed a master class in character building, Moe being the perfect example. She’s a multi-faceted person that’s only been on the scene for two episodes and I already love her. But that wasn’t what made this so great. The closing scenes were sensational and had the best cliffhanger of the season so far. If only real wrestling companies could book this good.