The most exciting football match of the week was certainly the one that took place in Manchester, but even if Ginga e Kickoff can’t compete with the most hyped Premier League match in decades that doesn’t mean it let the side down. In typical “Ginga” fashion it dispensed with a lot of setup and equivocation and jumped straight into the action, and it was good action at that. The show is so charming that I’m even willing to forgive Erika-chan for being a fan of Christiano Ronaldo (even if that is asking an awful lot of forgiveness).
If the Hippocratic Oath of comedies is “First, make me laugh” then for sports shounen it’s “At least get the sports right”. Youth soccer isn’t going to be everyone’s idea of the most exciting sport in the world, but if anime has taught us anything, it’s accuracy and heartfelt commitment that matter more than the sport itself. Ginga e Kickoff is idealized, of course, but it does a terrific job of showing the basics of soccer – and I like the fact that we get to see both kids and professionals playing, and get an idea of the difference. With the kids, the first challenge has been to actually field a team, but fortunately in Shou-kun they have a tireless worker and dedicated organizer that’s more than willing to do all the persuading and leg work necessary. With the carrot of a potential match against Tokyo Rosa he’s able to convince the Triplet Demons to put down their racquets and join him on the pitch, especially since the coach they hated is long gone.
For the other three members, Shou recruits the “U-3” – no, not toddler footballers but former Marauders Uchimura, Uematsu and Ukishima-kun – and then let’s the Triplets do the persuading. The aim is a match against the Rosa youth squad – and eventually Rosa themselves – and to that end Shou recruits a middle-school team as a practice opponent. The Triplets may be demons, but they know football – and they immediately see that the new team must adopt the tried and true strategy of smaller teams since time immemorial – constant passing and movement. It’s worked for FC Barcelona (though their Champions League loss to Chelsea did reveal that their lack of size is a problem) and both the Nadeshiko and the Japanese Men’s team have always adopted it against bigger and stronger international foes.
It’s not a shock that the new club is able to ride this strategy to an easy win over the middle school team given the skills of the Triplets, but I was a little surprised to see them – newly dubbed the Dandelions, after Erika’s Osaka club – easily handle Rosa’s youth team, Cosmos, and even edge out the junior, team, Girasol. That’s probably not realistic but it was fun, and it has the desired effect of drawing Rosas themselves into a match – and here the magic ends, as the women thump the kids 8-1 (though the Furuyas do manage one goal by slicking their hair back and confusing the opponent, and win on aggregate 13-12). Alas for poor Shou, with the desired match with the professionals accomplished the Furuyas bail and 3U leaves to study for entrance exams, and even Erika-chan parts ways at the train station – and it’s up to Shou to start from scratch, this time by finding a real coach. It looks like it’s finally time for the juice-drunk guy at the park to re-enter the fray.