I had so much fun this basho that I am now finishing my second bottle of whiskey (In De Gama terms, that is equivalent to having finished a cask!). I can’t quite tell if the Sumo was more interesting than it has been, or if I was drunk, or if my preoccupation with the crux and the pocket might both have been a product of being drunk AND made the sumo more interesting. Whatever the case may be, you’ll find more of my words below: Let’s Aki Basho Wrapping Upping!
The M1 Crux
At any rate, let me start off this wrap-up with where my interest in this basho began: The M1 Crux. The M1 Crux is a great place to start watching a basho because these guys are at the top of their game and they tend to start the basho off by going through the meat grinder. They face rikishi after rikishi who occupy ranks that are not often attained by chance.
The meat grinder extends beyond the M1 pair all the way down to the bottom of jo’i. In fact, jo’i, meaning “high rank” is nebulously defined as the group of rikishi who face the sanyaku and yokuzuna in a basho. Sometimes, the M1s disappoint and the rikishi ranked lower in jo’i surprise. That was not the case during this basho.
The M1 pair, Homasho and Okinoumi, performed wonderfully. I went into this basho hoping that both rikishi would do well and that Homasho would beat Okinoumi and kachikoshi. I got my wish. Not only did Homasho kachikoshi, he got a record that should make the current crop of Ozeki blush. Speaking of Ozeki blushing, did I mention that among Homasho’s 10 wins, he managed to beat every Ozeki? Homasho has been at M1 several times before, but I feel like he is finally showing a level of sumo that means the meat grinder is behind him. I have been disappointed so many times by improving rikishi whose performance has suddenly declined. Don’t let me down, Homasho! I will be rooting for you next basho!
Now on to Okinoumi. This was his first time to hold the M1 rank and he managed a very nice 8 win kachikoshi with wins against two Ozeki to boot. I think that the meat grinder is not quite behind Okinoumi yet, but he has shown himself to be a serious contender at the Jo’i level. He even has me holding my breath a bit that he might perform well in sanyaku. Probably its not quite that time for him yet, but I will be watching his performance carefully next basho.
Jo’i and Honorary Members
The rest of jo’i can be summed up with five words: not very interesting this basho.
Two notes of interest:
First, I am expecting Goeido (10-5 @ M5 with a poverty of kachikoshis above him) to occupy a high rank in the next basho, and I am hoping to see him go against Homasho again. I was looking forward to Homasho’s bout with Okinoumi a lot this basho. Next Basho, I will be looking forward to Homasho’s bout with Goeido. If you happen to feel like rooting for Goeido, let me know in the comments below. Always fun to have a little rivalry.
Second, Gagamaru became an honorary member of Jo’i in the latter half of the basho. I was surprised at just how far into the crux he found himself and I am looking forward to Valentine’s analysis of his strength of schedule. With the fighting spirit prize under his belt, I am thinking we might just see him in Valentine’s Top Ten. Make sure to check back with us in the coming week for that post. Kudos to Gaga. It was a great bout for him.
The basho started with a great M1 Crux, but after the Sekiwake got done grinding Jo’i’s meat, the action turned to them. It was apparent as they emerged from the pocket that the were going to be forces to contend with. Both of them emerged from the pocket without a single loss and Kisenosato even won his first crux bout against Kakuryu. Both Sekiwake finished up at 12-3, with Kotoshogiku likely headed on to Ozeki.
I have to say, I am slightly dissatisfied. I wish it were Kisenosato headed on to Ozeki and not Kotoshogiku. Its a mark of shame, I think, that one of Kotoshogiku’s qualifying bashos was the natsu bullshit that we endured this summer. Moreover, I wasn’t so happy with his performance this basho. I thought he got lucky a lot while he was in the pocket and some of the bouts in the crux looked a little like yaocho. If he performs well next basho, then I will be well satisfied, but I really wish I could have one more basho of him in sanyaku just to make sure he is really ready for this promotion. I would say that I have qualms. That aren’t unassailable, but they do exist. Kotoshogiku won’t be my favorite ozeki anytime soon.
On the other hand, I hope that Kisenosato will be my favorite ozeki next basho. I feel a little bad for saying that. Can I really betray Harumafuji like that. I love Haruma. I wish he had never been promoted to ozeki and I am glad that he was not promoted to yokozuna. When Haruma has a great crux bout, you remember it forever. As Ozeki, those bouts have been far fewer and longer in between.
But back to Kisenosato. I would love to see Kisenosato perform well next basho. He would need to win 11 bouts next basho to secure his promotion. Based on his performance in this basho, I think he has a far better chance of doing so than Kotoshogiku does. Kisenosato recieved the outstanding performance award this basho. I would like to see him recieve it again next basho. Kotoshogiku also received the outstanding performance award… I don’t really see it.
Hakuho showed he was still in control. He lost only to Kisenosato and Kotoshogiku. Of the two losses, Hakuho looked as though someone had told him to give up in Kotoshogiku’s bout. Kisenosato’s bout was more convincing.
Of Aran, I can only say that he is lucky he had Kotooshu around (at least in body…. for part of the time) to make him look good. I wonder if he will have Kotooshu around next basho (mind or body).
As for Kakuryu and Toyonoshima… not bad… but nothing to write home about.
The last person in Sanyaku to comment on is Blutto. Blutto started this basho off poorly with losses to both Homasho and Yoshikaze (Connelly, is it really true that you have pinned your hopes to this puff of lucky wind?). That said, Blutto came back and had a great latter half of the tournament. I felt that there was some fishy stuff going on near the end of the basho (and it wasn’t just Kakuryu), but Baruto had not part in this, I’m thinking. He got two nice wins over Kisenosato and Kotoshogiku.
I’ll leave the lower ranks to Valentine for his Top 10 post. I am looking forward to his analyses of the lower ranks’ strength of schedule. As for myself, I will be looking carefully at the Juryo winner Myogiryu in the next basho. I invented the crux and the pocket in response to Valentine’s note that the banzuke isn’t always the best way to judge which rikishi is the underdog down at the lower levels. I tried to define the crux and the pocket this basho using the M1 pair. Next basho, I am going to try to apply it to Myogiryu. We’ll see how that goes, but if you want to hear from a man who served as the inspiration for the crux and the pocket, check back here to be inspired by Valentine’s Top Ten.
It was a great fall basho, everyone, and the good news is that in two months, Sumo starts again!