There is much amazement online at the news that the first female shogi player to score a victory at a cup tournament actually learnt the game after reading about it in Naruto.
Karolina Styczynska, a 20-year-old Polish student, was invited to participate in the 2nd Ricoh shogi cup in Tokyo as a guest competitor in the women’s group, and won her first match against a 41-year-old female professional player, becoming in the process the first female non-Japanese to beat a Japanese player in a formal competition.
Her second match against another 32-year-old female veteran resulted in a loss, but the Japanese media had already caught her scent and soon she was projected to (very) minor celebrity status.
Contributing to her status as human interest story of the day was the unprecedented means by which she came to the sport – she read about it in Naruto.
According to the Japan Shogi Association, her interest in the game was sparked when she was reading a scene in a Polish language translation of the Naruto manga in which a character beats their sensei at the game (this would presumably refer to Shikamaru playing his father) – after this she learned the game online and later started to compete.
Naruto fans have much the same reputation in Japan as elsewhere – not that its inexplicably much less criticised competitor One Piece has so far produced any champions or sparked much interest in traditional Japanese culture – but that only seems to have increased the size of her nascent fan club on 2ch:
“Naruto! Now this was unexpected!”
“Nobody could have predicted this move. No wonder she’s good.”
“It was Shikamaru’s shogi games with his old man, by the looks of it. Amazing that such a minor scene caught her interest and prompted her to master the game!”
“A single scene in Naruto and she became this good!”
“Wait, Naruto’s a shogi manga?”
“I don’t even remember a shogi scene in Naruto.”
“She even looks smart.”
“Right, even her expression exudes acuity.”
“She would look gorgeous if properly made up. Her face is perfectly sculpted.”
“She’s cool. And it’s great that she took an interest in shogi of all things.”
“For her to reach that rank in only 4 years of play is really impressive.”
“She’s at the pro-level in only 4 years, and a foreigner too – definitely impressive.”
“Well, it’s similar to chess. Even for a westerner it’s not that hard a game, I imagine.”
“She must have been interested in chess before, too.”
“Kind of exciting news!”
“I bet her opponent just threw the match to make for an interesting story…”
“Her face certainly is that of a manga-loving foreign girl, but that is a good thing!”