In the red corner, buff men. In the blue corner, moé girls. Fight.
Sports anime aren’t exactly a rarity–this season’s offerings including the rugby series ALL OUT!! and volleyball story Haikyu!! (which is currently airing its third season). This season, we also have two anime with the same sport as their focus: martial arts.
Wrestling anime Tiger Mask W and magical girl/kickboxing series ViVid Strike don’t seem to have a lot in common at first glance–one has muscular men fighting bears and climbing snowy mountains, while the other has girls going to the hot springs for a fan service scene after their training session. However, despite the difference in visuals, the themes within the two are quite similar in several key ways.
©Ikki Kajiwara, Naoki Tsuji/Kodansha, TV Asahi, Toei Animation
Wrestler Takuma from Tiger Mask W was once a cheery member of the Zipang wrestling organization. However, after the cruel pro wrestler Yellow Devil mercilessly injures his father in the ring to a point that he can’t walk anymore, Takuma’s peronsality completely changes, and he embarks on a journey to become strong and get revenge.
Similarily, when the cheerful child Rinne is unable to make it to her adopted grandfather’s side for his last moments before passing away due to the interference of bullies, she vows to become stronger. Rinne throws away her happy personality and focuses only on becoming the strongest. Not for revenge, but instead, to have the strength to protect.
In order to become strong, Rinne abandons her one and only friend and goes into a life of solitude. Even though her adoptive parents are around for her, in her mind, Rinne is alone as she seeks true strength. Just like her, Takuma parts from his best friend Naoto in order to enter the Tiger’s Den and become Tiger the Dark, a wrestler who fights on the side of evil. However, in reality, he’s fighting all on his own within the Tiger’s Den to destroy it from the inside.
After Rinne and Takuma leave everything behind in order to reach their goals, their best friends, Fuka and Naoto, are picked up by wise mentors who train them in order to fight back standing proud in the light. In the case of Fuka, she is put under the tutelage of Einheart Stratos, a girl who is a world champion in professional fighting. Naoto, on the other hand, trains rigorously with the instruction of Kentarō Takaoka, an elderly man who was once a wrestler himself and the friend of the original Tiger Mask. Through the training of these mentors, both Fuka and Naoto are able to stand in the ring, prepared to face their friend-turned-enemy.
When they face off against each other, of course they don’t go unprepared–Fuka, Naoto, Rinne, and Takuma all change when they get into the ring. Fuka and Rinne use devices to transform (magical girl transformation sequence included) into their fighter personas, as you can see in the video above.
In the case of wrestlers Naoto and Takuma, the two disguise their faces with masks that look like tigers in order to hide their respective identities.
Whether you prefer the manly men of Tiger Mask W or the adorable girls of ViVid Strike!, both shows share a classic archetype. Despite their outer appearances, these two anime have more similarities at their cores than you’d expect at first glance.
ViVid Strike! is currently streaming on Amazon Prime in the United Kingdom, and streaming in the United States has been confirmed to be coming at a later date. Tiger Mask W is available to watch now on Crunchyroll.