DareJyo 5/1 & 5/11/19 Live Thoughts

May 1 & 11, 2019 in Tokyo, Japan

I had the opportunity to see DareJyo present a special showcase show at Itabashi Green Hall on May 1st, then again as a pre-show for Big Japan Wrestling on May 11th. Given the nature of DareJyo I won’t be trying to analyze things match by match here, but will still be giving thoughts in quite a bit of detail.

*Note: While I’ll be talking in length about both of the DareJyo shows I’ve seen so far here, pictures were only allowed at the May 1st showcase at a couple of key moments so the majority of the pictures are from the May 11th pre-show.

 

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DareJyo is short for “Daredemo Joshi Puroresu” or Anyone’s Women’s Professional Wrestling. Run by Gatoh Move founder Emi Sakura, the idea is to offer a suitable environment for any woman, regardless of age, experience, etc, to learn the basics of pro wrestling in a casual manner within a professional, safe environment. There are limits on the types of things the participants will learn and try (avoiding more difficult and potentially dangerous aspects like certain types of strikes, etc) while still giving a strong introduction and base to build off of.

 

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It’s a wonderful concept, making wrestling extremely approachable while providing the right framework and support system to learn properly. And it works particularly well because the philosophy and experience of one of the greatest trainers in wrestling, Emi Sakura, is behind it.

The approach to their shows is also wonderfully unique and engaging. They start with warm up drills and “competitive” practice sequences (two wrestlers locking up then trying to force each other into the ropes, etc), then proceeded to exhibition matches. As a wrestling fan the little deeper glimpse of preparation and training was really cool to see.

 

 

Mei Suruga, an incredible rookie roster member in Gatoh Move “proper” who started via DareJyo, was heavily involved in the showcases both helping to run the drills and participating in matches (two on 5/1 and one on 5/11).

On the longer 5/1 standalone show there was also a period of dropkick practice, where the participants attempted dropkicks to a kickpad held by Mei. They were judged by a panel including several wrestlers as well as the visiting promoters of Pro Wrestling Eve in England. Afterwards the participants who performed the best dropkicks in the judges’ eyes were recognized.

 

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The exhibition matches were a couple of minutes apiece, and in a lot of ways were a breath of fresh air for someone like me who watches so much wrestling.

The participants ranged in age from 8 to 48, and along with their exceptional effort Emi Sakura’s measured and brilliant approach to wrestling in general is what really made it all shine.

The showcase show featured seven exhibition matches:

  1. Mei Suruga vs Hime
  2. Sayuri vs Rin Rin
  3. Yokochin vs Megumi
  4. Hotaru vs Tokiko
  5. Kaori vs Yamada
  6. Sayaka va Erimo
  7. Mei Suruga & Blue vs Aitama & Pyon

 

Each match was clearly well designed to stay within each individual’s limitations while making the absolute most of their skills. Things were understandably kept basic, but an incredibly solid foundation of learning was evident and everyone got a chance to shine a bit.

From the playful opener seeing Mei facing an 8 year old to a match centered around one wrestler’s double jointedness, and so on, each short contest was a captivating example of being able to tell an engrossing story in clever ways by utilizing individual strengths.

 

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As I mentioned on May 11 DareJyo also presented a preshow before Big Japan, which was similar in format but abbreviated compared to the standalone show.

In this case there were three exhibition matches:

  1. Blue & Pyon vs Aitama & Tokiko
  2. Saito vs An-Chamu
  3. Hime, Rin Rin, & Etsuko vs Yokochin, Erimo, & Mei Suruga

 

This time around was a nice chance for the participants to push themselves a little farther, and it included another Gatoh Move “proper” regular who has ties to DareJyo in An-Chamu. Again I was impressed with how everything was structured and approached, and it was a lot of fun.

 

 

DareJyo is the type of thing wrestling needs a lot more of. I think it’s both a fantastic way for interested women to give pro wrestling a try and an extremely fun thing to have experienced as an audience member. I wish all the participants the best whether they choose to keep training on a casual level or pursue wrestling in a professional capacity.

 

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Gatoh Move 5/6/19 Live Thoughts

May 6, 2019 in Tokyo, Japan

Last Monday’s Gatoh Move show had a lot of important developments, most centered around a one-day, four person tournament to name Riho’s next challenger for her Super-Asia Championship at Riho’s birthday show on June 4th.

 

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In a wonderful step that increases the accessibility of one of the most unique and fun wrestling companies anywhere, Gatoh has started uploading matches with English play-by-play. Currently new matches are being uploaded daily, and in an awesome move they shared the entire tournament yesterday. Short version: it’s great. Head over there now to watch without spoilers. Then/or continue reading for my thoughts and match results (including from the one non-tournament match one the show, which made this a rare four match show for Ichigaya).

This tournament came about after the May 1st Go Go Green Curry Cup show (more on that in a later post) where Mitsuru, Yuna, and Mei all expressed a desire to challenge Riho before she leaves Gatoh Move to go freelance in July. A reluctant Emi, enduring a particularly bad day with her ever present back problems, eventually accepted her spot as the fourth participant.

 

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As I like to explain to start my Gatoh Move reviews, the Ichigaya events are held in a small room with no ring and two large windows on one wall which are removed for the shows. The crowd itself is effectively the “rope break” marker and the wrestlers will sometimes use the front row to bounce off of for “running the ropes” and the windowsills to jump off of for high risk maneuvers. The limitations of the venue restrict the action in ways compared to “normal” matches, but also provide opportunities for creative variations on standard wrestling elements.

Pictures are not allowed during the show but can be taken afterward, so my pics here won’t contain anything from the matches and will only be of the roundtable and dancing following the shows (as well as of some souvenirs).

 

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1) Super-Asia Championship #1 Contender Tournament Round 1: Mitsuru Konno vs Yuna Mizomori

The previous Saturday Mitsuru was pulled from Gatoh’s show due to an injury to her right arm suffered during practice earlier in the day. Here she had it wrapped, was favoring it heavily, and seemed unable to really straighten it fully. I really hope she wasn’t pushing herself too hard taking part here.

That said, this was the usual masterclass in Gatoh Move on making the most of what’s available and woking within constraints. Mitsuru’s arm became the story of the match, with Yuna continually targeting it and taunting Mitsuru in ways like refusing to shake her good arm and insisting on the injured one (which of course caused Mitsuru to angrily slap the hand away). This was top notch story telling by both, with a gutsy performance by Mitsuru and excellent work by Mizumori to take care of her injured counterpart while putting on an exciting, engaging match. Mizumori’s onslaught was eventually too much and she pinned Mitsuru to advance to the finals.

Would have liked to see what this would have been without the injury of course, but instead of letting it hamper things they capitalized and built around it to produce an excellent match. And Mitsuru did not let her arm slow her down at all, which as with her mentor is both incredibly impressive and a little worrisome long term.

 

 

2) Super-Asia Championship #1 Contender Tournament Round 1: Mei Suruga vs Emi Sakura

This was a rematch of the best match I saw during my trip last fall.  Speaking of Mitsuru’s mentor and not letting anything stop her, Emi Sakura, who was using a cane to move around, once again put on a clinic while nursing a bad back. Again making a potential weakness a strength Sakura’s back was the story here, with her unable to lock in certain moves, Mei targeting it, and Sakura even resorting to getting her cane involved. More great stuff for Gatoh’s regulars. Mei eventually tied Sakura up just enough to keep Gatoh’s founder down for 3 and move on to the finals.

 

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3) An-Chamu & Riho vs Baliyan Akki & Cherry 

While giving the tournament participants a break before the main event, this match was also a ton of fun on its own. Riho embraced teaming with the gravure idol, and there was a lot of posing and playfulness going on. Cherry played full heel here, drawing an initially confused Akki along into full on antics by the end. Light and entertaining yet of course anchored with strong wrestling. Cherry pinned An-Chamu to prove underhanded tactics sometimes do pay off. 😉

 

 

4) Super-Asia Championship #1 Contender Tournament Final: Mei Suruga vs Yuna Mizomori

So Gatoh’s two super-rookies faced off to see who would challenge for the company’s top singles title. They are both amazing, particularly given both have under a year and a half experience. It’s interesting that with all the (rightful) buzz about Mei that I think that Yuna’s equally impressive start in pro-wrestling gets overlooked a little, even though she’s already a two-time tag team champion in Gatoh.

This was a blast, with a hyper aggressive Yuna repeatedly charging and trying to overpower the hyper quick Mei. While Mei seemed the favorite for the tournament did eventually best Yuna to become Riho’s next challenger, this really could have gone either way and was gripping right up to the end. Great stuff.

Yuna was crying in frustration after and during the roundtable, a feeling that clearly extended to Mitsuru as well.

 

 

Special guests Dann and Emily Read, who were a joy to meet and talk to, appeared after the roundtable (with translation help from Akki) to talk about being in Japan and taking in around fourteen shows scouting talent. They said one wrestler impressed them more than anyone else, and would be getting a straight shot into their SHE-1 tournament without needing to go through a qualification match, something they only ever did before with Meiko Satomura. There seemed two possibilities and with that lead up I was leaning towards Riho, but it was in fact the other and Mei is going to London this fall! Huge, well deserved opportunity. Big day all around for her.

 

 

During the roundtable Gatoh talents wear t-shirts over their gear. When Dann finished the announcement he gave Mei an Eve t-shirt and she quickly and excitedly took off the one she was wearing to put it on in a really cute moment.

 

 

Great show, perhaps one of the best I’ve seen at Ichigaya, with a ton of significant things happening around excellent wrestling, And in a somewhat unusual case for Gatoh I can recommend going online right now to check out a majority of the show, so do so. 😉

Gatoh Move 1/20/19 Live Thoughts

January 20, 2019 in Tokyo, Japan

 

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As I like to explain to start my Gatoh Move reviews, the Ichigaya events are held in a small room with no ring and two large windows on one wall which are removed for the shows. The crowd itself is effectively the “rope break” marker and the wrestlers will sometimes use the front row to bounce off of for “running the ropes” and the windowsills to jump off of for high risk maneuvers. The limitations of the venue restrict the action in ways compared to “normal” matches, but also provide opportunities for creative variations on standard wrestling elements.

Pictures are not allowed during the show but can be taken afterward, so my pics here won’t contain anything from the matches and will only be of the roundtable and dancing following the shows (as well as of some souvenirs).

 

 

The comedy heavy opener of Mei Suruga & Taro Yamada vs Baliyan Akki & Riho  pushed things a bit (from the perspective of a foreign fan) with everyone imitating Taro’s narrow eyes, but was in good fun overall and a solid opener. With the talent involved the underlying action was of course really good.

 

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Sayaka Obihiro vs Shota was honestly a touch slow and a bit hard to get absorbed into, but at the same time was a well worked display of chain wrestling at its core and decent overall.

 

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Emi Sakura & Masahiro Takanashi vs Mitsuru Konno & Yuna Mizumori took a little time to find it’s footing, with the normally unflappable Emi seeming a bit off and even poking a bit of fun at herself, but they played off everything well and things really gelled and became incredible down the stretch. I love both these teams and this pairing was a treat for me. Emi pinned Mizumori to pick up the victory after a beautiful counter.

 

 

 

There were admittedly little wrinkles in this one, but nothing that really detracted from the enjoyment and entertainment of the show as a whole. The entire roster has been pushing themselves to try new things as experiment in different directions, which is of course always great to see. This was a fine way to wrap things up with Gatoh for that particular trip, and I can’t wait to go back.

Gatoh Move 1/12 & 1/13/19 Live Thoughts

January 12 and 13, 2019 in Tokyo, Japan

I expected 1/1 and 1/2 to be my last Gatoh Move shows of this trip, but an unexpected extension due to less than pleasant circumstances yielded the fortuitous side effect of getting to enjoy a bit more wrestling.

 

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As I like to explain to start my Gatoh Move reviews, the Ichigaya events are held in a small room with no ring and two large windows on one wall which are removed for the shows. The crowd itself is effectively the “rope break” marker and the wrestlers will sometimes use the front row to bounce off of for “running the ropes” and the windowsills to jump off of for high risk maneuvers. The limitations of the venue restrict the action in ways compared to “normal” matches, but also provide opportunities for creative variations on standard wrestling elements.

Pictures are generally not allowed during the show but can be taken afterward, so my pics here won’t contain anything from the matches and will only be of the roundtable and dancing following the shows (as well as of some souvenirs).

 

1/12/19:

1) Mitsuru Konno vs An-Chamu

Interesting matchup for An-Chamu after only having seen her against veterans in singles matches until now. Mitsuru has more experience than An, but is still within what’s considered a relative rookie in Japan with just over two years wrestling (at the time). This was a little rough in parts, but well done overall and continued the building story of Mitsuru developing a more aggressive edge. It was interesting to see what she did with an unusual power advantage too, and always cool to see her pick up a victory.

 

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2) Mei Suruga vs Masahiro Takanashi

I adore veteran vs rookie singles matches in general, and particularly in Gatoh Move where differences in character are so seamlessly integrated into ringwork. This one was fantastic, with a brilliantly executed underlying story. Mei seemed a little “full of herself”, but it was justified as she continually countered and befuddled the vet. Takanashi only had the advantage when he focused on a body part and pressed his size advantage, which Mei would then often counter to start the cycle over. Takanashi brandishing an audience member’s stool at points also spoke to a touch of desperation / annoyance at the level of fight he was receiving (and they got really clever with how they used it too). Mei eventually ends up getting caught in a sharpshooter and Takanashi escapes with a win.

 

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3) Emi Sakura, Riho, & Sayaka Obihiro vs Yuna Mizumori, Saki, & Baliyan Akki

Another fun, fast paced 6-person tag from Gatoh Move.  The strike exchanges stood out in this one, particularly a series of them between Yuna and Emi. The Gatoh Move originals were befuddled a bit with a frenetic onslaught at the end of the match from their opponents leading to an exciting upset victory for Yuna, Akki, & Saki when the latter pinned Obi.

 

 

1/13/19:

For this show I was lucky enough to have an opportunity to sit in the “rope row” for the first time. As intimate and exciting Ichigaya is as a venue in general, it’s incredible how different the experience is from being just a couple feet back standing behind these seats or sitting right outside the window. It really drives home the impact of moves and how fast everyone is moving when they’re inches away.

 

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1) 3-Count Championship: Emi Sakura (c) vs Sayaka Obihiro

Obi had been needling Sakura going into this long awaited singles encounter, and the latter decided to throw down the gauntlet and make this a title match. Really intense, back and forth match leading to Sakura exerting her dominance in the end and retaining. It was a treat to see these two in singles action.

 

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2) 3-way: Mei Suruga vs Baliyan Akki vs Saki

This was so much fun. Mei wrestling like she thinks she can take on the whole world is AWESOME. Akki’s really grown in his time with Gatoh, honing his impressive athletic abilities and refining all the little details that make for great matches. And Saki’s always an appreciated addition to Gatoh shows. She eventually pinned a stunned Mei to win this.

 

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3) Mitsuru Konno & Sawasdee Kamen vs Riho & Madoka

I think Madoka was announced under one of his billion other names here, but it was him. He and Riho came out brandishing training equipment, which would quickly be revealed to be intended weapons. Going into this Mitsuru had been tweeting about their righteous cause to “cleanse the hearts of evil,” while Riho responded claiming there was no evil in her heart. I thought it simply banter until the match started…

Playing off those exchanges, this was framed with Riho & Madoka as the villains to Mitsuru & Sawasdee’s hero personas. Evil Riho is pretty awesome. Sakura was refereeing, and is possibly the “worst” ref ever. She was ridiculously easily distracted, often had her back problems act up when she was supposed to be counting pins for the heroes, etc.

I honestly generally dislike incompetent ref stories, as they’re really hard to do without making the faces look stupid. But the level to which they went over the top in the ridiculousness made this amusing (although it will get tiresome quick if the heroes keep getting the short end of the stick like this over several matches). They committed to the story 110%, anchored it with solid wrestling, and made this highly enjoyable. Madoka stole a pin on Sawasdee and the villains won this day.

 

 

The roundtable was especially fun this time, with Aoi Kizuki visiting (to sell DVDs of her  retirement show), and Mitsuru staring a hole through Emi and others and they presented their version of what happened during the main event.

 

As I mentioned before everything was really clicking for Gatoh Move for these shows, even above and beyond their usual high standard. They’re always pushing themselves in new directions, making the most of their diverse styles and personalities, and above all striving to make everything they do fun for both the audience and themselves, and it really comes through in the form of enjoyable, engaging shows.

 

Gatoh Move 1/1 & 1/2/19 Live Thoughts

January 1 and 2, 2019 in Tokyo, Japan

Third and fourth days in a row (and my fourth and fifth shows of the trip) for Gatoh Move at Ichigaya to ring in the new year (also see my thoughts on 12/30 and 12/31).

 

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As I like to explain to start my Gatoh Move reviews, the Ichigaya events are held in a small room with no ring and two large windows on one wall which are removed for the shows. The crowd itself is effectively the “rope break” marker and the wrestlers will sometimes use the front row to bounce off of for “running the ropes” and the windowsills to jump off of for high risk maneuvers. The limitations of the venue restrict the action in ways compared to “normal” matches, but also provide opportunities for creative variations on standard wrestling elements.

Pictures are not allowed during the show but can be taken afterward, so my pics here won’t contain anything from the matches and will only be of the roundtable and dancing following the shows (as well as of some souvenirs).

 

1/1/19:

Gravure model An-cham had another decent showing in singles action to open against Yuna Mizumori until the latter’s size and power led her to victory. Yuna looks like a monster when she gets serious in the best way and combines it with an infectious charisma. She wrestles quite a bit beyond her experience level.

 

 

Next up was an amusing tag team match between Antonio Honda & Mei Suruga and Saki & Baliyan Akki. Mei trying to copy Honda’s mannerisms and moves was hilariously awesome, and watching  Aoi Kizuki’s protege of sorts team with Honda after enjoying “Happy Rhodes” as a team in 2018’s Go Go Green Curry Cup was fun. Saki & Akki complement each other well and it’s always nice to see them team.

 

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In the main event Riho & Mitsuru Konno faced Emi Sakura & Masahiro Takanashi. I adore the pairings involved as well as any chance to see Mitsuru in with Gatoh’s veterans, so was really excited for this one. In a great bit to start, Emi was dismissive of Mitsuru just before the bell rung, at which point a fired up Mitsuru beat Emi across the venue. Great intensity, and beyond the normal excellent tag work in Gatoh this had a good feel of varying things up a little to nice effect, including things like brawling through the crowd a bit. Loved it overall. Emi eventually isolated and pinned Mitsuru to give her and Takanashi the win.

 

1/2/19:

This show opened with Mitsuru Konno vs Baliyan Akki in Akki’s first ever intergender singles match (although the two had been on opposite sides of several tag matches). Good match with a well told story, with a steady stream of aggression from the smaller Mitsuru forcing the slightly overconfident Akki to dig a bit deep to pull out the win. While Akki has been wrestling longer overall, Mitsuru is his senior both in Gatoh Move and in experience in this kind of match, and they both played their roles well.

 

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Like Cho-un vs Takanashi on 12/31, another yearly tradition around this time has become seeing Antonio Honda v Sayaka Obihiro v Jaki in a comedy deathmatch. Every time someone gets a 2-count they get to perform a “comedy routine” using  provided box of props and are awarded a point by the referee if it’s funny. Most points at the end of the fifteen minute time limit wins.

I’ve seen this four years in a row now and between the language barrier, Obi doing intentional poor comedy for effect, and the “wrestling” sequences being pretty much just a bridge to the jokes, I personally find these really hit or miss. Honestly this year’s didn’t really connect with me, and was my least favorite of the four.

 

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The main event was a 6-person tag of Emi Sakura, Masahiro Takanashi, & Yuna Mizumori vs Mei Suruga & Gatoh Move’s reigning Tag Team Champions Riho & Makoto. At the beginning of the show Emi mentioned she was annoyed with Mei today, and tension between the two provided a strong undercurrent to build certain elements of the match around. This was yet another of Gatoh’s excellent 6-person tags in Ichigaya, with a ton of fun triple teams. Riho of course is a master of the environment, and had a particularly jaw dropping spot here from the window vaulting off other wrestlers to deliver her diving knees. Great work from all involved.

 

 

I always enjoy Gatoh Move at Ichigaya and its unique atmosphere and environment. But this time if possible I was even more impressed with what felt like an extra layer of creativity on display in a lot of the matches. The rookies are all coming along quickly and developing incredible instincts, and seeing Gatoh back at “full strength” so to speak with said rookies all mixing it up with Gatoh’s ring generals was a real treat. This was another pair of fantastic shows over all. 

 

Beautiful Dreams 3: More Art of Juri the Dreamer

It’s been a year and change since my last spotlight on the work of my favorite artist, and I’d like to share and talk about more of her incredible work and some of the inspirations behind the pieces. See Beautiful Dreams and Beautiful Dreams 2 for more about Juri H. Chinchilla’s art, including past pieces I’ll be mentioning in this write up.

 

 

Juri’s Personal Sketch Cards (PSCs) have been a great opportunity to request particular subjects and design elements. One of the more unique requests I’ve made was a card featuring one of my favorite professional wrestlers, and I adored it so much that I’ve followed up with several more since. Juri’s done an AMAZING job depicting these previously unfamiliar to her subjects and these are in many ways the pride of my entire art collection. See Another Wonderful Way Pro-Wrestling is Art 2 for more about the above works featuring WWE’s reigning Smackdown Women’s Champion Asuka, Sendai Girls’ phenomenal high flyer Dash Chisako, and the recently retired Happy Maker Aoi Kizuki.

 

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Misaki Ohata PSC by Juri H. Chinchilla.

 

Another favorite of mine also retired in 2018, and Juri’s strikingly posed Misaki Ohata with a wonderful background of venue lights is a great keepsake.

 

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Reika Saiki PSC by Juri Chinchilla.

 

Tokyo Joshi Pro’s Reika Saiki is known as the “Muscle Idol,” and all aspects of her strength and charisma as a wrestler, idol, and body builder are gloriously highlighted in Juri’s drawing.

 

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Mitsuru Konno PSC by Juri Chinchilla.

 

The last wrestler in this batch was also the first of all. Juri’s first rendition of Mitsuru Konno from Gatoh Move for me featured a great action pose capturing and combining Mitsuru’s strength, determination, grace, and beauty in a remarkable rendition. Equally wonderful is Juri’s quite different recent depiction, featuring Mitsuru in her newer wrestling outfit with a palpable sense of celebration and excitement captured.

With the exception of Dash doing her trademark frog splash, I didn’t specify poses and the layouts, details, and way Juri captured each subject are just wonderful. I couldn’t be happier with how these all turned out.

 

 

Juri’s work have are as diverse in creation method as they can be in subject matter. I’ve added a pair of wonderful paintings of hers to my collection, including a striking abstract and an atmospheric, haunting image of night in Rainy Gotham.

Another unique piece is Aquatica, which shows off Juri’s wonderful use of color in a gorgeous image of an original character.

 

 

As always Juri’s work for Perna Studios‘ high quality card sets is pitch perfect for the subject matter. I was lucky enough to get some Artist Proofs (APs)  from her for their most recent sets. For Witchcraft, I requested a female grim reaper from several artists, and I adore the delicate yet powerful feel Juri brought to her version. In the past I got a witch from Juri with some amazing ravens, so loved the idea of getting Celtic goddess Morrigan for her Classic Mythology III metal AP. Rounding out this group is a graceful moonlight scene featuring my favorite Greek goddess, Artemis, with just a touch of lurking menace as she hunts.

 

A very different Morrigan was part of one of the Personal Sketch Cards I got previously from Juri, an incredible depiction of the Darkstalkers character with her “sister” Lilith. Morrigan’s an old favorite and one of my most played fighting game characters ever, so I was thrilled to add this larger, equally amazingly done drawing of her to my collection.

 

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Continuing the video game theme are three new PSCs from some of my favorite game series. Makoto from Persona 5 joins my previous PSC of Elizabeth from the third game in that series, with a bold red background complimenting the deep blues of the other card. The wonderful balance of a sense of motion while still posing is a wonderful touch not only in the two Persona cards, but also accentuates Juri’s drawings of Fire Emblem’s Tharja, and Valkyria Chronicles 4’s Riley, as well as the Bombshells version of DC’s Raven and Clare from the manga/anime Claymore. Finally for this time around is a beautiful depiction of two of Juri’s original characters. The cards are all excellent and unique works showcasing Juri’s attention to detail and mastery of color in their own different ways

 

 

More information about Juri’s art can be found on her artist page. I hope to continue to follow and collect her wonderous creations for a long time to come. 🙂

 

 

 

Gatoh Move 12/30 & 12/31/18 Live Thoughts

December 30 and 31, 2018 in Tokyo, Japan

Shows #2 and 3 from Gatoh Move for this trip, although I was also lucky enough to also see Gatoh talent in action at Michinoku Pro on 12/21 and SEAdLINNNG on 12/28.

 

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As I like to explain to start my Ichigaya reviews, these events are held in a small room with no ring and two large windows on one wall which are removed for the shows. The crowd itself is effectively the “rope break” marker and the wrestlers will sometimes use the front row to bounce off of for “running the ropes” and the windowsills to jump off of for high risk maneuvers. The limitations of the venue restrict the action in ways compared to “normal” matches, but also provide opportunities for creative variations on standard wrestling elements.

Pictures are not allowed during the show but can be taken afterward, so my pics here won’t contain anything from the matches and will only be of the roundtable and dancing following the shows (as well as of some souvenirs).

 

12/30/18:

 

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I’ve seen An-chamu at Gatoh Move once before in 6-person tag team competition, but here the gravure model had a singles opportunity against Gatoh’s resident ace in Riho. An has a different look and approach to wrestling that helps her stand out. She’s not nearly as physically strong as the other rookies, so has to adapt a bit in style. So far it’s working well and provides a nice contrast. Decent showing before the women tri-champion Riho turned up the pressure and simply outpaced and dispatched of the rookie.

 

 

Mei Suruga’s straight ahead, “I can take on the world” optimistic character is fantastic, and the undercurrents of mind games and one-upmanship it fostered in her match with the larger, stronger Saki were phenomenal. Lots of compelling, back and forth action until the size and power advantage finally swung things Saki’s way and she picked up the victory.

 

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Masahiro Takanashi, Emi Sakura, & Baliyan Akki are always a blast as a trios team as their heel instincts gradually come out, making their pairing against the hero group of  Mitsuru Konno, Sawasdee Kamen, & Sayaka Obihiro even more appropriate and fun. Obi didn’t quite mesh well with the masked heroes in the end, causing miscommunications that lead to Akki pinning Mitsuru. Sawasdee was not happy with Obi “failing” his regular partner and made it known. Standard high level performance from Gatoh’s 6-person tags.

 

 

12/31/18:

 

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Baliyan Akki  vs Cherry vs Toru Owashi was of course comedy heavy with the talent involved, but still felt nicely competitive. Cherry outsmarting  her much larger opponents and pitting them against one another to earn a win here was a really solid story to build around, and they did so reasonably well.

 

Seeing Masahiro Takanashi and Cho-un go to a time limit draw on New Year’s Eve has become something of annual tradition, and to be honest one I was a bit lukewarm on last year. I feel like they pushed themselves a bit to do something different this time, to great effect. While the previous matches were decent, this one was more interesting, with better pacing and the draw feeling less like a forgone conclusion, and unusual elements (like fighting over an audience member’s stool) being involved. Kudos to the vets for freshening things up.

 

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The main event was a “old Gatoh Move vs new Gatoh Move” 6-woman tag as Riho, Sayaka Obihiro, & Emi Sakura faced Mitsuru Konno, Mei Suruga, & Yuna Mizumori. From little things like brawling through the crowd a little more to coming up with inventive new ways to use the windows to all the tiny, detailed character touches they all use to differentiate themselves, Gatoh Move’s firing on all cylinders and the results are amazing. I loved this match, from the starting moments where Sakura didn’t quite care about being a full part of her team through to when the veterans’ skills were just a little too much for the rookies’ energetic determination to overcome and all the frantic, captivating action in between. Mei was eventually isolated by her opponents, triple teamed liberally, and pinned by Riho.

 

 

Seeing Gatoh Move at full strength is so awesome, and as I’ll mention often in this batch of write ups there was a definite feeling of progression and evolution in these shows. The wrestlers are pushing the boundaries of the format, environment, and the personal strengths and weaknesses they’re working with and elevating what was already always a fun time to another level. Everything’s consistently coming together wonderfully and it’s a joy to see.