Sanctuary review: A solid sumo wrestling drama

In Sanctuary, Enno, a rebellious sumo wrestler, competes and rises through the ranks while causing trouble by disrespecting the traditions the sumo wrestling industry believes in. The series is now streaming on Netflix.


Kiyoshi Oze, also known as Enno, is done with his family, which is always in debt. To not have a life like his father, Enno accepts Ensho’s offer to join his stable as a sumo wrestler, hoping that he will make enough money to earn a luxurious lifestyle for himself.

As a sumo wrestler, Enno often acts like a punk and upsets the legends in the business, who see his gestures as disrespect towards the sport. Enno doesn’t care if no one likes him.

When he doesn’t get paid as handsomely as he dreamed of, he runs off. A friend of his and his father’s accident encourage him to go back into the sumo world with a newfound determination.

Enno starts making progress that allows him to compete at the May Tournament, where he meets an opponent who changes him forever.


Wataru Ichinose gives an adequate and dedicated performance as Enno. As a 37-year-old, it’s hard to see him as a teenager, but he does carry the angst, the cockiness, and the determination of Enno well.

Shiori Kutsuna as Kunishima could have had a far bigger role in the show. Her character is modern and questions a lot. She doesn’t back down from standing up to the traditions of sumo wrestling.

Kutsuna does play her character with sincerity. The fact that her character forgets about her drive to question and gets lost in the sumo world makes her look more like just another supporting character.


Sanctuary teaches the viewers a lot about the sumo world. With its decent pace and humor, which are part of many sports dramas, it transports the viewers to Japan.

The techniques the wrestlers use, the ranks they pursue, and what it means to be Yokozuna is established well. One can notice the hunger in the eyes of these sumo wrestlers, who want to reach greater heights.

Sanctuary gives the pivotal sumo wrestler characters personalities of their own that make things interesting. Enno is a punk, Enya is the veteran everyone wants to see win, Ryuki-zeki is the nation’s hero, and Shizuuchi is the formidable threat to Ryuki.

With Enno’s part, the show creates an interesting conflict. For a sport that is quite strict and dedicated to its traditions, one is left wondering how the legends are going to react to Enno’s mischiefs.


The show opens a discussion around how the sport looks at women, as they are not even allowed to enter the dohyo, and competing is completely an afterthought.

Modern characters like Kunishima and Ryuki-zeki address this in the first two episodes, but for the rest of the run, the show doesn’t talk about this topic and rather stays neutral by mentioning how the world of sumo wrestling is completely different.

The show slows down in the last two episodes. Furthermore, it only works towards building the new personality of Enno. In favor of his story, many subplots involving the supporting characters are dropped and not explored at all.


Sanctuary does promise an engaging sumo wrestling drama with a conflicted protagonist that you will want to root for. The show is an ambitious attempt to portray the professional world of sumo wrestling, and to an extent, it does manage to entertain and educate the viewers at the same time.

Sanctuary review: A solid sumo wrestling drama 1

Director: Kan Eguchi

Date Created: 2023-05-04 12:30

Editor's Rating:

Also Read: Sanctuary summary and ending explained

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