Hajime “Tokido” Taniguchi might be one of the greatest fighting game players of all time, but that doesn’t keep him from being haunted by his own demons. During last weekend’s TOPANGA Championship, he finally felled fellow legend Daigo Umehara in a lengthy Street Fighter V match, securing a victory two years in the making.
Since mid-February, the TOPANGA Championship has culled Japan’s best Street Fighter V competitors through rigorous round-robin matches until only six remained for Sunday’s grand final. Tokido and Daigo both had strong showings in their previous groups, and entered yesterday’s event ready to take on several promising challengers. When all was said and done, however, everything rested on one last match between these two powerhouses.
“Before this league, I didn’t expect that I would reach this final match,” Tokido said before sitting down to play Daigo. “After I lost to Ume-san, I practiced Street Fighter every single day. I’m really happy that I can fight him again today. I will bring out everything that I’ve been working on. Please look forward to that.”
What followed was an unbalanced performance. Daigo’s Guile just couldn’t keep up with Tokido’s Akuma. Tokido completed a perfect sweep against Daigo in just 20 minutes, winning seven straight matches to become the TOPANGA champion. After the final blow, Tokido placed his head in his hands for a few moments before finally standing up to bow in Daigo’s direction.
Although these competitors had played before, this time felt different. Just two years ago during the Kemonomichi exhibition event, Tokido lost to Daigo by a score of 10 to 5. That match ended in tears and resolve, a clear indication that fighting game players are deeply connected to competition. It can often be heartbreaking, but as was the case at the TOPANGA Championship, it can also reaffirm one’s passion for the hobby.
“I’ve never been so glad that I play fighting games as much as today,” Tokido said during his post-match interview. “I’m super happy right now. I’ve been practicing every single day. In the end, I think that hard work doesn’t pay off that often. I think that luck favored me too. The work that I’ve been putting in every day gave me more confidence. Based on this, I will practice more after this too. I’m looking forward to playing with everyone.”