Last weekend saw players from all around Japan gather in Tokyo for the country’s largest ever Smash 4 event. Acting as the first A-Tier tournament outside of the USA, Umebura Japan Major was set to act as a true show of home-grown Japanese talent. With only two non-native players making it into Top 64, it was truly Japan’s time to shine.
The King of Evil Rises
With several players unable to make it to mid-sized tournaments due to work or school commitments, Umebura Japan Major acted as the place for many of Japan’s seldom-seen character specialists to finally take to the stage. One of these players was the Japanese Ganondorf main Gungnir, who is somewhat of a living legend among Ganon mains. While hardly seen at tournaments, Gungnir’s streams and Ganon tech have earned him the title of world’s best Ganon, despite his low attendance. When his name appeared on the sign-ups, expectations were sky-high for this reclusive King of Evil.
His path to Top 96 was not exactly easy, as he was placed up against a Villager and a Rosalina to qualify on Winners Side. If you’ve ever seen a Ganon in action, you’ll know that these two match-ups are some of Ganon’s absolute worst, due to his slow ground speed and inability to deal with projectiles. However, this was no ordinary Ganon. Scoffing in the face of bad match-ups, Gungnir was able to power through his pool to come out Winners’ Side for Top 96, defeating Japan rank 43 Yuzu and rank 46 kept.
Gungnir’s first game in Winners’ Side was to be against LG|Abadango. Now, even with all of his legendary skill and technology, Gungnir would have had to wish on the Triforce to clinch this victory. Falling into Losers’, Gungnir was able to defeat notable Japanese Pac-Man and Mewtwo player Ginko, before facing off against the world’s best Pit player Earth. It would be the King of Evil versus a righteous angel, with the loser going out at 25th place.
On paper, Ganon does not fare well against Pit. His bow is perfect for sniping Ganon while he is off stage and Ganon’s heaviness turns him into easy combo food. However, Pit’s lack of reliable kill options allows Ganon to live well past 100% and receive the full power boost from Rage. Game 1 would go to Gungnir, with him surviving to 153% and using Ganon’s immense strength to take out the angel. Earth would fire back in game 2, abusing Ganon’s sub-par recovery to edgeguard him before the wizard could gain the full benefit of Rage. While the two seemed level going into game 3, Gungnir tapped into the Triforce of Power and obliterated Earth in game 3, winning with a two stock thanks the character’s infamous Ganoncide. As someone who originally mained Ganon, Gungnir’s victory put a tear in this old Gerudo’s eye.
Unfortunately, Gungnir’s Losers’ bracket life would come to the end in his next match, against the Villager god Ranai. While he may have been victorious against kept’s Villager earlier in the tournament, Ranai is another class of player entirely. Overwhelmed by Ranai’s masterful projectile control, Gungnir was eliminated at 17th place. Make no mistake, this placing is probably the highest placing for a Ganon player at any major tournament and is an absolute marvel considering how much difficulty the character has in the current meta. I hope we’ll see more of Gungnir at future tournaments and his performance will inspire more players to take up the mantle of the King of Evil.
The Lion of Mexico
With both CLG|VoiD and CLG|Nakat unable to make Umebura Japan Major, it fell to Echo Fox and MVG to act as the major overseas threat in the tournament. While Echo Fox|MVG|Mew2King did not drop out as he is wontto do in Smash 4 events, he only managed to reach 33rd place alongside players like DNG|Rain and the old school Melee player Masashi. With his teammate falling early, it was up to the Lion of Mexico Echo Fox|MVG|MKLeo to carry the torch for the West.
Unlike his eventual Grand Finals rival KEN, MKLeo took a few losses on his way to Grand Finals against foes like Masashi and Kirihara. Following a 3-0 victory over Choco in Winners’ Semis, MKLeo finally faced KEN in what turned into a blowout victory for the Japanese Sonic. With his Cloud losing both game 1 and 2, Leo was forced to switch to his original main of Meta-Knight to try and defeat the Blue Blur. This character switch did not come off as planned, with KEN spin-dashing into Winners’ side of Grand Finals.
Leo would face an agonising climb back into Grand Finals, with Choco recollecting himself as his 3-0 loss in Winners’ Semis and taking Leo all the way to game 5 in Losers’ Finals. The two traded games right until Game 5, with neither Choco’s Zero Suit nor Leo’s Cloud giving an inch. Thanks to both characters’ burst damage potential, every game was a nail-biter but Leo eventually won the day, sealing out Game 5 with a crucial up air.
In the reverse of Tokaigi 2017 where KEN came from Losers’ to fight a foreign player for the crown, it was the foreign players turn to wrest control from KEN. Choosing to go Meta-Knight for the whole set, Leo was able to narrowly overcome KEN’s Sonic 3-2 in the first set. KEN was poised to take the first set, having Leo at over 100% going into his final stock in game 5. However, the combination of Lylat’s low ceiling and a rage boosted ladder combo from Leo’s Meta-Knight killed KEN at 55%. With KEN clearly rattled by that loss and with two sets of knowledge now under his belt, Leo turned the tables and defeated KEN with a clean 3-0 in the second set. It seems KEN is cursed to lose to foreign players in the Grand Finals of domestic tournaments. Let’s see if he can reverse his luck at an overseas tournament during the Summer of Smash.
Takera the hometown hero
As seems to be the case with most Japanese tournaments, Umebura Japan Major saw another local legend come to the fore. While unranked on the Japanese Smash rankings, takera is celebrated in Kanto for his stellar Ryu and for hosting regular Smashfests with players like Abadango and Choco in attendance. Despite his fame at home, he has yet to really make a name for himself on the national level. His performance at Umebura Japan Major quickly rectified that issue. Earning first in his pool by beating ZeRo slayer Brood and Japan’s best Lucas taiheita, takera would then go on to defeat Japan’s second best Rosalina atelier before eventually losing to 9B in top 96.
Takera continued on his path though, defeating the man of a thousand characters Rizeasu and causing a huge upset by beating Edge 2-0 to reach Losers’ side of Top 8. Unfortunately, this Ryu’s path would end at the hands of Japan’s best Rosalina Kirihara in a convincing 3-0 victory to the cosmic princess.
Takera would earn seventh place, outplacing the possible candidate for Japan’s best Ryu Chanshu by five places. In a weird twist of fate, both would end up losing to Kirihara, with Chashu’s deathblow being eventually struck by top Japanese Falcon pichi. Takera is planned to compete at this year’s Evo, so expect this Japanese Ryu to earn some Fight Money in Las Vegas.
The Land of Character Variety
As Japanese tournaments usually lack prize pots and with players usually sticking to a main once they find one they like, Japan has become the country known for its diverse character representation. Rather than simply picking the best character to win prize money, players end up gravitating to characters they most enjoy and then push them to their limit. One only needs to look at the Japanese Duck Hunt trio, Kameme’s Megaman or Hikaru’s DK to see how this character devotion has eventually translated into tournament success.
With so many character specialists coming out of the woodwork for this tournament, the Top 64 for Umebura Japan Major is up there as one of the most diverse in the game’s almost two and a half year history. Top 8 lacked any Diddy representation and the only repeating character was Sheik, played by both Kameme and Nietono. If you look further down the list at Top 64, some of the character stats are truly wild. Not only was there a Ganon and a Zelda present, but there was Rizeasu and his pocket full of characters, three Greninjas, two Pits, two Donkey Kongs, two Bowsers, a Duck Hunt, a Charizard, a Link, and a Pac-Man. However, for all of these lesser known characters, there were a grand total of seven Cloud players in Top 64 to make quite the overcast affair.
.@echofoxgg @MVGLeague @Mkleosb @chococo6842 @9999B @Ueji1123 @takeraketa And with a talent pool that's so deep, @Tetra_76 has organized 9th through 33rd for everyone to view! pic.twitter.com/SBP0uyalUJ
— PGStats (@ThePGstats) May 7, 2017
With the recent announcement of 2GG Greninja Saga, some of the Japanese Greninjas like Lea and Shiki are potentially coming to show their skills in the West, shining a greater spotlight on Japan’s deep pool of character specialists. Hopefully, the great performances of players like Gungnir, Onpu, Kisha and Tosshi at the event will see them creep onto future compendiums.
For anyone who stayed up to watch all of the matches, Umebura Japan Major was a fantastic display of not only Japanese talent, but the enthusiasm of the scene. With so many players turning out to compete, I hope events will continue to grow in Smash’s home nation and more will make the long journey stateside to compete at tournaments like CEO and Evo 2017.
1. Echo Fox|MVG|MKLeo (Cloud, Meta Knight/Mexico)
2. KEN (Sonic/Kanto)
3. Choco (Zero Suit Samus/Kanto)
4. SHIG|9B (Bayonetta/Kansai)
5. DNG|Nietono (Sheik/Kanto)
5. Kirihara (Rosalina and Luma/Kanto)
7. DNG|Kameme (Sheik, Megaman, Yoshi/Kanto)
7. takera (Ryu/Kanto)