Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Ginga e Kickoff - 34

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The only thing that tempers the sheer joy of watching a new Ginga e Kickoff episode is the knowledge that each one brings us closer to the end of the series.

It would be silly to question the judgment of TYO and the creative team behind GeK now, because they pretty much haven’t put a foot wrong in 34 episodes thus far.  It seems as if 5 episodes isn’t enough time to do justice to the Galaxia Cup in Barcelona, never mind the “Ginga World Cup” the kids are talking about – but these guys will figure it out, just as they’ve figured everything else out beautifully so far.  It would be nice to think the possibility of more anime down the road exists, but even though the series has been a bigger success in Japan than most would have predicted, I know that’s a long shot.  I’m just going to savor every minute and trust the series to deliver the ending that will do justice to everything that’s built up to it.

This was certainly a breather episode, but a darn good one – and probably one that was absolutely essential.  I just don’t think it would have been wise to go straight from the epic intensity of “Momayama vs. Amarillo” directly into the final competition of the series – the characters and the audience needed a week to savor the moment, and prepare for what’s to come.  That means our first in-context focus on Shou’s father, a chance to bask in the admiration of friends (including a "Return of the Jedi" moment), an exciting opportunity to square off against J-Leaguers and a much-deserved look back at some of the moments that led us to this point.  This ep was an abject lesson to every studio that burdens the audience with a dull recap episode on how to recall the emotional highlights of a show in context with what’s happening in the show right now.  Recap eps have given memories a bad name in anime, but they have their place and GeK demonstrated that this week.

There are very few elements of the series that have left me unsatisfied, but the storyline involving Shou’s Dad is one.  Apart from a special episode that was dedicated almost entirely to the topic, I can’t recall even a specific mention – although I’m sure I could have forgotten a brief one.  That’s why it was so nice to see the episode open with Shou talking with his father, sharing his medal with him and thanking him for everything he’d done to instill his love of football in his son.  Shou is a relentlessly upbeat and forward-thinking boy (perhaps enough to be called exceptionally so, though not unrealistically) and this scene is very much in character – not at all maudlin or somber, but joyful, if reserved.  I’m thinking we may see more of this thread as the Barcelona storyline develops – perhaps even in a sort of parallel with Gon-kun’s search for his own missing father (whose face is seen at last).

Naturally, it’s Tagi who’s taking the lead in trying to reunite father and son in Spain – though I’m not quite sure it’s such a good idea, considering as how the father apparently abandoned the son without so much an an email or letter.  Gonzales-san is a club player in Spain, it seems, and Tagi enlists the help of Erika and Reika (only those two, interestingly enough) to find him.  Again here, I’m expecting this to be approached in a positive and uplifting way – Gon-kun seems not at all depressed about the prospect or meeting (or failing to meet) his father again, and I don’t think he’s going into this scenario with unrealistic expectations. 

As for the Predators’ matchup against the Chiba Thunderbolts, the Director is as good as his word – better in fact, as the Preds get to do more than just get their promised chance to observe practice.  There’s a little on-field training, followed by a mini-game against the J-Leaguers themselves – thanks to their coach (who speaks broken Japanese with a ridiculous accent whose intended origin I couldn’t tell you) and his soft spot for cute girls.  I was reminded just a bit of Major S1 and the game against the shopping district team, except these were real professionals – and as expected from a series that cares as much about realism as this one, there’s no miraculous win for the 6th-graders.  Even with the big boys observing some rules to limit their size advantage (some of which they seemed to forgot momentarily as they saw the kids were pretty good) they quickly run up a 5-0 lead in the 5-minute game (poor Tagi never stands a chance) before the kids – thanks to their “Change” tactic – manage to sneak in a late goal off Aoto’s right boot.  I love the fact that the kids weren’t at all bummed out about this result – they saw it for what it was, a chance to scrimmage against adults who hopelessly outgunned them but didn’t embarrass them.

If there’s a downside to the Thunderbolts trip, it’s that Ryouko has invited a documentary crew along, and they plan to film the Predators entire Spain journey.  Hanashima-san doesn’t seem too thrilled, and it’s easy to see why – Ryouko is obviously in love with the camera, but the last thing he needs is for the kids to be distracted by the prospect of fame when they’re facing their toughest challenge ever.  Tagi-kun even warns Gon that he’s going to have to learn how to deal with the media better than with “I score goals, that’s all.”  Based on Shou’s performance at the school assembly though, he should be fine – as usual he’s stumbles a bit on the way (literally) but rises to the occasion and surprises even Erika with his eloquence.  Shou always comes through when the chips are down, on the pitch and off, and seems to have no ego to derail him – though he has his shares of self-doubts.  If he’s the be the face of the Predators as they take to the world stage, they’re in pretty good shape.

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8 comments:

  1. It's going to end so soon *cries* it was so heartwarming to be presented with a little father-son intimate moment.
    ---
    The miracle basho meeting and meeting as one of the tying moments for flashback before their Spain flight was a nice narration device wasn't it? :) And in this episode we actually got Shou's learning his header flashback. Nifty touch to delay it after the Amarillo match.
    I liked that the final score against the Thunderbolts was actually believable too, in consistent GeK fashion.
    --
    That said, Tagi knows how to deal with ladies and chibi prodigies alike XD - and was that a Maradona poster in Aoto's room? -
    And who's the one paired with Reika for practicing passes? Excuse me while I'm in ship-teasing delight <3.
    --
    The Barcelona snapshots really make me miss the city. And paella :,).

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yep, that was definitely Maradona in Mini-Maradona's room.

      Delete
  2. Hi guardian Enzo, sorry to hijack your post again. The interview did not turn Out to be as well as i thought. I was selected for the job interview because of my versatility of languages. I could speak up to 4 languages. The interview was in 4 different languages. I was fluent in English and Japanese, but I stumbled at my other 2 languages (long pauses,I substitute words I don't know with English). Oh well. Due to cultural differences, I interrupted (accidentally) the interviewer several times. I speak before he could finish his questions (due to the long pauses he made)
    ps. Please note my mistake when you are job seeking in Japan.^.^ let the interviewer finish his sentence before you speak. Give yourself a 5 secs leeway before you speak.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh yeah, I figured that was a given! Sorry I didn't mention it. Better luck next time, Man.

      Delete
  3. If I have any complaint about this series, and I'm not saying I have any complaints, but IF I have any complaint about this series it's how fast Reika went from super useless to super competent. But I can't hold it against them since she's just so damn cute. But still, for a show that usually maintains a fair veneer of realism, it's the one thing that sticks out as being way way unrealistic. The other kids have been playing for years to get that good and she gets to their level in months.

    I'll miss this show when it's gone.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I see your point of course, but I don't have to suspend disbelief about it. I think her strong points were always there (goal thief, stamina) and that she is still behind every other teammate when it comes to heading, shooting, passing, defence. Also, I don't agree that she was super useless before. She did score a sweet-ass deciding goal while being big before, etc.

      Maybe the change in weight happened a little quick (3-4 episodes?, a month or two?), but I'm fine with that too. If too much realism would be boring, then fuck realism.

      Delete
  4. When this show comes out in a giant DVD box with english subtitles, I'm gonna buy the lot. I wish sport shows were this caliber when I was young, and if I ever have kids, they're gonna have to watch it until their eyes bleed!

    ReplyDelete
  5. I think it's funny that Shou's family's restaurant is called 'donmai', which sounds like how the kids pronounce 'don't mind' when they're encouraging each other on the pitch

    ReplyDelete