After last week’s confidence shaking episode, Tiger Mask W has restored my faith in the series this week with a story packed episode. Get ready for a show full of backstory, shaved ice, and old men! As always you can watch every episode of Tiger Mask W over at Crunchyroll and if you want to find the rest of my recaps, you can do that here.
Episode 7 Recap: Naoto and Naoto
Today’s adventure kicks off with a cold open at the offices of Pro Wrestling Monthly. Hikari Kuruma digs through the archives trying to find some info on the first Tiger Mask, Naoto Date. This single moment may be the best depiction of the wrestling media that I have ever seen. One plane ride later and Hikari is in the same town as the New Japan crew.
It appears as though they’re staying at the same hotel/resort as last week. Either that or the New Japan roster stays at only the most exquisite of all hotels. It looks like this episode picks up right after the last one because Haruna is at the hotel with Tiger Mask. She cleared out a breakfast as big as the one that Kazuchika Okada tried to put away last week. Haruna was so consumed by her own appetite that it is only after she finishes her meal that she notices the beautiful beach just a few feet away from her. TM asks if Haruna wants to join him on the beach and she sees this as her moment to catch his eye. She rushes off and buys a red bikini. Looking good, Haruna returns to the beach, only to discover that Naoto has no designs on frolicking in the ocean with her. He’s here to get his pump on. Out of embarrassment she runs straight into the ocean. Naoto is as dense as ever.
When they get off the beach, the two go out for a sweet treat. This time though, Naoto is just being himself with no tiger mask to be seen. As a lifelong fan of comic books, I know a thing or two about hiding a secret identity and Naoto here is doing a bad job. If anyone saw Haruna hanging out with Tiger Mask earlier and then saw her hanging out with a pretty big guy here, they might connect the dots. I understand why Naoto would want to wear the mask while he’s training to build up his conditioning, but wearing it in public is probably a bad idea, especially if you’re going to wear the same clothes when you go out later. I wouldn’t be surprised if this lackadaisical attitude towards his secret identity will eventually lead to some misfortune for Naoto and his friends.
The snack that Haruna is enjoying is called koori zenzai, red beans topped with shaved ice. It sounds like an odd combination, but I’d have to try it before I could pass any judgement. An old man and his granddaughter run the stand and they’ll be pretty integral to this episode. Grandpa complains about having to see a doctor last night and his granddaughter chastises him for complaining about the sprain in his leg. It turns out that gramps was drunk and got into a fight with someone because they said that karate is stronger than pro wrestling. This guy is the best. Drunk old men aren’t anything new when it comes to Japanese entertainment for kids. In the original Pokémon games there’s an old man that’s passed out drunk, blocking your way to Route Two.
Old guys party hard in Japan.
Cut to the venue for today’s show, which features a banner promoting the main event of Yuji Nagata and Tiger Mask taking on Kazuchika Okada and YOSHI-HASHI. Hikari arrives at the arena and immediately says hello to Nagata. She asks about getting an interview with Tiger Mask and he points her over to TM’s manager, Haruna. The flustered Haruna is working on getting the new Tiger Mask merch to the venue, so she doesn’t have the time to talk to Hikari, giving her permission to talk to TM by saying “do as you please” before running off.
Hikari starts off her interview with Tiger Mask by asking him if he knows about his predecessor. If I didn’t know that Naoto was familiar with the first Tiger Mask, I wouldn’t have been surprised if this was news to him because of how clueless he’s been to wrestling related things in the past. Hikari actually doesn’t give Naoto the chance to answer before she launches into a pile of exposition, giving us the story of the original Tiger Mask. This is a much appreciated info dump for those of us that haven’t had the opportunity to see the first series.
Initially, Tiger Mask was a heel wrestler because that’s how he was trained in the Tiger’s Den. After some time, Tiger Mask turned his back on his trainers and became a hero, winning the Masked World League along the way. The head of the Tiger’s Dean, Tiger the Great, had a match with Tiger Mask that would end the hero’s career. Tiger Mask won the match, but his true identity was revealed when his mask was removed. Naoto Date disappeared from the public eye after that match.
Tiger Mask confirms for Hikari that he isn’t tied to either the Tiger’s Den or Naoto Date. She asks why he wears the mask and he says that if she could dig up all that research on the original TM, she shouldn’t have to ask him why he wears the mask. NAOTO, STOP! Now you’re just inviting a member of the press to try to dig into your life. I swear that this guy has never seen a superhero story or a wrestling match before. He leaves the interview here and there’s no way that this doesn’t eventually bite him in the ass.
Now it’s time to visit America where Tiger the Dark is taking on Bosman. Remember Bosman, the Zangief looking dude that was in episode five? The match is taking place at the Kow Bell Arena in Texas on a GWM show. Following his victory in a battle royal two episodes ago, Tiger the Dark is getting a US Championship match here. When we join the match, Bosman has Tiger the Dark in his bear hug. Bosman slams TD into the corner and then attempts a bear splash, but TD gets his knees up. Bosman crashes down onto Tiger the Dark’s knees and it looks like his soul leaves his body on impact. After a couple of kicks to the head, Tiger the Dark puts away Bosman with his Darkness Driver and wins the United States Championship. As Ms. X watches the match, she says that this is the beginning of a new era.
Backstage, Tiger the Dark’s friends, Mike and Kevin, congratulate him on his victory. I can’t get over how generic these two guys are. Suddenly several other members of the roster, the same ones that tried to take out TD two weeks ago, run over to congratulate him as well. It’s clear that there’s a new locker room leader after Bosman’s loss. Somewhere else in the back, Ms. X finds Bosman and lets him know that he’s been demoted to working GWM’s developmental territory. Bosman: coming soon to Largo, Florida! As she walks away from delivering the news, Ms. X receives a phone call… from Mr. X!
After a commercial break, we’re in Mr. X’s office at the Tiger’s Den. Ms. X delivers an update that 70% of GWM’s wrestlers are now from the Tiger’s Den. Mr. X is far more concerned with the Tiger Mask problem though. He says that after the original Tiger Mask beat Tiger the Great, the original Mr. X died from despair. That never happens anymore. Now you have Twitter meltdowns. Just as the Tiger’s Den rose again, another Tiger Mask has stepped up to take it down and Mr. X is furious about it. According to Ms. X, the Max Dome is almost complete and that will be the place of death for Tiger Mask. Back in Japan we see two men in suits walking past a construction site. The client listed on the construction permit is GWM Japan, so this is clearly the Max Dome that Ms. X was talking about.
Over at the koori zenzai stand, the old man fans himself with a newspaper until he notices that a wrestling match is advertised featuring Tiger Mask. The little girl returns to the stand to discover her grandfather missing, with only the newspaper left behind. She catches up with him at the ticket counter at the venue and he buys them both tickets. At the merch table, Haruna is dealing with a swarm of people that all want Tiger Mask anything. She can barely keep up with the demand. If Naoto wasn’t such a putz, I’d say he should be helping her out.
As the old man and his granddaughter find their seats, he reveals that he thinks this Tiger Mask is still the original Tiger Mask. He’s none too happy when he discovers that this isn’t the case. The little girl explains that the original TM would be ridiculously old now and her grandpa reluctantly agrees. The show starts and this is the little girl’s first time seeing wrestling. She’s in awe of, young lion, Ryu Wakamatsu taking on another wrestler from the dojo. Ryu taps out his opponent with a Boston Crab and the old man is pleased to see that the matches with the rookies hasn’t changed much since he was first a fan. This is absolutely the old man that you see in the front row of shows with his arms crossed and an unimpressed reaction for everything. Though he did almost crap his pants when Gorilla Jeet Singh ran by him with his sword in hand.
The shows cuts to the tag team main event of the night where Tiger Mask will really have to work to impress this old man. The match starts with Nagata and YOSHI-HASHI in the ring. YOSHI looks a lot bigger than he normally does here. The two men exchange slaps before tagging out to their partners. Tiger Mask and Okada both attempt clotheslines and a dropkick and none of the moves hit their mark. These two very even opponents are at a stalemate. Nagata gets tagged back into the match and Okada takes the advantage, slamming Nagata to the mat with a flapjack. Nagata rolls to the outside where YOSHI-HASHI is waiting to bonk him in the head with his staff.
— Kelly Harrass (@comicgeekelly) November 15, 2016
Tiger Mask steps in to make sure that YOSHI doesn’t turn this match into a game of Whack-A-Nagata. Tags are made and YOSHI-HASHI delivers a brutal chinbreaker to Tiger Mask. YH goes for an inverted DDT, but Tiger slips out of it and boots him in the face. Tiger Mask doesn’t let up, catching YOSHI with a swinging DDT. I would imagine that the old man is mad that the DDT didn’t end the match. Okada rushes into the ring to save his partner, but Nagata cuts him off and tackles him out of the ring. Tiger Mask grabs YOSHI-HASHI in a waistlock and hoists him up for a German suplex, a moment which takes the old man right back to his childhood when he saw the original Tiger Mask deliver a picture perfect German as well. Tiger plants YOSHI and it appears that the referee doesn’t even make the count, he just calls for the bell, awarding the match to Tiger Mask and Yuji Nagata. Off in the corner of the venue, Hikari takes notes for her eventual piece about TM. She’s probably noting something that I’ve said many times; don’t bring a YOSHI-HASHI to a fight you want to win.
As Tiger Mask heads to the back, the old man calls for his attention. The old man looks him in the eyes and tell him that he has the same eyes as the original Tiger Mask and that he looks forward to all of his matches. Tiger thanks him and the little girl interrupts to apologize for her grandfather. She happily reveals that this was her first wrestling show. This gives Naoto his first inclination that he’s making new fans with his matches. His actions mean more than just his vengeful motivations.
In the lobby of the venue, Haruna is completely exhausted, but she sold out of merch. The people really do love Tiger Mask. The next day at the airport, the scatterbrained Haruna tries to figure out if she got souvenirs for all of her friends and family. Hikari walks up and thanks Haruna for the chance to interview Tiger Mask. When she walks away, Naoto appears, with his face initially covered by a bag of t-shirts. I don’t know if he’s learning to hide his identity from the press or if it was just dumb luck. The episode ends over at the koori zenzai stand where the old man is in the happiest spirits that we’ve seen him in all episode. He’s slinging his food as he talks wrestling with his customers. It’s a solid way to make a living.
What an improvement this week was compared to the last episode. We got real story progression and character progression for Naoto. He’s still a dummy, but it looks like he’s realizing that wrestling isn’t just a selfish endeavor when you have fans. While Naoto’s skill level is taking him quickly to the top, he’s still green. Through these early episodes we’re seeing him grow as a wrestler and learn about the industry. While he might not know much about his predecessor, it would appear that he’s more like him than he might ever know.
Next week: I don’t know. The preview was so vague, I felt like I was watching Mad Men.