Smash officially looks to be back in full force in North America. With tournaments going on every week and the Smash World Tour being entirely offline, everything is starting to return back to normal. Even better, recent events suggest that Ultimate is entering its most exciting year yet.
The Japanese community has also been incredibly busy in 2022 — something that NA players may not be as aware of. Led by TO team EastGeekSmash, the region holds weeklies and majors featuring the nation’s best talent. Last weekend, Japan saw its first Super Silver stop on the Smash World Tour in Maesuma TOP #7.
The event was highly competitive and gave the rest of the world a glimpse of the Japanese scene’s strength and skill. It also served as a preview for Japan’s first Platinum SWT event, Kagaribi 7.
To introduce you to the world’s most passionate scene ahead of their biggest tournament, here are five sets from the past month that show what Japanese Smash is all about.
Tea vs Kameme
Takuma “Tea” Hirooka is perhaps the most well-known Japanese player on an international scale. He frequently travels for majors and qualified for Smash Ultimate Summit 4 last March. The world’s best Pac-Man has set the blueprint on how to play the seldomly seen character. Tea’s quick wits and creativity make him an incredibly fun to watch and he is a crowd favorite at any tournament.
On the other hand, Takuto “Kameme” Ono is no slouch either. The veteran has consistently ranked in the PGRU Top 50 since the Wii U era. Like many players, the longtime Sheik main has recently been experimenting with Sora in the new meta. Tea and Kameme found themselves in a Losers Top 8 collision course at Maesuma TOP #7. The two titans of Japan battled back and forth in an intense FT3 set that went down to the absolute wire.
Meet Ultimate’s Yoshi god, Yoshidora
Top Melee player Masaya “aMSa” Chikamoto isn’t the only Yoshi main from Japan you should get in tune with. True to his name, Yoshidora is regarded as the world’s best Yoshi in Ultimate. He recently came in at 12 on the Orion Eclipse global rankings for 2022. Since he hardly ever travels, many fans outside of Japan have rarely seen him in action.
After dropping a game to Hero, Yoshidora showed why he was ranked so highly by the experts. His intense pressure and never-ending combos make Yoshi look much more menacing than the opposing Bowser. His ability to cover the entire offstage area without ever misjudging his jump is also very impressive. The comeback victory was part of Yoshidora’s 3rd place run at Maesuma Top #7, losing only to Shuton and Acola.
Atelier faces two countrymen on American soil
Many Japanese players make routine trips overseas to compete in major Smash tournaments. Despite being outnumbered, every now and then they find themselves competing in the bracket. Pound 2022 saw many of Japan’s top players make the trip to Maryland for the most recent stop on the Smash World Tour.
Team Liquid’s Towa “Atelier” Kuriyama found themselves fighting for their tournament lives against fellow countrymen in back-to-back matches. Japan’s best Pokemon Trainer faced Kengo “KEN” Suzuki first in Loser’s Top 16. Arguably the world’s best Sonic, he struggled with his first option before switching to Sephiroth in the final game. In the end, KEN couldn’t come up with the answers and Atelier advanced 3-1.
The very next match was a Top 8 qualifier against Japan’s best Ness, Gakuto “Gackt” Ito. Unfortunately, the set was not exciting as Gackt routed Atelier 3-0. Gackt would be the highest placing player from Japan at Pound 2022 and the only one to make Top 8.
… and make it Doubles
Contrary to the NA and EU Smash communities, Japan loves them some Doubles. So much that they hold entire tournaments specifically for 2v2 action. Coming from the same TOs as Kagaribi, the first edition of Ignite was held last month. The event was a huge success with over 100 teams entering, including many top Singles competitors.
The Grand Final was a bit of a surprise, to say the least. It was not a shock to see the team of Sota “Zackray” Okada and Eita “Hikaru” Hoshi, who are both ranked on the Orion Eclipse edition. However, the duo sitting in Winner’s Side was largely unknown, even in Japan. Luminous and Billy practically reinvented the meta for Doubles with their lethal combination of Cloud and Ridley. They won the tournament without dropping a single set, looking downright dominant for most of the event.
Acola might actually convince us to like Steve
This is the set that has everyone talking. 2022 has been the year of the prodigy in Smash Ultimate. 16-year-old Sparg0 finally won his first major (and then some), while fellow high schooler Zomba is vaulting towards the top of the US rankings. At Maesuma TOP #7, another teenage phenom introduced themselves to the Smash world.
15-year-old Acola shocked all with his amazing run last weekend. The unorthodox Steve main took out names like Paseriman (Japan’s best Fox), Hero, Tea, and Yoshidora en route to the Grand Final on the Losers side. There he squared off with Shuto “Shuton” Moriya, arguably Japan’s strongest player at the moment. In a rough character matchup against Olimar, Acola persevered to reset the bracket 3-2. He then dismantled Shuton 3-0 in the second set for a very impressive first tournament victory that captured everyone’s attention.
Many are already dubbing the young Acola as the world’s best Steve. What makes him so interesting is that he goes against all conventional wisdom with the character. He plays super aggressive, opting to constantly rush down his opponent and only mining when necessary. He even revealed new tech by using blocks to chase airborne opponents and unleash Smash Attacks instead of Aerials. Safe to say all other Steve players are taking notes, which hopefully translates to less campy styles that often put a slow to broadcasts.