Captain Tsubasa (2018) Episode 7 & 8

Episode 7

Fuck this was a fun episode, I had a great time with it. We start off in the first half of the Nankatsu-Shutetsu match, and Roberto’s positioning of Tsubasa turns out to be extremely wise because he’s basically acting as the fucking goalkeeper for the first half of the match. Wakabayashi mostly spends the first few minutes grimacing and mentally monologuing about how mad and confused he is that Tsubasa’s not a forward before deciding to take matters into his own hands in the most over-the-top manner possible by actually running out of goal to directly challenge Tsubasa by stealing the ball from Ishizaki and passing it to him, which I believe is frowned-upon in actual football, but hey, maybe that’s why actual football is so fucking boring. This more or less immediately leads Tsubasa to abandon the game plan and come up forward, which is when the action well and truly starts. These are the moments I live for in Captain Tsubasa, these wild and improbable fits of passion over under-13s football. That and speed lines. Many, many speed lines (how else am I supposed to know when they’re going real fast?).

I also love the fact that what tipped Wakabayashi over the edge was Ishizaki having the audacity to run towards the goal to try to score, like that was just one blow too many for his ego to endure. To be fair he’s not even wrong, it is absolutely insulting that Ishizaki thinks he has the right to shoot on Wakabayashi and he should feel ashamed of himself for even entertaining the idea. You can see it in his eyes, too, he really thought he had a chance of scoring, the idiot. And he didn’t even learn his lesson then, he actually thought Tsubasa’s physics-defying curve shot was meant as a pass to him too, which is the football equivalent of waving at someone who you thought was waving at you but was actually waving at someone else. Ishizaki deserves this embarrassment. It is penance for his hubris.

I’m super disappointed, by the way, that the curve shot hit the post. It seems to me like a contrived way of making it look like Tsubasa’s better than Wakabayashi (since he couldn’t stop the shot) without having to deal with the plot burden of having Tsubasa open the score just yet. But it was a really cool shot all the same and it does contribute heavily to the existential crisis Wakabayashi appears to be having for much of this episode, so it’s not completely without entertainment value. Plus the show pulls shit like this constantly so it’s best to get used to it.

Another thing the series does a ton is go to great pains to show you how nothing that goes wrong is due to lack of technical skill on Tsubasa’s part, because he absolutely must be perfect. Kisugi’s goal for Shutetsu in the second half (the first goal of the game) is a good example of this; Tsubasa would have saved the shot, of course, if he hadn’t been dazed from his literal head-to-head clash with Izawa (whose name I had to look up because I had forgotten it and I will forget it again within the hour). I actually sort of admire the writer’s commitment to not having Tsubasa achieve anything resembling personal growth.

Aside from the main gameplay, this episode has a lot of close-up shots of Misaki thinking very hard about how good at football Tsubasa is and how he galvanises the other players and gee whiz he just kicks that ball so darn good. The show keeps trying to make a big thing of how Tsubasa drives the players around him to improve, and sure, that’s true and they have a cute team dynamic going on and all, but here’s the thing: we all know it makes no difference what they do, because this demigod of a kid is always going to render them dead weight. I’m pretty sure the only reason they so frequently bring up the uplifting effect he Tsubasa on his peers so that the audience doesn’t feel too bad for everyone else in the show. If anything it’s sort of sad that they’re trying harder than they ever have before and yet have never been more expendable. But I suppose they’re just happy not to be losing 30-0 anymore.

Also, Tsubasa’s dad is back to check in on how his master plan is going. Maybe we’ll hear more about the whole deal between him and Roberto soon before he once again returns to his true love, the sea. He’s not a huge presence in this episode, but he does drop this gem of a line at one point:

I mean, sure, if anyone can handle this kind of parental pressure it’s Tsubasa, but my god. The man hasn’t seen his son in months and he’s all “Good luck Tsubasa, if you lose you’re dead to me!”. I really didn’t notice too much before I started reviewing this series but this man has issues.

We end on a cliffhanger, with Tsubasa (now officially a striker for the rest of the match) taking a ridiculous shot on Wakabayashi from halfway across the field. Will it go in? Will Nankatsu pull a victory out of the bag? Will Tsubasa’s dad let him come home if they don’t? Find out the answer to all of these questions and more… right now.

Episode 8

Nope, it did not go in. It pretty obviously wasn’t going to, really – Wakabayashi’s not going to let a shot that long slip by him. But of course, Tsubasa planned this, because it couldn’t just have been that he made a bad call in the heat of the moment, oh no. It was a distraction to lure Shutetsu’s defenders to him so that he could secure possession of the ball for Nankatsu. What a guy, eh?

Jeez though there’s a lot going on in this episode, as you might expect given we’re nearing the climax of the first arc, and I am having a good time with basically all of it.

I love the whole birdcage plotline, it’s so much drama for what essentially amounts to Shutetsu playing keep-away with the ball. The visuals match perfectly, too. Honestly, I know I’ve said it before but I really appreciate David’s visual direction in this adaptation, they’ve completely nailed the mood. Look at this shot, it’s so lame, I love it. I don’t know why but the unnecessarily rotated picture of Wakabayashi just gets me. Like they went “Yeah nice, looking good, but there’s something missing… *rotates slightly to the right*. Hell yeah, now there’s a shot”.

Obviously, the birdcage is a visual metaphor and the cage isn’t really there, but then why does Ishizaki keep smashing into the bars as if it were, even when there’s nobody in his way? Sometimes I think this show just gives up on making sense and that’s fine with me. To Ishizaki’s credit, though, he actually makes himself useful this episode and breaks the cage and passes to Tsubasa in a bold and surprisingly well-thought-out move that comes at the expense of his leg, which means he can’t play the extra time, but since they’ve got Misaki making his field debut in his place, I think the team will survive somehow.

Oh my god though the cage-breaking scene is wild, the cage bursts open and then a giant… falcon (?) who symbolises Tsubasa flies out onto the pitch, and it’s just top-notch. This “Tsubasa is a majestic bird of prey” thing comes up every so often and it never fails to get a chuckle out of me, it’s so extra. They go even harder with it during Tsubasa’s overhead shot against Wakabayashi, which results in Nankatsu tying the score and thank fuck for that, because these constant near misses were getting tiring. And also because Tsubasa’s parents threatened to disown him if he didn’t score.

This is a fantastic Wakabayashi episode, he more than makes up for his relatively small appearances over the previous few episodes. He’s such a petty, sulky baby here, packing up his toys and going home once Tsubasa scores on him for real. It’s easy to forget, though, that he is only what, 11? 12? So you can cut the kid some slack for being a bad loser. Apparently his coach can’t, though, because he takes a fucking swing at him Jesus Christ. And not just a regular slap, either, he actually knocks him to the ground. And to be fair, Wakabayashi does snap out of it. Hit your kids, people, that’s the message here (not really please don’t do that). His insane rush out of goal (for the second time this match) to score a second goal for Shutetsu in extra time is really hype, too.

I’m happy that Misaki has finally gotten up and running as well! I totally forgot that Misaki talks to his football too, why are they treating this like it’s only a slightly unusual thing instead of a symptom of mental illness or at the very least, severe loneliness? I love the instant connection he and Tsubasa have going on though and I actually think it’s a really nice friendship. Plus it’s a real relief to have someone else on the Nankatsu side who actually knows what they’re doing, it can get a little tiring having Tsubasa carry the entire burden. He doesn’t make a huge impact in the first half of extra time but I’m looking forward to seeing him do his thing next time.

We’re going into the next episode 2-1 to Shutetsu, and with less than 5 minutes left, it doesn’t seem like Nankatsu will be able to do much other than equalise, but now that we’ve got our Golden Combi in play, who knows what could happen (I mean, I know, I’ve seen this match like 5-6 times now, but you get me)?

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