Captain Tsubasa (2018) Episode 15 & 16
David seem to have temporarily blown their animation budget once again on episode 14, because this episode is not looking too great (though it gets much better once they get into extra time). Damn shame, too, because this episode is wall to wall goals (even Misaki got in on the action!) and not one is worth remarking on, visually. I’m really only noticing this properly on a rewatch, but this series is pretty inconsistent, animation-wise. That’s not a dealbreaker for me by any means, and there are plenty of great moments overall that make up for the less than stellar ones in my opinion, but I can see how it could get frustrating for pickier fans, especially since in a show like this, the crazy visual effects are half the fun of the show.
Hyuga’s really going for it this episode, the man does not care who he charges into or how hard he does it (then again, does he ever?). It’s easy to write him off as a thug (albeit a talented one) when he acts this way, but I like that the show makes a point of mentioning how much is on the line for him. Does he act in a way that would have him banned from the field in any reasonable league? No question, and his background doesn’t fully absolve him. But his play seems to be largely acceptable, if unusually rough in this, the apparent Wild West of children’s sports leagues, and with such high stakes, can you blame him for doing everything in his power to ensure his progression in the sport? Okay yes, sort of. But Coach Kira is worse for encouraging him. The adults in this show are wildly irresponsible, even by anime standards.
Speaking of Hyuga, I think this line of his might be the quote of the episode:
Has anyone told Hyuga this is a U-13s league? Maybe he is secretly like 19 after all.
By the way what the fuck is up with the, not one, but two header battles here? Leaving aside that they’re just hovering in the air for several seconds, what sort of ridiculous concept is this? I love it, of course, but who thought it would be a cool idea for a faceoff to have Hyuga and Tsubasa smush heads in the air until someone managed to headbutt the ball away? Yoichi Takahashi, I guess. I’d love to meet him, his thought process fascinates me. If you watch the original ‘80s series (or read the manga, I am presuming), it quickly becomes apparent that whoever created it has seen football before and definitely enjoys the concept, but (at least at the start) has only a very faint grasp of how the sport works. But boy, he sure does like it. Enough to write a manga about it, even. But not quite enough to fully learn the rules. And despite (or probably because of) this, it becomes one of the most popular and long-running manga series of all time, and even a direct influence on some of Japan’s greatest football players. This man can partially claim credit for turning his country from a football backwater into regular participants in the World Cup. That is pretty fucking good going for a guy who evidently considers the offside rule to be an obscure technicality (but we’ll get to that later). More power to the guy, I have nothing but respect for him, but I bet he’s weird.
I wish they could do something with the scouts other than have them make captain obvious comments every so often. It’s not like their presence offends me and I get why they need to be there, but could they not have given these guys some better lines? They keep repeating the same things. It’d be nice if they’d given them their own stupid mini-arc, something to flesh these two walking exposition devices out a little bit.
I have mixed feelings about the shock loss here, as well. It’s not the loss itself, more that everything still seems so inconclusive when all is said and done. Sure, Meiwa won, but Tsubasa’s play absolutely can’t be faulted, and since Sawada scored the last-second goal, Hyuga hasn’t won the challenge either. It seems like a cheap and lazy way of building up the tension for the inevitable finals showdown (that’s not even a spoiler, you all know it’s coming) while still having Tsubasa be Mr Perfect. Can’t the fucker eat humble pie just once? He might just be the most untouchable protagonist in all of anime. Of what has so far been animated, I think this is Tsubasa’s only unambiguous defeat, and not only is it not even slightly his fault, it doesn’t even matter overall since they’re not in the knockout stages. Still, the look of horror in his eyes as he realises something hasn’t worked out for him for once in his life is some consolation.
He even has the gall to start crying. After all the humiliating defeats Tsubasa has handed down mercilessly, he can’t even take one honourable non-essential loss gracefully? Like losing is for other people. Fuck this kid. What a goddamn primadonna. His tears sustain me.
Alright, next up is some Acrobatic Football in match number 2 (I typed Acrobratic Football first, which might even be more accurate)!
First and foremost with this episode, I just want to acknowledge how awful the scouts are being to Hyuga at the start. Imagine being these people, going up to a child you know is under intense stress at home, dangling a life-changing opportunity under his nose and then telling him they’re going to give it to his new arch-enemy unless he shapes up. If there’s one person in the show who doesn’t need this kind of pressure, it’s Hyuga. He quite genuinely might kill someone. Probably Tsubasa.
I love that he actually engineered a draw with Hanawa (let’s be real, we all knew something had to be up there) to try to knock Nankatsu out. That is serious tactics for a boy his age. I’m still not quite clear on how he did that, though? Nobody else in Meiwa was in on his plan, and it seems like he’d probably need the help of the goalie and Sawada at a minimum for that sort of plot. Maybe his rage has made him semi-omnipotent. So this is the power of being made of salt.
You know what, there is decidedly too much of the scouts in this episode. At this point I’m not even mad, I sort of appreciate how hamfisted this all is. They’re literally just sitting in a room dumping info on all the major players. Other unnecessary things: the occasional switches to Wakabayashi sitting at home watching everything on tv (side note: why are the group stages of a pre-teen football tournament televised? Is this a thing?) and making redundant comments or glaring intensely. Just in case you forget he exists.
As for the actual match content: they skipped right onto the final game of the group stage versus Hanawa, which, like, fair. We don’t need to see Nankatsu demolish three nondescript teams in a row. Hanawa are actually a very fun team to watch, or, that is to say, the Tachibana twins are very fun to watch. Their acrobatic twins shtick is so shamelessly gimmicky. I’m not even sure it would be very useful in real football, since a lot of the moves take a while to set up. It’s fine. It doesn’t matter. Just watch the twins jump around on the goalposts. I feel like the title was kind of false advertising, though. Sure they did some good acrobatics at the very end, but for most of the match their play was pretty sparse. Looks like the next episode is going to be the real fireworks display.
This wasn’t the most exciting episode, and there isn’t a whole lot to say about it, but I did get hype at the very end when Ishizaki finally got to come on! But of course, the event is bittersweet, because it came at the expense of our good buddy Nishio’s leg. Not Nishio! Anyone but dear Nishio! The very heart and soul of the team. But we must soldier on into the second half without him. It’s what he would have wanted. Don’t fuck this up, Ishizaki (he’s gonna fuck it up).