In the recently broadcasted Hinomaruzumou (Hinomaru Sumo) anime, viewers were treated to a large cast of individuals who each brought something to the series and helped progress not only the story, but were able to develop themselves and their relationships with their peers. Whether they were in an episode or two, a majority of the characters contributed something to make them stand out. For most of the characters listed, their sole goal is to hopefully become yokozuna, the grand champion of sumo wrestling (and not the two-time WWE champion who is a cousin of The Rock who was named Yokozuna). When it comes to being a champion, it’s more than just about winning. It’s about hard work, dedication, and having character, and that’s the criteria we made in our selection. However, we can only make detailed mentions to 10, so we would like to share with you our top 10 characters from this one of a kind series.
10. Reina Gojo
Kicking off this list is Reina, one of the co-managers of Odachi High School’s sumo team. Not only is she the manager, but she is also the student council president, Miss Odachi High School, and the sister of the school’s top delinquent. She is super popular and thinks sumo is gross and ridiculous. After her brother joins the team, she just tags along just out of curiosity while maintaining her façade that she doesn’t like sumo. After spending time with them and being inspired by their hard work and her brother’s will to succeed, she comes to appreciate what sumo has to offer. The reason why she embodies the yokozuna spirit despite not being able to compete is that she shows when you give something a chance, you may end up liking it and that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. She comes to understand the value of sumo through the infectious passion of Hinomaru and the success of the team.
9. Daniel Stefanov
From Eiga University’s high school branch, we have its exchange student from Bulgaria, Daniel Stefanov. Have you ever wanted to be part of something so bad that you were willing to cross the world to achieve it? That’s what Daniel represents on this list. In recent decades, many athletes from around the world have gone out of their way to come to the Land of the Rising Sun to practice and compete in sumo, and Daniel is an excellent representation of that on the high school level. When audiences learn of his backstory, and he wasn’t that good when he first started, they can come to appreciate his presence. However, no matter times he messed up, he never gave up or complained. You lose, you learn from it to get better. Daniel came into this knowing that he sacrificed a lot and never wasted whatever opportunities were presented to him which is why he embraces the spirit of the yokozuna.
8. Shido Tennoji
Tennoji is considered one of the greatest high school sumo wrestlers in its history. He’s got the size and the skill. Not only does he work hard in training, he also puts in the time to study footage of his competition. He studies their habits and is always ready for any opponent. Not only is he an excellent sumo wrestler, he is a great teammate who knows how to nurture them. When Enoki, one of his teammates, was initially struggling with sumo, he encouraged him to use his background in aikido. The fact that he’s a talented sumo wrestler who exhibits excellent sportsmanship (despite how he boasts his confidence) to his teammates and opponents is why he embraces the spirit of a true yokozuna.
7. Sosuke Kuze
Sosuke is the chief rival to Hinomaru, and is also the son of Yamatokuni, a legendary yokozuna who happens to be the idol of much of the cast. Like his father, he has the makings to become a yokozuna himself. He is blessed with great genetics, God given talent, and works hard in practice. Unfortunately, he is banned from competing by his father’s orders due to accidentally breaking Hinomaru’s arm in a clinch back in elementary school. Driven by Hinomaru’s presence, Sosuke gets his father’s blessing to compete at the high school level. Throughout the tournament, he shows that he’s powerful and highly skilled. Due to his father being an iconic yokozuna, he took up sumo feeling it was natural but through his match with Hinomaru, he comes to appreciate sumo for himself. Throughout the competition with numerous opponents including Hinomaru, he comes to love sumo for his own sake and upon losing to Hinomaru, he doesn’t make any excuses and accepts defeat which makes him a true yokozuna in that regard.
6. Chihiro Kunisaki
Before joining the sumo team, he was the school’s ace amateur wrestler who bested the school’s ace boxer and judo practitioner in special challenge matches. His dream is to become an MMA fighter and considering how a number of accomplished MMA champions were accomplished amateur wrestlers, it’s reasonable that he also takes it up. However, after losing to Hinomaru in a challenge match, he quits amateur wrestling to join sumo in hopes of avenging his loss to Hinomaru and to expand his skills to becoming an MMA fighter. Sumo and amateur wrestling are fundamentally different, but Chihiro proves how they can go hand-in-hand. The point of the sport is take the the guy down, and thankfully Chihiro already has a background in that. In order to be successful at any sport, not only can you learn from your teammates and coaches, but from your competition as well.
If you see an opponent using a move that is successful, then it’s natural to want to use that to your repertoire and that is what Chihiro is best at. He takes the best and adds it to his arsenal of moves, and that’s what makes him embrace the spirit of the yokozuna, or willing to adapt and have an open mind, or as Bruce Lee once said, “be like water, my friend.” As to how sumo can be beneficial in MMA, look no further than former UFC champion Lyoto Machida. While he is mostly famous for his karate, he actually studied sumo and it has been very beneficial to his take down defense, and we can see that being beneficial to Chihiro as well.
5. Hinomaru Ushio
Yes, he’s the titular main character, but as for who we picked for number one, we’ll save those reasons for that respective character. inomaru is the classic underdog you see in other sports media whether it would be Ippo from Hajime no Ippo, Kenichi from History’s Strongest Disciple Kenichi, or Daniel from the original Karate Kid movie. He’s an accomplished sumo wrestler from his elementary days but what makes him an underdog is to how he is undersized not just for his age, but for sumo on the professional scale. As a high school freshman, he is presently 157cm, but in order to qualify for the pros, the minimum height requirement has to be 167cm. Fortunately, if he can become the equivalent to a yokozuna at the high school level, he can get a waiver for it.
However, the competition is talented and are superior in size. At the end of the day, he’s the type of character that shows that it’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog that counts. He works hard and won’t take no for an answer. If he loses, he’ll learn from that in order to better prepare for the next one bout. Besides being the main character, what makes him a worthy mention to this list is how he’s infectiously passionate about sumo to the point that he always wears his sumo gear underneath his pants, and while he’s not the captain or the coach of the team, he’s without a doubt the soul. His character may be rather typical to the sports genre as a whole, but Hinomaru is a still fresh take on it and if you never found yourself interested in sumo before, he may get you into it as he does with the rest of the cast. His work ethic and how he cares for his teammates is what makes him embrace the yokozuna spirit.
4. Kirihito Tsuji
Kirihito is a childhood stablemate of Hinomaru, and serves as a reserve member for team. If Hinomaru is the soul of the team, then Kirihito is the brains since most of his role throughout the series is being the coach. Unfortunately, due to his asthma, he can only wrestle for a short amount of time (meaning 20 seconds), but time he can use to get the W when you put him in the ring. As the team’s coach, he knows how to exploit the strengths of each character and minimize their weaknesses. Though he doesn’t actively wrestle, he is still willing to spar with his teammates and show he’s got the skills to be a varsity member when necessary. He even sparred with a former pro and demonstrated that he’s got what it takes when it counts the most. Thanks to Kirihito’s presence, you see that sumo is not about two fat guys just ramming into each other and that it’s a sport that takes a unique skill set to be successful at, and to be a yokozuna, it’s more mental than physical.
3. Yuma Gojo
Yuma Gojo is the Johnny Lawerence of Odachi High School. Prior to Hinomaru enrolling at the school, he was a karate champion and ace degenerate who used the sumo dojo as a hang out for his gang. He bullied Ozeki, and maliciously destroyed the sumo ring he created at the side of the school. After being defeated by Hinomaru in a special challenge match, he decides to reform his ways and join the sumo team just to understand Hinomaru and maybe one day get a rematch. Throughout the series, he struggles to redeem himself for both Ozeki and his former karate teacher (who is thankfully not John Kreese). He wants to take responsibility for how he treated Ozeki and you see how his former ways crush him emotionally. When he is paired with Ozeki for special training, you see how he still takes it hard despite how much Ozeki forgives him and is willing to be his friend.
While he initially didn’t care for sumo, Hinomaru’s victory and obsessive passion for it just made him want to take it up. Coming from a striking background, he relies on open hand palm strikes in accordance to sumo rules as his foundation, and his karate teacher trains him in a manner suited to sumo rules. Not only does he want to win for the team, he wants to redeem himself. The fact that he is willing to become a better human being through sumo demonstrates what it takes to become a yokozuna.
2. Shinya Ozeki
Ozeki is more or less the senpai and captain of the Odachi High School sumo team. Like Hinomaru, he is very passionate about sumo to the point that his passion rivals Hinomaru’s. If Kirihito is the brains and Hinomaru is the spirit of the team, then Ozeki is without a doubt the team’s heart. Just like how Hinomaru trained himself throughout junior high school without any support, Ozeki spent his first two years of high school without any support and was ridiculed by just about everybody in his school, but he never let it bring him down. The fact that he was able to withstand the abuse of his peers and never give up is why his passion for sumo is possibly greater than Hinomaru’s. It was also thanks to Ozeki’s fellow passion for sumo as to why Hinomaru joined Odachi High School instead of another school that had a superior sumo team. Through Ozeki, sometimes all you need is heart and dedication to become successful and as he enters his senior year, you see how his positive outlook helps everybody.
You also see how his optimism also helps his relationship with Yuma, who used to bully him. After Yuma joined the sumo team, Ozeki was cool with it and never questioned his commitment and motivations and he lets go of their past with no questions asked. Ozeki is proof that having an open mind is a great thing, but at times, it’s more important to have an open heart, and that’s what makes him a yokozuna in spirit.
1. Kei Mizuhashi
So, why give the weakest link the number one spot? We don’t know how it is with the youth sports programs of other countries, but for the past decade in America, EVERY kid gets a trophy just for participating (we can guarantee that Japan does not have such practices, so for those of you non-American readers, please tell us if your nation has such notions). You can lose every game of the season but still get a nice trophy just for playing. Some psychological experts say that such practices are counter-intuitive, that it can create a sense of entitlement, and kids won’t learn to live with failure. So, how does Kei fit into all of this?
SPOILER ALERT: HE DOESN’T WIN A SINGLE MATCH THROUGHOUT THE DURATION OF THE SERIES AND DOESN’T GET A TROPHY JUST FOR PARTICIPATING! Out of all the characters, he’s the least athletic, he has no martial arts background, and is just doing it out of curiosity and love for it. He’s the smallest physically, but he has the biggest heart and balls. Though he does get squashed and does have a few close victories, at the end of the day, he doesn’t need a pointless trophy to be acknowledged for his efforts. He’s solid proof that winning isn’t everything! He always wins the respect of his teammates, his opponents, the audience, and from himself, and that has far more worth than some trophy. The fact that he puts in the hard work and that his opponents do take him seriously despite his size shows the tremendous potential he has. And the respect you get from that is the true value that kids today should be learning and Kei excellently exemplifies that and why he’s number one.
Though combat sports are one-on-one, Hinomaruzumou does a great job of showing how they can be a team sport as well. You all need a coach, training partners, and managers in order to succeed. While it takes a village, only one can be yokozuna, but in spirit, you can still be one in your own way. Though the sumo team of Odachi High School is largely motivated by Hinomaru’s will to succeed, Hinomaru also cares about his teammate’s success for their own sakes as well. Every character in whatever high school they attend all play their parts to their respective teams, and that is what makes this series appealing.