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Sumo Do, Sumo Don’t (Shiko Funjatta)  

Director: Masayuki Suo

Akira Emoto - Anamaya
Robert Hoffman - Smiley
Masahiro Motoki - Shuhei
Kentaro Sakai
Misa Shimizu - Natsuko
Hiromasa Taguchi - Tanaki
Naoto Takenaka - Aoki

Year of release: 1992

In Japan, the intrusion of Western pop culture is all-invasive, displacing older traditions. Kyoritsu University’s sumo club, headed by Professor Anayama, is losing members to more popular pursuits such as football and scuba diving. In order to survive, he recruits some highly unorthodox recruits: a red-haired rugby-playing foreigner (Smiley), a skinny fella (Aoki) and a really big girl who has a crush on Aoki (Ritsuko). And last but not least, Yamamoto, a spoilt rich brat who is forced to join a sports club in order to graduate.

In the tradition of sport films and triumph-over-adversity movies everywhere, the team must pull together to defeat their rivals or lose face and their club. In such a film, the outcome is not unpredictable - it what happens on the way there that determines how good the film is. It’s an interesting and comical peek into the world of the sumo wrestlers, like finding out that the jockstraps that wrestlers wear are traditionally never washed - at all. Talk about jock itch. At times, you unexpectedly get caught up in the drama, when Ritsuko intervenes to help save the team and suffers as a result. Everything stills, including the music, and the camera focuses on their facial emotions and body language, almost like a silent movie. The meditative and patient qualities of the head coach Professor Anayama provides a poignant and philosophical counterpoint to the general mayhem around him, reflecting on the issues of culture and preserving one’s unique identity in the modern world.

Generally the cast is excellent, with perhaps the Westerner in the team, who seems to stick out a little like a first-time performer. An enjoyable and charming film.

Reviewed by Eden

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