Well, as I expected this episode played out almost in real-time. We’re about 20 minutes into the Osaka match, which means we’re looking at about 3-4 more eps to wrap it up if we keep to that pacing. Which would take us almost to the end of the series.
I also expected this episode to play as something of a letdown after the fantastic build-up of episode 19 – and it definitely did. Hard to fault the show for that – it would have been hard for any ep to follow up 19, especially one covering the early part of the match. It was still a solid 100% action episode, though, and gave us a clue as to just how formidable Osaka Gunners are.
Turns out, their four forward formation isn’t just blind aggression or a gimmick – each striker complements the others’ abilities. Hauer is at the center, and he plays almost the role of a center in basketball – they can dump the ball into him and with his great size and strength, he can possess the ball in the “pivot” and either attack the goal or distribute. As well, his height makes him dangerous in the air – especially when marked by the diminutive Kuro. Katayama and Hatake act as wingers, flying down the flanks and poaching for goal or floating high crosses to Hauer. But it’s the timid-seeming Kubota who appears to be the key. While he appears Tsubaki-like in his seeming nervousness and hesitant attacking, he’s a sort of football savant – acting instinctively and making incredible passes and solo runs. His nutmeg of Sugie was a thing of beauty. He’s the main distributor in the front and due to his unorthodox style, impossible to predict. I suspect it was he than Monsieur Blanc was referring to when he mentioned the “strangely attractive” Osaka player (and not to the doughnut).
Dulfer is proving himself more than Tatsumi’s match so far. After initial surprise and grudging respect for Tatsumi’s tactics and ETU’s defense, he didn’t panic. Osaka is like an ocean attacking a beach – wave after wave comes with no stop, and he correctly reasons that ETU will lose concentration sooner or later, and it leads to a scoring header by Hauer. Meanwhile, Tatsumi’s two strikers haven’t registered at all and the entire match has been played in ETU’s half. Tatsumi’s strategy seems to have been to weather the early storm and counter strongly in the second half, which is a recurring mode for ETU. but so far, Osaka and Dulfer show no signs of cracking.
I’m really looking forward to seeing what Tatsumi can come up with here, as his team seems truly outmatched. The frustrating thing is that unlike a real soccer match, this one looks like it will take a month! As impatient as that makes me, I know it’ll be a blast to watch – Osaka is clearly the most interesting rival so far. I love Dulfer’s Dutch VA – he’s clearly an excellent Dutch speaker and really delivers his lines with fire and panache. He’s a great foil for Tatsumi (who’s being brilliantly portrayed to Tomokazu Seki, BTW). Meanwhile Blanc watches in fascination from the press box, pondering who knows what for Japan’s national team…