Some of us are on a career path we chose early on and worked hard to get on. Some of us are wondering where we are headed. Some of us may have lost sight of our goals. Some of us may have shifted direction, towards a new destination. This week, Tiger Mask W gives us an opportunity to take a break and look back at what we have accomplished, the reasons for that, and which way we should strive on toward.
First, I should point out that the latest episode (#8) of Tiger Mask W contains a big reveal as to the main character’s past. Please do not read past this point if you do not want to be spoiled!
We had been learning little by little the history behind the wrestling organization Jipang, and how Naoto Azuma along with Takuma Fujii had been training there. That is until the day mysterious wrestler Yellow Devil completely obliterated its leader, Daisuke Fujii (Takuma’s father), in a gruesome wrestling match full of foul play.
With Daisuke hospitalized after this fateful fight, Jipang disbanded, and the members all went their separate ways. Takuma left to train at The Tiger’s Den upon hearing that that was where Yellow Devil learned his skills. Eventually he emerged as “Tiger the Dark.”
Naoto, meanwhile, went off on his own, becoming an apprentice of Kentaro Takaoka, a mechanic running the Takaoka Motors shop. Takaoka was a friend of the original Tiger Mask, and so he trained Naoto to become the new incarnation.
Well, now it turns out that Naoto Azuma, who goes by the moniker of Tiger Mask in the ring, was the sole survivor in his family when a major disaster struck his region.
Though not specifically mentioned, we can assume it was a tsunami because he mentioned that “everything was washed away.”
He mentions how he lost everything and grew up in temporary housing, with an uncertain future. This is a very real problem in current Japanese society, after the recent disasters in the Tohoku region, Kumamoto prefecture, and most recently, Tottori.
Naoto recounts how a charity visit to the devastated area by professional wrestlers, including Daisuke Fujii, gave him the inspiration to move forward, a goal to work towards, a new meaning to his life. He made the commitment to train hard and live for the fight.
These charity visits are real and, in the wake of the recent disasters, have become more common. It is not a coincidence that this seems likely to be a major pillar of the developing story, because the very organization that has arranged a number of these charity events is the New Japan Pro-Wrestling company, who also happen to co-produce Tiger Mask W.
Their website has DVDs on sale containing several of these special relief events for the areas affected by the disasters, with bonus documentary footage of the regions. “All Together II” in particular is a massive event that featured various wrestling groups gather together for support of the Tohoku region, held at the Sun Plaza Hall in Sendai in Miyagi prefecture, one of the most badly-hit areas.
The aim is, of course, to motivate the young people there and get them out of their slump–to make them believe in a future they can create for themselves. It certainly worked for Naoto.
However, the episode also introduces a twist, which serves as a challenge to Naoto’s philosophy. Naoto, as Tiger Mask, had agreed to appear in a tag-team match, but the dark corporation GWM (Global Wrestling Monopoly) sets up an event on the same day which invites outside challengers to do battle with the seemingly-invincible Yellow Devil. The reappearance of the Yellow Devil forces Naoto to cancel his tag-team match, apologizing to his partner and the organizer, and instead seek revenge. As he puts it, he is a tiger, and when he sees his prey, he has to hunt it down.
Though not explicitly alluded to in too much detail, the internal struggle within Naoto will probably come to a head later. Namely, his conflict regarding his ultimate aim. He is a very successful wrestler currently. By all accounts, he has fulfilled his ambition to become a top fighter as a result of his dedication during the years when he rose from his devastated life.
However, after his mentor was paralyzed, the fulfillment of being a top wrestler was no longer his goal. He instead came to prioritize the defeat, by his own hand, of the Yellow Devil. Now that that choice has in effect come down to an ultimatum, we see him choose revenge, rather than his love of wrestling. Essentially, the question is, should that be his ultimate goal? Or is the joy of wrestling–i.e., setting a good example, forming alliances, etc.–not enough? And, is defeating the Yellow Devil worth sacrificing all of that? Tiger Mask W is now a double-bind between personal revenge versus his original dream.
It is yet to be seen how this will play out, but the juxtaposition is a worthy one to ponder when looking at our own lives. Are we making the right choices, and if so, for the right reasons? Perhaps from time to time we need to pause and think of our short-term and long-term goals.
Tiger Mask W can be viewed with English subtitles on Crunchyroll.