This weekend will see the latest Smash event, Frame Perfect 2, take place in Orlando, Florida. Hosted by MVG, Frame Perfect 2 consists of Melee singles and doubles, Wii U singles and doubles, and 64 singles.Top players from around the globe will be competing in all three available Smash titles. Most notably, a strong Japanese competition will be present to challenge the North American home team.
Among them are Rei “Komorikiri” Furukawa, Takuto “Kameme” Ono, Ryuto “Ranai” Hayashi, Noriyuki Kirihara, and Tomoyasu “Earth” Yamakawa.
Though all of these Japanese competitors have placed extremely well in Japan and beyond, they have all equally struggled to secure a number one placing at a foreign major. Komorikiri, ranked number two in Japan and arguably the best Cloud main, has remained a consistent player in the Wii U scene. Taking multiple first place titles in Japan regionals has been more than doable for Komorikiri. However, he has not fared quite as well in the States.
Even with his impressive Cloud play, Komorikiri took 17th place at both Genesis 3 and EVO 2016. Lately he has seen a bit more success, securing 3rd at The Big House 6 and 2nd at 2GGC: Genesis Saga. Nonetheless, his record shows an overall lower placement in the States versus Japan. Kameme and the others are unfortunately all in the same boat. Kameme in particular was quite close to securing a first place finish at EVO 2016, storming Las Vegas with his incredible Mega Man tech and 3-0’ing Gonzalo “ZeRo” Barrios in Losers Finals. However, he met his match in Elliot “Ally” Carroza-Oyarce, succumbing in Grand Finals.
Ranai and Earth also turned some heads at EVO 2016, with the former entering Top 8 utilizing a deadly Villager, while the latter, a Pit main, was locked out at 9th. However, Ranai and Earth have seen relative success at other American tournaments. Ranai is arguably the best Villager player in the world managed to score a 3rd place result at Genesis 3, and the next year a solid 9th after losing to Komorikiri at Genesis 4. Meanwhile, Earth earned 13th and 25th at Genesis 3 and Genensis 4, respectively.
The player that hasn’t seen much success at all outside of Japan is Kirihara. Though the Rosalina & Luma main has produced some decent results in the Umebura series in Japan, Kirihara has yet to make any major waves in the States. That said, his attendance rate for American tournaments is significantly lower compared to his counterparts in attendance at Frame Perfect 2.
Similarly to Kirihara, most Americans do not have much of a track record for attendance at tournaments in Japan. However, there performances on average seem to outshine the Japanese competitors.
Both ZeRo and Jason “Mew2King” Zimmerman were flown out to Japan to compete in Chokaigi 2015, with the former taking first place and the latter second place. Just a month later, Nairoby “Nairo” Quezada attended Umebura FAT, and succeeded in taking first in a Grand Finals match versus Komorikiri. Other American players, notably Samuel “Dabuz” Buzby and Ally, have entered Top 8 in a handful of Japanese tournaments.
Japanese players can push the meta in interesting ways, and often quite unexpectedly. When Kameme showed up and nearly cleaned up the entire tournament with his Mega Man and footstool combos, it left the EVO crowd, myself included, stunned. The hype and tension was so thick it could be cut with a knife. Ranai also was a force to be reckoned with, pushing Villager to the limit.
It should also be mentioned that Yuta “Abadango” Kawamura, who is unfortunately not attending Frame Perfect 2, has had a fairly impactful run thus far in the States. Though currently ranked 7 in Japan, he is the only Japanese player to take first place in an American major, something that even some top American players have yet to achieve. His Pound 2016 story is a prime example of pushing the meta, bringing Mewtwo to the forefront of the competitive stage.
This notion of Japanese players pushing the meta isn’t to discredit any American players. Many of the top American players are practically defined by their character picks, and vice versa. Ally is the Mario to look up to, while Larry Lurr Holland is perhaps the ideal Fox.
Japanese players impress with their technical prowess with what had once been underdeveloped characters in the meta, and often have results to back up their skill. They may not snag the gold in American majors, but they are undisputedly worthy challengers for the heavy hitters in the Americas.
Whether they will reign supreme in Frame Perfect 2 remains to be seen, but a truly intense weekend awaits Smash fans.