Netflix Has An Upcoming Sumo Wrestling Series That Looks Completely Wild

Netflix's upcoming series, Sanctuary, is a drama set in the world of sumo wrestling, part of the company's expansion effort into Japan.

By Lyndon Nicholas | Published

Series like the Karate Kid sequel Cobra Kai and the brawler anime Kengan Ashura have made martial arts a key part of their storytelling. Now, another Netflix series hopes to do the same. According to a Hollywood Reporter article, Netflix’s new series Sanctuary is a sumo wrestling drama entering the ring that will focus on a sport with a rich history in Japanese culture.

The Netflix sumo wrestling series is set to premiere on the platform on May 4, 2023. The series description notes that the drama tells the story of  a “tough, desperate kid” who becomes a sumo wrestler and upsets an ages-old sport “steeped in tradition.” Sanctuary will also give viewers what the streamer describes as a lens into the “underbelly of professional sumo.” 

Netflix just released a glimpse at the new sumo wrestling series Sanctuary in the form of a new trailer. The streaming platform recently released the trailer for Sanctuary on March 28, 2023. The trailer is a hard-rocking, action-packed peak into Sanctuary’s world of sumo wrestling, where attitude, grit, and cash speak just as loud as formal tradition.

The Netflix sumo wrestling series is written by Tomoki Kanazawa, who recently worked on the TBS medical drama Get Ready! and the YA drama series Shibuya Sensei ga Daitai Oshietekureru. It is directed by Kan Eguchi, best known for ​​the action drama The Fable and 2021’s The Fable: A Hitman Who Doesn’t Kill.

Sanctuary comes as Netflix continues to expand its offering regarding Japanese-language originals and increasing subscriptions in the country. Netflix has an estimated 7.2 million subscribers in Japan, capturing only about 15 percent of the country’s premium subscription video market. Recent releases like First Love, Hirokazu Kore-eda’s The Makanai: Cooking in the Maiko House, and upcoming releases including live-action versions of the classic action anime Yu Yu Hakusho and City Hunter may help the Netflix sumo wrestling series capture more of this market.

One Japanese-language Netflix series that has seen some success is 2020’s Alice in Borderland, which became the most-watched Japanese show on Netflix. After its second season aired in 2022 to commercial success, Alice in Borderland serves as an example of how Netflix’s sumo wrestling series could find success on the platform.

This is not Netflix’s first foray into sumo wrestling–2018’s Netflix original documentary short Little Miss Sumo, directed by Matt Kay, features the story of Hiyori Kon, a woman sumo wrestler banned from participating in professional events–but it would be its first fictional drama. Sanctuary could find a similar audience to fans of the Netflix martial arts anime series Baki based on the manga series of the same name. Both Baki and Sanctuary focus on gritty portrayals of martial arts and might appeal to a similar crowd.

Although many western viewers have a conception of what a sumo wrestler looks like and what the sport entails, many do not have a strong understanding of the traditions, customs, and histories of the sport that has been around for centuries. Maybe Netflix’s Sanctuary will change that and put sumo wrestling into the international spotlight.