Thursday, January 24, 2013

Ginga e Kickoff - 31-33

[Doremi-Oyatsu] Ginga e Kickoff!! - 33 (1280x720 8bit h264 AAC) [45A8B8AE].mkv_snapshot_18.36_[2013.01.23_23.02.57]

Not since Tsuritama ended have I seen such an expression of pure joy communicated so brilliantly in anime.

If I had to pick a favorite part of the three-episode match with Amarillo, it would be incredibly difficult.  This is pretty much as good a depiction of youth sports as anime has ever done as far as I’m concerned – S1 of Major is emotional and thrilling, but very much a shounen fantasy at times, and certainly no other youth soccer series has come close to Ginga e Kickoff in terms of authenticity and narrative style.  There’s a lot I could talk about from these three eps, but for brevity’s sake let me just highlight a few things that really stand out:

  • Tagi’s presence as the backstop of the team, both as a keeper and as a leader.  He defines the "I have your back" mindset perfectly.  What a great addition to the cast.
  • Tagi’s friendship with Aoto, and his unending emotional support for Shou – who was the one Predator staying home to help him defend for most of the match.
  • Misaki’s role.  Don’t forget, Amarillo have a training partnership with her professional club – but she clearly lost her heart to Shou and Erika.  Yet it was she who comforted Kageura at the end, and pointed out that a loss was the best thing for him.  He was still by far the best player on the pitch.
So many keystone moments being recalled when the match was on the line, including:
  • The blind soccer training, put to use by both Shou and especially Ouzou, when he was blinded by sweat.
  • Aoto setting up the winning goal by clanking the ball off the crossbar – which we’ve seen him do as a practice obsession many times.
  • And finally, Shou scoring on a header – which was the very first thing Hanashima-san taught him about soccer.

Generally speaking, there’s a lot more that stands as praiseworthy.  GeK has, like few sports series before, managed to make all of the players into complete characters, and likable ones at that.  Everyone got their chance to shine here, both with their play and with their personality.  8-player soccer is great for spectators, but it’s great for anime too – it was good to see the 3-U back and watching from the stands, but the smaller squad means everyone gets a chance to stand out.  I loved, for example, the moment when Erika smiled in the middle of the match when thinking about Shou, and Kouta’s easy deference to Aoto after Reika earned a PK.  And Reika certainly has come a long way, blossoming in her role as Libero – cleverly set up as the one element that the ultra-thorough Amarillo coach didn’t catch in his scouting reports. 

No question, it was Ouzou’s turn in the spotlight as far as the Furuya were concerned.  I’ve always found his character the most interesting of the three, and he was definitely playing against type here – fueling himself on raw emotion and anger even as his body started to give out.  Taking on the man-child Kageura isn’t an easy task for anybody, and while Ouzou didn’t score, he did prove instrumental in finally breaking down the great wall of Amarillo with sheer blood and guts.  It was almost frightening watching Kageura go up against the likes of Shou and Reika – a reminder than the world of 6th-grade athletics is filled with examples of nature’s cruel sense of humor.  Kageura is definitely an arrogant SOB, but credit where its due – he backed it up with his brilliance on the pitch, and as the tide of the match slowly turned in Momayama’s favor it was only his heroics that kept the match close.  And what a thrilling match it was, with the crowd chanting at halftime and the former Japanese National Squad players from the GeK special in the booth.

There are two elements that stand out far above all for me, though.  First, watching Hanashima-san during the match – and listening to the wonderful Koyama Rikiya turn in one of his best and warmest performances.  Masaru-san-chan has been a great coach character – and coach – from day one, but seeing his passion and intensity grow as he watched from the bench was almost heartbreaking.  That phantom “Lightning” kick he showed us was quite unlike anything I’ve seen in sports anime – a moment where he was just a kid himself, a boy who loves soccer before anything else – expressing the feeling of every ex-player who coaches, surely, as he exclaimed “I want to play!”  Even that supremely honest and genuine moment was topped, though, by his reaction after Shou scored the winning goal in extra time.  That was pure, unadulterated happiness – one of the best coaching moments in sports anime history.

Of course, I have to wrap with “Shou scored the winning goal.”  That, surely, is the moment Ginga e Kickoff has been building up to since the beginning.  Just as Koyama Rikiya is delivering perhaps his most endearing performance, Kobayashi Yuu – who I don’t always care for playing males – has never been better.  Her usual manic energy is utilized perfectly here, and Shou is the heart and soul of GeK just as he is the Predators.  There have been no miracles for Shou – he hasn’t grown six inches or gained thirty pounds or miraculously acquired Aoto’s ball skills.  No, he’s just ground it out – slowly getting better by working hard, staying home on defense while even Reika got a chance to bask in the glory of attack.  No one ever deserved to net the winning goal more than Shou did, and that moment was a reward for the audience as well as the character.  The Tireless Terrier is finally the hero, though in his quiet way he’s been the hero all along.  There would be no Momoyama Predators at all without his relentless efforts, and every one of his teammates (and his coach) knows it.

We’re now left with six episodes to go, and a trip to Spain looming on the horizon.  It seems as if that isn’t much time to do justice to the World Championships – never mind the “Ginga World Cup” that Furuya-san finally mentioned aloud in episode 33 – but GeK has accomplished so much already that anything it does from here is pure gravy.  This episode would have been a fine one to end the series on if need be (though I’m thrilled it wasn’t, don’t get me wrong) and I’m happy just to spend a few more hours with this cast.  Ginga is the little show that could – as under the radar as it gets, but with sheer quality and irresistible charm it’s won fans in Japan and even a few outside, too.  It’s an example of just how great and inspiring sports anime can be when it’s made with intelligence, talent and respect for the audience.

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14 comments:

  1. They won, I saw, I cried :,D. I had to lock myself in the bathroom with my laptop and earplugs at unholy hours at night but it was totally worth it. The things this series is worth doing <3.

    Also, galaxies and spirals go well together.
    On to the country of paella, hiberian ham and hot-blooded soccer!

    Random happy moments outside of the one already mentioned by the excellent blogger: Reika! Oh my darling girl, my little bird of soccer prey <3
    Triplets' Dad's eyes spotted! :p
    Shou. Shou-baby <3. And Masaru. Crying. Ah.

    Terminal GeK fangirl over and out.
    See you for the next glorious episodes left. Once again, thanks for blogging Enzo.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Why did you have to lock yourself into the bathroom?

      Delete
    2. C'mon elianthos, we need an answer for this question.

      Delete
    3. Isn't it known as futbol over there?

      Delete
    4. @Lotor IV: if my memory doesn't fail me you're correct - been a few years since my last visit to Spain admittedly -. But I was quoting #33 fansub translation there anyway.

      @Anon&Cantstopthinkingaboutit: why tell you the truth - all you need to know is already there anyway - when I can let your imagination run wild instead? Or ask Oreki :p

      Delete
    5. Let's see, elianthos is ashamed to watch GeK in front of her family or roommates and needs to take a cold shower after watching elementary school children playing soccer. Gotcha.

      Delete
  2. meh, it was OK.

    Lol, who am I kidding!? ABSOLUTELY STELLAR! Or should I say Galactic!? What an amazing series this is, and the match, wow! So thrilling, so exciting and so much pride and hope. How can they manage to do this without portraying the other team as "villains" and instead give a message about the joy of it all? Wowowowow.wow.

    In the end, this series is the quintessence of why I love team sports, AND amine. I don't actually like to watch football, but I love to play, but this is something else entirely. Thank you Ginga e Kickoff!!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Four more years, four more years!

    (This anime doesn't have the right to be as good as this! Not when it's about to end!)

    ReplyDelete
  4. The front-page pic may be my favorite screencap of 2013, unless it's an amazing year. I thought it deserved the full page.

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  5. Just when my GeK withdrawal was going into overdrive they dump these 3 AMAZING episodes all at once!!! I'm still high on those last minutes. I feel everything people above mentioned. This anime is just, as mentioned before, GALACTIC.
    I think I'll have to officially add it to my collection even though that may be a lot of DVDs.

    ReplyDelete
  6. It was worth waiting and watching these three episodes in one go. It was a pretty intense game and one that made me happy all over. The winning goal was beautiful and unexpected. There were so much good points to discuss but I think watching them and letting the brilliance sink in would be best. I'm guessing this is a lock for 2013 Top 10 :)

    ReplyDelete
  7. Needless to say, this was a great match. I really enjoyed it, and since I'm not an avid watcher of soccer, this was great. I think the understated scene is as you said when Shou made the header, there wasn't a flashback to that moment where he was learning how to property do a header, while there were flashbacks for everyone else. When I think back on it, that was probably something sneaky they did there ;)

    Overall, some of the moments you pointed out were great, but surely Hanashima's reaction takes the cake for me :)

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  8. This post is what made me start watching Ginga e Kickoff. (I mean, come on: Tsuritama levels of joy? I'm so in!) I've watched up to episode seven and loved every single one! Thanks for making me aware of this wonderful series that I might have missed otherwise and maybe I'll catch up in time for the final episodes :). Awesome characters, starting with the two leads who are just such lovable spirited kids. I wish I had that kind of positive attitude! :D :)

    Thank you again, Enzo! I bet by the time you've blogged the final episodes loads of people will have been turned into GeK fans by you blogging it :).

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Heh, I can only hope so! Thanks for the comment.

      Delete