Ice Ribbon Vol. 1037 Live Stream Thoughts

April 25, 2020 in Tokyo, Japan

Another special no audience show broadcasted from the Ice Ribbon Dojo for free on YouTube in addition to Ice Ribbon’s NicoNico channel.

Tequila Saya and Yappy are commentating. They made a great team throughout and the English explanations were much appreciated. Banny Oikawa refereed all the matches.

The IW19 Title Tournament starts here. The field has been announced but which matches happen on each show will be revealed day of.

A Block features participants in IW19’s previous incarnation:

Tsukasa Fujimoto vs Hamuko Hoshi
Risa Sera vs Kurumi Hiiragi
Tsukushi vs Mochi Miyagi

B Block features newcomers to IW19:

Satsuki Totoro vs Thekla
Maya Yukihi vs Uno Matsuya
Suzu Suzuki vs Akane Fujita

All tournament matches have 19 minute time limits and a 19 count outside the ring. First round singles matches and the block semi-final triangle matches also have over-the-top eliminations in play (the final between block winners will not). In the case of a time limit draw internet fan voting via the live broadcast on Nico will determine the winners.

This show will feature one match from each block and a non-tournament tag team contest between them.

Side note: Ice Ribbon’s insisting that it’s “I-W juu-ku”, and is not to be referred to as “I-W nineteen” (yes, English letters pronounced as normal but insisting on Japanese pronunciation of the numbers). I imagine this is for consistency sake but it’s honestly rather awkward.

1) IW19 Tournament B Block: Satsuki Totoro vs Thelka

As I remarked about the previous shows, the energy for these is really impressive. Totoro in particular is quite loud in her vocals and it helps elevate the atmosphere in the absence of a crowd.

Both participants here are right around 3 years experience, and quite good for their level. This was a solid, mostly smooth start for the tournament with Totoro controlling with her size and power and Thekla countering as she could with speed and bursts of unique offense. Thekla makes a great addition to the roster and looked competitive even in defeat as Totoro’s onslaught proved too much to endure.

Totoro’s tope rope senton sends her on to the Block B semi-final.

2) Tsukasa Fujimoto & Risa Sera vs Hamuko Hoshi & Uno Matsuya

A little bit of a preview for Block A, as tournament opponents Tsukka and Hammy are on opposite sides of this tag match. Really fun, energetic contest. Ice Ribbon has done a particularly good job of pacing the matches on these internet shows to really draw in the virtual viewers and keep them engaged. Everyone’s putting in top notch effort and it shows.

Towards the end Uno gets some nice nearfalls on Tsukka to shine a bit before eventually being defeated with the Venus Shoot.

3) IW19 Tournament A Block: Tsukushi vs Mochi Miyagi

It’s mentioned that Tsukushi is coming up on her ten year anniversary in wrestling. Nice to be back to acknowledging her original debut.

So like the opener this is a match between wrestlers of similar experience levels. Although Tsukushi is the more decorated wrestler in terms of title runs, etc including being a former IW19 champion. Mochi is just returned from an injury absence and looking fully back to normal.

There’s a bit of brawling outside ring to illustrate the 19 count (which is unusual as Ice Ribbon matches are generally no-countout). Tsukushi sends Mochi at the wall with such force Mochi’s foot goes right through it when she blocks herself from crashing into it.

A couple of in-ring highlights saw Mochi dropping Tsukushi across the top rope from torture rack position in a vicious looking moment, and Tsukushi absolutely wiping Mochi out with thing like her against the ropes dropkick and corner hanging doublestomp. The nearfalls at the end had a real sense of urgency, including Mochi kicking out of the Denden Mushi and countering a Harukaze attempt for 2.999.

One of the best singles matches I’ve seen from Mochi and an excellent main event to cap off the first IW19 tournament show. Tsukushi wins with a second Harukaze to advance.

Tsukushi has no intention of waiting to be crowned champion, and shows off a cardboard version of the belt she’s sure she’ll be wearing soon.

——-

Another fantastic show from Ice Ribbon under the current difficult circumstances. The consistency of these shows and everything that goes into them is impressive and greatly appreciated.

If anyone is interested in / able to support the production of these shows (which with no crowd have no income from ticket sales) YouTube superchat and Nico Nico chat present system are available during the live streams, and Ice Ribbon has a Nico Nico subscription channel with a large library of older shows.

Note: The replays of the live stream of these shows are only available for free on YouTube for a short period. But they’re then replaced with the enhanced, multi-camera version through the first match with the full show available via subscription to their Nico Nico Channel. There have been some complaints about the frame rate during the live broadcasts (although it hasn’t been that bad for me personally) but to my knowledge the later uploaded versions have no such issues.

ChocoPro 7 Live Stream Thoughts

April 25, 2020 in Tokyo, Japan

Choco Pro is a new effort from Gatoh Move’s Emi Sakura and DDT’s Antonio Honda to bring live wrestling from Ichigaya to fans all over the world. 

The shows are streamed live from Ichigaya Chocolate Square with no crowd. As I like to mention to start my Gatoh Move reviews, the Ichigaya events are held in a small room with no ring. The edge of the mat and the wall are essentially the “rope break” point for submissions, but do not interrupt pinfall attempts.

With no crowd the two large sliding windows on one wall which are left in, but opened as needed for some unique high risk maneuvers performed from the windowsill.

Big singles match in the main event topping a strong card all around.

ChocoPro 7

As usual Akki is helping with translation, as well as sharing camera duties with Honda. Yuna and Mei split referee duties.

1) Mei Suruga vs Antonio Honda

Rematch from ChocoPro 4, and we’re “warned” with such a small roster we’ll potentially be seeing lot of rematches. Totally fine with me, and it’ll be interesting to see how they keep things fresh from match to match..

Honda won that prior encounter, although Mei has a victory over him in Gatoh Move in their 500 Count match. In a bit of a surprise we don’t have normal apple-themed Mei, but Lettuce Mei the Vegetable Girl in a light green costume.

Standard in-every-match Honda spots to start, but nice variety later with a lot of gags and spots revolving around Mei’s cape including a bull fighting bit, Honda putting it on as a skirt and pantomiming Marilyn Monroe, and the cape taking the place of the banana peel in Honda’s recurring unfortunate experiences slipping out of the windowsill. Yuna proves to be a very passive referee largely letting them do whatever they want with minimal token protests.

In the end Honda reverses a rollup for another victory to keep his undefeated streak intact. This was fine, with some nice variations among the usual Honda formula.

2) Yuna Mizumori vs Baliyan Akki

Yuna gets in the window behind Akki as he makes his pre-match comments and nails a dropkick from there for a hot open. From there they’re just throwing themselves at each other with high speed, high impact moves and it’s fantastic.

There were a lot of great little touches throughout. At one point Akki does his wall hang into a body press when Yuna tries the Papaya, Mango, Coconut headbutt in a great counter, then tries his own variation (Katsu! Pineapple! Curry!) to about as much success as Yuna had. Later Yuna tries to make him Yahho but he forces her into a Namaste pose instead.

The counters and pace got crazy towards the end, and Akki ties Yuna up completely and she has to submit to what Honda dubs the Namaste clutch. Excellent match.

Like Yuna Mei’s proving to be a rather overly-tolerant and uninvolved ref, but their reactions to what’s happening around them more than makes up for it. ūüėČ

3) Emi Sakura vs Ryo Muznami 

First time singles match between two Joshi wrestlers who have worked in AEW. Sakura has an AEW logo in the corner of the ChocoPro banner and is generally trying to do everything she can to promote them while she can’t travel over to wrestle here in the US.

I’m a long time fan of Mizunami from seeing her in Shimmer and her Avid Rival tag team with the retired Misaki Ohata so was extremely excited when she started wrestling for Gtoh Move and ChocoPro. She fits in so well and the potential for great matchups like this one is limitless.

This was an absolute treat as two masters fought tooth and nail. Elevating things even further were several close ups and extreme camera angles, epitomized by knocking Honda over at one point and brawling directly above the camera.

I was cringing at their chop exchange, and poor Sakura had visible welts around her neck post match. Such is the price of victory however, as Emi wins with La Magistral in a bit of a surprise.

Post-show sees the newly named AEW Dark Chocolate Rock-Paper-Scissors Tournament! Honda powers through this one with mind games and in the finals he avenges his loss last time to Yuna when she tells the truth about what she’ll throw and Honda wins the chocolate. For insult to injury, Honda teases giving it to Yuna then eats it. An annoyed Emi (who Honda beat in the semis) declares it’s no longer allowed to announce what you’ll throw in future tournaments. Janken is so intense.

ChocoPro 8 is announced for April 29 back at their normal times. It’ll be a celebration of Obi’s 10th Anniversary and she’ll face Honda in the main event.

——-

As I like to reiterate I’m beyond grateful to Sakura and the rest of Gatoh Move/ChocoPro for doing so much to provide good natured content aimed at connecting people in this time of isolation and bringing smiles to everyones faces. It’s much needed and appreciated. Visit Gatoh Move‚Äôs¬†YouTube channel¬†to check it all out, including the replay of this show.

Another great offering from ChocoPro. The main event in particular is must-see.

ChocoPro 6 Live Thoughts

April 20, 2020 in Tokyo, Japan

OBI’S BACK!!!

Choco Pro is a new effort from Gatoh Move’s Emi Sakura and DDT’s Antonio Honda to bring live wrestling from Ichigaya’s unique environment to fans all over the world. 

The shows are streamed live from Ichigaya Chocolate Square with no crowd. As I like to mention to start my Gatoh Move reviews, the Ichigaya events are held in a small room with no ring. The edge of the mat and the wall are essentially the “rope break” point for submissions, but do not interrupt pinfall attempts.

With no crowd the two large sliding windows on one wall which are left in, but opened as needed for some unique high risk maneuvers performed from the windowsill.

Before going further I’d like to spotlight an incredible fan made video by CheeZeFX that really highlights all the fantastic aspects of Gatoh Move and ChocoPro I keep rambling on about. Check it out here!

ChocoPro 6

As usual Baliyan Akki is helping with translation, as well as sharing camera duties with Honda. Sakura usually referees, except her own matches when someone else on the card steps in.

1) Sayaka Obihiro vs Antonio Honda

Really great to see Obi wrestle again after being out injured for six months, and fitting that she returns against an old rival of sorts in Antonio Honda.

Although I have to admit I am personally at a bit of a loss when it comes to Honda’s ChocoPro singles matches. 75% or so of every one of them is all the same spots and jokes with minor variations. I understand all the reasons for it. Building humor based on subverting expectations requires a degree of repetitiveness to establish the expectations in the first place. It just doesn’t have much impact or interest for me when most of the bits involved are nonsensical and disjointed. Most of it feels like being silly for sillinesses sake with nothing connecting it all, and I tire of it quickly.

Some of the little things he does are inspired, and there are always a few high points in each match I really enjoy. Here they included things like Honda exclaiming “I’m ruined!” when Obi blocks his T-strike only to calmly strike her with his other hand and their dueling Gongitsunes in slow motion. His opponents’ reactions to his antics can also be a treat, and whenever the action actually picks up it tends to be great.

But it’s really not enough to keep me engaged while waiting through the majority of the match for these moments. I often talk about how ChocoPro has something for everyone, but the flip side is that some things won’t be to any individual person’s tastes, and show by show it’s becoming clear Honda’s current formula is not for me.

So instead of rehashing the same things I don’t care for every time I wanted to mention this in context and going forward I’ll focus more about how these matches relate to each other. One match one this type should generally be enough to judge how much you’ll enjoy the others. If something significant changes in the approach then I’ll likewise adjust how I talk about the matches.

This one was pretty standard, and Honda eventually wins with a rollup to continue to be undefeated in ChocoPro.

Afterwards a frustrated Obi demands a rematch, and after some convincing Sakura agrees to it whenever Obi comes next.

2) Yuna Mizumori vs Tokiko Kirihara

This is Tokiko’s first match in ChocoPro, and she starts off with quite the memorable moment by attacking during Yuna’s Tropical Yahho pose and slamming Yuna into the camera in a fantastic visual. Again it’s things like truly this creatively taking advantage of the no audience format that makes ChocoPro particularly unique and special.

This was a really solid, exciting and enjoyable match that was the perfect pace and length given the participants. Tokiko looked sharp, and Yuna’s totally been on fire lately. Yuna hits her wall launch splash to win a hard fought, fun contest.

3) Baliyan Akki vs Mei Suruga 

Interesting framing here as they push the idea of this being a battle between two possibilities for face/ace of ChocoPro. I understand given how central both are, the main events they been in, etc. On the other hand it’s a bit odd angle to take as Akki came into this without a single win in ChocoPro. However the match itself makes quite the case that these two are in fact prime choices for that distinction.

This was an incredible, fast paced main event with a lot of creativity. The theme of one-upmanship was prevalent throughout and done so well.

Things like Akki doing Mei’s off the windowsill armdrag and Mei countering with a cartwheel, only to have Akki respond in kind when Mei hit the armdrag herself were pitch perfect.

Akki used some wonderfully inventive, really painful looking submissions. Mei responded by trying a Figure 4, which she couldn’t quite lock in due to the disparity in length of their legs. Referee Sakura “helped” Mei apply it by pulling her leg into position over Akki’s, but Akki’s leg are so long Mei screams in pain herself as this is done so Emi undoes it and Mei goes on with her variation.

Later on in one of the funniest moments I’ve seen Mei tries to do Akki’s counter across the wall grabbing at opposite windowsills but she’s too small so she splats against the wall and then the floor and gets SO ANGRY. Then Akki “helps” put her into position and ends up stranding her on the wall as she can barely reach and can’t get down once put there. So he takes the opportunity to taunt her by doing her own face in hands pose behind her back.

These are just a few of the awesome moments in this excellent match. Definitely one of the (many) highlights of ChocoPro so far.

In the end Akki gets the better of an extended rollup and reversal sequence for his first non-janken win in ChocoPro.

Afterwards it’s time for A Chocolate Bit of Happiness Rock-Paper-Scissors Tourney 4!

These are a really fun way to wrap up. Sakura’s participating so there’s one bye in round 1, which goes to Yuna. Both Akki and Honda again defeat their opponents from earlier in the show and Sakura continues to deny Tokiko her first ChocoPro win leading to Yuna vs Honda and Akki vs Emi in the semis.

Yuna amusingly beats Honda when Honda’s mindgames backfire as he truthfully tells her what he’s going to throw and she simply counters.

Sakura, clearly with the advantage after not wrestling this time around continues her roll and makes short work of both Akki and Yuna to win her second Chocolate Bit of Happiness tournament. The AEW superstar glefully enjoys her chocolate as Akki asks the gods why they would do this.

Post show they have ChocoTalk with Emi and Obi talking about their past internet wrestling experience with 19 O’Clock Wrestling.

——-

As I like to reiterate I’m really grateful for Sakura and the rest of Gatoh Move/ChocoPro to be doing so much to provide good natured content aimed connecting people in this time of isolation and bringing smiles to everyones faces. It’s much needed and appreciated.¬†

Another top notch effort and show in a series of them. Watch the replay of here.  ChocoPro is just plain fun.

In another greatly appreciated gesture ChocoPro 7 will be on at a special time to be a little more accessible to foreign viewers: April 24th 9pm EDT (April 25th 10am Japan time). This is in addition to all the watch parties and other fantastic content they provide every day at 8pm Japan time. Visit Gatoh Move’s YouTube channel to check it all out.

Kieli Volume 2: White Wake on the Sand Light Novel Review

Kieli is an isolated girl in a world where everything is controlled by the Church of a God she doesn’t believe in. Driving and complicating her views and life is her odd ability to see ghosts. However her world expands rapidly after she meets Harvey, one of the legendary Undying. Perfect soldiers from the last great war made from lost technology, Harvey and his ilk are of no further use to Church or State and continually hunted. Tagging along with Harvey’s travels, Kieli finds their next destination is across the great ocean…

White Wake on the Sand is a complete story, and the opening illustrated color pages do a phenomenal job of summarizing previous events and key concepts. However this series is extremely character driven, and experiencing the nuances of their interactions adds significant depth to everything. I’d highly recommend starting with volume 1 (The Dead Sleep in the Wilderness).

The Dead Sleep in the Wilderness was an excellent, melancholy story about two complex, compelling leads in a fascinating world. White Wake on the Sand capitalizes wonderfully on the strong start and is just as powerful and captivating. The atmosphere gets creepier and more intense here, something that I can see continuing in later books. New characters and story threads are integrated seamlessly and enhance the book without overwhelming the reader.

The author has an incredibly deft touch with rationing little details and playing with expectations. It allows for tremendous world building that’s vivid and evocative while also being gradual and unobtrusive most of the time. The imagination on display in the particular’s of the environment and social structure and the subtle way it’s all conveyed to the reader without disrupting the narrative is just amazing.

I also adore the way the ghost story aspects are handled in this series. Important themes are touched on and the particulars of the ghost encounters always matter to both character and plot development. Another nice touch is how Kieli’s confusion of ghosts and real people is sometimes used to both progress the plot and heighten suspense. 

The Kieli series continues to find unique ways to explore heavy, melancholy themes in stories that are also extremely entertaining and engaging. Highly recommended.

Book Girl and the Wayfarer’s Lamentation Light Novel Review

“You finally came to see me.”

This book builds heavily off of past storylines and exclusively features previously introduces characters. At least books 3 (Book Girl and the Captive Fool) and 4 (Book Girl and the Corrupted Angel) must be read first, though it’s best to start at the beginning (Book Girl and the Suicidal Mime).¬†

Here we go. The past that has haunted Konoha throughout the series comes to light in an incredible roller coaster ride of emotion and angst. Torn between the friends of today he finally made and the tragic events of yesterday, Konoha will have a lot of hard truths to face about himself and others.

It would be a disservice to this book and the ones before it to get into any real details. Book Girl and the Wayfarer’s Lamentation is an absolute masterpiece. Extremely hard to read in parts because of the raw emotion our leads are dealing with, but more than worth the effort. Everything from the way the chosen literary parallel is used to the resolution of several long running plot threads is pitch perfect and has tremendous impact. I hated certain characters, cheered for others, and wanted to shake sense into some so much at certain points I felt like screaming.¬†

In a lot of ways this seems like the culmination of the series, but a chilling closing line reminds us that there are more mysteries to explore before the end. 

I can’t praise this series enough.¬†

Ice Ribbon Vol. 1036 Live Stream Thoughts

April 18, 2020 in Tokyo, Japan

Another special no audience show broadcasted from the Ice Ribbon Dojo for free on YouTube in addition to Ice Ribbon’s NicoNico channel.

Tequila Saya and Ai Hara were hosting and commentating, and in a really great move for accessibility Yappy and Thekla were helping out with English translation for some of the pre-match comments, etc.

Banny Oikawa became referee for all matches after her planned match with Suzu Suzuki was cancelled due to Suzu sustaining an injury during training. That match was actually a change itself which came about after trainee Ishikawa’s exhibition match with Suzu was cancelled due to the former being sick during the week. Best wishes for a fast recovery for both Suzu and Ishikawa.

The prematch comments mention this so I will here as well as I don’t want to gloss over it by omission – Yappy’s grandmother recently passed away due to Covid-19 and she wrestled on these shows with the memory of her grandmother who always supported her in mind. My heart goes out to Yappy, I’m glad that returning to the ring is helping her a bit in this tough time, and I hope she does whatever she needs to take care of herself.

1) Tsukushi vs Yappy

As I remarked during volume 1035, the energy for these shows is really impressive. The wrestlers are vocal during their matches as are the rest from the outside cheering, giving a similar atmosphere and feeling to a regular dojo show. Quite cool and impressive under the circumstances.

Really good match to start things off. Tsukushi is quite excellent at bringing the best out of wrestlers with less experience, and Yappy’s improving and looking more comfortable and confident each time out. The veteran eventually prevailed with La Magistral.

Leading into the next match it was cool to get a translation of some of the explanation for Maya’s turn and joining Rebel x Enemy, with her being frustrated with a lack of urgency on the part of her fellow Ice Ribbon roster members. Uno’s judo background gets highlighted in respect to her group Joint Army of wrestlers who feature a style focused on joint manipulation. They (along with Thekla) are partners for the next contest.

2) Frank Sisters (Kurumi Hiiragi, Mochi Miyagi, & Akane Fujita) vs Maya Yukihi, Thekla, & Uno Matsuya

Nice to see Mochi officially back from an achilles tendon injury.

There were a lot of little details worked into the larger flow of the match that made this particularly fun. I loved the variety of creative triple teams from the Frank Sisters, and was cringing at Akane’s brutal overhand chops during a late match exchange.

Nice touches from the other team as well, ranging from Thekla trying to beg off by invoking social distancing, Uno tagging herself in at a key moment underscoring both her self-focused ambitions as well as Maya’s slight estrangement from her team given her new attitude, etc.

Fast paced, hard hitting 6-woman tag throughout that ended with Kurumi absolutely spiking Uno with a cradle tombstone for the pin.

3) 2 out of 3 Falls: Tsukasa Fujimoto vs Risa Sera

The main event was set up last show as the two battled after the time limit expired in their tag team match and a frustrated Tsukka snapmared Risa off the far ring apron.

Each fall will have a separate stipulation. They play rock-paper scissors to determine who will draw the one for the first fall. After two ties Risa wins and draws:

1st Fall: 4 Count Outside the Ring

Note that Ice Ribbon matches are normally no countout, but here a wrestler can win if their opponent fails to get back in the ring before the referee reaches a count of 4 (in addition to normal possible pinfall/submission victory conditions).

Tsukka ties Risa up early for dropkick in ropes and sent her outside to illustrate the stipulation, as Risa dove back in at the count of 3.

Risa was using her mini-cam for “Sera’s eyes” footage, so Tsukka grabbed one of the outside photographers’ cameras and attacked Risa with it while taking pictures as Yappy wondered if they should be involving such expensive equipment and if IR’s budget could handle it. This was done well and as such was pretty great.

A bit of fighting over the top rope to the apron and trying to avoid falling to floor like they were in a battle royal provided both nice story elements and action.

Tsukka’s was eventually able to get into Ace Crusher position on the far apron and snapmare Risa to the floor to win the first fall by 4-count. Nice play off of the aftermath of last show’s main event that set this match up.

Winner got to draw the next stipulation. Tsukka pulled:

2nd Fall: 18 Revolutions

The stipulations do not carry over, so back to the normal no countout rule. This fall could be decided by the usual pinfall or submission means or by performing 18 consecutive revolutions with any appropriate spinning move.

Risa immediately realized this could favor her and called for the giant swing. Tsukka fought her off persistently and later gets and holds on to a rolling cradle for 17 rotations in a great sequence as Tsukka gradually lost momentum and energy as she did more and more turns. She couldn’t quite get Risa over for the last one, and the fall continued.

They were both quite dizzy kind of stumbled around each other as Yappy ponders it being the creation of a new Ice Ribbon dance. Her little additions to commentary were really fun.

Eventually Risa managed to get the giant swing going and managed the full 18 times around to win the second fall and tie things up.

3rd Fall: Double Knee

For the final fall some sort of double knee drop must proceed pin attempts. These moves are among Risa’s trademark offense, so she again presumably has the advantage.

After shaking off the remaining dizziness Risa started quick and trapped Tsukka in the corner for the running double knees, but after that it was all Tsukka for a while as she turned the tables and proceeded to do a long sequence of running double knees off the ropes to a prone Risa. I like the urgency early on and the way they embraced the stipulation and just kept going for the important move.

Just a bit in they fell out of sight as Risa hit an air raid crash off the apron on the far side of the ring to payback Tsukka a bit for how last week and the first fall ended. Everything went eerily quiet as commentary reminded viewers there are no mats on that side of the ring and speculated on Tsukka’s well being …

… and then one of the seconds started singing Star Wars themes while someone wearing Sera’s Yoda mask and robe jumped into the ring joined shortly thereafter by someone wearing a hoodie and a mask that says “Corona” (in katakana). Apparently their appearance was enough to make the match underway a draw and turn it into a tag match. Can’t say I was pleased.

At a guess it looked like Yoda was played by Uno and Corona by Kurumi.

A little back and forth and then the team of Tsukka and the person who drove her headfirst into the concrete floor minutes ago to hushed silence dispatched of Corona pretty easily with consecutive diving double knees from the top.

Probably won’t surprise anyone that the ending segment wasn’t to my tastes. I like my comedy wrestling more integrated and less of the type that grinds everything to a screeching halt, and the jarring nature, uncomfortable drama, and so-so payoff of how this was all done pretty much sent the match off the rails for me (although I can totally understand if other viewers found this fun/satisfying).

So honestly it was a flat end that dragged what was shaping up to be among the most engaging dojo shows I’ve seen down a touch, but the match before the nonsense was extremely interesting and well executed. Also this sidestepped the need for putting one of them over the other and if it was the price to pay for having the match at all so be it.

——-

Post show Tsukka brings out the Internet Wrestling 19 title and apparently announces a tournament for it (I’m unclear of the details as “tournament” is the only word I caught). Reintroducing a title from numerous years ago would have been a good spot to let Yappy translate, particularly as she was standing right there. Hopefully they’ll get better used to pausing for and integrating the translation in the future, although again it’s awesome and appreciated that they are doing it at all.

Like with volume 1035 Ice Ribbon again achieved something special in the presentation under difficult circumstances as this really felt like a normal dojo show in atmosphere. The effort and energy throughout was once again top notch and overall this was an extremely strong and enjoyable show.

Note: These shows are only available for free on YouTube for a short period, but they’re then replaced with the enhanced, multi-camera version through the first match. The remainder will presumably be available later with a subscription to their Nico Nico Channel.

Book Girl and the Corrupted Angel Light Novel Review

The stories in each volume of Book Girl are relatively self-contained, but this book really builds off of previously established characters and plot lines. At least read book 3 (Book Girl and the Captive Fool) first, but better yet to start at the beginning (Book Girl and the Suicidal Mime). 

With Tohko’s college exams on the horizon, Konoha is left strangely devoid of literary club activities and somehow ends up helping the music teacher alongside Kotobuki after school. Then one of Kotobuki’s friends goes missing‚Ķ

As always summarizing the premise of a literature eating goblin in school form and her trusted club mate embarking on adventures that parallel great literary works makes Book Girl sound like a much lighter series than it is. The events, themes and tone of these books are incredibly dark and troubling. Heavy and tragic subjects are the norm here, not the exception, and The Corrupted Angel continues the upward trend in intensity.

Kotobuki is a wonderful supporting character, and it was great to see her featured in a story that wasn’t just fantastic and gripping in its own right, but also tied to numerous established plot threads, explored several relationships between established characters, and added amazing depth to Konoha’s personal backstory. 

The framework literary story here is established immediately as Phantom of the Opera, and it’s used perfectly to enhance both the story and suspense as things unfold. It’s starts more subtly creepy than previous books which just serves to increase the tension and eventual impact as things get worse. The parallel storytelling here is just phenomenal. This book had me guessing all the way to the end, and then threw in some more mind-blowing revelations in the epilogue for good measure.

It’s the little touches and the fact that compelling, flawed characters are firmly at the center of every book that makes this series so impressive. I also like that it’s progresses forward in time. The looming separation of Tohko’s graduation adds an interesting complication to everything.

I’ll refrain from further detail to avoid spoilers, but I can’t recommend this series highly enough. Book Girl and the Corrupted Angel is yet another intricate, compelling psychological thriller with tons of layers and an incredible atmosphere of tension and emotion. 

Book Girl and the Captive Fool Light Novel Review

The stories in each volume of Book Girl are self-contained, fill the reader in on important character traits and could stand alone fairly well, but this story really gains dimensions by building off of established characters and plotlines in the previous books, so I really recommend starting at the beginning (Book Girl and the Suicidal Mime).

Our usual protagonists are at the center of this third Book Girl story – the self-styled “book girl” (who happens to be a literature loving and eating goblin in schoolgirl form) Tohko and her force recruited book club junior Konoha (whose responsibilities revolve around writing Tohko snacks). They often get caught up in mysterious happenings involving other students.

As I’ve warned before, providing an accurate summary of the series’ premise and its main characters is a bit misleading in that it makes the books sound much different in approach and tone than they are. The stories do not much deal with Tohko’s “unusual” appetite nor explain it. Her love of literature is much more relevant. And the weirdness of the premise seems to point towards light, happy-go-lucky stories. This could not be farther from the truth. The Book Girl series is VERY dark and addresses extremely heavy themes. They are great reads featuring compelling characters and are laced with bits of humor here and there, but know going in that this is much more psychological thriller territory than madcap adventures.

This third book features Konoha getting dragged into Tohko’s outrage driven investigation into a recent string of book vandalism presented in parallel with horrific letters written by someone having urges to perform mutilations beyond paper. After Famished Spirit I wasn’t sure the series could get creepier or more intense. I was wrong. Captive Fool escalates things several notches, keeping the reader guessing about who knows and is responsible for what as the character barrel closer and closer towards tragedy. As usual there is a thematic literary tie-in, which is exquisitely used and integrated into unfolding events.

Everything came togther beautifully and this is easily my favorite of the series so far. We have several recurring characters show up along with some strong new ones introduced and all of them have distinct personalities and motivations. There were no easy answers to the things that trouble them and they get scared, make wrong decisions sometimes, struggle to deal with the consequences of their pasts, etc. The author is excellent at dropping in little hints and retelling things we already know something about in a slightly different way that gives more information. It adds a lot of depth and intrigue because the reader is effortlessly learning more about the overarching plots and the characters’ long term problems while being firmly engaged with the current story.

And Captive Fool is a fantastic one. A tense, chilling atmosphere is kept throughout, the writing and translation are as impressive as ever, and I ended every chapter dying to know what was going to happen next. The climax of the unfolded in a wonderfully unique way that did justice to the all the preceding build up. Then just as my emotions were calming down the epilogue floored me with major developments that are likely to be felt throughout the rest of the series.

I will admit that it quite often wasn’t an easy read, and I don’t mean from a technical perspective (the writing flows wonderfully) but rather because of the subject matter. At the risk of repeating myself too much the story goes to dark, unsettling places and our characters are in for a lot of angst and emotional and mental turmoil. So fair warning – this is a brutal ride.

If you can handle it though Book Girl and the Captive Fool is simply phenomenal and it’s well worth accompanying the characters through their suffering.¬†

Highest possible recommendation.

ChocoPro 5 Live Thoughts

April 14, 2020 in Tokyo, Japan

Choco Pro is a new effort from Gatoh Move’s Emi Sakura and DDT’s Antonio Honda to bring live wrestling from Ichigaya to fans all over the world. 

The shows are streamed live from Ichigaya Chocolate Square with no crowd. As I like to mention to start my Gatoh Move reviews, the Ichigaya events are held in a small room with no ring. The edge of the mat and the wall are essentially the “rope break” point for submissions, but do not interrupt pinfall attempts.

With no crowd the two large sliding windows on one wall which are left in, but opened as needed for some unique high risk maneuvers performed from the windowsill.

Another big dream match for Akki in the main event as Masato Tanaka makes his ChocoPro debut.

ChocoPro 5

As usual Baliyan Akki is helping with translation, as well as sharing camera duties with Honda. Sakura usually referees, except her own matches when someone else on the card steps in.

New banner with the ChocoPro logo in the background. Sakura explains it’s pink to represent strawberry chocolate, and with it being paper instead of cloth there will presumably be less in match shenanigans involving it than the prior one.

The replay is not up yet so no screen caps for this review.

1) Emi Sakura vs Antonio Honda

Usual opening sequence of Honda’s matches here where they trade hammerlocks so Honda can pretend to say “give up” and say things like “give apple pie” instead. I have to admit it’s one of my least favorite things he does and I’m glad it was kept to one instance here.

Honda keeps pretending to attack with various items, doing silly pantomimes, then often hits Sakura with them anyway in the confusion. No DQ for things like volleyball spiking a basketball into his opponent, which I can’t say is the best reflection on Mei’s refereeing skills.

Late in the match Emi does the We Will Rock you lead in to her signature splash, but Honda sings the song in English to interrupt her charge. He tries to get her to continue it, but she tries to deflect by humming then switching songs. As he grows more insistent she tearfully admits she can’t speak English (in English of course). Honda points out Queen has a song in Japanese and they sing together. However Honda savagely uses their handshake to attack Emi’s arm and proceeds into a cross armbreaker for the submission victory.

I can’t really evaluate this as a wrestling match, but I enjoyed it overall as a character piece. And bigger fans of Honda’s style and signature bits will get even more out of it than I did.

2) Yuna Mizumori vs Mei Suruga

Like Yuna vs Mitsuru from ChocoPro 3 this is one of the matches that would normally be more rare. These two haven’t faced in each other in singles competition in over a year. Let the fierce battle of apple vs pineapple begin.

This is honestly mush more my speed than the opener. High energy, fast paced wrestling with the humorous antics and pauses for posing blended into the action and largely delivered in the form of taunting the other wrestler.

At one point Mei hilariously tries her version of Yuna’s “Papaya! Mango! Coconut!” cheer (“Karage! Tonkatsu! Katsu curry!”) which backfires spectacularly as she realizes she was just making Yuna angry. Mei hides behind cameraman Honda and they chase each other around the camera in a cool moment unique too ChocoPro and its environment.

Later Mei closes the window on Yuna’s hair resulting in a humorous bit as Emi tries to shush Yuna’s screams so as not to disturb the neighbors while Yuna protests about being trapped.

Mei’s been breaking out her take on cattle mutilation lately, and here Yuna does a stunning handstand counter then falling onto Mei to break it. It was one of a series of excellent counters and move variations throughout the match. It all leads up to Yuna doing her wall run splash to Mei’s back for the win.

Really great stuff.

3) Baliyan Akki vs Masato Tanaka 

This is Tanaka’s first non-ring match, which is presented as perhaps evening out his general experience edge over Akki. Indeed Tanaka needs to adjust to the environment, as he doesn’t quite understand why he has to break his holds when Akki grabs the edge of the mat at first.

The confusion doesn’t last long however, and the veteran shortly establishes an extended assault on Akki. There’s a serious, intense atmosphere to this match that’s absolutely captivating.

Tanaka adapts further and takes the action “outside the ring” so to speak by ramming Akki into the table against the wall. He then attacks Akki with a chair. Mei shouting “referee” in protest is pretty amusing considering what she let Honda get away with. Sakura considers it all for a moment and audibly decides it’s ok for Tanaka to use the chair.

I think from now I’ll just proceed under the assumption that all ChocoPro matches are relaxed rules. And to be fair, Tanaka involving tables and chairs in his matches isn’t exactly a surprise.

The carnage continues, as Tanaka sets up a pile of chairs but Akki reverses a powerbomb attempt into a back drop onto them. However Akki then gets DDT’d on them for a close 2

They go into a HEAVY forearm exchange, which Akki eventually gains advantage of with a variety of fast strikes. The pace keeps picking up the longer this goes. Akki opens the windows and later takes advantage of it for a wall grab counter into a Frankensteiner off the windowsill.

He later reverses a powerbomb into a brainbuster across the knee, and the following Namaste splash gets 2. Akki perhaps unwisely grabs a chair for a second one, and eats the chair as Tanaka moves out of the way. Tanaka puts a chair on Akki and goes to the window with another for an assisted elbow drop… for 2! He gets a table but Akki dropkicks it into him and goes into a series of rollups for several close near falls.

However Tanaka counters into a powerbomb counter for 2, then presses the advantage leading to the Sliding D for the win. This was fantastic.

Post-show sees A Chocolate Bit of Happiness Rock-Paper-Scissors Tourney 3 take place!

Emi gives herself the first round match with Tanaka, Mei and Akki get the first round byes (since there are only six participants), leaving Yuna vs Honda to round out the bracket.

Poor Yuna has no luck in these tourneys, and Akki’s redemption quest ends early as Honda wins two in row to go to the finals.

Tanaka gets into it and beats Emi in the first round. A trepidatious Mei ties him, then WINS!

Riding unbeatable momentum after upsetting Tanaka, Mei defeats Honda to claim the whole tournament. This is her first win but second piece of prize chocolate after being given Chris’s last show.

Then Sakura and Tanaka sit down for a half hour of ChocoTalk. Mostly untranslated so I couldn’t follow what they were discussing, but still awesome that they do this type of thing.

——-

As I like to reiterate I’m really grateful for Sakura and the rest of Gatoh Move/ChocoPro to be doing so much to provide good natured content aimed connecting people in this time of isolation and bringing smiles to everyones faces. It’s much needed.¬†

These shows generally contain something for everyone, and it was epitomized here. The opener was full-on story and emotion based humor, the second match a masterful technical sprint, and the main event an incredible brawl. Add it all together with them fully embracing the things they can do only under the no audience format and I really can’t recommend ChocoPro enough.

ChocoPro 4 Live Thoughts

April 10, 2020 in Tokyo, Japan

Choco Pro is a new effort from Gatoh Move’s Emi Sakura and DDT’s Antonio Honda to bring live wrestling from Ichigaya to fans all over the world. 

The shows are streamed live from Ichigaya Chocolate Square with no crowd. As I like to explain to start my Gatoh Move reviews, the Ichigaya events are held in a small room with no ring.

With no crowd the two large sliding windows on one wall which are left in, but opened as needed for some unique high risk maneuvers.

Two matches on tap instead of the usual three, presumably due to less wrestlers being available. Still to be something special in store to be sure.

ChocoPro 4

As usual Baliyan Akki is helping with translation, as well as sharing camera duties with Honda. Sakura usually referees, except her own matches when someone else on the card steps in.

Amusing pre-show remarks from Sakura revolving around her cheat meal (which was live-streamed) the day prior. There’s been something from ChocoPro every day, be it a live show like this, a watch party of things ranging from these shows to Wrestlemania to ProWrestling Eve streams and so on, or live chat premiers of previously unreleased matches, etc. The variety of offerings is great and it’s nice to have something to consistently look forward to.

1)  Mei Suruga vs Antonio Honda

This is a rematch of the phenomenally absurd 500 count match from Gatoh Move’s 500th show.

Mei and Honda team regularly, and Mei seems a little trepidatious squaring off. On the other hand Honda does his normal taunts and psychs out Mei when she offers their tag team pose. Extra five minutes to the normal time limit, giving this 15 minutes.

As usual for Honda’s matches, this was a mix of ridiculousness and action. It worked particularly well here with some unique variations, really good pacing, and the tension created by Mei’s incredible reactions.

They went all in on both aspects of the match. One particularly fantastic highlight saw them chop the absolute hell out of each other right after an extended sequence of exchanging increasingly exaggerated versions of Mei’s kawaii chin in hands pose to see who was prettier. Another saw Antone charge with the pointed end of a small sign from a flower bouquet resulting in Mei dropping to the mat in a panic to play dead only to have Honda pull the strike anyway to show the sign to the camera. Again, Mei’s reactions elevated this to pure art.

Honda eventually trapped the much smaller Mei in an anaconda vice variation she can’t escape and gets the submission victory. An emotional version of their tag team pose followed after the dust settled.

2) Emi Sakura & Chris Brookes vs Yuna Mizumori & Baliyan Akki 

Referee/announcer/time keeper Mei introduced Chris as her best friend. I’m not entirely sure that’s the most appropriate way to indicate impartiality.

This was so engrossing, as the ChocoPro/Gatoh Move crew continue to really push the levels of imagination of what can be accomplished within the framework of a wrestling match and the unique environment they perform in. There was so much creativity in this, both in new ideas and perhaps more importantly subtle twists on established norms.

I’m not going to try to recap in detail, but the way everything was integrated into the high octane offense was really well done. The sequence involving Emi being too short to do the double boot with Chris was great, as was the variety of uses of the ChocoPro banner later on. The super precise timing on lot of Akki & Yuna’s double teams and counters was INCREDIBLE, and everyone was generally just firing on all cylinders.

Also, special mention to Akki’s fantstic dropkick and him nailing it on Chris’ full height early on. Yuna also forcibly taught Chris to do her pose early on, (which would come back to haunt her ūüėČ ).

In the end Yuna gives up to Chris’s octopus stretch and Chris’s winning streak against Akki continues.

Special game in place of A Chocolate Bit of Happiness Rock-Paper-Scissors Tourney during the post show where players have to try and match one of the players either doing Yuna’s normal Tropical pose or crossing their arms instead. It was really amusing.

Mei and Yuna went out first as a result of Chris’s choice and neither is happy. Emi’s also out, but intentionally as she made her own unique pose and thus had no chance of matching and surviving the round.

For the third time in a row Akki made the finals … and for the third time in a row lost. Chris isn’t into chocolate, so gifted his prize to his new best friend. When this explodes it’s going to be big.

Singing of the usual ending song while everybody washes their hands closed things out.

ChocoPro 5 is announced for April 14th, and the main event is Akki vs Masato Tanaka! This reminds me of when Wrestle-1 kept brining in legends for Reika Saiki to face as it’s becoming dream mach after dream match for Akki and it’s wonderful.

As I said before I’m really grateful for Sakura and the rest of Gatoh Move/ChocoPro to be doing so much to provide good natured content aimed connecting people in this time of isolation and bringing smiles to everyones faces. It’s much needed. 

ChocoPro shows are just straight up fun, and this one was no exception. They’re embracing the difficulties of the current global situation and specifically doing things they couldn’t under normal circumstances. It’s refreshing and the commitment and energy applied to the execution continually makes for a captivating show.

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Watch the replay of ChocoPro 4 on Gatoh Move’s YouTube channel.