Taisou Samurai Anime Review
Imagine pursuing something you love your whole life, but then time catches up to you, pats you in the back and says, “It’s time to stop.” That is the story of Joutarou Aragaki, a renowned Japanese gymnast who was advised to finally retire from his gymnastic career after decades in the sport.
Joutarou “Joe” Aragaki, given the moniker of “Samurai” due to his signature hairstyle, suffered a shoulder injury following his wife’s death five years ago, at the height of his career. At present (the start of the anime), Joe continues to go through strenuous training to push the limits of his body. However, when this continued to fail, he was advised by Noriyuki Amakusa, his coach, to finally retire. Intending to break the news to his daughter, Rei, Joe took her on a trip to Ego Wonderland. However, his attempts to do so was repeatedly disrupted by his own reluctance, as well as by an enthusiastic foreigner and self-proclaimed ninja named Leonardo, whom they encountered there.
Being unable to inform his daughter of his retirement, as well as learning of Leonardo’s desire to witness his gymnastics again, Joe surprised everyone by announcing his plan to continue competing in the sport. With his family, friends, and Leonardo supporting him, Joutarou faces this great challenge head-on and prove to himself and the world that gymnastics is what he is made for.
Taisou Samurai is an original anime series by MAPPA. It has 11 episodes and was aired from October of 2020 to December of the same year. I describe this anime as a heartwarming and inspiring show that’s both pleasant to the eyes and ears. The last one sounded weird, I know, but I’ll get to that later.
Heartwarming. The story, though a bit complex, was not difficult to follow and touched on various themes. One theme in particular was family. The anime, however, did not only focus on his daughter and mother-in-law, but also involved his coach, teammate, and friends who supported his new endeavor. The “family” in Taisou Samurai encompassed everyone who stood behind Joe.
Joutarou’s relationship with his daughter was one of the most wholesome and adorable parts of the series. The struggles Joe went through as a father, after his wife’s death, and the struggles Rei went through as a daughter of a single-parent gave way for a really good story arc that made their father-daughter relationship and bond stronger.
Leonardo’s friendship with the Aragaki family, too, was one of my favorites. He was one of the people that gave Joe the strength and reason to continue pursuing his passion, as well as being a friend with Rei. Leo was the main source of fun in the series, and, despite having his own separate story, acted as somewhat of a catalyst for most of the important events in the show. This includes Joe continuing his career, as well as causing Rei to be honest with her father for the first time.
Inspiring. What makes this series inspiring are the themes employed and how they were handled. Besides the previously mentioned theme of family, the anime also delved into the subject of Man vs. Self and Faith vs. Doubt. Joe faces the greatest hurdle in his career: himself. He has become too old to still be competing in such a sport, and along with his shoulder injury, has been hindered to make any progress in his skills. The gymnastics world continues to change, with better and younger competitors entering the sport every year.
Joe is hindered by his own physical limits, as well as doubts (both from himself and others) of ever becoming great again in the sport. However, Joutarou has traits that most of us would do well to have: faith and optimism. These two may sound similar, and could be the same, but I’ll differentiate them here. Joe has faith in himself and his abilities. He knows he can still do it. With proper training and discipline, Joe can still be relevant in the world of gymnastics. He is also optimistic, and avoids looking at himself or his abilities in the negative light. Despite seeing how skilled and more flexible his juniors are, Joe does not let these put him down. He is focused on himself and in his sport alone.
Joutarou’s story is inspiring because it teaches us to have faith in ourselves and remain positive in the midst of challenges. His mental strength is amazing, as expected of a veteran athlete, and his ability to remain focused on his craft and not be distracted, or intimidated, by others is worth the praise.
Joe’s character also breaks stereotypes involving masculinity. Despite his physique and “samurai” look, he is a kind man and a gentle father. He is very respectful and understanding, as evidenced by the fact that he did not despise his coach after the latter refused to continue training him when he announced he would not be retiring from gymnastics.
Pleasant to the eyes and ears. The art style was vibrant and soft, and the animation was smooth. It seems they used a bit of 3D and blended it with 2D, but it all worked out just fine. I love and appreciate the shots during the swings, especially the first person POVs. Overall, the movements were well-animated. The whole anime just radiated a sort of relaxing, yet fun, vibe.
Of course, how could I forget, the banger opening and ending of this series. The opening sequence was great. The song used is “Shanghai Honey” by Orange Range. The anime made a cover for it wherein the voice actors of the main casts sang the song for the OP. This catchy song, along with the accompanying colorful visuals made this opening sequence addicting.
The ending too was good. In fact, it’s my favorite. The visuals for the ED was “simple” yet it maintained that chill and vibrant tone that the whole anime had. The song used is “Yume ja Nai” by Hatena and has a really catchy music that I listen to sometimes.
Joutarou and Leonardo. Joe and Leo are like two sides of the same coin. Their struggles are different, yet somewhat similar. Joe is older, forced to almost retire from his passion due to people expecting less from him because they think his time in the world of gymnastics is over. While on the other hand, Leo is younger, chose to stop pursuing his passion due to people expecting much from him because they see him as a young and talented individual. The anime portrayed how the public sees (and treats) athletes based on their age. When we see someone who’s old, we may subconsciously expect less from them overtime, thinking they’ve passed their prime. But when we see someone younger enter the picture, we may subconsciously expect more from them, thinking they’ve just started and they’ll get better as they continue on.
Conclusion. Taisou Samurai is an amazing anime. Lighthearted and entertaining, it’s a series I would highly recommend to people, who are not only into sports anime, but also those who love a simple but interesting series that they can take their time watching. I gave it a score of 9/10 on MAL. That’s how much I loved it.
The finale felt complete and thus I didn’t feel any need for a second season. Seeing Leo’s mature physique, the Aragaki family visiting him overseas to watch his performance, and that final shot of Leo on the stage made me literally clap my hands as the screen went dark. Perfect. Thanks for reading.