In my first review of Demon Slayer, I mentioned that it was my favorite ongoing manga. While I still love the series to death, in the past month another title has usurped its spot for me and is even a contender to be one of my all-time favorite manga. That series is Hinomaru Sumo. It’s no understatement to say that Hinomaru Sumo is a bit of an anomaly in Weekly Shonen Jump’s current lineup. Despite running for over 4 years at this point, it has never had more than middling volume sales in Japan, and even though it currently has an anime, it has had little effect on increasing the series’ popularity. These metrics are far from reflective of Hinomaru Sumo’s quality as a manga. Kawada has crafted a passionate and hot-blooded story about overcoming adversity, and encapsulates the best aspects of shonen sports while also pushing the modern boundaries of the genre. The current Professional Sumo arc is the best representation of these ideas, focusing on the brutality of the professional sumo world and the mental trauma that it can inflict on its participants. Given its precarious performance, I had given up any hope of the series being legally released in English, but with the launch of Shueisha’s new Manga Plus service, my abandoned pipe-dream of a Hinomaru Sumo simulpub has become a reality. Let’s not stall any longer and get straight into chapter 226!
The chapter starts off with a brief flashback to Akhira and Shido’s childhoods, depicting how they were rivals aiming for the title of Yokozuna. After entering high school, the gap between the two of them widened causing Akihira to be regulated to a “second place” sumo wrestler. As they now face off against each other in the professional ring, Akihira wishes to rekindle his former rivalry by finally defeating Shido in an official bout. Akihira’s character arc has been an interesting one to witness throughout this arc. Since his defeats by Sosuke and Chihiro at Inter-High, he has struggled with the reality that he became complacent with being a second-tier wrestler in high school and strayed from his passion for sumo as a result. In order to become proud of his sumo, he believes that he needs to defeat Shido and finally clear the wall that haunted him in his high school years. Akihira’s drive towards his goal can even be seen in his stable choice, choosing the same one Yokozuna Jin’o despite it preventing him from facing the Yokozuna in an official bout. Instead of viewing Jin’o to be the ultimate goal of testing his strength like other wrestlers, he considers him simply to be a means to which he can acquire the strength to finally defeat Shido. As the match begins, Shido appears to have the advantage, pushing back Akihira quickly. As Akihira strengthens his resolve though, we see him break from Shido’s onslaught and finally match his former rival’s strength. As the chapter ends, both wrestlers throw each other out of the ring, with Shido being happy that Akihira has broken free of the limitations he had in high school.
Kawada’s artwork is consistently fantastic and is a highlight of every chapter of Hinomaru Sumo. One his best artistic qualities is his use of two-page spreads to showcase the signature sumo moves of wrestlers. In this chapter, we see this first done with Shido’s arm lock throw, emphasizing the sheer ferocity of him swinging a large wrestler like Akihira with the vivid imagery of a pool of blood. The final spread of the chapter is an equally impactful one, as we see both Akihira and Shido throwing each other out of the ring. You can see the intensity on both of the wrestler’s faces and body gestures as they give it their all to win this bout. Kawada’s use of these pages drives to the reader the excitement that can Sumo offer and immerses you within the match itself.
The end of this chapter makes it unclear who is the victor of this match, and it really could go either way. This is far from the last time that the series will focus on these two wrestlers given their positions in the September tournament and the obstacles that Hinomaru needs to face in order to fight Jin’o again. Regardless of the outcome of this match, Hinomaru Sumo will most definitely continue the excitement in the coming weeks.