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Even with the PGR still on hold, the 2022 tournament season has begun for Super Smash Bros. Ultimate players. The first major of the year concluded on Sunday in Tokyo with Sota “Zackray” Okada claiming first place at Kagaribi 6.

Here’s an overview of Zackray’s victory and other significant takeaways from the event.

Zackray is the back-to-back Kagaribi champion

In October, Zackray piloted the newly-released Sora to a shocking first-place finish at Kagaribi 5. At Kagaribi 6, he relied on a more tried-and-true roster of Joker, Sheik and Mr. Game & Watch. The old reliable cast proved just as effective as the breakout Sora, as Zackray managed to become the back-to-back Kagaribi champion.

Zackray had a hard-fought run through pools, as both Tetsuhisa “Rain” Kosaka and “Nagare” pushed him to Game 5. Nevertheless, he won both sets and advanced into top 96 on winners side. Afterward, Zackray beat “Taikei” 3-0 and “Rizeasu” 3-1, but faltered against Yutaro “Paseriman” Nagumo in a five-game winners quarters set.

In the losers bracket, Zackray was immediately matched up against “ProtoBanham,” his biggest rival for the title of No. 1 in Japan. His Sheik handily eliminated ProtoBanham’s Lucina 3-0. In top eight, Sheik main “Sylph” gained a 2-0 advantage over Zackray. However, Zackray pulled off the reverse 3-0 with Joker to keep his bracket run alive.

From there, Zackray dominated his remaining opponents. En route to grand finals, he swept “Repo” and Gakuto “Gackt” Ito, along with winning his runback against Paseriman 3-0. In grand finals, Zackray faced Shuto “Shuton” Moriya, who opted to play Pyra and Mythra rather than his signature Olimar. Shuton’s Aegis duo was no match for Zackray’s Joker, as Zackray won both sets of grand finals 3-1 in order to win Kagaribi 6 and make a strong case for himself as the best player in Japan.

Paseriman earns his best major tournament placement since 2019

Paseriman rose to prominence in late 2019 and early 2020 with placements like first at Sumabato SP 11, fourth at Evo Japan 2020 and ninth at Frostbite 2020. At the time, he looked to become the first Fox main to challenge Paris “Light” Ramirez for the title of best Fox in the world. However, the COVID-19 pandemic stole away some of Paseriman’s momentum and he struggled to repeat these impressive performances at post-quarantine majors.

But, that changed at Kagaribi 6. Paseriman made a run to third place as the 60th seed, marking not only his best post-quarantine performance, but also his best placement at any open-bracket major since his breakout win at Sumabato SP 11.

Paseriman advanced into top 96 after scoring a 3-2 win over “Shissho,” a Dr. Mario main who had upset Towa “Atelier” Kuriyama in the prior round. From there, he defeated “Yamanaction” 3-1 and “Toura” 3-0. Paseriman’s run climaxed with a 3-2 victory in winners quarters over the eventual tournament winner, Zackray.

Even after his big win against Zackray, Paseriman still had another upset left in the tank. He beat Gackt in yet another five-game set to secure a spot in winners finals. Paseriman ultimately lost 3-0 to both Shuton and Zackray. Even so, he proved he’s still capable of the same kinds of performances that garnered him international acclaim before quarantine.

Kameme bounces back at Kagaribi 6 after an off year

At one time, Takuto “Kameme” Ono was ranked No. 2 in Japan and No. 11 in the world. However, the Mega Man extraordinaire fell from grace, missing top eight at every single open-bracket major he attended in 2021, even placing as low as 65th at Kagaribi 5. As a result, he was seeded 76th going into this tournament.

Yet, after an entire year of underperformances, Kameme finally had a performance befitting a top player at Kagaribi 6. He dropped a close, five-game set to Toura in pools. Nevertheless, Kameme made a deep run through the losers bracket. He secured a spot in top 24 after eliminating “Batao” 3-1, “KaPMk” 3-0, Tomoki “kept” Ikeda 3-0 and Haoka “shky” Toshiki 3-2. Then, Kameme earned a 3-2 win over “Lea,” who had upset No. 1 seed ProtoBanham earlier in the bracket.

In the final stages of the bracket, Kameme piloted multiple characters to success. With Mega Man, he defeated “DIO” 3-1. With Sora, he defeated “HERO” 3-2. Finally, Kameme used a mix of Sora, Sheik and Mega Man to beat Rizeasu’s Sephiroth and Byleth 3-2. He ultimately finished in fifth place after suffering a 3-0 loss against Gackt, marking his first major top-eight finish since the first Kagaribi in December of 2020.

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