‘Sanctuary’ Ending, Explained: Did Enno Defeat Shizuuchi? Is Enno’s Father Dead?


“Sanctuary” is a new Japanese series streaming on Netflix that presents a look into the relatively less-discovered world of Japanese sumo wrestling, at least in the global sense. The show follows a young man named Kiyoshi as he gives up on a life of familial trouble and desperation to join a sumo stable. Unlike most other practitioners of the traditional sport, though, Kiyoshi does not care about glory and respect, he takes up sumo wrestling only because he has been told that the sport pays a lot. “Sanctuary” is essentially the story of Kiyoshi’s transformation into his truly dedicated self in the wrestling ring, where he takes up the name Enno. In this article we discuss the summary and the relatively vague ending that “Sanctuary” presents. 

Spoilers Alert

‘Sanctuary’ Plot Summary: What Is The Series About?

Kiyoshi is a young man who is extremely frustrated with the present condition of his wayward life. As the only child of his parents, Kiyoshi enjoyed his childhood days spent at the family’s sushi shop. However, the shop has been closed for many years now, as his father has had to go through severe and unexpected losses in his business. The mother, Sanae, has turned to selling her body in order to maintain her lifestyle, and the woman goes around borrowing money from people in the neighborhood as well. Kiyoshi’s father is at an elderly age and enjoys gardening at the back of their house but has to go out looking for work in order to earn his livelihood. Kiyoshi is physically strong and has also trained in judo since childhood, but the young man spends his days getting into fights and stealing whatever money he can from such fights. The family is hounded by moneylenders who come to confront Sanae, but the woman is always away with some new lover of hers, and it is Kiyoshi and his docile father who have to deal with them.

Amidst such circumstances, Kiyoshi is approached by a man named Ensho, and it is evident that the two have met numerous times before. Ensho happens to be the leader and trainer of a sumo stable in Tokyo, and he has been trying to make Kiyoshi join the sport for quite some time now. Kiyoshi’s physical strength and his expertise in judo as well as street fighting, are well known to Ensho, and when everything else fails, the man touts money in front of the desperate Kiyoshi. Ensho tells the young man that there is incredible money in the world of sumo wrestling, and Kiyoshi readily agrees to leave home and join the Ensho stable. However, his lack of discipline and respect in general, and his only motive behind pursuing the sport being money, led to a hard time for Kiyoshi inside the wrestling ring. He is also given the name Enno as his wrestler identity, and the man still desperately hopes to be incredibly rich one day, with all the luxuries and women that a rich lifestyle brings along.

What Was Shizuuchi’s Secret Past?

Being a drama series that deals mostly with the struggles and tribulations of the sumo wrestlers, the only traditional mystery in “Sanctuary” is with regards to one of the established wrestlers we see named Shizuuchi. Although he is known well enough for being a strong sumo with a good wrestling record, Shizuuchi carries himself in a calm but secretive manner, hardly ever speaking with anyone. During Enno’s initial days at Ensho stable, he goes over to a nearby park to spend time alone and smoke off his frustrations in life. It is here that he keeps seeing Shizuuchi, strangely standing and staring at a big cherry blossom tree.  The man also has a distinct physical characteristic in the form of burn scars on the side of his face, and the brash Enno even makes fun of this and teasingly calls him “two-faced.” Despite being a very strong competitor from the Koku stable, Shizuuchi is not popular among his fellow wrestlers from the same stable either. This is because of the man’s extremely reserved attitude, and he literally has no friends around.

The reason for Shizuuchi’s silent introverted nature and his secretive past is revealed in “Sanctuary” when a reporter starts to look into an old murder case from Hokkaido’s Rausu region. A number of years ago, a woman and her young son were found dead, and it was suspected that the elder son, who was also of adolescent age, had stabbed the two. This adolescent boy was Shizuuchi, easily recognizable from the distinct burn marks on his face. But in reality, he had not killed his mother or beloved younger brother, but there was a different sad story behind the incident.

Shizuuchi’s mother was a single woman raising two boys, and she did not have any stable income either. Professionally, her life was a mess, due to which she started borrowing money from neighbors, just like Enno’s mother, Sanae. The lenders obviously started asking for their money back after some time, but the woman never had enough to pay off all her debts. She possibly started borrowing more money to pay off debts and soon found herself in a vicious cycle that was treacherous for her mental condition. As the lenders started pressuring her, even insulting and abusing her in public, the mother started losing her mental stability. At times she would lash out at the two young boys for being the reason for her misery, and at other times she would try to shower them with love. Shizuuchi was mature enough to understand that his mother did not really want to hurt him or his brother but that she was not mentally healthy. It is not revealed how Shizuuchi got the burn marks on his face even at that young age, but it could be possible that his mother was involved in this as well.

One day, a stunned Shizuuchi found his mother at the back of their house, under a big cherry blossom tree, having slashed his younger brother’s throat with a knife. As the brother lay dead, the mother then slashed her own throat with the same knife and committed suicide. It seems she never planned on killing Shizuuchi, perhaps because she knew he could make a living for himself out of sumo wrestling, a sport he was very skilled in from his childhood days. Shizuuchi simply stood and watched his mother and brother die, and he possibly stood there for a long time till someone found him at the crime scene and put the blame on him. Shizuuchi could never really process the loss in a healthy manner, and he only kept remembering his mother’s teaching that he must keep smiling even in times of grief. Despite being very affected by the incident, even to this day, Shizuuchi kept living his life in a very unusual and stunted manner.

Who Had Hired Yasui To Blackmail Shizuuchi?

When the sumo wrestling tournament begins, a rival stable owner named Inushima starts conspiring against Ensho’s wrestlers because of a feud from their own past. Inushima was a talented wrestler during his younger days, and he was thought to be able enough to become a grand champion, or “yokozuna.” However, the man always found Ensho to be his toughest opponent, and essentially, it was Ensho who stopped Inushima from becoming a yokozuna. Inushima had always remained bitter about this fact, and now that he is a member of the Japanese sumo association, he still keeps trying to mess up Ensho and his students. At present, Inushima intentionally makes the committee prepare the roster of matches in a way that puts the powerful Shizuuchi against Enya, a wrestler from the Ensho stable. Enya is a veteran sumo wrestler towards the end of his career; despite being quite successful in his fights, Enya now struggles with an injured knee, and the doctors confirm that he needs to stop sumo wrestling in order to protect it. After Enya is defeated by Shizuuchi, Inushima continues with his efforts at ridiculing Ensho and now fixes a fight between Shizuuchi and Enno. It is right before this matchup that a man introducing himself as a journalist named Yasui appears on the scene. After going through the countryside of Rausu, Yasui meets with Shizuuchi and directly blackmails him. Rausu falsely claims that he can prove Shizuuchi’s involvement in the murders of his mother and brother and threatens to release the news to the press unless Shizuuchi intentionally loses the match against Enno.

Soon it becomes clear that Yasui had been hired by someone to blackmail Shizuuchi on their behalf, and even the journalist is not sure who had done it. He had received an anonymous email about the information and the assurance that such a news article would make him immensely popular if Shizuuchi did not meet the demand. The sumo wrestler does not throw his fight, though, and almost breaks Enno, but Yasui does not leak the news and instead tries to find out who sent him the information. Ultimately, it had been the rising superstar wrestler Ryuki who had hired Yasui’s help. Ryuki was the son of a veteran yokozuna, Ryubu, who was always very tough on his son and undermined him. Ryuki was under extreme parental pressure to not just become a sumo wrestler but a yokozuna, even though he did not enjoy wrestling and would even fall physically sick from the stress of it all. Ryuki’s mother could feel all of this and had anonymously hired Yasui to blackmail Shizuuchi because Shizuuchi was closing in on the personal record of fights won, and soon enough, Ryuki and Shizuuchi would have to fight each other. Although Shizuuchi had not thrown his fight against Enno, he did retire from the tournament, meaning that the blackmailing plan did succeed. However, Ryubu had found out about this, and had grown terribly angry because of it. Knowing that news of this would be scandalous, the mother seduced one of the elder patrons of the stable, Ito, to take the blame upon himself. However, Ito revealed all of it to Ryubu, and the man had a final fallout with his wife. The plan to save Ryuki’s reputation does succeed, but at the cost of his mother apologizing for giving birth to him and going away from their house and his life forever.

‘Sanctuary’ Ending Explained: Did Enno Defeat Shizuuchi?

After settling himself into the life of a training sumo rikishi in the Ensho stable, Enno has to face multiple challenges, most of which are because of egoistic reasons of Inushima. During his first fight with Shizuuchi, Enno had been brutally injured, even having his ear torn off from his head. The recovery process in itself is a great struggle and then begins Enno’s uphill task of preparing for his return to wrestling. Throughout this time, the young man had made two acquaintances who he believed were his true friends. First was a young woman called Nanami, who pretended to be romantically interested in Enno, all while she was just hanging out with the man to rob him of his money. An old school photo album Enno sees in Nanami’s house suggests that the woman was probably even using a fake identity. The second individual was a rich young man named Murata, who had made acquaintance with Enno at a nightclub. After Enno had won the competition of his level at the sumo tournament, Murata approached the wrestler, saying that he wanted to be Enno’s patron. Enno had agreed to the offer at the time, but after some defeats, he realized that Murata was no different from an inconsiderate slave master. A brawl and argument followed, after which Murata wanted to take revenge on Enno. The wasteful young man could think of only one way—to sleep with Nanami and boast about it to Enno. The wrestler was surely heartbroken, especially about the betrayal of the woman he wrongly believed to be his lover. But finally, with all these distractions out of the way, Enno is now entirely focused on his recovery and the next tournament to be held some months later.

On the other hand, although Shizuuchi had been winning fights because of his sheer physicality, the wrestler was not entirely focused on his work. The grief of having lost his mother and brother and the shame of not being able to protect them lived on inside Shizuuchi’s mind. After the fiasco with the journalist, Yasui, Shizuuchi visits his home once again, and this visit is therapeutic to him. Spending time at the place at a more mature age than before helps the man finally deal with the loss and be relieved of a heavy burden that he had been carrying around for so long. Towards the end, “Sanctuary” treats Shizuuchi almost like a protagonist, too, as we are made a part of his mental recovery. Finally, in the end, when Enno and Shizuuchi enter the dohyo or ring for their epic battle, “Sanctuary” chooses to focus on the fact that the two wrestlers have overcome their setbacks and are about to wrestle in their best forms, both physically and mentally. We do not see the outcome of this fight, as “Sanctuary” ends right when Enno and Shizuuchi clash inside the dohyo, and either of them can win the match.

Is Enno Able To Save His Father?

For a long time now, Enno’s father had been sick after a car crashed into him during his work, and Enno had been working hard to provide for him at the hospital. Although the son dreamed of gathering eight million yen so that he could buy back their old sushi restaurant and gift it to his father, this was no easy feat. In the end, Enno’s father does respond and move his finger and head after spending many long months in a coma, but whether he survives is not revealed. Judging by the situation and his age, though, it seems very unlikely that Enno would be able to save his father.

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Sourya Sur Roy
Sourya Sur Roy
Sourya keeps an avid interest in all sorts of films, history, sports, videogames and everything related to New Media. Holding a Master of Arts degree in Film Studies, he is currently working as a teacher of Film Studies at a private school and also remotely as a Research Assistant and Translator on a postdoctoral project at UdK Berlin.

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