Taiso Samurai

Taiso Samurai

Taiso Samurai anime series cover art
Taiso Samurai

Series Overview

Taiso Samurai (Taisou Zamurai / 体操ザムライ), or Gymnastics Samurai, is a MAPPA original anime about a gymnast who doesn’t know when to retire. But, before I get more into what this anime is about, there are two things I want to touch on — the title and the studio behind it.

I’m not sure why the Japanese title went with “Zamurai” over Samurai. And what’s weirder is that it’s written in katakana rather than kanji. Katakana is often used to write non-Japanese words. So does whoever came up with this title think that Westerners call samurai “zamurai?”

And as for the English title, dropping the “u” at the end of “taisou” makes sense because a lot of English translations do that. But why didn’t they just translate “taisou” to “gymnastics” since they also changed “zamurai” to “samurai?” There seem to be some inconsistencies here.

Regarding the studio behind this series, MAPPA, it’s pretty sad that I feel the need to point this out, but MAPPA has been around for a long time and has made a lot of good anime. It’s really weird to see people either dismissing everything the studio has worked on because they’re disappointed with the final season of Attack on Titan or patronizing them by using stupid hashtags on social media like #ThankYouMappa.

Anyway, back to the actual point of this review. Taiso Samurai follows a gymnast by the name of Joutarou Aragaki, who’s getting a bit old to still be competing. However, gymnastics is all Joutarou has ever known, and other than his family, it’s his one love in life.

This series chronicles Joutarou’s rebound within the competitive gymnastics world and how the support of his friends and family are what made it possible.

Main Characters

As I mentioned, Joutarou “Joe” Aragaki is the protagonist of the series. The anime starts off with Joutarou in the twilight of his career. He’s not as young as most of the other competitors, and his decades of gymnastics are finally catching up with him — primarily in the form of a shoulder injury.

Joutarou Aragaki from the anime series Taiso Samurai
Joutarou Aragaki

Rei “Rachel” Aragaki is Joutarou’s daughter. I believe she’s in middle school, which gives you a rough idea of how old Joutarou is. Rei is her father’s #1 fan and always supports his gymnastics career even when it means making sacrifices of her own. She also loves ninja, so I like to think she’d be a Naruto fan.

Leonardo “Leo” is the third and final main character of the series. He’s a Westerner who claims to be a ninja but is actually a ballet dancer. Joutarou is his hero, and he wants to do everything within his power to support Joutarou just like Rei does.

Some supporting characters include Mari Aragaki (Joutarou’s mother), Britney (Joutarou’s acupuncturist), Noriyuki Amakusa (Joutarou’s coach), Tomoki Takizawa (Joutarou’s teammate), and Tetsuo Minamino (an up-and-coming talent in the gymnastics world).

But, the most important of all the supporting characters is Bigbird “BB” Aragaki, the Aragaki family pet. Bigbird is probably the best character in the series despite what I’m going to say in the next section of this review. He’s a large, talking bird from South America — and whenever he acts up, Rei threatens to send him back.

I don’t know why, but Rei telling her pet bird to shut up or she’ll send him back to South America is extremely funny to me. It’s probably the absurdity of the situation and her threat combined with how she suddenly snaps and yells it at him.

A Bit Too Wacky

Now, despite what I literally just said about Bigbird being amazing, my biggest complaint with this series is probably that it’s a bit too wacky. Though, considering how much of the series is like that, that’s not really a problem with the series — it’s just what the series is.

My complaint about the wackiness of Taiso Samurai is almost like if someone watched a drama anime and complained that there was too much drama. It’s not a real complaint in that sense. But at the same time, I think there were other aspects of the show that suffered because of the focus on these crazier parts.

Taiso Samurai is fundamentally a sports anime. And I would have preferred it if it focused a lot more on the sports side of things. Yes, this series gave us Bigbird. But I think it would have been better without all of that wacky stuff thrown in for seemingly no reason.

Joutarou, Rei, and Bigbird from the anime series Taiso Samurai
Joutarou, Rei, and Bigbird

The absolute best parts of this series were the gymnastics competition scenes. Unfortunately, there weren’t all that many of these in a series about competitive gymnastics. This is very similar to what I had to say about Iwa Kakeru! Sport Climbing Girls.

Both of these series have very enjoyable competition scenes that were exciting in different ways. However, everything else was a bit boring. I laughed a few times at Bigbird, but I really didn’t care about Leo’s subplot at all. Taiso Samurai isn’t like Ping Pong the Animation, which keeps you invested with all the interesting character development.

If you’re into well-animated and choreographed “action,” I would recommend at least watching the competition parts of this series. I don’t know exactly how they animated it, but some parts look like rotoscoping of actual gymnasts. And there are some cool first-person POVs as well.

Conclusion

Overall, I gave Taiso Samurai a 6/10. I enjoyed it, but mainly because of Bigbird and the competition parts of the series. Other than those two aspects, I don’t think anything else about it was particularly special. The best way I can describe it is that it was good enough.

The opening of the series is alright. It’s definitely not one that I would go out of my way to watch for either the song or visuals. However, I did enjoy the ending quite a bit. I downloaded the ending song on Spotify, and I think the visuals were pretty nice as well despite being fairly basic.

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