Over the past several months, we’ve all watched together as Naoto rose from a green rookie to a star as Tiger Mask W. Now, in this final episode, Naoto has moved onto Mexico and his manager Haruna is taking center stage. So friends, let’s get together one last time to talk about the Girls Wrestling Movement. Don’t forget that you can watch every episode of Tiger Mask W over at Crunchyroll and if you want to read all of my recaps, you can do that here.
Tiger Mask W Episode 38 Recap: Masked Tiger Springer
There’s something about this episode that feels different from all the rest. You can go with the obvious observation that Naoto and Takuma aren’t the main subjects of the show, but I think it goes beyond that. The animation has a slightly different feel. The animation looks a bit rougher at times, but the characters seem more alive than they did before. Their body language feels far more natural than it has in the past. Maybe the animation team finally got things together in this last episode or maybe they were just afforded the opportunity to experiment with this epilogue. Or maybe nothing changed in the animation and I’m just full of it.
The episode begins with a press conference in which Miss X introduces the new GWM to the wrestling world. While she’s using the GWM letters and logo, the company is going in a completely different direction. Dead is the Global Wrestling Monopoly and in its place rises the Girls Wrestling Movement, led by their ace, Springer. What happened to make Haruna change from Spring Tiger to Springer and become the ace of GWM? Let’s flashback a month to find out.
One month earlier…
We go back to where we left off last week with Miss X asking Haruna for her help at the airport. Miss X explains that she wants to start a new joshi promotion and that she needs Haruna’s help to do it. Over the course of the series we would see brief glimpses at the real Miss X that actually cared about the wrestling industry. Most often she was trying to stomp out New Japan, but at times we would see her show genuine care for her wrestlers and her company. This episode leaves behind the cartoon bad guy character for Miss X and actually treats her like a real person with depth.
Haruna struggles to answer Miss X initially. She has to weigh her desire to be a wrestler with the backlash she’ll get from her family for it. Her uncle, Kentaro, was a wrestler long ago and it’s clear that he doesn’t want that life for his niece. Ultimately she decides to join the new league and goes to the new GWM HQ to start work on the company. This office/dojo might look familiar because it’s the former dojo of Zipangu Pro Wrestling, the company that give Naoto and Takuma their start as wrestlers. The significance is only there for us though. Miss X only opened the offices there because rent was cheap and the old GWM completely pulled out of Japan and sold off the Max Dome. It’s not clear if all of GWM has shut down or if it was just their Japan branch. I would assume that it’s completely dead because I can’t see them selling the GWM name license to Miss X otherwise.
In the middle of all this business talk, Candy Pair bursts through the door. Mint tackles Haruna on the couch with a huge sneak attack hug. Milk apologizes for the interruption while Mint checks to make sure that Haruna still has sweet abs. Miss X breaks up the tickle fight (seriously) to deliver some dire news to her wrestlers. GWM is pretty much broke and if their first show in Korakuen Hall doesn’t do well, that will probably be the end of this fledgling company.
Miss X says that she’s done her research and has discovered the keys to success which essentially boils down to the wrestlers being treated like idols, right down to singing. Also, Haruna has to change her wrestling name to Springer because Spring Tiger is too long. More than anything, this scene is noteworthy for the fan service they provide with pictures of Takuma and Kevin frolicking on a beach together. With these last two episodes, the Tiger Mask W team seems to have completely dropped the subtext when it comes to Takuma and Kevin being an item in the past.
— Kelly Harrass (@comicgeekelly) July 4, 2017
We see that Lady has stuck around to continue to act as Miss X’s personal assistant. Admirably, she wants to strike out and make a place for herself in the industry without using her uncle’s (Mister X) name. Lady pops in to tell Miss X that the press conference is all set and that leads us to where we started.
When we join the press conference in progress, Miss X announces the members of her very small roster. Springer and Candy Pair will be joined by US wrestlers, Queen and Payne (the Charlotte and Becky Lynch analogs from earlier in the series). She also announces two other names that have been invited the join the roster, but they’re joshi legends from a universe that isn’t ours. The wrestler we do see is Mother Devil, who is an absolute monster of a woman. It turns out that she’ll take on Springer at the inaugural show, leading to a tense confrontation between the two women. Mother Devil tells Springer to put her mask on the line if she’s confident that she can win, to which Springer says that she’d rather show her butt than her face. Everyone takes that super literally and now Haruna will have to show her butt if she loses the match.
The wager gets a ton of press, putting GWM in the spotlight for the first time. Wrestling companies should take note that butts put butts in seats. At the GWM office, the girls sit around and discuss the news as Haruna has her head down on the table in shame. Lady pokes her head into the room to say that Kourakuen called to let the company know that they can’t run the show if Springer is going to show her butt. Miss X rightly points out that male wrestlers show their butts all the time, but because this showing would be on purpose, Kourakuen objects. Now Haruna has even more motivation to win her match with Mother Devil. If she loses, her butt could put an end to GWM.
Don’t worry, it only gets worse for new GWM. Lady pops her head into the ring again to say that both of the joshi legends that were announced at the press conference have pulled out of the show because “They say they can’t work with an organization that reveals bums.” I feel like that’s a fair and acceptable stance. With these cancellations, there’s spaces that need to be filled on the card. The overly stressed, and slightly unhinged, Haruna cackles as she says that Miss X will have to make a return to the ring. It’s in this scene that the animation style kind of reminds me of the animation in Mob Psycho 100’s quieter moments.
Elsewhere in an American bar, Takuma and Odin crack open a cold one with the boys and look at the wrestling news websites. They have a chuckle about Miss X having a rough go of it and we quickly jet to Mexico where Naoto gets a phone call from Haruna. She confesses to wrestling as Spring Tiger (because Naoto is still a dense idiot at times) and asks him for advice. Naoto, remembering all the times Haruna kicked him in the ass, advises that she uses a kick as her finisher.
In the days leading up to the big event, Haruna practices her new kick finisher, but it doesn’t seem to be coming together. She wakes up in the middle of the night to kick away at a corner pad in the dojo until she’s stopped by Miss X, who tells her to not overwork herself. Haruna and Miss X have a heart to heart talk about the upcoming match and Haruna’s lack of confidence going into it. Miss X gives her a pep talk, telling her that she wouldn’t have scouted her for nothing and she clearly has the talent necessary to be a success. Hold your chin up, Haruna, Sandra has your back. Who’s Sandra? That’s Miss X’s real name, which she reveals as the final bits of her old Miss X persona are stripped away.
Girls Wrestling Movement Begins!
The doors to the show open and the girls are out in force, welcoming the fans to the venue and selling merch in the lobby. Miss X is calling in quite a few favors to put the show together as even Hikari Kuruma has been tapped to provide commentary for the event. Easily the best part of the scene is when we see Ryu Wakamatsu taking a mark pic with Springer. Ryu’s blushing shows that he clearly has a crush on Springer and he probably has no idea that Springer and Haruna are the same person.
There’s a buzz in the building about the show, just as there is one back in that American bar where Takuma and Odin watch the livestream of the show on Odin’s phone. The show opens with Viper Takagi taking on X Woman. Odin is completely shocked to see his former boss in the ring. When we join the match, Viper has X in a crab hold, which is then transitioned to an ankle lock as X refuses to give up. Sandra lasts a while, but she eventually taps out in the opening match of her own show. That’s true selflessness as a booker. X takes a while to get out of the ring, appearing to have a leg injury. Ruriko runs over to check on her and Takuma’s interest is instantly grabbed.
In the second match, Milk takes on Payne. While they’re grappling, Payne asks if Milk’s stomach is doing okay now, a callback to when Milk had to get her appendix removed. That actually led to Haruna stepping into the ring for the first time to tag with Mint and replace Milk so that’s actually a super cool moment to bring up. Payne hits a big splash from the top rope and scores the three count. Candy Pair does get a win in match three when Mint beats Queen with a brainbuster.
Your Main Event: Springer vs. Mother Devil
The bell rings and Springer immediately charges Mother Devil. She leaps into the air for a spinning kick, which misses its mark. Haruna doesn’t let up, throwing kick after kick after kick at Mother Devil, who masterfully dodges most of the attacks. When she sees an opening, the veteran nails Springer with a hard forearm shot. Springer bounces off the ropes for a dropkick, which Devil catches. She drives Springer into the mat with her elbow, causing a cracking sound to come from Springer’s midsection.
With Springer down on the mat, Mother Devil gets her in a side headlock, talking trash the entire time she’s stuck in it. Rather than end the match there, Mother Devil releases the hold. Springer struggles back to her feet and Devil beckons her to charge at her again. Haruna, being the rookie that she is, takes the bait and is struck with the Devil Mother Chop. Devil follows up with several strikes and a variation on an inverted piledriver. Mother Devil flings Springer into the ropes, looking to end things with a huge lariat.
As Springer runs back on the rebound, time slows down. Memories fly past Haruna and her mind is made up; she’s going to be a pro wrestler.
Springer leaps into the air, nailing Mother Devil in the face with a hip attack. Mother Devil slumps against the ropes, leading her to get hit in the back of the head with a 619. Mother Devil staggers forward, trying to grab Springer, who slides through her legs. Haruna shows incredible athleticism, stepping up the ropes and springboarding twice before kicking Mother Devil’s face off. She goes for the pin and Springer thankfully gets the three count. They told a great story in this short match and showed that GWM will be in good hands with their young ace. ***1/2
Following the match, Springer takes the mic to thank Mother Devil for the match. She also thanks the audience and apologizes to the people that wanted to see her butt. The promo isn’t unlike the typical promo you would hear at the end of a STARDOM show. The wrestlers show a strong appreciation to the audience for coming to see the show and supporting the company. Just as Haruna is about to begin her song, Miss X puts a stop to that and orders that everyone immediately begin cleaning up the venue so they don’t get charged for staying there longer than they are supposed to. The stream of the show ends abruptly, leading Odin and Takuma to conclude that GWM has a lot to work on.
Back at the GWM office, the girls celebrate a successful first show while Haruna talks to Naoto on the phone. She tells him that she’s going to come clean to her family about her wrestling career. Naoto offers to talk to Kentaro for her, but in a symbolic moment, Haruna says that she’ll be fine (without him). She wants to win them over on her own merits. Haruna says goodbye to Naoto and goes to join her friends at the party. Over the course of the series, we’ve seen Haruna grow up and become both a successful businesswoman and a successful wrestler. She’s going to be just fine without Naoto by her side.
The final shot of the season, and perhaps the entire series, is the best possible final shot. Naoto leaps to the top rope as he’s about to take on an opponent and the series ends on a tight shot of his hand pointing to the sky in his signature ring entrance. The only thing I love more than that shot is who his opponent is. Tiger Mask W is about to take on Mr. No and let me tell you something about Mr. No; his head looks like a floppy ‘ole dick. His Tiger Mask W reboot makes him a grey color, but he still looks like he’s got a dick for a head. Friend of the column, Paul Sebert first brought Mr. No to my attention with this video and, my word, this is just Tiger Mask fighting a penis man. There’s no other way that I would want Tiger Mask W to end than with Tiger about to step into the ring with a dong headed enemy.
Presented without comment… pic.twitter.com/IhuLpdMFsW
— Paul❄️Sebert (@Paul_Sebert) March 28, 2017
A few final thoughts
And there we have it.
For thirty eight weeks, we all watched this tremendous wrestling anime. The series definitely had its ups and downs, but there was quite a bit more good than there ever was bad. We got a fun look into the world of Japanese wrestling and kind of got an idea of how they view American wrestling. This was quite clearly a pro-NJPW series and you would have to be dense as Naoto to see the original GWM as anything other than a WWE analog. If it wasn’t clear already, WWE is viewed as the invading enemy. Tiger Mask W may be a children’s show, but the rhetoric is clear. New Japan intends to fight WWE and they intend to kick them out of the country.
Ultimately, this series will most likely be looked back upon as a fun artifact of this era of New Japan. While the Inoki-ism era featured wrestlers being destroyed in MMA matches, the Kidani era features wrestlers as cartoon characters. It sounds goofy, but this is really a case of the current owner having a better understanding of his audience. This bizarre mix of real wrestlers in this oddly realistic anime world is everything that I’ve ever wanted out of wrestling media. I truly hope that Tiger Mask W gets a second season, but if it doesn’t, I’ll be content with the 38 episodes that we have.
It’s been a pleasure to review each and every episode of this series. Thank you to Rich for editing and posting all of these columns. Thank you everyone that read the column and shared it on your social media. Every like, retweet, share, and comment was hugely appreciated. I’ll ride off into the anime sunset for now, but you better believe that I’ll be talking about more weird wrestling media on this website very soon.
And now, I leave you with this.
Oh dear I found a worse one… pic.twitter.com/y7EWD4otWk
— Paul❄️Sebert (@Paul_Sebert) March 28, 2017