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SUMO: 2018 Kyushu Basho (Day 13)

We’ve reached Friday the thirteenth day of the tournament (it just so happens that Day 13 of every basho lands on a Friday). Komusubi Takakeisho still has only one loss and is atop the leaderboard, but two of the rikishi trailing him—M9 Daieisho and M12 Aoiyama—lost on Thursday, leaving only ozeki Takayasu in second place. Suddenly, the hunt for the yusho [tournament championship] is much tighter. In fact, only three rikishi remain tied for third place—Daieisho, Aoiyama, and M13 Onosho (who only suffered his third loss on Day 11).

Takakeisho continues to look almost supernaturally calm, particularly for such a young rikishi who is in such a high-pressure situation for the first time in his career. Yesterday he beat M2 Tamawashi with another of the big roundhouse left arm swings that he used successfully in the early part of Week 1. In this case, though, Tamawashi didn’t go face down on the dohyo, but he was quickly and convincingly knocked out of the ring and off the dohyo. 

Takayasu bounced back from his near loss to sekiwake Ichinojo on Day 11, and completely dominated fellow-ozeki Tochinoshin. Something is definitely wrong with Tochinoshin, but he’s still a big, strong, dangerous opponent, and Takayasu handled him impressively. 

The biggest impact of the Takayasu/Tochinoshin pairing is that, with ozeki Goeido having gone kyujo [absent due to injury] there are no more ozeki/ozeki matches left to put on the schedule. That leaves one to wonder how the Kyokai [Sumo Association] is going to handle scheduling the end-of-day matches for the upcoming final weekend. Usually, each day culminates with a yokozuna/yokozuna match, but all of them are kyujo, too. They probably don’t want to wait until the final day to pair up the first and second place rikishi (because depending on the outcome, it might mean that the two have to face each other immediately again in a yusho tie-breaker). But outside of that match-up, I don’t know what big marquee matches remain for this basho. 

We have an addition kyujo, but not one that impacts the yusho race. M16 Arawashi, who has been going through the whole tournament with a clearly injured knee, has finally decided that he’s only doing himself more harm by continuing to fight. With a record of 1–11, he will now sit out the remainder of the basho.

Here are some of the biggest bouts from today’s action:

Komusubi Takakeisho (11–1) vs. M12 Aoiyama (9–3)—Leader Takakeisho takes on Aoiyama who until yesterday was tied for second place. And, if Aoiyama can win, he’ll be back in second place again. (9:30)
Sekiwake Mitakeumi (6–6) vs. M5 Chiyotairyu (5–7)—Mitakeumi started this basho with hopes of earning a promotion to ozeki, but here entering the final weekend he’s in danger of not even getting kachi-koshi! He needs two more wins to hold on to his rank. (12:00)
M6 Takanoiwa (6–6) vs. ozeki Tochinoshin (6–6)—Coming into this tournament, Tochinoshin was my pick to win the yusho, but he still needs two more wins to secure his kachi-koshi. What a strange basho it has been! (12:45)
M9 Daieisho (9–3) vs. ozeki Takayasu (10–2)—Until yesterday, Daieisho was tied for second place. Today he faces the only second place rikishi left. Takayasu wants to win today because he faces leader Takakeisho tomorrow. This is where the yusho race really heats up! (14:30)

DINOvember: Dino Fight II

In honor of Black Friday shopping nastiness, here is DinoFight II: Stegosaurus vs. actual turkey-sized Velociraptors.

DINOvember: Bonus Process Video

I had so much fun making today’s comic that I thought I’d share a process video with everyone. Thank you for all your support during this month of dinosaur comics, and all year ’round!

I had so much fun making this comic … I thought I'd share the process video with you, too!

Posted by Stan Brown on Thursday, November 22, 2018

SUMO: 2018 Kyushu Basho (Day 12)

Day 12 of this basho ALSO happens to be Thanksgiving here in the States, and I have a lot of food prep work to do before our feast, so this will be a very short commentary. Luckily, though, not much has changed since yesterday.

Komusubi Takakeisho is still alone atop the leaderboard with a 10–1 record. Immediately behind him are M12 Aoiyama, M9 Daieisho, and ozeki Takayasu, with M13 Onosho having lost yesterday and dropping back into the lurking pack that is hoping for these leaders to stumble under the pressure of the yusho [tournament championship] race.

Takayasu got exceedingly lucky yesterday. He set himself up to lose in his match against sekiwake Ichinojo, but the big Mongolian stepped outside of the ring a split second earlier than the ozeki. It really FELT like Takayasu lost, which may plague him today, but for now it doesn’t matter. He remains in the tie for second place.

One new addition to the kyujo [absent due to injury] crowd—after securing his kachi-koshi [majority of wins] victory over komusubi Kaisei, ozeki Geoido has cited an injury and withdrawn from the basho. He says that the injury occurred on Day 7, and the pundits are saying that it explains his back-to-back sidestep maneuvers to get his sixth and seventh wins. He went head-on against Kaisei, but we know that the Brazilian rikishi is injured and not moving well, and so would not have been as vulnerable to the semi-henka maneuvers that Goeido has been using. In any case, Goeido is out now, leaving just two ozeki representing the top tier of the banzuke [ranking sheet].

Today’s most important matches include:

M9 Kotoshogiku (6–5) vs. M12 Aoiyama (9–2)—Aoiyama takes on former-ozeki Kotoshogiku, who’s been very unpredictable this tournament. Some days he looks great, other days he’s seemed unmotivated. (3:00)
M13 Onosho (8–3) vs. M9 Daieisho (9–2)—Onosho fell two wins behind the leader and out of second place with a loss yesterday. If he can bounce back with a win today, he’ll drag Daieisho down to join him. (3:35)
Komusubi Takakeisho (10–1) vs. M2 Tamawashi (7–4)—Tamawashi has been looking pretty good this basho, putting up very strong fights even in losing efforts. Takakeisho knows that he must keep his winning streak alive because he’s going to be paired up against ozeki Takayasu sometime in the next couple of days. (11:05)
Ozeki Tochinoshin (6–5) vs. ozeki Takayasu (9–2)—I’m surprised that the Kyokai [Sumo Association] scheduled this pairing today. With no yokozuna in the mix, the head-to-head ozeki matches are the biggest marquee matches on the schedule. And now, with Goeido having gone kyujo, this is the ONLY one their going to get. (14:15)

DINOvember: Prehistoric Thanksgiving

Today’s DINOvember drawing is ALSO the first new 10’x10′ Toon comic since 2014! So yeah, that’s something to be thankful for.

SUMO: 2018 Kyushu Basho (Day 11)

As we hit Day 11 of the Kyushu Basho, the tournament is now two-thirds in the books and our leader is still komusubi Takakeisho. One loss behind him remain the same four rikishi—ozeki Takayasu, M9 Daieisho, M12 Aoiyama, and M13 Onosho. 

As I predicted a few days ago, Aoiyama and Onosho continue to have an easy time as they face opponents who are ranked in the lower part of the banzuke [ranking sheet]. That should begin to change sometime over the next few days as the Kyokai [Sumo Association] starts to “reward” them for their strong performance by “letting” them fight rikishi from higher on the banzuke. Of course, both Aoiyama and Onosho have thrived at the top of the Makeuchi Division, so they have a real chance of continuing their winning streaks and remaining in the hunt for the yusho [tournament championship].

Meanwhile Takayasu continues to perform like a true ozeki (maybe for the first time since he ascended to the rank last year. Since he and Takakeisho haven’t squared off yet, I have to give him the nod as my favorite to win the yusho . . . but even that is only a razor thin lead. Anyone who at this point tells you that they have a very strong sense of who will hoist the Emperor’s Cup on Sunday is thinking more with his sumo heart than his head.

Most amazing and unpredictable of all is our leader, Takakeisho. Don’t get me wrong, he’s been a strong up-and-coming rikishi all year, and anyone who’s been following the sport has expected great things for his future. But his march over the high-ranking opponents he faced in the first few days came completely out of nowhere, and his ability to remain calm and continue to do strong, measured sumo throughout the first ten days is a surprise to everyone. He just hasn’t been this consistent in a basho ever before. It will be fun to find out if he really can keep his cool as we go through the final five days till senshuraku [the final day], and if he can surprise the sumo world by being the third first-time yusho champion of the year (something that hasn’t happened since 2000).

Ozeki Tochinoshin put in a strong performance yesterday against sekiwake Ichinojo. He had a good tachi-ai [initial charge], got his hands on the Mongolian behemoth’s mawashi [belt] quickly, and was able to use his classic power sumo to force the heaviest man in the division out of the ring. Having said all that, his performance only reinforces my thoughts from yesterday that he has a nagging problem in his right knee. That is, when he faces an opponent who doesn’t do anything tricky (and Ichinojo is as straightforward as they come), Tochinoshin can get his favorite position and show his strength. It’s only when he’s pressed by someone nimble or clever, who can force the ozeki into a position where he must use his right leg to generate power or as the basis of his defense, that the big Georgian has problems. With a 5–5 record, he’d better grab another couple of wins before he has to start facing his fellow ozeki at the week’s end.

Meanwhile, ozeki Goeido used a non-henka jump-to-the-side maneuver for the second day in a row. The crowd, which buzzed disapprovingly on Monday, actually had some murmured boos on Tuesday. Goeido may have set himself up with a 7–3 record, meaning he needs only one more victory to secure his kachi-koshi [majority of wins], but the way he did it has made him look scared, unconfident in his abilities, and very much unlike an ozeki.

Today’s matches to watch include:

M12 Aoiyama (8–2) vs. M10 Yutakayama (4–6)—Aoiyama has another relatively low ranked opponent who isn’t having a good tournament. He must take advantage of these pairings before they start putting him against tougher rikishi. (1:50)
M13 Onosho (8–2) vs. M7 Shohozan (6–4)—Onosho is already getting boosted up the banzuke to fight someone in the mid-ranks. Shohozan is always a tough opponent, very feisty and quick. (4:10)
M9 Daieisho (8–2) vs. M6 Kagayaki (3–7)—Daieisho lucks out and gets a match against Kagayaki, who is big and strong, but generally doesn’t come in with any plan other than being big and strong. (5:20)
Komusubi Takakeisho (9–1) vs. M2 Tochiozan (6–4)—Takakeisho faces someone who was up among the leaders until a couple of days ago. Tochiozan is a dangerous opponent. (8:45)
Sekiwake Ichinojo (3–7) vs. ozeki Takayasu (8–2)—Takayasu must beat the gigantic-but-lumbering Ichinojo if he wants to stay in the yusho race. (12:10)

DINOvember: Dilophosaurus

Jurassic Park got it wrong. Diliphosaurus didn’t have neck fringes or spit poison. But it did have head crests and a winning smile.

SUMO: 2018 Kyushu Basho (Day 10)

It’s Day 10 of the Kyushu Basho, and komusubi Takakeisho remains alone atop the leaderboard with an 8–1 record. The number of rikishi one loss him has been reduced down to four—ozeki Takayasu, M9 Daieisho, M12 Aoiyama, and M13 Onosho.

Takakeisho pulled out all the stops yesterday in his match against ozeki Tochinoshin, who he blasted off the dohyo in just a couple of seconds. This certainly shows the komusubi’s focus and determination, but it also re-opens the question of what’s wrong with Tochinoshin. Something’s been off all tournament, which his 4–5 record certainly attests to, but no one’s quite sure what. My suspicion is that he’s having problems with his right knee (the one that’s always in a brace and covered by a half-leg bandage). Given how he’s moving, I don’t think it’s anything serious, more like a weakness or a strain—something that makes it difficult for him to do his usual aggressive, powerful sumo, and also introduces an exploitable hole in his defense. It’s clear that he’s not going in the competition for the yusho [tournament championship] this time around, but I hope that he’s able to secure a kachi-koshi [majority of wins]. After all the struggles he went through to get promoted to ozeki, I’d hate for him to be kadoban [threatened with ozeki demotion] again so soon into his run at sumo’s second highest rank. 

Ozeki Takayasu has bounced back nicely from his end of Week 1 slump, and looked strong and in control in his win over M4 Yoshikaze. Right now, the big match that everyone is looking forward to is when Takayasu goes head to head with Takakeisho, which should happen in the next couple of days. That will define the shape of the final sprint in the yusho race.

Since we’re talking about ozeki, let me take a moment to say how disappointed I was with Goeido for the way he performed in yesterday’s match against M5 Chiyotairyu. Both rikishi came into the bout with 5–3 records, and it promised to be an exciting contest. But rather than taking his opponent on directly, Goeido went for a soft tachi-ai [initial charge] followed by a quick hop to the side, avoiding the fight entirely and leaving Chiyotairyu unbalanced and unsupported. It wasn’t a henka, but only by the thinnest of margins. And there’s nothing at all illegal about the maneuver, but it’s garnering a win by trickery rather than by good sumo. And for an ozeki who has been struggling all tournament, it’s a sign of weakness, not to mention a lack of confidence in his own ability to win the match on his own strength and skill.

Meanwhile, Onosho and Aoiyama continue to look very strong in their matches against their opponents further down the banzuke [ranking sheet]. As I said the other day, these rikishi deserve to be ranked much higher than M13 and M12 respectively, and that will make it easier for them to stay in the hunt for the yusho. 

Finally, a quick note about forty-year-old rikishi Aminishiki, who is in the Juryo Division for this tournament, ranked at J2 and currently 4–5. He won his match on Monday by kubinage [neck throw], a kimarite [winning maneuver] he’d never used before in his long career. In fact that’s the second “new” kimarite Aminishiki used this week, having won by Amiuchi [fisherman’s throw] on Day 6. This is particularly notable because it means that over the course of his career, Aminishiki has now successfully used 45 different kimarite, which is one shy of the all-time record held by Kyokushuzan (a Mongolian former-komusubi who fought in the late ’90s and early 2000s). Can Aminishiki find two more “new” ways to win at his age? Certainly, it’s another good reason to keep an eye on this wily veteran.

Today’s top matches include:

M13 Onosho (7–2) vs. M14 Chiyoshoma (5–4)—Onosho going for his kachi-koshi against another opponent ranked near the bottom of the banzuke. Should be an easy win for him. (0:35)
M13 Takanosho (3–6) vs. M9 Daieisho (7–2)—Daieisho, another of our second-place rikishi, also faces a low ranked opponent today. (2:40)
M12 Aoiyama (7–2) vs. M8 Takarafuji (4–5)—Aoiyama has to fight up the banzuke today, but Takarafuji hasn’t been particularly sharp so far this basho. Also, Aoiyama leads their personal rivalry 16–3. (4:00)
M11 Chiyonokuni (2–7) vs. M7 Shohozan (6–3)—This turns out to be a real knock down, drag out, street sumo bout. One of the most exciting of the tournament so far. (5:10)
Komusubi Takakeisho (8–1) vs. M1 Hokutofuji (5–4)—Our leader, Takakeisho, facing the bullish and dangerous Hokutofuji. (9:50)
M5 Chiyotairyu (5–4) vs. ozeki Takayasu (7–2)—Takayasu better look sharp today. Chiyotairyu is coming off being embarrassed by Goeido yesterday, and will be looking to take some revenge on a different ozeki. (12:55)

DINOvember: Troodon

Looking very skittish because he’s afraid he’ll be mistaken for a prehistoric turkey!

SUMO: 2018 Kyushu Basho (Day 9)

Week 2 of the Kyushu basho kicks off with komusubi Takakeisho having reclaimed sole possession of the top of the leaderboard. He’s 7–1 and immediately followed by a half-dozen rikishi at 6–2—ozeki Takayasu, M2 Tochiozan, M7 Abi, M9 Daieisho, M12 Aoiyama, and M13 Onosho.

Takakeisho continued to look strong and calm as he beat M1 Myogiryu yesterday. Today, though, he has to face ozeki Tochinoshin, who finally looked like his old self yesterday. For the first time this basho, Tochinoshin had a solid tachi-ai [initial charge] and got himself into his favorite position (left hand upper grip on the mawashi). When he does this, he’s extremely hard to beat. The big question today is whether he can do that again, or if Takakeisho’s wild tsuppari (pushes and thrusts) will hold him at bay. I look for Takakeisho to try that big roundhouse left that took his opponents by such surprise in the first few days of the tournament.

Meanwhile, Takayasu seemed not to be terribly bothered by the back spasm he suffered during his loss on Saturday. He came back strong yesterday and dispatched M4 Shodai without any trouble. Likewise, sekiwake Mitakeumi seems to have regained his rhythm as he easily handled his fellow sekiwake Ichinojo. With a 5–3 record, a promotion to ozeki is still technically within Mitakeumi’s grasp, but he needs to have a near-perfect Week 2 in order to secure it. Since there aren’t any yokozuna to face, I think the Kyokai are going to demand that he get 12 wins in order to be promoted. That means he’ll have to beat ALL of the ozeki and not have any more “off days” against lower-ranked opponents.

Speaking of Ichinojo, he seems to have forgotten all the lessons that have allowed him to remain at sumo’s third highest rank for most of this year. So far this basho, he’s been fighting like the lumbering, guileless behemoth that yo-yoed up and down the banzuke [ranking sheet] for so long. He comes into today’s matches with a 2–6 record and has to have a spectacular Week 2 if he wants to avoid demotion.

Ozeki Goeido got a pretty easy win yesterday over M4 Yoshikaze, putting him at 5–3 for the tournament. He still hasn’t looked at his best, even as he’s won his last three matches in a row, but at least he’s pulled out of the rut he was in during the middle of Week 1. 

We’ve got seven days of sumo left, and the yusho race is in full swing. It should be competitive all the way to the end of the basho, and the only thing I’m feeling confident about is the likelihood that we’ll end up having a playoff to decide the eventual winner.

Today’s top matches include:

FLASHBACK: Mainoumi vs. Terao—Today’s color commentators on NHK were two of my favorite rikishi when I was living in Japan. It’s fun to see a classic match from back then. (2:25)
Sekiwake Mitakeumi (5–3) vs. M3 Ryuden (2–6)—Mitakeumi is trying to salvage his chances for an ozeki promotion. Ryuden is trying to salvage his whole tournament, this being his highest ranking ever. (9:15)
Komusubi Takakeisho (7–1) vs. ozeki Tochinoshin (4–4)—Clearly the match of the day. The current leader facing one of his two remaining matches against a higher ranked opponent. Tochinoshin looked good yesterday, but has he really gotten his rhythm back? (12:10)