Possession: Barcelona 72% Chelsea 28%
Shots: Barcelona 25 Chelsea 7
Aggregate: Barcelona 2, Chelsea 3
I’m still not quite sold on this whole Kakeru-Suguru possession side of the story. This time Kakeru hits his head (we saw that last week) and launches an incredible dribbling run that includes a nutmeg, then launches a pass that was too good for the overweight (though slimming) Araki. All of this was apparently right out of the Suguru playbook. I get the brotherly bond, and then there’s the whole bit about getting donor memories from a heart transplant (which I think is bogus) but my problem is that it detracts from what should be Kakeru’s character arc. Is he trying be be himself, or his brother? At some point I want to see Kakeru become a better Kakeru, not another Suguru.
That said, this was a pretty solid ep mostly because the match play was quite entertaining. I still have no idea why Uryu gave his opposing coach a pep talk at halftime, but as expected Enoshima stormed back in the second half. Iwaki uses a clever plot to draw a yellow on Kimu (the laser throw-in dude) and Kakeru manages to score a goal on his own striker’s instincts. After Mako ties it, Enoshima has to survive one last laser throw, but Kakeru takes advantage of the no-offsides on throw-in rule and the empty three seconds – the very real phenomenon of a side being vulnerable to a quick counterattack after an attempt at goal – to spring to the enemy goal, finally unleashing his very own “mythical feint” (so mythical they couldn’t show it on camera) and scores the game-winner.
Next week: the return of Leonardo Silva, another ghost from Suguru’s past.
Ginga e Kickoff – 02
If I’m to be honest, Ginga e Kickoff is the better soccer show airing this season, and it’s a by a clear margin. The writing and direction is sharper, the humor has more punch, and the soccer itself is more realistically portrayed.
I’ll give you an example – take the sequence when Shou and Erika went to practice with Misaki’s club team, the Tokyo Roses (love that name). The kids’ embarrassment mixed with excitement at being in such an unlikely situation was perfectly portrayed, and once they got on the field the practice match between the youth team and the junior team was used to highlight what each of them bring to the table. Erika is known as the “Speed Star” (at least that’s what she says) but even she can see that the difference in skill even with the youth team in her age group is huge. But Shou – though his physical skills are modest – has a great eye for the game. He was able to pick out that the difference between the Roses and the juniors wasn’t so much skill, but confidence and field vision – something he brings to the table himself, as he ably demonstrates in the practice game. His little body can’t necessarily take advantage of his what his eyes and mind tell it just yet, but it’s his vision and field sense that set up Erika’s goal in the match – and she’s not too proud to realize it.
My favorite part of this sequence is after that match, though. Miskai sends the puppy-eager Shou-kun off to buy drinks so she can have a pep talk with Erika – let her know that she understands her frustration in trying to defeat the boys and sexism too, and that all female players have been there. She does all this one on one so she doesn’t make Shou feel left out or set up a rivalry between he and Erika – and she lets Erika know that Shou has greatness in him, and she’s seen it (we can see her pointing it out to the coach earlier). It was subtle but so deft on her part – everybody’s happy and included, and made to feel better about themselves. That was a great example of mentoring done right. And I should also point out that it looks as if the hero of this series is going to be a defender (he certainly defends Erika heroically ), which is where Shou’s skills seem to be taking him – and that’s a very cool change from what we see in most sports anime.
In general, Ginga e Kickoff is just better in every facet than you think it’s going to be. The plot is more interesting, the action more exciting, the animation cleverer and the jokes and face-pulls funnier. And it has a contagious energy and positivity that sweeps you up and carries you along in its wake, which is what all kids anime and sports shounen should do. The task now turns to putting together a team, as Misaki has promised the kids that if they can find eight players they can attend practice every month with the Roses. That quest introduces us to more members of the stellar seiyuu cast, as we meet Kagura-kun (Maeno Tomoaki) the giant sixth-grade star of the New Tokyo FC youth team and the old Predators rival that Shou hopes to use to goad his old teammates the Furuya triplets (Kenn, Tachibana Shinnosuke, Hosoya Yoshimasa – sorry, you’re on your own for now as to which is which) into re-joining the team. They’re known as the “Triplet Demons” for their temperament as much as skill, and it was their heated departure that led to the breakup of the team. With Shou-kun’s relentless efforts, their resistance will surely break down sooner or later (probably sooner). Then it’s just three more players (Pita Ten’s Ten-chan look-alike Aoto is sure to be one) and one coach (the drunk-on-juice guy from the park) to go…