Being a sports anime, a dad anime, and a surrealist comedy all in one is a tough sell, that’s for sure.
I’m still in two minds about this one. As an anime original being produced by MAPPA and featuring a professional gymnast as the main character, many people were drawing early parallels between this and Yuri on Ice, although I have to admit, I was rooting for Taisou Zamurai to carve out its own definitively unique identity. Based on the first episode, I’d say it’s certainly done that – the question is, did it did so in a good way?
Personally, I’m still trying to make up my mind about that. On the one hand, there’s no doubt that Taisou Zamurai brings something completely different to the table, not just in relation to Yuri on Ice, but to anime in general. After all, when was the last time you saw a show about an aging pro-gymnast, who’s also a widower and single dad, who’s also being kinda stalked by a foreigner ninja, who himself is apparently being stalked by a bunch of (highly athletic) secret agents? Meanwhile, the MC’s daughter, quite apart from being cute as all hell and extremely mature for her age, has a pet… uh, giant mutant bird of some kind, and his mother-in-law looks and acts like some sort of cross between an Osakan obachan and a real-estate mogul. Did I miss anything? Very likely – there’s a lot to unpack here, making the premiere not only fun and lively but also more than a little thematically chaotic.
Of course, the downside to this is that there’s little in the way of breathing room, and I felt like I had little chance to react emotionally. I appreciate the fact that Taisou Zamurai doesn’t weigh itself down by the inevitable angst of a gymnast facing steady downhill performance, injury, and retirement, but every time I was ready to really relate to the guy, the episode turned one of his lines into a comedy moment or, I don’t know, introduced some kind of gigantic tropical pet bird. Being a sports anime, a dad anime, and a surrealist comedy all in one is a tough sell, that’s for sure.
The second, less important but still obvious issue with the series is that it’s clearly facing budget restrictions. The opening CG looks incredibly awkward and out of place, and there are plenty of still frames throughout the entire episode. The artwork itself, while okay-looking, also lacks any oomph factor – and while I don’t think I’ll get hung up on this, I suspect many viewers might, especially if they were anticipating something more similar to Yuri.
On the whole, Taisou Zamurai is an odd beast, and while I’m not yet sold on the series, I’m happy to continue watching to see just where it decides to go. It should be an interesting ride.