High school drama, especially of the sports and slice of life variety are incredibly common in Japanese television, of both the live action and animated varieties. Usually they tend to be aimed at a specific demographic, but hopefully this week’s topic will be able to interest everyone on some level.
Tumbling is about rhythmic gymnastics, let’s just get that out of the way right now. But it’s also about delinquents and a little fighting, and yelling, and teamwork, and rivalry, and figuring out that there’s more to school than studying. Yusuke Yamamoto (Great Teacher Onizuka , Kamen Rider Kabuto) plays Wataru Azuma, the rowdy leader of a group of troublemakers. One day his teacher tells him that because he missed so many days of school, he either needs to take extra lessons, or join a club to make up the time. Given no other options and running the risk of not graduating, he decides to try to find a club. Most of his attempts end in failure, until he discovers that the new female transfer student in his class is joining the women’s gymnastics team. He wants to catch her attention of course, so he makes an attempt at joining the men’s team. Team captain Yuta Takenaka , played by Koji Seto (Kamen Rider Kiva, Lost Days), doesn’t think he has the discipline required to be successful in a sport that demands such precision, so Wataru sets out to prove him wrong.
There are a lot of interesting dynamics going on in this series, and to be honest I wasn’t expecting the characters to be yelling at each other so much at the beginning. It does go away after a while, though, as they figure out what each team member brings to the group, and how to adapt to each other’s skills and personalities. Not only that, but Wataru is also eventually able to bring his closest associates into the group, and Yuta and the team make such strong bonds that they’re willing to help stand up for their new friends.
Of particular note is the fact that Yamamoto and Seto had previously appeared together in the drama Atashinchi no Danshi. Also, Yamamoto would later appear in Great Teacher Onizuka with Ryohei Kurosawa (aka AKIRA), who in Tumbling played the teacher Yutaka Kashiwagi. It’s always entertaining to see the shifts between characters, when a pair of actors is already familiar with each other. There was also a Tumbling stage play, with one of the members of the team from the drama reprising his character, this time as the coach of a new team.
Tumbling definitely follows a lot of the sports drama tropes, even though the sport it follows is not often given much attention (a detail to which it gives particular acknowledgment). It also hits a lot of notes with regards to breaking down social barriers, and showing how two very different people can find something in common. But the best part is that the students performed all of their own routines.
Rating; 4th Gear
[If you have a topic you’d like me to cover in a future article, please don’t hesitate to email me at Sara at otdt.net.]