The animation for most of this episode is real rough. Like seriously, QUALITY left and right. I know episodes 7 and 8 must both have been pretty expensive, but the off-model art can get distracting at times, and I feel like they could have put in just a little more effort. It’s a shame, because Tsubasa and Misaki are tearing up the field in the first half, but the animation just isn’t doing them justice so it’s hard to get too excited about it. The Golden Combi deserve better than this. Even Tsubasa’s game-tying header goal isn’t accompanied by the usual visual fireworks we’ve come to expect, and it’s very conspicuous. Having said that there’s something hauntingly beautiful about this shot of Wakabayashi and I’d like to thank the overworked and underpaid animator who created it. No longer shall your craft go ignored.
To be fair, the animation picks up a little bit around the 10-minute mark, though only briefly. It’s kind of a weird time to choose, too; like yeah, it’s the final two minutes of the game and the final skirmish between Tsubasa and Wakabayashi before they join forces on the city team, but wouldn’t it have been better to conserve the budget for the one actual goal this episode? It’s not like there was a whole lot of suspense, once that final goal went in we all knew it was going to end in a draw. It’s obvious they’re not going to let Tsubasa lose his first match, but a win would feel unearned for Nankatsu after such a short training period (not to mention it’d make Wakabayashi look like a real jobber, and he may be many things, but he is not that), so a draw is a natural option. But oh well, at least the episode isn’t a total wash, animation-wise.
After the match, the second half of the episode is mainly devoted to tying up loose plot ends and introducing new ones (hello, Nationals arc!). We finally get the full backstory on the relationship between Tsubasa’s dad and Roberto and it is just as idiotic and dramatic as every other plotline concerning Roberto, which is to say I’m all for it. The only mysteries that now remain are why Tsubasa’s dad just happens to know the world’s leading ophthalmologist, and indeed why said ophthalmologist can’t fix a simple case of retinal detachment. Sadly, I fear these puzzles shall forever go unsolved.
Another one of my favourite plots gets introduced here, though it’s been heavily hinted at before: Roberto wanting to take Tsubasa to Brazil, “a football country”, so he can learn to football harder and better than ever before. I don’t want to spoil anything here (though if you’re caught up you’ll already know) but this builds up to what I consider one of the most unintentionally hilarious moments in the entire franchise, and god knows there are myriad. I die laughing every time.
Other moments this episode include Tsubasa finally acknowledging Anego’s existence, which must be gratifying for her since she’s spent 3 episodes doing nothing but waving a flag around and yelling his name. No wonder she’s crying, she’s done more work this match than the rest of Nankatsu Elementary FC combined. We also get our team roster shortlist for the nationals (tryouts for the final 15 next ep), not that it contains a ton of surprises. We’ve got Tsubasa, Misaki, Urabe, Ishizaki, Wakabayashi and the entire rest of Shutetsu, and Miscellaneous. Aaaand… that’s sort of it. I guess a lot happened in this episode, plot-wise, but it definitely feels like a bit of a rest compared to the wall-to-wall action of the inter-school tournament. Like I said, mostly closure and setup. Still, there’s plenty more brainless action to come, and Hyuga (aka true best boy) is showing up next time fuck yeeees.
Oh boy oh boy Captain Tsubasa’s melodrama has just been kicked up a notch, Kojiro Hyuga is on the scene and if he’s not one of your favourite characters in this show you’re fucking your life up and need to do some serious re-evaluation. I was about to call his arrival a breath of fresh air, but it’s more like a hurricane. He bursts into the start of the episode like a bull in a china shop, yelling at his Meiwa FC teammates for being pussies, i.e., not fouling all their opponents all the time, and crashing the Nankatsu tryouts to score on (an injured) Wakabayashi. All Hyuga really does is yell and foul and Challenge people, and that’s why he’s the true hero of this show. His edgy ways and penchant for theatrics really put into perspective what a dull character Tsubasa is in the grand scheme of things. Hyuga is raw ambition, power, and aggression, and he will straight-up punch you in the face if you get in his way (or if he just feels like it). Tsubasa is… nice? Nice and good at football. It’s hard for him to have a real personality because it’s apparently vitally important that nobody has a good reason to dislike him.
However, even though Tsubasa’s the “unproblematic one”, Hyuga’s also way more sympathetic than Tsubasa in a lot of ways. Sure, he’s aggro as fuck on the field and with his peers in general, but considering how much he’s got going on in his life (his dad’s dead and his mother is barely keeping the family’s heads above water financially, prompting him to take part-time jobs to supplement her income and support his many ragamuffiny siblings) it’s pretty understandable. He’s got adult levels of responsibility on his shoulders, and football is his only chance of providing a decent life for his family – no wonder he’s so high-strung. I often wonder how we’re supposed to root for Tsubasa, a happy upper-middle-class boy who has nothing on the line but a trip to Brazil, over Hyuga. Just because he’s a little easier to get along with? Maybe we’re not supposed to root for him. Maybe Tsubasa is the true villain of this series after all.
Also, I just noticed from those little halfway point player stats that I am exactly the same height and weight as Hyuga. I feel truly honoured to share my vitals with such a legend (or at least the 12-year-old version of him), but I guess I kind of expected him to be bigger. I mean, I know that’s pretty huge for a child his age, but he’d easily pass for a burly 16-year-old on character design alone.
Alright that’s it for today thanks for coming to my Hyuga Ted Talk byyyyye.
Okay fine, I’ll talk about the rest of the episode too. But everything and everyone else is pretty boring this time around in comparison. The only other thing that really caught my eye is Roberto’s evident creeping doubts about whisking Tsubasa away from his family to Brazil, leading him to add the caveat that he’ll only bring him if he wins the Nationals, so now we have something resembling stakes for our whiz kid. Now he has just as much to lose as Hyuga, right? Even Tsubasa’s hat trick in the first round of the prefectural tournament is completely expected and happens in the space of about 30 seconds. But we all know Nankatsu are going to the Nationals, so I suppose there wasn’t much point in dragging it out.
I did love how much everyone was shitting on Ishizaki this episode, like my god. The kid’s pretty annoying and not nearly as talented as everyone else on the team, granted, but jeez, people do not sugarcoat their lack of respect for him. Does he really deserve this? Maybe not. Do I care? No.
Next time is the semi-final of the prefectural tournament, which is apparently going to be “A Surprisingly Difficult Match”, probably due to Wakabayashi’s leg injury. Yeah, yeah, just get to the Nationals already.