The Great Sumo Cat of the Kokugikan has seen fit to make this yusho race interesting, and even the events that took place to get us to this state about as unusual as you could want. Some people take exception to my describing some of Shodai’s sumo as “cartoon”, and a few take umbrage. As it in play today, perhaps an explanation. As a child, I watched cartoons, a lot of them. Mostly the classic such as the Looney Tunes (Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, etc) with a few more contemporary hits thrown in. Things in the cartoon world don’t work the same as they do in the real world, and typically the protagonist will use some physics or geometry defying move to overcome the bad guy’s actions.
Forward to the present day. A few years ago, we saw Shodai get into trouble in a match, and suddenly do things that were tough to explain and most times reversed an almost certain loss. Sometimes it happened while Shodai was a few feet away. I could not figure out what was at work until it hit me – this is no different than “Who Framed Roger Rabbit”, where the toons invaded the normal world, bringing their cartoon physics and props with them. Thus Shodai’s unexplainable escapes and wins were explainable, and Shodai was deemed to have “cartoon sumo”. He used it again today. Twice.
Akua defeats Sadanoumi – I had expected Sadanoumi to use his superior speed and agility to dominate this match, but instead Akua used his big body to shut down Sadanoumi’s mobility and just used good old Newtonian sumo to score his 3rd win for January.
Kotoeko defeats Akiseyama – Good grief! That’s 5 losses in a row for Akiseyama, who at one point was part of the leader group. Kotoeko over powered him quite effectively, which is an achievement given the difference in mass between the two. Kotoeko improves to 5-6.
Yutakayama defeats Aoiyama – Aoiyama had this match on even footing, but then decided to try a neck pull against Yutakayama. Given he has done that at least twice in previous matches, it was easy to anticipate. Yutakayama improves to 7-4.
Kotonowaka defeats Shimanoumi – There is a tendency for sumo matches to spend at least some time in the present day as mutual nodowa exchanges. I find it rather boring, and I wish it would fall out of favor. These two had their moment of mutual nodowa, and it got them precisely nowhere. They went into a leaning mode, and Kotonowaka won by reversing and pulling Shimanoumi into a throw. He improves to 7-4.
Myogiryu defeats Ichinojo – Did Ichinojo use his ponderous bulk to his advantage today? No! He decided he wanted to pull straight out of the tachiai, and Myogiryu was ready. Dear Boulder. You should have had him try to push you around or hold you up for a minute or two first. Myogiryu improves to 6-5.
Hoshoryu defeats Kiribayama – This match had a lot of sumo fans talking, and much of it was critical of Hoshoryu. While I would rather have seen them fight it out, Kiribayama could have been ready for Hoshoryu’s henka. He improves to 6-5.
Midorifuji defeats Tokushoryu – The answer is “yes”, Midorifuji can apply the katasukashi to someone that large and rotund. It was over in a flash, and Midorifuji advances to 6-5.
Terutsuyoshi defeats Ryuden – Another match won at the tachiai, Terutsuyoshi steps to the side and picks up Ryuden’s left leg to win in a flash by ashitori. Terutsuyoshi improves to 5-6.
Tobizaru defeats Kotoshoho – Kotoshoho now with 11 straight losses. He’s not a crummy rikishi, but he’s just not able to win right now for some reason. Tobizaru once again brings a lot of energy and movement to his sumo, and scores a much needed win to improve to 5-6.
Meisei defeats Takarafuji – For whatever reason, Takarafuji could not get step up to stalemate Meisei today, as Meisei kept the upward pressure on Takarafuji’s arms immediately from the tachiai. With the win Meisei improves to 8-3 and is kachi-koshi.
Onosho defeats Daieisho – Onosho does what we all hoped he would, handing Daieisho his second loss with a beautifully timed step to the side as Daieisho charges to send him over the bales. With this second loss, the one time sole leader is now within range of two Ozeki and Meisei, whom he will face on day 12. Onosho improves to 7-4.
Hokutofuji defeats Kagayaki – Sure, now that Ol’Stompy Hokutofuji has firmly secured “The Most Powerful Make-Koshi In All of Sumo”, here come the wins. We finally get to see that handshake tachiai, and it stands Kagayaki up. Kagayaki has long legs, and so his hips are high anyhow, and Hokutofuji uses these elements to get low and attack center mass. When Hokutofuji fights like this, he is unstoppable. He improves to 3-8.
Mitakeumi defeats Tochinoshin – Mitakeumi keeps Tochinoshin moving, and he is easy meat in that situation. Unable to set up any kind of position with his left leg to stop Mitakeumi’s charge, he’s out in a moment. Mitakeumi improves to 6-5.
Takayasu defeats Endo – Rather than going for a low frontal mawashi grip, Endo choses to meet Takayasu’s opening strike with his hands high. Trading thrusts and blows with Takayasu was never going to favor Endo, and he goes down on the 4th volley when Takayasu adds a pull. Takayasu improves to 7-4.
Terunofuji defeats Tamawashi – For a man with no knees, Terunofuji has impressive balance. He absorbs the disrupting pushing attacks from Tamawashi, and remains on his feet. With the win Terunofuji improves to 7-4. Keep the dream alive, Kaiju!
Asanoyama defeats Takanosho – Takanosho put up a great fight. Twice Asanoyama tried to get his preferred grip and stance against Takanosho, but Takanosho broke each attempt, and kept the Ozeki in motion. Again we saw Asanoyama revert back to his earlier oshi form, and pull out the combo that won the match. Asanoyama clears kadoban with his 8th win and is kachi-koshi.
Shodai defeats Okinoumi – First match: Okinoumi launches a moment earlier than Shodai, and starts the match chest to chest. But Shodai is able to move forward and runs Okinoumi to the bales. A twisting throw at the edge looks like an Okinoumi win as it happens, but the Shimpan want to review it. The call – rematch! Second match: A much more cautious tachiai from both, but once again its Okinoumi on offense. Shodai tries the same square dancing combo he pulled out on day 10 for a win, but Okinoumi shifts his offense seamlessly and puts Shodai on his back for what appears to be another win. But its close and the Shimpan want to review, again. Frame by frame shows that Okinoumi stepped out before Shodai slammed into the clay, and the match was awarded to the Ozeki with a kimarite scored as isamiashi or “accidental step out” non-winning move. Shodai improves to 9-2 and is tied for the lead with Daieisho, with Asanoyama and Meisei one behind.