First Look: Burning Kabaddi

burningkabaddititleAlternative title: Shakunetsu Kabaddi
Manga Adaptation by TMS Entertainment
Streaming on Crunchyroll

Premise

Yoigoshi Tatsuya used to be a big football (soccer) player, but he’s had enough and, when entering high school, became a livestreamer and shunned all sports. Members of various sports teams from the school beg for him to join, but he refused them all until, one day, he met the members of the kabaddi team.

Peter’s verdict: Is this Aikatsu?

So, hands up, how many of you know what kabaddi is? Not just “it’s a sport invented in India where you chant the name of the sport”, actually how it works? Yeah, I really didn’t know before seeing this show, and they did a good job of making me feel a lot more knowledgeable about it by the end of episode 1, but I’m getting ahead of myself here.

I don’t have a great history with sports anime, or sports in real life for that matter, so having the opening of this show have our main protagonist Yoigoshi Tatsuya want to “get away from all sports” is a fun thing, but I feel like it’s a pretty common start to a sports anime, if a bit more extreme to extend to “all sports” rather than a single sport in question. Since he’s singled out as a star player, the other teammates talk about him behind his back, and he has to deal with getting yelled at by coaches who get mad at the slightest mistake, etc. So he becomes a livestreamer, as you do, sporting your standard mask to keep anonymous while on the Internet.

F O R E S H A D O W I N G

He’s then essentially kidnapped by the kabaddi team and blackmailed into trying it out or his livestreaming identity will be exposed, which seems like another typical sports anime move. Finally, in the most sports anime bit of them all, has a bet where if he loses a match, he has to join the team.

Now, it might sound like I’m being a bit harsh on it for doing very typical sports anime stuff. Well, it’s actually kinda the opposite, it’s actually playing it safe and that’s probably a good thing. If you’ve got a football anime or a volleyball anime, you’ve got a sport that’s big and everyone knows. When you’ve got a kabaddi show, you’ve got to get past it being known as a bit of a joke, which does come up briefly but is shot down immediately by one of the team members. Starting off fairly safe with a tried and tested premise to get someone into the sport who wasn’t interested before, is actually a pretty smart move. They can start trying new things in later episodes. Whether they actually do or not is another question.

Since it’s introducing a sport that many don’t know or understand, they do a good job of explaining how kabaddi works, and that might also explain how the first episode felt quite slow at times since each new thing came with an explanation. It’s really best if you watch it or read up about it yourself, but in short, it’s like a game of tag/tick/tig/it (delete as appropriate depending on what you know it as) but on a rectangular court and you have to escape back to your side after touching someone on the other side of the court, but all while chanting “kabaddi” to prove that you did it in a single breath. People can tackle the attacker like in rugby or American football after they’ve been touched, and you get a point for your team if you stop the attacker, or if the attacker escapes back to their side, they get the point.

Kakihara Yuuko is writing the scripts for this show, who I know mostly from writing episodes for the various Aikatsu! franchise shows, so I have my hopes high for some decent episodes to come. Rather than being about a brand new idol starting off on a journey to become the best, it’s about a pre-existing sportsman starting something new (and probably on a journey to become the best). I quite relate to that myself as I’ve recently quit my job to try and find a new path in life, though that path is very unlikely to be in kabaddi. Maybe one day.

To sum everything up, I think episode one was decent enough to make me want to continue watching, and there’s a few subtle things that I’m curious how they’ll handle, such as how kabaddi is not a mixed gender sport, but one of the characters in the opening appears to be a woman, so how will they contribute to this otherwise all-male show? I also want to say that I really appreciate that the opening theme has a rhythm that matches the chant of “kabaddi kabaddi kabaddi” throughout, culminating in it actually being spoken at the end.

A couple of final notes worth knowing:
– This anime is the only anime to have ever been made about a sport from the Indian subcontinent, but unfortunately it isn’t available to stream legally there at the time of writing.
– Kabaddi is known to be in two disciplines: standard (rectangular court, indoors) and punjabi (circular pitch, outdoors). This anime deals with standard, though I could see them trying out Punjabi style at some point to add a bit of variety.

Zigg’s verdict: Meat & Potatoes

The choice of kabbadi as the sport to portray here is a little quirky and out of left field and I like that. It’s a good job too, since otherwise this looks to be a 100% boilerplate shonen sports story, complete with all the clichés of the genre. So we’ve got the main character who hates sports but is inexplicably good at them regardless, the team of quirky weirdos who already passionately love the game, and the arm-twisting tactics required to make our protagonist try out and discover that actually he’s a born natural. That sounds a little harsh, and truth is Burning Kabaddi is one of the better takes on the formula I’ve seen recently. Still, unless you’re already a big fan of that formula, or are invested in the sport of kabaddi, this one might be a bit of a tough sell.

Euri’s verdict: Breathtaking. Also, the anime seems fine.

I’ve watched a few kabaddi videos in the past thanks to falling down some YouTube holes, and it’s absolutely a sport that lends itself well to the shonen formula. As has been said before me, Burning Kabaddi uses a tried and true sports-shonen formula to set up its initial cast and explaining the sport, but it’s tried and true for a reason. While episode one was absolutely fine, it’ll be down to the next few episodes to give us some reasons to root for our abrasive protagonist and his undoubtedly eccentric teammates. I’m also very curious whether this is a show that’ll throw in special powers or not – the opening has a shot that shows it could head that way, but it may also reside in the Haikyuu!! realm of ‘unlikely but technically possible’ athletic ability.

One thought on “First Look: Burning Kabaddi

  1. Kabaddi in India is counted among the most common and widely played traditional sports. There is a popular belief that Kabaddi originated in the Indian state ofTamil Nadu, almost 4,000 years ago. According to a legend, this game came into existence, when a boy hit another boy for his candy. The boy who was hit chased the boy who hit him, and hit him back and ran away. The feature of holding the breath while chasing, was added later when the game evolved. Kabaddi is the game, where one person play against seven people. Kabaddi is also known as the “Game of the Masses” and it has simple, easy to comprehend rules.

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