Hinomaru Sumo #231-233
The September Tournament is raging on and the status quo has changed in ways that no one expected. Chapter 231 focused on the match between Hinomaru and Dojikiri, with both wrestlers bearing their full strength and resolve within the ring. Dojikiri is someone who Hinomaru had admired since his middle school sumo days, as prior to his growth spurt, Dojikiri also suffered from being outmatched in height against his fellow opponents. In this way, Dojikiri knows better than anyone in the professional world about the physical struggles that Hinomaru has had to endure to reach his sumo rank, and the resolve that it takes to dedicate your life to such a harsh sport. Dojikiri also represents the pinnacle of “Japanese” sumo, considered the wrestler closest to the foreign Yokozuna Jin’o in terms of strength, and is thus a necessary challenge that Hinomaru must overcome if he wishes to face Jin’o in the ring once again. Even with his injury from his previous match, Dojikiri’s skill allows him to face Hinomaru on equal ground in the initial charge. This leads to the end of the chapter, where Hinomaru intensifies his offense and charges again towards Dojikiri. Right as the charge creates an impact, we see Dojikiri mentally convey his blessing to win the tournament to Hinomaru before he is pushed out of the ring.
Chapters 232 and 233 focus on the after-effects this match has had on the tournament as well as the mental states of the wrestlers themselves. Dojikiri’s loss alongside the severity of his injury from Okanehira leads him to retire from the tournament, stating in his resignation speech that it will now be up to Kusanagi, Mikazuki, and Hinomaru to remove Jin’o from his pedestal. Okanehira of course realizes his own exclusion from Dojikiri’s statement and believes it’s a sign that he isn’t strong enough to maintain his lead. Okanehira has been relegated to second place in sumo his entire life, and now that he has reached the peak, he has begun to doubt whether he truly deserves the position that he is in. This internal turmoil only worsens as he sees Jin’o satisfied with Hinomaru’s sumo match on Day 9. As a result, Okanehira’s sumo continues to get more brutal and intense as he continues his undefeated streak. Okanehira’s transition to this violent sumo style shares some strong parallels to what Hinomaru experienced with his own sumo earlier in the arc. His fear of losing has caused Okanehira to become obsessed with defeating his opponent at any cost. As the tournament continues, Hinomaru and Okanehira finally face each other on Day 11. Hinomaru has become aware of Okanehira’s reckless sumo, and has resolved to end the match quickly to prevent harm to either of them. Okanehira represents a route that Hinomaru could have went down if he continued with his previous dangerous sumo. Now, Hinomaru wants to prove to himself that he doesn’t need to fight with his life on the line in order to win. As the match finally starts, Hinomaru attempts his plan to end the match quickly, only to be stopped in his tracks with a soft-receiving technique by Okanehira. Blocked into corner against Okanehira’s incoming reckless sumo, chapter 233 ends with Hinomaru suddenly unleashing his own reckless sumo to counter the assault.
As usual, Kawada’s artwork is spectacular and effectively conveys the intensity of each sumo match. The bout between Dojikiri and Hinomaru is especially well-done, with Hinomaru’s final charge against Dojikiri being done in a beautiful two-page spread. In the downtime between matches, the visuals transition to a more casual and subdued feel, allowing for an appropriate respite from the high stakes surrounding Hinomaru. That being said, final page of chapter 233 is a definite highlight of this batch of chapters, as seeing Hinomaru and Okanehira’s reckless sumo styles clash immediately escalates the tension to new heights and makes the reader excited for next week’s chapter.
With one of the top contenders out of the running, the competition has only gotten more fierce to win the September tournament, and Hinomaru is in one of his toughest matches yet. While Hinomaru has unleashed his reckless sumo style, he seems resolved to not be consumed by it like he once was, so it will be interesting to see his true motive behind this choice in the coming chapters. That being said, this is sure to be a brutal match and one worth keeping your eyes glued to.