Sanctuary – J-drama Episode 1 Recap & Review

Episode 1

Episode 1 of Japanese drama Sanctuary starts with sumo wrestlers in a club beating up underdog wrestler Kiyoshi Oze. Oze lacks the technique of his opponent and pretends to be tired and injured. He eventually beats his opponent, Enga, by tricking him which amuses his coach as well. The sumo wrestlers live in a place called the Ensho Stable where the juniors have to wait for the seniors to eat first.

Oze is one of the juniors and ends up eating a lot from his fellow junior’s plates. Enga treats Oze and Shimizu badly as he asks the two juniors to clean up after him and wipe his butt. Oze rebels but Shimizu complies with Enga.

A flashback takes Oze to the time when he was a gangster. He recalls how he had treated people badly back then. His father is a handicapped man and Oze tries his best to save up some money out of what he makes. Oze’s parents are separated and debt collectors hound his father asking him to pay back the money Oze’s mother had borrowed. Oze runs to see his mother but finds the woman in bed with another man.

Oze kicks the woman but her father somehow makes it in time to save the woman from being hit by Oze. Oze’s mother blames his father for their failed sushi restaurant. She claims that the man used up all her money and now she was broke because of his incompetence. Oze’s father apologises which further angers Oze.

Back in the present, Shimuzu cleans up the sumo wrestling ring before the seniors join them for practice. Oze refuses to bow to the Gods before getting inside the wrestling ring. Enga pics a fight with Oze for sitting in the senior-most (Oyakata) wrestler’s seat and Enya has to break them apart. The wrestlers practice at the Ensho Stable where journalists Kunishima and her boss pay a visit to observe the wrestlers.

The older of the two journalists introduces Kunishima to the Ensho Stable owner and the coach, Ensho, as well as the manager Mr Ogawa. Her boss asks Kunishima to take photos of the wrestlers in action and Oze’s disinterest in the game catches her attention. She watches the heavyweight wrestlers beat Shimuzu, the lankiest sumo wrestler.

The wrestlers force Oze to get into the ring and mock him for not abiding by the rules and traditions of the game. The coach tries to push Oze but he is not able to push his opponents. Enga tries to bully Oze but he ends up biting Enga’s foot, causing a scene. Kunishima enters the ring to take better photos but Enga yells at her for entering the ring. He claims that women are not allowed in the ring and that she needs to be educated. Her boss takes her out and yells at her for potentially ruining their chance to cover this story. Kunishima does not agree with this but Enga tries to explain to her that the sumo world has been built with different rules. He reminds Kunishima that she was transferred to his news department because she had broken the rules at her former department.

The directors of the National Sumo Wrestlers discuss the names of wrestlers who could be promoted to higher ranks based on their achievements. They also claim that Oze exhibited bad behaviour after defeating his opponent in a recent tournament. They ask for him to be dismissed for his actions but the head of the association decides he should be slapped with a stern warning. Kunishima asks Oze to contact her if he experienced bullying at the stable. He dismisses her, stating that she doesn’t matter as she doesn’t have money or large breasts, further annoying her.

Kunishima is having a meal at work when her boss and another colleague join her. They claim that Ensho Stable was very reputable back in the day and wonder if it could bounce back to fame with the help of one exceptional wrestler. One of Kunishima’s colleagues trolls her for being taken off the news reporting team because she had an affair. She ends up slapping him before leaving the lunch hall.

At the Ensho Stable, Shimuzu is dissatisfied with the fact that he can’t gain weight. The other wrestlers are spending their time chatting or using social media. Shimuzu finds Oze smoking outside and tells him that doing the exercise called ‘shiko’ would really help him defeat his opponent. Oze tells Shimuzu that doing shiko was pointless but Shimuzu asks him not to run away because he was strong.

Another flashback takes the episode to the night when Ensho hired Oze to be a sumo wrestler. Ensho had tempted Oze into being a wrestler by telling him that the sport was a sanctuary of lucky men who had money, honour and women. On his way home, Oze spots his disabled father working on the street at night. He recalls being a child when he was very happy as were his parents.

Oze decides to take up the job as a sumo wrestler for his father’s sake. The old man drops Oze off at the train station. When Oze spends a month at the stable, he is shocked to learn that he would only be able to make good money as a wrestler when he reaches a higher rank. Oze is angry and tries to fight Ensho for luring him into being a sumo wrestler by lying to him. Ensho asks Oze to try and get a promotion if he wants to be paid better. At the stable, the other senior wrestlers start bullying him for his erratic behaviour.

Back in the present day, her boss asks Kunishima to write an article on the wrestler named Enya, who would make it back to the top after recovering from an injury. She initially refuses but finally agrees to this.

That night, Oze decides to leave the Ensho stable but Shimuzu follows him out. He pleads with Oze to stay back and claims since he’s not heavy enough to be a wrestler himself, his purpose at the stable is to protect Oze and stop him from running away. Shimuzu’s pleas eventually convince Oze to stay back.

The next morning, the wrestlers wonder if Oze and Shimuzu have run away from the stable. However, they find Oze in the wrestling ring doing the shiko exercise all by himself. 

The Episode Review

The show seems to be a solid slice-of-life drama showing the struggles of a young boy named Kiyoshi Oze who has had a rough life after his father’s business failed, which drove his mother away from him. His family situation makes it really hard for him to focus on working to better his life but it seems like he will eventually make it really big by the end of this season.

It seems unrealistic that Oze was the only wrestler who is so rebellious of the practices of sumo wrestling. It is highly likely that Oze and Kunishima would eventually bond over their hate for the ancient practices of sumo wrestling. It is also possible that both Kunishima and Oze change their minds about these practices and start respecting the traditional sport.

Next Episode

Expect a full-season review for Sanctuary later this week!


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