Area no Kishi – 06

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Whatever miracle diet “King” Araki was on, he needs to patent it, because he’ll never have to work a day in his life. Seriously? Two weeks and what, 50 pounds? This kid should be in bed hooked up to an IV, not playing soccer.

Let’s set aside that gaping logic hole in the interest of suspension of disbelief, and look at the episode itself. One of the hallmarks of any sports anime is that it has to be able to to do a “game episode” well – in football circles, Giant Killing is one recent show that comes to mind that did a very fine job with this. This was really the first one of any significance and I’d say Area no Kishi generally did a good job. I judge these sorts of eps by three main criteria: accuracy/realism, choreography/animation, and pacing/entertainment value. Now obviously AnK isn’t a massively budgeted series but in general I thought the animation was fine, though I would have liked a few more wide or overhead camera shots and not so much following the ball. In terms of realism, well, again – this is an anime and not a documentary, but I didn’t see anything superhuman and the terminology and strategy was acceptably close to what I consider realistic. Both teams ran what looked to be a pretty standard 4-5-2 formation and the main things I expected to see – the huge size advantage for the SC leading to a big advantage in the air and fatigue for the FC – were indeed major foci of the game.

That leaves the big one, entertainment – and again, I give the series a passing grade here if not an outright ringing endorsement. For me the best elements generally involved Kota, who switched sides at halftime after growing bored of the methodical and joyless style of the SC. I didn’t find the antics of the broadcasting club hilarious, more intermittently funny (humor is not a strength of the series overall to this point) but I did laugh at Kota’s note to his former teammates, and when he busted out in Engrish to tell Seven “I love you, OK?” More importantly Kota’s speed and energy gave the FC a boost and allowed their clever coach, Iwaki Teppei (seiyuu giant Miki Shinichiro) to shift the strong and athletic Hino to the center of the pitch and open up space for Kakeru to attack (and eventually score, hopefully losing the “Mr. No Goal” tag for good).

One element of the game I liked was Teppei’s analysis generally. A common feature of the first half (which ended with the SC ahead 2-0) was Kakeru coming back to defend. Admirable for a forward, but not a good sign for the team – not only do strikers who consistently race back to defend in their own penalty area wear themselves out, but as Teppei told Kakeru, a good forward can’t be too prominent all the time. Equally important is to lie in wait and lose yourself on the field, making it harder for the opponent to mark you constantly – only emerging when an opportunity presents itself to attack. Good strikers master this balance of all-field play and energy conservation in stealth mode, and it was the same advice Suguru had given his brother years earlier. Indeed, Teppei looks like a formidable thinker. It seems like he was the real brains behind the Araki move, because I can only assume he hid the fact that Araki was dieting and planning to play all along, waiting to spring him on the SC as a second-half-surprise. The overwhelming advantage still seems to stand with the SC, who lead 3-1 as the episode ends – they’re still bigger, stronger and more disciplined, and with stars like Ryouma Oda (Namikawa Daisuke, another legend) on their side, they aren’t lacking in genuine football skill.

Finally, lest you accuse me of making too many Adachi comparisons, I just want to point out that we were treated to some interesting news this week. The two stars of the anime adaptation of Touch (which remains one of the highest-rated TV series in Japanese history) will be making an appearance in Area no Kishi. Mitsuya Yuji (Tatsuya) will be playing the coach of the “Nadeshiko”, the Japan Women’s national team, and Hidaka Noriko (Minami) will be playing the captain. This implies that we’re going to see some of Nana as a player, or at least I hope so – there’s no reason whatsoever why she should be limited to being a manager when girls football in so popular in Japan.

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  1. b

    Yeah, the episode did well in terms of the realism and enjoyment of the game. The tight defense of SC, the longs and accurate passes of both teams, Kakeru disappearing and reappearing as a striker. It was all good.
    And then BOOM, thin Araki at the end of the episode. I was just WTF. What sort of diet did that man go through? I mean, I knew he would return to play but to lose all that weight in 2 weeks or less? That's really impossible you know.
    This might haunt me for the upcoming episodes so I better hope there's some explanation for this. Or I could do my best to ignore it as I really like this show(I'm starting to sound like a broken record here ^^;)

    Reminds me to finish Giant Killing. Stopped at around 17 or so.

  2. A

    I happen to be a big fan of football/soccer and I can say that the formation used a 3-2-3-2 is certainly not normal, a normal formation for a team like FC is 4-2-3-1 and having a tiny guy act as a central defender is not logical especially against a team with large physical players like Oda. A better strategy would be 4-3-3 where the larger more physical players defend in front of the goal and the faster ones on the flanks. In the center of the pitch there would be 2 defensive midfielders and the captain guy. Hino would be placed in the center of the attack with Kakeru and the other first year supporting him from the sides.

    The game itself was not very interesting, looked quite plain to me and any hope of this show having a more Ookiku Furikabutte style match was thrown out the window. The tackles and dribbling by players was not shown at times, instead a stupid shot of the result like when Kakeru got tackled by some guy.

    To sum up
    Boring animation, without any fluidity
    Fat guy loses a beer belly in 2 weeks
    No Garrr at all
    Pathetic strategies

    I'm probably better off with the manga

  3. d

    I thought FC stood for fun club.
    A bit unbelievable. And a bit late to call in Araki.
    Guess i should go for the manga

  4. I assumed FC = Football Club and SC = School Club. Or something.

  5. S

    well, mr anonymous. You are boring everyone, and you're incorrect. The most logical strategy is what works best for the team (whatever the opposition), a strategy you actually have players for. Simple. (remember, FC only had 11 players coming into the game)

    However, that football in action doesnt work for me at all. it was very linear, always following the ball as if every man was constantly marked and made supercritical decisions all the time. And, as a result, it was very predictable.

    So, I skipped ahead and started reading the mange, and I got totally absorbed into it. I would recommend it to all who feel like the anime is missing something(s)

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