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Sanctuary, Netflix series review

Sanctuary, Netflix series review

From 04 May it is available on Netflix the Japanese-produced TV series sanctuary, a drama series that explores the little-known world of professional sumo, revealing the ambitions, struggles and determination of young men vying for fame, money and power. Presenting a new perspective on a traditional Japanese sport that is more than 1500 years old, the series aims to break the taboos on this sporting art and highlight the fighting spirit of these talented athletes.

Directed by Kan Eguchi (“The Fable“) and written by Tomoki Kanazawa (“Sabakan“), the series takes on the ambitious task of representing the sport on a professional level. As we will see in this Sanctuary review, the series boasts a technical department of all levels, like many Japanese originals of the streamer, but it also shares the most common narrative and structural defects.

Sanctuary, a story of sacrifice and rebirth

The plot of sanctuary sees a hard and desperate boy – Kiyoshi Ozeinterpreted by Wataru Ichinose – become a sumo wrestler, captivating fans with his swashbuckling attitude and disrupting an industry steeped in tradition. The writing of this project aims to demonstrate how sumo, while known throughout the world as a part of traditional Japanese culture and as a religious ritual handed down for over 1,500 years, remains a world veiled in secrecy. The dohyo, the ring where sumo matches are held, is truly a shrine built on the foundations of this unusual world.

Kiyoshi Oze comes from a troubled family and has been a part of the criminal world all his life. In need of money, when he comes to know that a sumo wrestler can earn a lot of money, he starts to think that with his body and fighting skills he can face anyone. However, stubborn to the core and overconfident in his abilities, Oze he often skips training and challenges more experienced wrestlers, a nature that ends up labeling him a “hopeless case”. He keeps messing with him, until he collides with a sumo man named Frankenstein, who brutally defeats him. At this point, defeated and practically kicked out of the world of sumo, he understands that it’s time to change his perspective. By training hard according to the rules and traditions, Oze decides to make a name for himself: Sumo Enno. In addition to its inspiring story, the TV series also focuses on all the personalities who approach the world of sumo and who struggle to find their way in life.

Among these, we are presented with the stories of other wrestlers, such as Shimizu (interpreted by Shota Sometani), who loves this sport but does not have an ideal physique, e Kunishima (interpreted by Shioli Kutsuna), a reporter who is relegated to covering sumo. As in all other sports, even in this case things happen under the table, which could be unmasked by Kunishima and even help the journey of Oze.

A series to immerse yourself in Japanese culture

sanctuary it could be the perfect proposal for that segment of the public interested in Japanese traditions, culture and society and how Japanese customs and traditions have evolved over the years. In this sense, the production has done an excellent job of historical research on the art of sumo and manages to explain the rules, the structure of the tournament, the way the wrestlers dress and other aspects in a clear and never too distant way. Emphasis is also placed on the values ​​necessary to pursue a career in this world, including humility, respect for one’s opponents, and dedication to intensive training and practice. From this point of view, sanctuary is a thrilling showcase of the passion and fighting spirit characteristic of sumo wrestlers.

Sumo is one of the most visually appealing of sports and would lend itself better to drama: its intrigue, the shifting alliances behind it, and its 2,000-year history rival that of any fantasy epic. Yet somehow sumo has never been accurately portrayed in cinema, nor has any series or film ever done justice to the emotions, heartbreak, joy, pain and suffering found in the ring and in the stables. Unfortunately, the lack of authenticity on screen is a long-standing problem with sumo. Probably the best representation of the sport is the award-winning film Masayuki Suo of 1992, “Shiko Funjatta“, distributed abroad under the title “Sumo Do, Sumo Don’t“, which is mostly a stylized comedy, however, focusing on collegiate sumo rather than professional sumo.

Real sumo wrestlers in the Sanctuary “ring”.

Sanctuary NetflixAnother note of merit by sanctuary it’s definitely the actor’s performances. It should be specified that, to better prepare for the role of sumo wrestlers, the actors spent about a year of intense physical training under the supervision of Hollywood experts and an Olympic coach who followed them from a nutritional point of view. For over six months, they trained in sumo to do justice to the reality of the sport.

The main character, Saruzakurais played by Wataru Ichinose (Weaker beast), a former professional martial artist. Saruzakura joins a sumo stable as a young disciple, but his motivations have more to do with money than the sport itself. The cast also includes Pierre Taki in the role of the master of the stable, Koyuki in the role of the master’s wife e Shota Sometani as Saruzakura’s friend, Shimizu.

With its over-the-top violence, almost alternate-reality setting, and characters that look more like caricatures, sanctuary thrives on a stylish atmosphere Quentin Tarantino and it could turn out to be an entertaining and successful series.

A pace that is not always engaging

The narrative development of sanctuary it’s not exactly organic: several storylines take longer than necessary to unravel and the tone of the story that the series maintains, largely harsh and aggressive, does not make it particularly easy for viewers to navigate this story. Much of the first four episodes are spent reveling in the antics of Kiyoshi and it is only when our protagonist finally starts to take the sport seriously, sanctuary it becomes more engaging. However, the later episodes feel rushed and the season finale cuts the story short in an unclear way. Multiple subplots are abandoned, while the series is oriented towards a more sentimental and, at times, cloying type of narration: that of the loserthe loser who must redeem himself.

As we said, if having professional sumo wrestlers in your cast makes all the training and tournament sequences particularly rhythmic and painful to watch, the overall arc of sanctuary it looks more like an anticlimactic sumo match, certainly not the one that had been envisaged by the premises of the series.