It’s definitely not the best recent sports anime out there, which most would probably agree is Yuri On Ice, but Tiger Mask W (pronounced as Tiger Mask Double) is an entertaining sports anime nonetheless.
Tiger Mask W, is a sequel series to the original Tiger Mask manga and anime, written by Ikki Kajiwara. Tiger Mask was a phenomenon in Japan in the early 70’s, so much so that it has inspired several anime adaptations, a couple of live action movies, character appearances and homages in a few video games, and was even so popular that a handful of real life Japanese wrestlers have taken on the mantle of Tiger Mask over time.
The original Tiger Mask series starred a character named Naoto Date, who was a heel wrestler in America, but became a face wrestler once he heard a young orphan boy, from the same orphanage he grew up in, say he wanted to be a villain like Tiger Mask when he grew up. Tiger Mask was then inspired to become a heroic wrestler and fought against a villainous organization known as Tiger’s Den, which he was once part of under the name of Yellow Devil. Angered by Naoto’s betrayal, the boss of the organization sent numerous assassins, which included other professional wrestlers, to get revenge on him for leaving.
In the sequel, Tiger Mask II, Naoto dies after saving a child from a speeding car. Tatsuo Aku, a fan of Tiger Mask and former orphan, then becomes the new Tiger Mask to fight against newly emerging villainous wrestlers.
Tiger Mask W ignores the events of Tiger Mask II, takes place many years after the original Tiger Mask series in the present day, and stars two main protagonists. These two protagonists are new characters, Naoto Azuma, and his friend, Takuma Fujii.
While Naoto and Takuma were both training under a wrestler named Daisuke Fujii, Takuma’s father, his spine was broken by a ruthless wrestler named Yellow Devil during a match, a member of the reformed Tiger’s Den. Naoto and Takuma then both individually swore that they would get their revenge on Yellow Devil for so mercilessly permanently injuring their mentor and went their separate ways.
Both protagonists decided they each needed someone new to train them. For Naoto, his new mentor was Kentaro Takaoka, a former ally of the original Tiger Mask, while Takuma was recruited by Yellow Devil himself to join Tiger’s Den, so he would eventually have a chance to fight him. Naoto takes on the mantle of Tiger Mask, while Takuma becomes Tiger the Dark, who may have been inspired by or an inspiration for the Pokémon known as Incineroar. Both individuals are unaware of the others identity, which makes for an interesting relationship dynamic once Tiger Mask and Tiger the Dark realize they are working toward the same goal.
The plot of Tiger Mask W is simple, but that simplicity ultimately helps the series. Fans don’t have to remember a ton of different characters or made up anime terms that they would in other anime series and it’s rather easy to understand what’s going on. Unlike other wrestling series such as Kinnikuman (Muscle Man) and Kinnikuman Nisei (known as Ultimate Muscle in the U.S.), Tiger Mask W does not involve wrestlers with wacky abilities, and stays a bit more grounded in reality for the most part. That’s oddly part of what makes it interesting, as it manages to stay entertaining without falling into the usual tropes that other action anime have.
There are also a few filler episodes, which are hit or miss and tackle rather silly occurrences, such as a Mexican wrestling promoter and her not so intelligent wrestling son trying to get Tiger Mask to wrestle in Mexico, or the characters taking a trip to go around and eat all the best sweets in town, which have all mysteriously been bought earlier. These episodes are a bit of a departure from the main story, as filler episodes usually are, but are entertaining enough on their own, plus the episode with the Mexican wrestler is hilarious.
With only 39 episodes planned for the series, 21 of which have already aired, it’s a shame that Tiger Mask W may not get another series/season, but it’s understandable knowing that the series is only telling a somewhat brief story. The series is also only available in Japanese with English subtitles, and it would be interesting to see how an English dub would be.
For what it is, Tiger Mask W is an entertaining and underrated action sports anime that can be a fun time even without being a fan of wrestling.
Tiger Mask W is available to watch on Crunchyroll
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