Captain Tsubasa (2018) Episode 3 & 4

Episode 3

So last episode was a pretty eventful one! Tsubasa scored his first on-screen goal and learned a new trick, Roberto came onto the scene properly, football was played, and a good time was had by all except Wakabayashi, who has presumably spent the time between these two episodes seething and training and doing absolutely nothing else. Certainly that’s all he does in this episode, at least, from the little we see him. He’s just skulking around in the background this time.

This episode starts off in Tsubasa’s bedroom, which is of course a glorious shrine to the only thing in the world that matters: football (and Brazil, which has secondary importance as The Land of Football). It’s Tsubasa’s last day before school starts, and it transpires that Tsubasa has literally asked his mother to enrol him in a different school so that he can face Wakabayashi at the inter-school sports competition. You know, the more I watch this show the more I realise Tsubasa is an extraordinarily demanding child. In the first anime, and I think probably in the manga, the reason the Oozoras move to Nankatsu in the first place is because Tsubasa’s school didn’t have a football team (in this version they change that to his old school’s team being trash that “didn’t love football”, and in any case it’s never stated that that’s the reason they moved to Nankatsu, which makes much more sense) and Wakabayashi’s school team had a particularly strong reputation. As in, Tsubasa’s parents move away from home specifically to send him to the school of his dreams, and then at the last minute, he decides he wants to go to a crappy no-name school whose team can barely kick a ball between them. This sheer effort, not to mention money, it takes to raise this child, must be staggering. And then there’s the fact that he’s always wandering away from home to run around with his only real friend, the ball, which he also, lest we forget, frequently and openly talks to. Tsubasa is a difficult young man, is essentially what I’m saying here. I want an alternate retelling of this series from Tsubasa’s mother’s POV, trying to stay positive while raising a talented but troubled boy while her husband is away at sea.

And actually, speaking of Tsubasa’s dad, he’s pretty weird and hard to deal with in his own way. If you watched the previous episode, you’ll remember Mr. Oozora made oblique references to being the one who set up Roberto and Tsubasa’s encounter. This episode, we get a little more detail on that: Roberto has decided to take a break from professional football and temporarily move to Japan “due to circumstances”, and Mr. Oozora kindly suggested he go meet his prodigy child and move into the family home. Without consulting the rest of his family. Like seriously, the first Mrs Oozora hears of this is when Roberto stumbles in the door at 2 am completely unannounced and presumably pretty drunk, armed with a letter of introduction from the captain himself (this scene is only referenced in this adaptation and I think it might actually only have been shown in the first anime adaptation, but it is iconic and beautiful). This may just barely have been excusable back in the ‘80s when the manga was originally written, but now? At this point, we’ve seen Mr. Oozora and his family communicate via smartphone numerous times, and he never thought his wife might deserve a little heads-up about inviting a runaway Brazilian football star with a drinking problem into their home? Jesus, maybe the apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree.

After Tsubasa’s very exciting morning, he heads out to officially meet the pile of absolute wasters that pass for a team at his brand new school, and the rest of the first half of the episode is reasonably chill. All the peons fawn over Tsubasa’s skills and he regales them with various tales of footballs past before setting them to training. Not a whole lot happens, but it’s pretty pleasant to watch and there is the pre-requisite training montage with an upbeat background song to go along with it which is of course always a delight.

Things get a little more lively in the second half, when Roberto (who is basically never not drinking at this stage in the anime, presumably due to the pressures of being a tortured football genius) decides to appoint himself coach of Nankatsu Elementary School FC and signs them up for a practice match with Nishigaoka, yet another local team.

A referee appears out of nowhere and kickoff begins, with Tsubasa allowing his teammates to flail ineffectually around the field for a bit to give his opponents some false hope before he decides it’s time to start winning, like a cat toying with a mouse before putting it out of its misery. He launches a powerful shot from the other end of the field to score the first goal of the match, quickly followed by three more, sufficiently knocking Nishigaoka down a peg or two.

The rest of the team is invigorated by this success and starts playing noticeably better; Ishizaki even manages to score for what very well may be the first time in his life, bringing the final score to 5-2 to Nankatsu (all other 4 goals were, of course, Tsubasa’s) – a good omen for the inter-school sports challenge. Of course, there’s a huge difference between defeating a bunch of no-names like Nishigaoka and defeating Shutetsu, to the point where winning this match means almost nothing. Overall, this was a pretty low-stakes episode, but we did need to see how Nankatsu flow as a team before seeing them in the big match, and I didn’t mind the slight break in the action so much. Plus, we got a good bit more background on the adult characters, which I always enjoy.

The next episode is “Tsubasa and Roberto”, which leads me to believe we’re not getting to the big match just yet. I’m fine with anything that involves Roberto character development though, so why not? Onwards!

Episode 4

Well, as might be expected, this episode is partially devoted to character development/exposition for Roberto, who is very Troubled and has Demons and, judging by the medical report on his desk, isn’t in the best of physical health either: hints towards the “circumstances” that led to his shock retirement and move to Japan. Later in the episode, we find out that his retinas are detaching due to too many football-related knocks to the head, and he must retire to avoid permanently losing his sight. Which, like, fine, maybe this can happen, I’m no ophthalmologist. But this always strikes me as a weird ailment to go for, narrative-wise. It’s just sort of undramatic and not the first thing you’d think of (you’d think head or joint injury or something, right?). Also, I’m pretty sure that retinal detachment is very treatable these days? But I shouldn’t belittle Roberto’s struggles I guess, he’s clearly hurting.

We also get to see a little bit of Roberto and Tsubasa’s relationship from Roberto’s perspective: in light of his newly-revealed health issues, it almost seems like he’s living vicariously through Tsubasa, channelling his efforts into moulding a protégé to distract from the heartbreak of being unable to play himself. Honestly, this man needs to start making better choices.

Meanwhile, for the Tsubasa portion of the episode, we get our first look at Tsubasa’s new school, it being the first day of term. He introduces himself to his new classmates and teacher in full football gear, proudly proclaiming that the ball he’s brought with him is his friend. It is a really good thing this kid is so talented, or he’d probably get beaten up daily.

We also meet for the first time here some of Nankatsu’s other students, the most notable introduction being Sanae/Anego, the tomboy team manager and head of Nankatsu Elementary’s cheerleading squad with an ill-disguised crush on our Tsubasa. She actually gets totally shafted in this adaptation from what I’ve seen so far and barely gets any screen time at all, and I really find myself missing her to be honest. Justice for Anego, get this girl some scenes.

Actually, the school scenes made me realise that Tsubasa’s arrival in a new place is nearly always prefaced by a lengthy scene of people discussing how unbelievably amazing he is. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a character built up in-universe quite so much. Easily 30% of the show consists of other characters marvelling at this wunderkind’s unmatched prowess, and that’s a conservative estimate. This school is really counting on Tsubasa living up to the hype, though, because this happens to be a pivotal year in the inter-school competition’s history: over the past 25 years, Nankatsu and Shuutetsu Elementaries have each won 12 tournaments (and drawn one), meaning that the winner of this competition will be “champions”, so to speak, which this school apparently takes pretty damn seriously, and everyone knows the football team is nothing but dead weight under normal circumstances.

The team prove their uselessness in the second half of the episode, when the entire team is pitted against Tsubasa alone and manage to get scored on in about 45 seconds, though Ishizaki tells us they put up a better fight than usual which I guess is supposed to convince us that Tsubasa is making everyone else better players rather than rendering them completely irrelevant on the field, which is what he’s actually doing. The animators really blew their budget on this practice session; the whole episode before this point had been pretty bare-bones but you get tons of great, detailed shots here which are nice to see since the last episode was comparatively pretty sparse on the visuals.

There’s almost no Wakabayashi in this episode again other than a brief scene of him talking to his coach/guardian (in the grand tradition of Anime Parents, Wakabayashi’s parents are away on business in Europe) about how everyone in Nankatsu is trash other than Tsubasa which is true enough. I’ve not really been missing his absence since there isn’t anything to tell with him right now, but it’s nice that the show checks in on his side of things every so often all the same.

The episode ends with a short mental monologue from Roberto on Tsubasa’s potential as they walk home together, which is a nice enough note to finish on. Overall I think it was a nice to have another little break from the major action and to find out more about Roberto. Roberto-heavy episodes are always a thumbs up from me, I love a hot mess. I think the next episode might mark the start of the inter-school tournament at last, marking Tsubasa’s official match debut. Sports on, Tsubasa. Sports on.

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