Remarkably,the pacing of GK slowed down even more with episode 22. Due to halftime we covered only 10 minutes of game action, and at the end we’re only 55 minutes into the match. It seems inevitable now that the Osaka arc is going to be the last one for the series, sadly. This was another strong episode – they’re all strong with this show – though not quite as riveting as the previous few.
With a miraculous comeback looking ever more unlikely, Tatsumi’s confidence is even more striking – and more baffling to his team. As usual, it’s Kubo who takes it on himself to challenge his team in the locker room and, as usual, he’s mostly out of line. This time it’s Sugie who feels his wrath, and only Dori steps up to defend the defense’s performance. In truth, Sugie and Kubota played pretty well, considering that ETU was under relentless attack for the entire half. It was really Gino and the forwards – along with a midfield unable to win loose balls and maintain any possession – that let the side down. Where was Tatsumi while the team was arguing? Why, off soliciting the opinion of ballboys about a possible ETU comeback – with the answer being, “It’d be fun”. That, it seems, is the extent of Tatsumi’s halftime coaching.
Meanwhile, we get out first glimpse in a while of the fan conflict between the old guard Edomae and the Skulls. This time the sympathy of the narrative is with the Skulls, as Edomae show up late and expect space to be cleared for their banner. I prefer Edomae to the somewhat thuggish Skulls, but their leader makes a fair point – where was Edomae when ETU was rudderless and in danger of relegation? I’ll be very interested to see if these two sides reach a detente in light of their mutual love of ETU.
Back on the field things are grim, even if Sugie and Kubo have stepped up their game. Dulfer is still supremely confident, his fire rising at the prospect of crushing his young rival. Gino finally unleashes a fine pass, but Natsuki fritters away the chance due to his indecision and in the process earns a look from Gino that could melt steel. Turns out that Tatsumi – possibly in a rare motivational misstep – had told Natsu that he was insufficiently determined as a forward. This seems to have shaken Natsu’s empty-headed confidence and left the offense, two strikers or not, punchless and disorganized. Will Sakai step in to save the day? Will Sera finally break out and lead the attack himself? Or will Natsuki find himself and revert to his relaxed, bombastic attacks? One of them is sure to happen – we’ll probably find out next week.