The newest episode of Tiger Mask W goes back to the beginning. In last week’s review of episode two, I said that the episode structure of building up to a match and then having that match was going to get very formulaic. Thankfully, the fine people behind the creation of the show realized that and broke from that formula. In episode three, we don’t get a featured match. Instead, this is the build-up to Tiger Mask’s match with Red Death Mask with a lot of flashbacks thrown in to develop the characters of Tiger Mask and Tiger the Dark. If you haven’t seen episode three yet, you can do that here and then come back for the rest of the review.
Episode Recap: The Tiger’s Legacy
Just like this episode changed up its format, I’m changing up the format of this review. Instead of doing a straight recap, I’m going to take a look at the main characters and examine what we learned about them this week. While the main story is focused on the match with Red Death Mask that will happen sometime in the future, a majority of the episode dealt with events in the origins of the two men wearing tiger masks. Prior to this show, all we knew was that the moment when GWM’s Yellow Devil brutally defeated their mentor, Daisuke Fujii, is what pushed them both to action. In “The Tiger’s Legacy,” we learn a lot more about what happened that day.
Daisuke Fujii wasn’t just the mentor of the two young lions, he is also Tiger the Dark’s, or more accurately Takuma Fujii’s father. Takuma didn’t just watch the destruction of his mentor, his boss, and the company he works for, he watched Yellow Devil put an end to the career of his father. Even worse yet, Takuma has a scar across his face to remind him of this moment whenever he looks in the mirror. As Takuma sits in the hospital, waiting for news on his father, he’s visited by Mister X; the leader of the Tiger’s Den. X says that the Tiger’s Den will cover his father’s medical bills because his injuries were caused by them. Takuma, expectedly, reacts with anger, but he’s stopped by Yellow Devil.
Takuma is nowhere near strong enough to overpower the man that sliced open his face earlier in the night, but he’s given a chance to fix that. Yellow Devil and Mister X invite Takuma to train at the Tiger’s Den. They say that is the only way that Takuma would ever be strong enough to take down Yellow Devil. As we had learned prior to this episode, Takuma accepts the invitation with the intention to take it down from the inside.
On the other side of the tiger coin, Naoto Azuma’s life was changed by this day as well. After watching his mentor and his friend get taken out by Yellow Devil, he learns that his wrestling school is closing its doors. Jipang Pro Wrestling just couldn’t survive after their ace was defeated in such a dominating fashion. Naoto wants to keep training and he is struck by a bit of luck when Kentaro Takaoka, the original Yellow Devil and friend of the original Tiger Mask, offers to take him under his wing.
Kentaro tells Naoto all about the Tiger’s Den and how he’ll have to go through a training hell if he ever wants to take them down. He takes Naoto to Tiger Mask’s crazy hideout/training center. Kentaro inherited the base in Naoto Date’s (Tiger Mask’s) will, implying that the original Tiger Mask has died prior to this series. Naoto Azuma says that to defeat Yellow Devil and avenge Daisuke Fujii, he will join forces with Kentaro.
Outside of the origin stuff for these two, nothing much happened. Takuma attempted to visit his father in his assisted living center, but couldn’t bring himself to do it. Naoto trained for his upcoming match. Yuji Nagata welcomed Red Death Mask to Japan. A new character explained to Haruna that Red Death Mask’s name comes from a piece of Poe writing. That’s about it.
So Why Isn’t Takuma Our Main Character?
If this episode showed us anything, it’s that Takuma is a far more interesting character than Naoto is. He has a compelling backstory and he’s teamed up with his enemies in order to get strong enough to destroy them. Naoto wants to get stronger so that he can avenge his mentor. Takuma didn’t just lose his mentor, he watched his father fall in front of him. Naoto wears his mask to hide his identity while Takuma wears his to hide the scar that serves to remind him of his weakness.
Much like in other anime and in wrestling, the main character is the empty slate without much motivation. Meanwhile, the foil for the main character/top wrestler is the one with realistic motivations and a deeper character. We see it all the time, but it doesn’t seem to hamper to popularity of the media with empty, strong for the sake of being strong, main characters. To be fair to Tiger Mask W, Naoto isn’t a nothing main character, but he’s not as compelling as Takuma. Tiger the Dark is the bad guy that you understand. He’s not really a heel at all, it’s just how he’s booked. Hopefully the show can build off of this episode, giving more screen time to Takuma and building a more interesting story for Naoto.
While I might not have as much to say about it as I normally do, this may have been my favorite episode of the series thus far. It didn’t follow a predictable formula and while it didn’t feature a full match, it was still full of action. The character development was much needed and it will continue to be needed to keep the viewers caring about the series. This was the first episode to not heavily feature New Japan wrestlers, allowing the stars of the show to stand on their own two feet. I enjoy watching the antics of Okada and Nagata in the cartoon world, but Toei needs to put their characters first.
Come back next week when Red Death Mask makes his presence known! (and probably loses his match)