Ginga e Kickoff – 10

[Doremi-Oyatsu] Ginga e Kickoff!! - 10 (1280x720 x264 AAC) [322A1A9E].mkv_snapshot_06.28_[2012.06.11_20.38.59] [Doremi-Oyatsu] Ginga e Kickoff!! - 10 (1280x720 x264 AAC) [322A1A9E].mkv_snapshot_21.07_[2012.06.11_20.54.17] [Doremi-Oyatsu] Ginga e Kickoff!! - 10 (1280x720 x264 AAC) [322A1A9E].mkv_snapshot_22.46_[2012.06.11_20.56.22]

I can only paraphrase the words I used for Watanabe Shinichiro and Sakamichi – why does everyone else make this seem so hard?

There’s a reason why all of the sports shounen I’ve blogged the last couple of seasons have fired and fallen back, and it’s not because I don’t love the genre.  It’s that none of them quite gets the essence of it the way Ginga e Kickoff does – and that’s the reason why this one is still on my blogging schedule while those others aren’t.  In many ways I think this was a perfect sports anime episode – fast-paced, exciting, emotionally involving, in-character – with very realistic on-field action too.  Of course the truth is, it isn’t this easy to be this good or else everyone would be – but the problem is usually that those other shows get clogged up with too much nonsense, and what should be a fairly straightforward genre becomes distracting and unfocused.

Of course Ginga is an all-ages series and a good-hearted one at that, so it’s not as if the social commentary here is savage – but it is present, and the politics of youth sports have been gently tweaked a few times.  The obnoxious “owners” who think the fact that they pay for the uniforms gives them the right to call the shots on the sidelines are a very real problem.  While their verbal sparring was sort of fun (“She looks like someone you met at a bar…”) the best thing here was watching Zach the dog really start to earn his keep, primarily defending Shou from “Owner’s” taunting and threats.  It’s also interesting to note the difference in the way he treats the kids vs. the way Hanashima does – once the game starts Hanashima pretty much stays out of the way.  Even when the Predators changed to a 4-4-2, it was the Furuyas (well, Ryuuji and Ouzou) who made the decision, not Masaru-san.

The on-field drama was the main event of the episode, of course.  Tsubakimori’s ace, Suguru-kun is certainly a hothead (the two-fisted handshakes are a bit much) but undeniably a talent and a fierce competitor – a fiercer one than the Furuya Triplets in the first half, in fact.  He’s integrated with his team much better than they are, and his “Suguru Specials” effectively use his entire team and the entire field.  The weakness of Maurayama all along would seem to have been the defense, and both goals come as a result of lapses – the first when Shou has to leave hos center-back position to cover after Reika-chan gets a nutmeg from a Tsubakimori attacker, and the second when Shou surrenders a PK – and gets a yellow card – for knocking heads an inadvertent elbow with a Tsubakimori player on a cross.  Ouzou drops back to a second central defender role to cover for Shou’s poor play, and the half ends with the Preds trailing 2-0.

For Reika things at least are looking up a little – she helps cover for another defensive lapse by Shou and prevents a goal – but for Shou, it’s pure depression.  This is where it’s very interesting to watch the Triplets, who continue to emerge as distinct personalities.  Both brothers show real anger at Kouta for letting Suguru goad him into trying to turn the game into a one-on-one battle, but again it’s Ouzou who steps up as a leader both on and off the field.  As a player he’s filling the crucial role of all-field generalist, racing back to cover on defense, and leading the counter and setting up Maurayama’s attack.  But he also speaks his mind to anyone concerned, including Kouta and Shou, and he seems to have the surest strategic sense of the three.  He’s a sort of link between Shou and the rest of the team on the field – the primary device for carrying out Shou’s directions – and he’s the one who calls out Shou at halftime, not for his defensive lapses, but for his lack of leadership as Captain.

It’s harsh, but something Shou had to hear.  Of course it’s hard seeing the normally indomitable and fearless Shou beaten down and depressed, but in classic shounen fashion the team rallies around him – Masaru-san, Erika, Reika, even the Furuyas – and let him know it’s not just his organizational skills and loud voice that put that armband on him, but his field generalship and positioning – and only if he steps up and takes command of the team can they come back and win.  If you’re buying into this show at all, you must have gotten a little swept up in the moment when Shou made a perfect sliding tackle on Suguru, then started Ouzou off on a counterattack, shouting commands all the way.  Those are the sort of scenes that every sports shounen builds up for, but only the real good ones can pull them off like Ginga did here. 

It’s all about building buy-in with the characters, at least for me.  That’s why I was especially pleased to see that Ginga has been confirmed for a second cour at least (episode titles through #14 are now posted on the official website and Syoboi) because this is the sort of show that gathers a momentum to itself and just gets better and better.  Ten episodes in and I’m totally sold on the premise and characters, but it feels as if we’ve just started the journey.  Sports anime that really focus on character need a year to do the job the way it needs to be done – it would certainly have been wonderful to see Giant Killing have that opportunity – but in the current “one and out” climate in anime, I’m pleased to see that Ginga will be sticking around for another few months at the very least.

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  1. J

    At first I questioned the call on the yellow, because as far as Shou's head goes, it was all ball…s (ha ha ha…).

    But upon closer inspection, he actually elbowed the other player in the jaw. So it was actually a pretty bad foul

  2. A

    Yeah, I think the yellow was for swinging his elbow. But I was impressed by how high Shou can jump! Predator's backline is definitely weak, especially in terms of height, so that was good to see.

    Suguro turned out to be an incredible player! Running end-to-end to make goaline clearances and score goals, while commanding his team. He reminded me of Steven Gerrard in his heyday. It's a shame this hard-working kid isn't in a better team.

  3. N

    Wasn't it Kouta who pointed out that the predetors were loosing because Shou wasn't giving orders?

    What I don't get is how effective Shou's orders can be when everyone, including the opposing team, can hear him shout "now, left to Kouta!"

  4. e

    First more Chihayafuri, now more Ginga confirmed as well? Oh yey <3.
    It's a pleasure to follow week after week… as you rightfully noted, it's good-natured, engaging, fun and also mangaed little criticism jabs. After watching it I almost feel at peace with the universe and repleted with tireless terrier optimism, ahah.
    Go Predators!

  5. I dunno, Suguru's team seems pretty solid. They don't appear to have any other stars but they're all in the right place at the right time, and the keeper is excellent.

    I relent – the elbow was definitely the cause of the yellow.

  6. a

    Just recently finished Giant Killing! I have to agree it would have been nice to have an extension considering the awesome storyline and character development. Ginga seems to follow suit despite it's simplistic plot. I'm glad I decided to watch it. The other sports anime I've been watching lately were utter disappointments. This anime knows the true essence of sports anime and brings it out in a very entertaining way.

    I'm guessing this will be between 39-50 episodes so it'll have more time to develop the great plot it already has.

  7. R

    I was rolling around with a grin on my face on the bed flailing around for the last few minutes straight when everyone finally rallied together and Shou was back in the game. I think I'm pretty much hooked on this series now.

    This is probably the first sports series since Eyeshield 21 I've had the visceral urge to scream and jump up and down and make a fool out of myself like a grade schooler and I don't care. It seems like for me I don't nitpick that much about sports series (I'm ok with Kuroko and Knight in the Area) but most of them just don't trigger the absolute fan flailing that a few do.

  8. And that's exactly how it is with a great sports shounen.

    I'm still reminded more of "Major" than any other specific series here.

  9. N

    The comparison between Ginga and Giant Killing is one I'd be happy if you could go into more deeply, Enzo. The two best (if not the only two decent) sports anime of recent years (chihayafuru not included for reasons of transcending genres), both revolving around soccer and (inevitably) dealing with the same core issues, but one a kiddie show that adults can dig and the other an adult show that I don't think kids would be able to enjoy very much.

  10. Well, GK was, for me, a "pure" professional sports series. It was for hard-core sports fans and deconstructed professional soccer at every level – ownership, coaches, players, fans (a better depiction of sports fans I've never seen in anime). It did all this while focusing on the characters, and allowing them to drive the story. I'm not sure kids wouldn't enjoy it, they just might not get as much out of it as adults.

    As for GeK, it's an "all-ages" show for sure. While there's a real love for soccer and the soccer is very accurate, it could as easily be baseball or any team sport – it's about indomitable spirit, having fun and never giving up. The themes aren't as "sophisticated" as GK, but no less elemental – and the execution is no less spot-on.

    I'd also argue there have been some other good sports series in recent years – especially if you want to call Cross Game that (borderline) as it's about the best series of any kind since 2010.

  11. t

    Since a lot of NHK shows are 2 cour even today (in all honesty I can only remember Mashidora as a 1 cour show broadcast by NHK but I figure there must be more) so I was sure it'd be 2 cours at least,I'd say it's even realistic to hope for more since a lot of the (few) 3-4 cour shows these past few years have been from nhk.

  12. L

    I just found suguro annoying in this episode it is due to that attitude that makes me want the predators to win even more in the next episode. Overall I like how ouzou and shou have developed a understanding of each others strengths which they act on throughout the entire. I was genuinely happy about how shou was told about his grea field vision and defense position his shocked reaction made me sad to how little he thinks of his abilities but I know that will be remedied in the future ^_^
    Somehow I found it kind of sweet how kouta expressed a subtle smile to reika finally blocking the ball ^_^ Its slow but they are growing as a team.

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