Ah, Giant Killing – while the series continues to go mostly unnoticed (as most sports anime do in the West) it remains one of the best shows going. Week in and week out GK delivers solid episodes, and 18 was no exception.
As always, GK does a great job re-creating the atmosphere around a professional sports team, educating the audience and still keeping the focus on the characters. ETU is on a draw streak and as Tatsumi says, you can tell a lot about a team by the way they react to a draw. And the once-satisfied bunch, so happy after their earlier draw, is now grumpy and discontented. And ironically Tatsumi, so unsettled after the draw, is much happier after the team plays a spirited second half in losing to Niigata.
At this point we’re reintroduced to two wonderful characters, starting with the Dutch coach Dulfer. He’s clearly a believer in Dutch-style “beautiful football”, and his league-leading Osaka squad uses an ultra-attacking style, even winning a match by a ridiculous 8-0 tally. Dulfer was impressed by his meeting with Tatsumi at the League press junket, and clearly relishes the chance to see what ETU can challenge him with. Also, we once again meet the French coach of the Japanese national team, Blanc. He’s also impressed with both Dulfer and Tatsumi, and looking forward to seeing them meet. And while the rest of the team seems terrified of Osaka, Tatsumi seems oddly confident – no doubt seeing a potential “giant killing” in the works. And to do so he’s developed a strategy that shocks his team…
This episode showcased so much of why this is a great series. Both the European coaches rank far, far above the usual gaijin characters in anime – they’re interesting and likable people, and their native languages are rendered with great care. We now see that the buildup around Sera, Sakai and Natsumi was directed to this – by the look of the PV Tatsumi is going to switch to a 4-4-2 or even 3-5-2 alignment, with two strikers. In fact, I suspect he may even play all three forwards together before the end of the Osaka match. No doubt Tatsumi’s experience in England is helping him here – the way he chooses to fight attacking teams is by attacking himself. It was great to see Tatsumi really sink his teeth into this challenge – clearly the guy is most happy when he’s an underdog, and no one gives him a chance. His joy for the fight and his sense for the game really come across here – and in Blanc and Dulfer, we see a building atmosphere of how great sportsmen relish the fight – just as with the Brazilians there’s no animosity here, just passion and mutual respect.
While this was primarily a buildup ep – and did a tremendous job at it, as I’m really looking forward to 19 – it stands on it’s own as one of the best of the series.