Hello everyone. Before I get back on my usual posting schedule and as I slowly catch up with two/three week’s worth of seasonal anime, I wanted to write about Taisou Samurai. Now, it’s called Zamurai at times and Samurai at other but since I’m more used to the word samurai, I will refer to this series as such.
I don’t like making comparisons because for some reason in anime/manga social media it is taken as if I’m insinuating “x show being a rip off of y” or “x is better than y”. However, if I had to make a comparison just to give you a feeling about this series, I’d probably say it’s a less absurd version of Kakushigoto. A single dad with a daughter and some excentric but loving friends and family. Although, at the beginning of every season I try to give every release a chance, series like Kakushigoto, Taisou Samurai, Oshiete, Galko-chan! or Poputepipikku (Pop Team Epic) pique my interest right from the setting, compared to more action packed or fantasy-driven shounen titles. That’s why I kind of knew I’d love this series. And I was right.
Taisou Samurai is good in a lot of aspects that I didn’t expect it to be. In a society where young, athletic and abled bodies are the only types of bodies that are ‘acceptible’, beautiful and praised and the sports organizations putting strict lower age limits since the athletes only get younger and younger to dominate a multi-million industry, ageism is prevalent in society, and especially in sports more than ever. Or the very specific cases are diminished to only serve us ‘inspirational stories’ that’s supposedly make you say ‘If that person is doing this at that age, I have no excuses!’. The very same narrative is formed around disabled people too (if you have interest in the topic and have 10 minues to spare, here’s a very good talk on it).
Since we’re mid-season, I don’t exactly know what kind of course this series will take (although I have an idea), but it’s still commendable that they are focusing on a once-famous-and-young dad of age 29 with an injury instead of going for ‘just another ode to youth’. Don’t get me wrong, I love shounen sports series. I’m a huge fan of them and the genre is definitely in my top 5. However, as a 30 year-old woman, I am very much familiar with the society’s heavy expectation of ‘eternal youth and beauty’.
Another aspect I loved about Taisou Samurai is its ending! Honestly, together with Jujutsu Kaisen, Taisou Samurai sits on the throne of the season’s best ending themes. The coloring style and overall composition is giving me a 90’s feel, and Hatena’s song really fits the mood! The song will be released on November 15th, according to the show’s official website. The ending theme itself is still region locked, unlike the opening, but if it isn’t that way for you, you can give the ending a go on the web page I linked. Can’t wait to put the song in my playlist! And learn more about Leo’s own story as well.
One thing I would pick on is the representation of the queer acupuncture specialist Britney. At times, it felt like the character was there just so we would laugh at them, like a comedic relief. This is sadly a very common trope in media; they are represented as either the ‘sissy villain’ or just there to be funny — not through the jokes they make, but being as they are. I thought the cafe the grandmother, Mari, is running would function more as the bar in Kabukicho Sherlock, as a place where ‘different’ people get together but didn’t turn out that way. Can you blame me, though? In the first episode when Leo’s gi is ripped off in two, I thought that was a binder for a second and Leo was trans or non-binary! I was quite surprised, until I noticed that was actually a breast plate haha.
Are you keeping up with Taisou Samurai? If you do, what do you think about it? Let’s meet in the comments if you want to share anything or have something to add to what I have rambled up there! There will be some additional historical bits from here on so feel free to read or skip. Until then!!
Japan’s fascination with the ‘youthful male body’ and inclusion of its sexualised themes date way back in their history. Although I possess a great ability of relating anything and everything to yaoi, this one is actually related to the topic. Nowadays, I’m frequently reading academic work on BL, its genealogy and representaion. Here’s a small excerpt from the book Boys Love Manga and Beyond: History, Culture and Community in Japan.
“(…) the depiction of the “beautiful boy” (bishōnen) has long been a romantic and sexualized trope for both sexes and commands a high degree of cultural visibility today across a range of genres from kabuki theater to pop music, anime, and manga. The celebration of youthful male beauty in Japanese culture arguably stretches back at least to the Heian period (794–1185), when prominent female authors celebrated the charms of aristocratic young men in texts such as the eleventh-century Tale of Genji and Buddhist priests penned “tales about beautiful boy acolytes” (chigo monogatari) for the reading pleasure of other Buddhist priests.”
However, it’s when Japan enters Edo period there emerges a literature conscious of its theme. The literary canon idealizes male-male love and soon, the actual practice follows by the people who possess a high status, “including several shoguns, being renowned for their appreciation of youthful male beauty“. So, in some sense, these practices are more or less similar to what Ancient Greek and Rome had in the gymnasiums. It is also very interesting to note that, before mid-Meiji and Western influence in Japan, the only depiction of ‘devoted’ love were in between men since women, according to the Confucian ideals, couldn’t be considered an equal to men.
Hence, according to Takayuki Yokota-Murakami, up until this drastic change, Japan didn’t have a concept similar to equal love between men and women as in Europe, or in the sense we know of today. They didn’t even have a corresponding word, but just used the Katakana ‘rabu‘. However, even if the form or understanding of ‘love’ changed throughout eras, the fascination with the young male body and homoerotic themes surrounding it continued to being central to attention in different mediums of art.