I’ve never witnessed an actual sumo wrestling match, so this graphic novel about sumo caught my curiosity. Thien Pham’s Sumo (First Second, December 2012) follows Scott, an American college graduate who thought he was heading toward the NFL but didn’t make the cut and subsequently lost the love of his life, Gwen. A new opportunity and the chance to move across the world from his old life are immensely appealing to him, so he relocates to Japan to pursue sumo wrestling.
Blocky shapes tell Scott’s story, with blue, green, and orange hues guiding the reader through his past and present.
Scott’s portrayal as a bit of a fish out of water in Japan is realistic, as he’s never been exposed to Japanese culture — much less sumo wrestling — before; details about sumo customs come from his coach. Scott soon welcomes the routine of his newfound sport (and a blossoming romance with the coach’s daughter). The novel is a short but poignant read about taking risks and getting used to something different.