If you don’t know by now I watch pretty much every father-daughter anime on the market so color me surprised when I discovered The Gymnastics Samurai was one such show, but not only that, it was SO MUCH more. After checking this out on a whim for the Fall 2020 season, I knew I had to stick with this one and I’m very glad that I did.
On a very surface level this show is about gymnastics as the title would imply. Much like Yuri!!! on ICE, however, the real heart of the show is on just about everything else. Joutarou is a washed up gymnast who is being pushed to retire. After losing his wife and losing a major competition, he’s told to focus on his only daughter. He’s about to go through with it until he meets a “ninja” named Leo who follows him and his daughter home. He tells Joutarou that he loves seeing him do his gymnastics and is allowed to stay, and of course Joutarou doesn’t retire. It’s ridiculous, but that’s the setup.
The show then spends its time very evenly on each of its cast members, which is honestly shocking for an eleven episode series with a decently large cast. While a bulk of the story is focused on Joutarou, Leo, and Rei (Joutarou’s young daughter) even the supporting cast has plenty of time in the sun. You can boil the show down into three main plots however:
- Joutarou: His story is focused on finding a compromise on passion for gymnastics and everything else in his life. Before he pushed himself too hard and neglected his family. It’s a story of redemption and pursuing one’s dreams in a healthy way.
- Leo: Without spoiling things, Leo’s story is about facing one’s fears. Pursuing your passion even in the face of adversity and uncertainty. He acts as the other side to Joutarou’s proverbial coin. His character is a lot of fun and brings great energy to the screen.
- Rei: Finally, Rei’s story is a coming of age story. She learns to be her own person, speak up for herself, and follow her own passions. For many she’s the glue that holds everyone together, acting far more mature than even some of the adult characters. However, she is still very much a child and this is reflected quite well in her narrative.
Maybe this doesn’t sound like much, but it really does all come together in a way that’s nearly perfect. I have very few complaints about the show in fact, my only real one being that the show feels like it could go another eleven episodes switching focus from Joutarou to Leo. However, this is a very minor complaint as wanting more, even after being satisfied is never a bad thing! Otherwise, the score is perhaps a bit lacking in variety but it’s not something I cared that much about while watching.
In other points of praise for the series, I have to commend the CG work. Normally that sort of thing is ugly and distracting in anime, and while you do notice it here, it’s used smartly. Not only that, it actually looks good a vast majority of the time. If the latest Love Live! is any indication, CG might finally be moving in a positive direction for shows that aren’t exclusively CG.
The trailer truly doesn’t do the show justice
Of course this being a father-daughter show I’d be remiss to speak on that a bit more. It’s, unsurprisingly, good. Rei and Joutarou have a solid relationship that is allowed to be challenged here in a meaningful way. Rei isn’t perfect either, which is a common complaint with these types of shows. Her arc is particularly strong and one of the highlights of the series.
I really don’t want to spoil this one for you guys so hopefully what I’ve already said is enough to push you to check it out. Trust me, you won’t regret it. You’ll surely feel for these characters and feel invigorated about your own passions after. Great show for anyone. I can’t recommend it enough.
What did you think of The Gymnastic Samurai? Did this one fly under your radar? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below. If you enjoy my work please consider a donation via the avenues below. Thank you for reading and see you again soon!