Captain Tsubasa (2018) Episode 1 & 2 [First Impression]
Hi everyone, this is Ruru doing my first ever review for AAB! Like I said in my intro post, I’m starting off by covering the currently-airing (at 28 of a planned 52 episodes) Captain Tsubasa. I’ll be covering two episodes at a time twice a week with the aim of eventually catching up.
Captain Tsubasa is a series that’s pretty close to my heart. I picked up the Captain Tsubasa franchise in late 2016, and by the time I’d finished everything it had to offer almost to the day, this new instalment courtesy of David Production (most famous for JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure and last seasons’s Cells at Work which I hear is great) was announced and I was fucking here for it. And yet, I’m pretty sure almost nobody in the Anglosphere is following it. While I can’t say I necessarily blame people for skipping over it (I certainly would have were I not familiar with the franchise in the first place), it’s definitely worth a watch if you’re into absurd melodrama.
This show is so stupid guys, I love it. You know that dickhead from your school, the one who won everything? The one everyone secretly resented? That’s Tsubasa Oozora, our implausibly indomitable hero. A balls-out, unabashed Mary Sue. A kid with such insane football ability it seems patently unfair that he’s being pitted against a bunch of average 11-year-olds. Cheer him on as he humiliates child after child in front of their friends and family.
The first scene of the first episode serves as a sort of origin story for our main character, an explanation for why the boy plays the football so good. It’s a perfect origin story, in fact, because it sets the tone for the sheer idiocy of what is to come from this show. Our boy Tsubasa develops an unhealthy attachment to a football as a toddler, an obsession that proves near-fatal when he runs out onto the road and into the path of an oncoming truck to retrieve the ball. Although the truck does hit him, Tsubasa miraculously survives, the football he was holding having literally absorbed the impact of the truck, throwing Tsubasa onto the grass and improbably leaving him without a scratch.
10 years into the future, Tsubasa and his football fixation both alive and well, the family are moving to Nankatsu, Shizuoka Prefecture, from Tokyo. Tsubasa’s mother is having to do the bulk of the moving by herself, with her husband at sea as usual (he is a very Busy and Important ship captain) and her child too preoccupied with the football to engage in any other sort of activity. This woman must have a horrible, lonely life.
Actually, Tsubasa’s football adoration gets a little weird in this adaptation. Don’t get me wrong, it borders on creepy in every version of the anime (though I can’t speak for the manga), but this version seems to imply that Tsubasa almost considers his football… sentient? A good example of this comes later on in the episode, when he kicks his ball up in the air to give it a good view of rival Wakabayashi’s house and consults it on whether or not to challenge him. Not gonna lie, I actually love this dynamic – it adds to the campy vibe to the show – but like… is Tsubasa okay?
Anyway, the main purpose of this episode is to set up and flesh out the rivalry between Tsubasa and the city of Nankatsu’s resident Good Football Guy, goalkeeper and local ace team captain Genzo Wakabayashi. Wakabayashi doesn’t get the most flattering intro of the show – he and his teammates are hogging the local football pitch, barring another team consisting of Ryo Ishizaki (who we’ll be seeing a lot more of whether you like it or not) and his merry band of losers from training there on the grounds that they suck. This leads to an amazing (read: ridiculous) scene in which fellow middle-schooler Wakabayashi retains the field for his team by saving a barrage of various sports balls (and a javelin) thrown by local college students in increasingly acrobatic and theatrical fashion while Tsubasa watches in awe.
It’s scenes like this that remind me how much better the production values are in this adaptation than in previous versions of this show. David bring a really JoJo-esque feel to the atmosphere, with lots of colourful, overly dramatic freeze-frames and special effects (speedlines everywhere), to the immense benefit of the overall tone of the show. You get the feeling that the people involved grew up with the original series and have a lot of affection for the show, allowing them to accentuate the fun, silly aspects of the source material while paring down issues that have marred a lot of earlier adaptations, e.g., poor animation (so much slo-mo and still shots), and EXTREMELY slow pacing (which is not to say they’re not worth watching all the same). It doesn’t take itself too seriously and it’s all the better for it.
Wakabayashi’s outrageous display leaves Tsubasa eager to challenge him; he decides to announce his intentions by writing a message on his good friend the ball and then punting it from the top of a hill into Wakabayashi’s palatial estate with superhuman force, amounting to another visually fantastic scene which hypes me up in spite of (or because of) how cheesy it is, and also attracts the attention of Wakabayashi, his coach who inexplicably acts as his guardian while his parents are away in Europe, and one more very important, very mysterious, and very drunk character whose name will be revealed in the next episode.
The episode closes out with Tsubasa proving himself as the originator of Wakabayashi’s challenge by once more demonstrating his staggering football prowess by shooting his ball underneath a moving bus (is this some sort of bizarre callback to his earlier incident with the truck?) and into Wakabayashi’s stunned hands, setting the scene for the big challenge next episode.
Also the ED is a cover of the ‘80s anime’s OP (aka one of the best anime OPs of all time) and it’s wonderful and I love it. The actual OP is pretty fun too but it will always be dwarfed by the ED for me.
Overall, I think this was a pretty promising debut for the reboot! The changes so far seem mostly to be for the better, production values are decently high, and David really seem to be giving this a fair shot. Let’s hope the second episode keeps up the momentum.
Okay, onto episode 2! The episode picks up from where episode one left us: Wakabayashi, as it turns out, is too haughty to accept a challenge from Tsubasa straight off the bat – first he’ll have to dribble past his army of mooks. Pitting a whole team against one person might seem like an impossible challenge for some, but Tsubasa accepts, having never known defeat and not expecting to encounter it now. They’re only the B team, after all. It’s almost unfair on them.
Almost immediately after the challenge starts we get another shot of Tsubasa talking aloud to his ball about how amazing Wakabayashi is, and I’m starting to think it might be canon that Tsubasa and his football literally have a psychic connection. Either that or Tsubasa is just so attached to his ball that he can’t help but talk to it? Within the context of the show, I honestly cannot tell which of these options is more likely to be true. On the one hand, it’s a very unmagical show for the most part, but on the other hand, the laws of physics are defied multiple times per episode, and is having a psychic bond with a football really the weirdest thing that’s going to happen in this series? Decidedly no, is my judgement.
With such a strong belief in himself and The Ball, Tsubasa obviously steamrollers the entire team and shoots his shot at Wakabayashi in no time flat. I’m pretty sure everybody saw this coming, but despite this it’s still a really fun scene to watch, with Tsubasa dashing past everyone at top speed, leaving after-images and other miscellaneous effects in is wake. I love how extra every little thing in this show is – the animators are clearly having a great time amping up the melodrama.
Speaking of extra, our enigmatic drunk finally gets a proper introduction in this scene (sort of)! He’s Roberto Hongo, forward for Brazil and my problematic fave of the show. He barges onto the field all guns blazing after Tsubasa’s very respectable shot hits the goalpost, and decides to smash his whiskey on the ground, throw away his homeless person hat and send a magnificent shot straight towards Tsubasa, allowing him to score on the nigh-invincible Wakabayashi (but apparently that doesn’t really count because now Tsubasa has to score on Wakabayashi at the upcoming inter-school sports day to be considered the greater of the two).
And then he sort of just hangs out suspiciously in the background for a few minutes before sauntering up to Tsubasa and Ishizaki and offering to coach their rag-tag team of misfits for the sports day. I love Roberto but he spends approximately 99.9% of his time acting shady as fuck and honestly people should probably be more concerned about this strange man who stinks of whiskey skulking around children’s play areas doing sick backflips and offering unsolicited sports advice. Ishizaki is markedly less impressed than Tsubasa by our man (and can you blame the kid?), so Roberto wins him over with some serious Football, leading to our first torn net of the series! If previous instalments are an indicator, we’re going to be seeing a few of these, so I’m going to start a counter for them.
TORN NET COUNT: 1
There. We have that now, that’s nice to have. Also yay, Roberto and Tsubasa meet at last!
I really loved the end of this episode. I find the coach-apprentice relationship between Roberto and Tsubasa pretty fun to watch, partially because their training scenes together are practically the only times you really see Tsubasa mess anything up, but also because they have an interesting dynamic as two football prodigies in different stages of their lives and careers. I also loved Captain Oozora Sr.’s brief scene at the end, where it’s implied that he is the one who sent Roberto Tsubasa’s way as a “gift”. Like “Here Tsubasa, I brought you this beautiful damaged football man, do you like him?”. Well, he does. Questionable parenting choices aside, the man knows his son well.
I think this was another fun, well put together episode! The visuals were pretty exciting to look at once again, and even if it’s not really exceptional in terms of execution, the animation has a nice, energetic style to it. The plot is also moving along at a tolerable pace, nothing feels too dragged out or sped up to me so far.
Next episode will be the “start of the renewal of Nankatsu Football Club”, apparently, so I look forward to finding out what that means. ‘Til then!