The second half of 2022 marked a relatively quiet season for Japan’s competitive Super Smash Bros. Ultimate scene. Despite having four events with over 500 entrants in the first half of the year, Japan didn’t have a single tournament in the second half that cracked the 500-entrant mark. As a result, some Japanese players debuted lower than expected on Ultimate’s first global rankings list since before quarantine, the UltRank 2022.
However, Japan bounced back earlier this month with Umebura SP 9, which had over 1,000 entrants. This weekend, a tournament in Tokyo will make history as Japan’s largest grassroots major for any Super Smash Bros. game to date.
With over 1,200 entrants, the next iteration of Kagaribi will be second only to Evo Japan 2020, which had a little over 1,800 attendees for Smash Ultimate. Here’s an overview of the biggest storylines going into Kagaribi 9.
Japanese prodigy acola aims for his biggest win to date
Unsurprisingly, Mashita “acola” Hayato is the favorite to win Kagaribi 9. He is currently ranked No. 1 in Japan and No. 2 in the entire world. In addition, acola won his last two Japanese tournaments, including the stacked supermajor Umebura SP 9.
Even so, acola has recently looked more vulnerable in competition than ever. He had his worst performance to date at Seibugeki 12 in December, losing to Repo and Takuto “Kameme” Ono for ninth place. Similarly, acola’s most recent result was a disappointing seventh-place finish at Genesis 9 in California.
— ZETA/あcola (@acola_Lui) January 23, 2023
With such high stakes and a slight dip in his results, it’s also worth noting that acola is facing a tough bracket at Kagaribi 9. Based on his projected bracket, he is likely to face either Kameme or Shuto “Shuton” Moriya, both of whom have beaten him in the past month. In addition, the tournament’s second seed is Yoshidora, the only Japanese player who has beaten acola multiple times at majors.
More international players come to Kagaribi 9
Like Umebura SP 9, Kagaribi 9 will feature a handful of notable international players, which is rare since Japanese grassroots majors do not have prize pools. The biggest international threat at this event will be the United States’ Christian “Jahzz0” Ramsay. Jahzz0 is currently ranked fourth in the state of Georgia and 61st in the world.
Since people are talking about it, I guess the cat’s out of the bag…!
I am officially announcing that I will be going to Japan for Kagaribi 9! This will be my first international tournament I attend, and with that said, I’m going to go crazy!!! https://t.co/23HrhkaHes
— InC | Jahzz0 (@Jahzz0) January 23, 2023
As it currently stands, Jahzz0’s projected bracket includes a face-off with Gakuto “Gackt” Ito. Gackt defeated him the only time they played at Double Down 2022. If he can overcome that obstacle, Jahzz0 will then have to take on acola.
Dylan Tate is an alumnus of the Hussman School of Journalism and Media at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He is a gaming journalist with a love for Nintendo esports, particularly Super Smash Bros. and Pokémon.