At long last it’s the unveiling of Reika Mark II.
This reveal certainly has to go down as one of the worst-kept secrets in Ginga e Kickoff – along with Aoto and Tagi joining the Predators – as it’s been teased in the OP since the very first episode. Still, it was interesting to wonder how the event itself was going to come about, and without piling on Area no Kishi too much it’s hardly a surprise that the story here was much more believable and interesting than the tale of Araki’s magical weight-loss yo-yo.
What we have here is, I think, effectively a breather episode – certainly the most light-hearted one GeK has done in a few months, but it’s a well-earned break between the heartbreak of the tournament loss to Amarillo and the upcoming Future Cup, which might very well be what takes the anime to the finish line (though I hope it goes well beyond that). The story on Reika comes early on, and interestingly enough it’s only Kouta who recognizes her at first (hmm… Crush?) – Shou and Erika’s reaction is more along the lines of “Who’s the hot babe?” And indeed, the difference is pretty striking – but when you’re as rich as the Sairenji clan (clue: if your family home is on the public transit map, you have a lot of money) you can hire a personal trainer to design a soccer-based training program to help you shed the kilos. It’s not an option that would be about to the 99 (and then some) percent, but kudos to Reika for having the fortitude to stick with it.
The bulk of the episode, in fact, is dedicated to the ongoing drama between Aoto and Kouta, who manage to exhibit some of the most childish behavior in the entire series. It’s not surprise in Kouta’s case (although a bit of a regression) but Aoto’s degree of immaturity is new information, if not surprising. The two of them are at odds from the moment they step onto Reika’s custom-made soccer-obstacle course, where they finish tied (Shou is third, interestingly, and Masaru-san-chan poops out before he’s made it halfway). Frankly, in football strikers very rarely get along to begin with – they always want the ball, and there’s only one to go around – but the two of them were going to have to find a way to coexist, especially on the 8-man side that will compete in the Future Cup. Normally you’d think it would fall to Shou to figure something out, but it’s actually Ryuuji who comes up with the plan to bring his older brother and the diminutive phenom together.
Frankly, that plan is pretty basic anime formula – using a rigged test of courage to scare the pants off the two combatants (again, if your family has its own golf course and shrine, you’re likely pretty well-off) but like everything else in GeK it’s well-executed. Again, maybe the information that Aoto is such a serious scaredy-cat isn’t surprising, but it’s new – as is the confirmation that his father is in fact Spanish, and that Aoto’s hope is to meet him by traveling to Spain. Spain is indeed a big country, and it’s pretty sad that Aoto would have to go to such lengths to try and meet a father who’s apparently so uninterested in him – it’s yet another interesting element that’s going to bring together the themes of sports and growing up that GeK does better than any show since the first season of Major.
Next week Ginga e Kickoff is going to actually be tackling a beach episode believe it or not – which will at least give Erika a chance to see Aoto topless. She seemed a little put off by just how childish he was acting this episode, but judging by the preview she’s finally going to muster up the courage to confess next week – either that or she has something else “only girls worry about” (which seems unlikely for this show). Also of interest will be just what it was the Furuyas came up with using their Dad’s soccer program – might it perhaps be a Murayama Predators version of total football? That would be appropriate for a trip to Spain, where Cruyff’s model is closest to being used today (along with Swansea Swans, maybe) and it was enough to get even Aoto admit he was interested…