First Impression: Shakunetsu Kabaddi

After an opening full of flames, darkness and jumps, we meet Tatsuya Yoigoshi, a white-haired, red-eyed, muscular student with a dangerous vibe who happens to hate sports. Once an unstopabble soccer striker, he became sick of the gossip of his teammates, the rude coach, the sweat, the people. Now he has devoted all his energies to livestreaming and online life, “a world where I can erase those I don’t like with a single finger,” and agressively rejects any offering for him to join a team, kicking and pushing if needed. He won’t be around sportsmen, full stop. That is, until a bald, enthusiastic first-year called Azemichi who is stronger than he looks annoys him enough to get him to the school’s old gym, where a “Kabaddi” team of four is assembling. Kabaddi is a team contact sport without equipment which is kind of similar to a game of tag with tackling in a limited space. There, he mets other two giants the kind but somewhat sinister Vice Captain Iura, who investigated him on the newspaper and needs someone with his abilities. The captain being hospitalized for unspecified reasons (!), Yoigoshi seems to have been chosen to cover his spot. So Iura bribes him with online followers for his channel, if he makes a bet and joins the team in case he loses. And Yoigoshi, avid for followers, agrees. Defeating Azemichi, whose abilities he has tested, should be easy. But…

Thanos, anyone? Well, it is not only Yoigoshi. Everything about Kabaddi, “a sport like no other,” has a dangerous vibe to it [update: that is, the show’s Kabaddi, the real-life sport may be different]. To be more specific, it all looks like an undercover recruiting operation for future BNHA villains. It’s (probably) not that, but an attempt to catch the interest of the kind of athletic people who shuns team sports for various reasons by offering something different. And yet, at this point everything, from Iura’s shady schemes (“Don’t you think that people that are good at raiding are a little twisted?”), to Yoigoshi’s controlling personality, the old gym, the two-years obssesion with muscles (and what’s with Date’s white eyes?), the red eyes, the “kabaddi-kabaddi-kabaddi” chant, the unexplained hospitalization and mad demeanor of the captain, seems quite sinister. To be honest, it reminded me of the self-destructive boxing of Robert Wise’s 1949 The Set-Up. It may be all a twist (and the enthusiasm of Azemichi points in that direction), but right now, were I Yoigoshi, I would run from Kabaddi and never look back. As I’m having trouble connecting with the characters and the sport, I think this is it for me, for now at least. Good luck, Tatsuya, and don’t break a leg.

Shakunetsu Kabaddi is streaming on Crunchyroll.

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