- Episodes: 13 (as of Jan 2017)
- Genre: ction, Sports, Drama, Shounen
- Airing Date: Oct 2016 – Present (as of Jan 2017)
- Producers: Toei Animation, TV Asahi
Tiger Mask W Summary Preview (No Spoilers)
Some of you readers who are professional wrestling fans know of North American produced icons from the past 30 years such as Ric Flair, Hulk Hogan, Steve Austin, and John Cena. The Japanese have their own unique brand of talented wrestlers who have achieved worldwide fame in their own rights. One such famous wrestler happens to be Tiger Mask, who originated from an anime that dates back to the late-1960s. Since then, a good handful of Japanese wrestlers have taken up the mantle of Tiger Mask in some of Japan’s top wrestling promotions such as New Japan Pro Wrestling.
As of 2016, the anime has finally spawned a new series, Tiger Mask W (with the W pronounced as double). The infamous Tiger’s Cave wrestling stable is back and better than ever, and their goal is to monopolize the sport with their brutal tactics with the use of their heavy muscled wrestlers who go through the most grueling of training methods where failure means death. The only man capable of stopping them is a new Tiger Mask, Azuma Naoto (who shares the same first name as his predecessor).
Azuma Naoto Bio
Voice Actor: Yashiro Taku
After losing his family to a natural disaster during his teen years, 21-year-old Azuma Naoto decides to become a wrestler after taking inspiration from attending an independent event in his hometown. After much persistence, he starts his training under Fujii Daisuke, a wrestler who he considers his idol. Under Daisuke’s tutelage, he trains with his son, Takuma, who is the same age as Naoto.
After seeing Fujii brutally defeated by Yellow Devil, the most ruthless wrestler of the Tiger’s Cave, he seeks the wisdom of Takaoka Kentaro, a former wrestler (who was Yellow Devil in the original series) and the best friend of the previous Tiger Mask, Date Naoto. After two years of training, Azuma Naoto breaks out into the world of sports entertainment as the new Tiger Mask and sets his sights on taking down the Tiger’s Cave once and for all by seeking his revenge against the Yellow Devil of his generation.
However, his best friend Takuma disappears in order to enter the Tiger’s Cave (while assuming the identity of Tiger the Dark) in order to destroy the organization from the inside. Unfortunately, neither man is aware of each other’s identity and their intentions, which makes accomplishing their goals more difficult than it seems.
Azuma Naoto Highlights
1. He Works with Real-life Wrestlers in Anime Form
Just like how the previous Tiger Mask worked with real life wrestlers of his generation such as Antonio Inoki and Giant Baba (and are now considered wrestling legends), Azuma Naoto has the privilege to train and team with the wrestlers of today (and future hall of famers). Two top champions from the New Japan organization are Okada Kazuchika and Tanahashi Hiroshi. Though their real life counterparts do not voice them, their selected seiyuu still capture their intense charisma and larger than life personas.
Tanahashi’s large frame, long bleached hair, and his colorful trunks are taken into animated form as he supports the new Tiger Mask’s quests to take down the Tiger’s Cave. Tanahashi, in fact, plays something of a trainer to Tiger Mask in helping him develop his moves. In the series, some of his trademark moves such as his Sling Blade (think of it as a swinging lariat), his High Fly Flow (a splash onto the opponent from the top rope), and his twelve-to-six (think of it as a variation to a pile driver where you take the opponent upside down and dump them on their head) are portrayed in the series and gives Naoto some inspiration to his style. In addition, there are instances he will either tag team with them or face them man-to-man in the ring.
2. He Borrows Techniques from the Real Tiger Mask
Just like how life imitates art with previous real life Tiger Mask wrestlers taking inspiration from the anime, art now imitates life with the present anime Tiger Mask borrowing techniques from previous real life incarnations of the wrestler. On some occasions, he borrows the shuffle used by the first two Tiger Masks, Sayama Satoru, and Misawa Mitsuhara. On some occasions, he uses a spinning jump kick, which is famously used by Sayama.
As the series progresses to where it is now, he even goes as far using the Tiger Driver, a variation of the pile driver technique where he hooks the opponent's arms for leverage as opposed to lifting by the waist. If you compare some of Naoto’s matches with the real life Tiger Mask (no matter what generation), their styles are based on speed, accuracy, and agility, and strength whenever necessary. So seeing this influence in the anime is quite a treat for loyal wrestling fans familiar with the real life Tiger Mask.
3. He Keeps in Top Shape
Sure the real life world of professional wrestling is predetermined but not anybody can just put on a pair of tights and boots and become a wrestler. To do what those guys and gals do and travel around the world for more than 90% of the year is a physically demanding job that requires them to be in top shape in order to not just perform, but maintain their physiques and performance. Whenever Naoto doesn’t have a match, he is always training whether it’d be lifting weights, going out for a run, hitting the bag, or hunting bears in a forest! His pure discipline is a great example to all athletes who wish to succeed.
As the series progresses and begins to acquaint with other baby-faced (a wrestling term for the good guy) wrestlers, he manages to find time to schedule sparring sessions with them. The series also does a great job of emphasizing the performing aspect of wrestling in its own unique way and Naoto’s intense style does a great job of capturing it in anime form.
4. He Spawned Off His Own Real Wrestler
As previously mentioned, the original series has spawned off a real Tiger Mask wrestler the past 40 years, and men such as Sayama Satoru (who became a trainer as hellish as Tiger’s Cave trainer), Misawa Mitsuhara (who unfortunately passed away in the ring in 2009), and Kanemoto Koji had the privilege of competing as the character.
Upon the debut of this series, a real-life Tiger Mask W made his debut in the ring of New Japan Pro Wrestling. The current man to take up this unique legacy is Ibushi Kota, who has also competed in the WWE’s NXT promotion. Just like the anime, he wears the trademark mask and the black and blue trunks. You can even watch highlights of the real life Tiger Mask W on youtube as he faces the real life Tiger the Dark (who is performed by an American wrestler, ACH of the independent Ring of Honor promotion).
Some of what you see in that match shares some common features from episode 12 of the anime such as the use of the high-flying acrobatics, martial arts strikes, and head crushing techniques.
5. He Is Not in It for the Fame or Glory
Episode 13 demonstrates that Naoto is a true sportsman by seeing that the Yellow Devil he defeated was a fake in the mask league tournament. And after he was awarded his victory plaque in the closing ceremony, he publicly destroys it in disgust. After all the training and the hard work, he feels that his victory to avenge his old teacher and stable went down the drain.
Yes, it was a tournament to settle who is the best masked wrestler and win a belt with a lot of money, but Naoto is not about the fame and glory but wants redemption and revenge. Yes, successful professional wrestlers do make the big dough and a good number are in the business for it, but Naoto could care less about the money and just wants to prove who he is as a man.
It is understandable that a large number of readers feel the series may be ridiculous because it portrays pro-wrestling as real, but all audiences have to take it into context that its predecessor which aired 40 years ago portrays the industry when people believed it was supposed to be legitimate.
The original Tiger Mask series came out during a time when Japanese audiences were dying of heart attacks while watching wrestling matches either in the arena or on TV (most notably between Rikidozan and Classy Freddie Blassie), and Tiger Mask W is continuing that tradition in its own way without acknowledging that the business outed itself as “sports entertainment” in the late-1990s. By contextualizing the series with understanding its origins in relation to the first series, fans can understand where it’s coming from.
Last, Naoto is just a man who represents everybody and the best humanity has to offer. He is a guy who just wants to live a good life by example and be a role model. Though he has not lived up the original Tiger Mask by using his prize money to help orphans, Azuma Naoto’s humble origins of being a victim of a disaster demonstrate that even when somebody loses everything, if we follow our dreams and work hard, we can achieve anything.