We’ve definitely seen two of the Furuya Brothers carve out their own identity already. Kouta is a sullen genius, the spoiled diva. Ryuuji is the smiling front man for the group, the voice of “reason” such as it is, the least socially awkward but no less arrogant than his brothers. But as for Ouzou, he’s been mostly wallpaper so far – easy to miss and easy to forget. With Yoshimasa Hosoya (who’s been on quite a hot streak lately) voicing him you had to figure he’d step out sooner or later, and it was Ouzou who finally broke the deadlock – with a lot of help from Shou – that had the second half of the Predators’ match resembling the “dango soccer” of the first.
As always it’s Shou who sees the issue first, as Hanashima-sensei stubbornly refuses to help. As Ouzou says himself, Shou’s “playing is terrible, but his vision is brilliant”. I think that first part will change with experience but the second already serves him well. The first step of the solution is spacing out the field and stringing out the defense, instead of allowing them to clog their own penalty area and surround the Furuyas like white blood cells. Shou calls for it but it’s Ouzou who implements it, and quite cheekily too, even dribbling the ball all the way back to his own penalty area just to get the opponent to follow.
That’s really only half the solution, though, because if you’re going to spread the field you can’t do it with three players – and Ouzou finally breaks the logjam by passing to Erika. From there, the strategy is simple – shoot the ball from distance and force the defensive midfielders to move upfield to mark, then pass the ball into the space created. From their it’s a cakewalk, with the floodgates opening for 7 goals in the second half and a 9-1 Predators win. Then it’s time for a massive yakinuku lunch to get ready for the second game, and when Erika gets on Shou’s case for celebrating a little too hard he responds quite rightly, “Let me be! We won the first match I ever participated in!”. It’s almost too much for him to take in – not only did he re-form the Predators but they’re a winning team. He’s earned the right to celebrate.
But a Captain’s role is never to rest, and there are too members of the team still not happy – Kouta and Reika. And when they disappear Shou – imagining the worst – takes it on himself to find them while the others settle in to watch the next likely opponent, Tsubakimori. He takes Zach with him to help, and while the dog is pretty useless at tracking, Erika better watch out because the dog flag has been raised – when a girl’s dog gets close to a guy, romance can’t be far behind. As for the prodigal Predators, it turns out Reika simply begged Kouta to practice with her – and while she’s still more useless than Zach and Kouta’s still pissed-off and sulking about not being a forward, team unity appears to be secure for the moment.
I don’t think the ego problems are behind the Predators yet – it’s quite telling that Ouzou followed Shou’s verbal directions on when to attack, but Kouta still resisted – but the more confidence Shou gets as a leader the less that figures to be a problem. Tsubakimori does figure to be a problem though – with their ace, the Furuya’s arch-rival Suguru-kun, they trounce their own opponent 5-0. I’ll be glad to see the Predators in a tough match, and one where Shou is going to have to be actively involved in the play instead of just directing traffic. The first game was one of the more realistic football matches I’ve seen in anime, but ultimately the Preds were only fighting themselves. Meanwhile, as for the weird dude with the hat and beard, it looks like Masaru doesn’t know him either based on his reaction when the former spoke to the latter after the match – so just who he is and what he’s up to remains to be seen. I’m guessing a coach on a scouting mission.