I’ve always said that I’m a man of many interests. One of them is sumo. Yes, an Italian born and raised in Brooklyn likes sumo. Don’t judge. I also like comics. Naturally, my eyes lit up when I saw a graphic novel called Sumo by Thien Pham sitting on the shelves of my library. I can safely say that this graphic novel did not disappoint.
Scott’s football career did not go as well as he planned. So he decided to start over by going to Japan and go into sumo. It is during this time that he doubts his life choice.
Stories about sumo tend to super rare and the ones that are there are not very good. This is an astounding exception. This story is more along the lines of self-reflection than sumo. Here, sumo is more of a backdrop than the actual plot of the story. Scott’s story rings true with many people. How many people can you name who didn’t like how their lives were going so they decided to start over? A lot.
The pacing of the story is a major highlight, The insert says that the story is supposed to be like a real sumo bout: lots of slow buildup to a fast paced ending. That is exactly what you get. We see various parts of Scott’s life from before leaving for Japan, training in his heya (sumo stable) to his time with new girlfriend Asami. This slow paced story telling is supposed to show off the real life of a low ranked rikishi (sumo wrestler) who might not have a career after the next basho (tournament and yes I am aware I am throwing a bunch of sumo words at you.)
One major thing that helps tell this story is the art. Unlike other comics where it’s either black and white or color, here they come in orange, blue and green. The orange is for the Scott’s sumo training, the blue for his time in America and green for his time with Asami. It’s actually pretty brilliant technique to show the different parts of one’s life. Hell, blue is traditionally associated with sadness and his time in America is sad. Green is the color of renewal and orange is the color of determination. The amazing thing is that at the end all three colors come together perfectly to create one mighty ending.
In all, Sumo is an excellent graphic novel with top notch story telling and art. The best part is you don’t have to be a sumo fan to appreciate it. It helps, but the strong story is more than enough to make non-fans enjoy it.