Tofu Pro Wrestling is a TV Asahi late night drama starring various members of AKB48 and its associated sister groups. It started broadcasting on January 21, 2017 and ran 24 episodes up to July 1, 2017. The theme song for this drama is AKB48’s 47th single Shoot Sign.
The story focuses on a high school girl named Sakura who lives with her father Youhei, the owner of a tofu shop and professional wrestling dojo. Youhei was once a professional wrestling champion and after retirement he became a trainer of aspiring female pro wrestlers.
What kicks off this entire series is his sudden death. Through the early episodes of this drama it is revealed that his dream was to give birth to wrestling champions in his Kinshicho Dojo.
However, his former disciple Yazaki betrayed him and opened his own dojo (Shirokane Gym Association) and took all the most promising trainees with him. The only pupil who remained with Kinshicho was Yokoyama Yui.
After the separation the Shirokane Gym rose to prominence creating the World Idol Pro Wrestling organization which features many stars such as Hollywood Jurina, Jumbo Shimada, Dotonbouri Shiroma and Octopus Suda. Kinshicho on the other hand, did not fare so well having failed to gain any new pupils during Shirokane’s rise to power.
After Youhei’s passing Yazaki visits Sakura and challenges her father’s dojo to a series of exhibition matches. Sakura, having avoided her father’s legacy decides to accept the challenge for her family’s honor and dives head first into the world of professional wrestling.
When this drama was first announced there was much anticipation given the concept and the 48 members cast in show. There was also the short series on the TV Asahi YouTube page called Road to W.I.P. that added to the hype. That program gave viewers some insight into the professional wrestling training the cast went through in order to accurately portray their roles inside the ring.
There was even some cross promotion with New Japan Pro Wrestling with fliers promoting the drama being part of the packages attendees got when attending Wrestle Kingdom 11. In addition, Matsuri Jurina, Miyawaki Sakura and Shimada Haruka also were also in attendance to watch the event.
With all the pre-show hype is the end result of all the hype something that is worth watching?
Well that depends on how high your expectations were for this series. Do you want well-acted and emotional drama centered on the world of professional wrestling? How about some crazy, hard hitting joshi that wrestling fans rave about? In both cases you may leave very disappointed.
If you are willing to significantly reduce your expectations to a reasonable level then you will find a program that has a rather slow start but really gets going in its second half. With that in mind much of the first half of the series is focused on character development. On one side you have the rag tag group that is the Kinshicho Dojo. You get their back stories and watch them bond through learning the art of professional wrestling. Then you get glimpses at the roster of the Shirokane Gym and how all the backstage politics affect them in and outside of the ring.
Early on there is not a lot of in-ring action to speak of early on. The slow pace gives the viewer time to invest in the competitors much like anyone would in a real life professional wrestling federation. However, this can feel like a snails pace for those who are impatient and want to see these girls compete.