Captain Tsubasa (2018) Episode 5 & 6

Episode 5

Okay so I lied last time about the main match starting this episode, it’s actually next episode, sorry. And honestly, this episode isn’t super exciting. The main plot, i.e., the rest of Tsubasa’s team honing their skills, isn’t really compelling enough to constitute a whole episode, even if it is necessary in order to make a good performance against Shuutetsu seem believable. In addition to this, a lot of the episode is bulked out by flashbacks from previous episodes, framed as Ishizaki reflecting on the state of his team in the countdown to their clash at the inter-school sports tournament. But we’re getting to the action soon, and compared to previous versions I can hardly complain about the pacing being too slow, so I can forgive a dull budget-saving episode.

Slightly making up for the lack of thrilling moments is the introduction of the very important Misaki Taro in the pre-OP scene, who travels Japan with his itinerant painter father playing decently solid football and being a chill dude wherever he goes. They move whenever a painting is finished, which is one in a long line of Questionable Parenting Decisions in this show but to be fair Misaki is arguably one of the best-adjusted major characters in the series (not that that’s saying much), so I suppose his dad must be doing something right.

Later on in the episode, Nankatsu Elementary catch wind of a practice match between Shuutetsu and another school team, Mizukoshi, and decide to watch it to scope out their soon-to-be opponents. Wakabayashi nevertheless eludes us once again for most of the episode, as he’s spending every waking moment on some hellish training regimen in preparation for the tournament, which mainly seems to consist of two much older boys pelting footballs at him for hours at a time while his coach glares on impassively. Which I guess should probably do the trick. In his place, we get a rundown of the “Shuutestu Quartet”, the four strongest players on the team (and therefore, some of the strongest in the country) that aren’t Wakabayashi. But like real talk, this is my fourth incarnation of this franchise and I still barely remember most of these kids’ names, because as talented as they are, they just cease to matter once Tsubasa establishes himself on the scene. But still, they are very strong players, and handily annihilate Mizukoshi even without their captain, meaning Nankatsu Elementary have their work cut out for them.

One thing that is nice to see in this episode is that Ishizaki and the rest of the team seem to be genuinely encouraged by Tsubasa’s energy and commitment and do their best to match it in training, rather than taking his talent as a chance to coast. They’re not terribly interesting characters and as I said before it’s a bit of a stretch for them to be the backbone of an entire episode, but the scenes of them gradually making friends with The Ball are pretty cute and inoffensive. And Anego, who has apparently converted the cheerleading squad into the official Tsubasa Fan Club, gets a little bit of screen time towards the end, which I always appreciate.

There’s very little good Roberto time in this episode, which is another reason it’s kind of boring. He’s mainly hanging around doing coach things and barely gets any dialogue at all, other than a conversation with Tsubasa’s mother about his wonky retinas at the start of the episode, and a stirring speech to Tsubasa towards the end of the episode about how the key to football is scoring lots of goals. This speech is quickly followed by Tsubasa and Misaki’s first encounter. Or rather, Misaki’s first encounter with Tsubasa, Tsubasa himself being too caught up in, guess what, football. It’s a pretty brief affair, Tsubasa’s dribbling catches Misaki’s eye (there’s got to be a better way to phrase that) and his interest is piqued, but their formal introduction will have to wait for another episode or so. Still, it’s an important milestone: the unofficial beginning of one of the series’ most enduring friendships.

Well, other than that, nothing too remarkable this time around, but episode 6 should deliver on the action, so let’s move on.

Episode 6

The big day is finally here, and the inter-school sports tournament is underway! The kendo players are sparring, the baseball players are baseballing, and the football team have… turned up late and missed the opening ceremony. Good start.

We don’t actually get to the match itself until the tail end of the episode, but there’s a cheerful, energetic vibe about the first half that’s a lot of fun regardless – I love school festival episodes of any type, though, so I’m sort of in my element here. The animation is also much better than the last episode, especially in the final few minutes, which is a relief.

My favourite scene of the episode (possibly one of the best of the entire series) is Tsubasa running onto the track during the track and field event for the absolute hell of it and actually winning the damn thing, because apparently he’s faster than Usain Bolt now on top of everything else. Like Jesus Christ, these are astonishing levels of showboating. Even people in other sports aren’t safe from this child’s all-consuming drive to destroy others. He doesn’t give a fuck about running, he’ll just take the rush of victory where he can get it. Oh, you trained for this event for months? Well too bad, Tsubasa felt like taking a pre-match jog today, so all your efforts are for nothing. Better luck next year.

Wakabayashi in general was also hilarious this episode, with his dramatic entrance and cheesy cool-guy lines about defeating Tsubasa and his JoJo poses all over the place (the shot of him blocking Misaki’s shot in the alleyway was majestic). I’m in love with how much of a bastard Wakabayashi is in the early episodes too, I wish he was like this all the time. Every interaction between him and Tsubasa in this arc just ends up with Wakabayashi yelling about challenges while Tsubasa’s grinning away thinking about football, not even considering for a second that he might lose, and it’s my ideal rival dynamic.

After that warm-up victory, Shuutetsu and Nankatsu’s scores for the day are completely tied, which means, surprise surprise, it all comes down to the football match. Whoever could have predicted this shocking and statistically unlikely turn of events? Nobody, absolutely nobody. But then again, nothing less suspenseful would do for the debut of Tsubasa.

While all this is going on, Nankatsu’s newest student Misaki has been making his way to school to register, only to find out that everyone’s at Shuutetsu for the tournament, serendipitously just in time to make it to the only relevant event, the Nankatsu-Shuutetsu game, which is just about to start. Roberto’s trolled everyone spectacularly by putting Tsubasa in centre-back, which means Shuutetsu’s strategy of obsessively marking him is ruined right off the bat, but also means that Tsubasa, i.e., the only player on his team even mildly capable of scoring in this match, is a centre-back. So a bit of a double-edged sword there alright.

Shuutetsu kick off and totally dominate the first few minutes of the match, but presumably everything’s going according to keikaku for Roberto, who’s smiling away from the sidelines as his boys are thoroughly outclassed. His plan is revealed when the Shuutetsu Quartet coordinate an attempt on Nankatsu’s goal and are handily stopped by Tsubasa, who is also the only person capable of effectively defending against Shuutetsu, and would never let a little thing like being a defender get in the way of repeated goal-scoring anyway. It’s hard to say whether it can be considered a successful strategy, though, because Tsubasa’s positioning seems to have enraged Wakabayashi so much that he’s potentially more powerful than ever, and he’s out for blood. Or 50 goals against Nankatsu. Coming into the next episode, though, it’s anyone’s game.

If I had one complaint about this episode, it’d once again be the lack of interesting Roberto moments. I am, however, enjoying the budding relationship between him and Mrs Oozora, who seems to have become Roberto’s confidante. Little wonder, I guess, since she’s basically the only adult he knows in Japan, and she doesn’t really have anyone else to talk to with her husband gone most of the time. Maybe they’re low-key conducting an emotional affair. There’s definitely fanfiction on this somewhere, and dammit I’m going find it (assuming it’s not in Spanish, as the overwhelming majority of Captain Tsubasa fanfiction appears to be at a glance).

All in all, though, this episode has been great fun, and I’m excited to get into the meat of the match next time. No doubt great melodrama lies ahead.

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