Episode 23

The episode starts out with a kind of exhibition or something, showing off all of Meiwa and Nankatsu’s major players to hammer home how equal they both are, in case you didn’t get it the first fifty times. It kind of reminds me of wrestling match intros. I wish there were more Wakashimazu, I could watch a whole episode that featured nothing but him, Wakabayashi and the Tachibana Twins hopping around the field doing JoJo poses.

The scouts are back again for a bit, with some insightful commentary right out the gate: “We need a good striker, a striker who can score goals. We need to score more goals than other teams”. Master strategists, these two.

Silly Kisugi, thinking he could be the first to score on Wakashimazu. That’s for real characters. Even his shot was just a way to show off what a smart team player Tsubasa is. First blood, of course, goes to Misaki and Tsubasa a few seconds later with a ridiculous twin shot that, despite being perfectly timed, Tsubasa didn’t even know was a twin shot? I was googling to see if twin shots were even a thing in real life and I clicked on a Youtube video of it, and it turned out to be two Japanese football players trying to imitate this very scene (it’s here for anyone interested)! Also, Beckham and Giggs did one once and it looked pretty cool but there weren’t as many lightning bolts as you’d expect, which I have to say is pretty disappointing. So there you go, I guess the concept itself is not as silly as I thought. Though it is of pretty limited utility.

This is definitely the two goalies’ game, though – all of the best moves are from either Wakabayashi or Wakashimazu. Hyuga’s performance is actually kind of underwhelming; some of his shots look cool but since he’s so obsessed with scoring from outside the penalty area to impress the scouts, it’s hard to feel any tension when he goes for a goal. Who does he think this is, Morisaki?

I love how Nishio (poor, injured Nishio! The match isn’t the same without him) actually nods his head in agreement to this too. It’s true, what can you say? At least Morisaki is self-aware.

But yeah, not a great Hyuga episode, play-wise. I like his scene in the dressing room, though. It’s nice to see his more vulnerable side once in a while, especially around his teammates.

I thought this was a pretty fun first half overall. Not a ton to say about it, but there were plenty of acrobatics and forced drama from Hyuga, and Nankatsu have started off strong, though Meiwa are obviously going to make a comeback now that Hyuga’s promised to get back to scoring. Everyone’s injuries seem to be holding up so far but I’m sure someone’s going to crack soon (I forget who buckles first but my instinct says Wakabayashi). Let’s find out how that goes.

Episode 24

Well isn’t that nice, Meiwa are right back on form after their little heart-to-heart with Hyuga. Now they can go back to assaulting Tsubasa and Misaki, just as god and Kozo Kira intended. They’re like fucking sharks or something with that slide tackle swarm they’re doing. And while the minions are doing that, Hyuga, having rediscovered the true meaning of friendship and camaraderie, sets to doing what he does best: shoving boys into the ground for the hell of it.

I don’t know about anyone else, but I find matches a lot more fun when Meiwa is the team in control of them. Hyuga’s plays are miles more fun to watch than anyone else’s when he’s at his best. Even his missed attempts are wild when he’s really going for it. Who else tries to launch the entire goalie into the net with the ball (would that even count as a goal in real football?)? And when he does actually score? It’s completely insane. He just headbutts his way through a defensive line, scoring by sheer force of will. Wakabayashi may have been injured, but I think that shot was going in regardless. This is brilliant. I wish Captain Tsubasa-style football was a real sport. Is there a league where people play like this? I think I’ve finally found the sport for me.

Wakabayashi’s equally on-form, though, until his leg gives out on him (and even after, to be fair). I remember being totally floored the first time I saw he’d managed to keep the ball over the line, it’s such an iconic moment. It’s not long after that that his leg starts sparking. Poor Wakabayashi, he’s so powerful that the story is constantly having to nerf him so that someone can score.

Oh shit and Misaki and Tsubasa have their legs injured now too! Holy god, does this leave Wakashimazu as the only major player thus far who isn’t in some way impaired? This feels massively contrived; this series is actually terrible for forcing injuries to inject a little extra tension. But I am entertained, so I guess they’re doing their job right. Plus it means the rest of Nankatsu really have to get their ass in gear, which makes for some rare cool moments for lesser characters. Ishizaki’s face block of Hyuga’s shot is a particular highlight.

The animation is amazing at points in this episode, they’ve really put a lot into the visuals and it makes every little move feel exciting. Pretty much everything Hyuga does is amazing, and Wakashimazu and Tsubasa’s mid-air clash is great too. There are some off moments, though, like this shot here right after Wakabayashi slides into his goal:

It’s only on screen for a split second and it looks fine at a glance, but when you pause on it it starts to look a bit weird. Most of the panels are kinda goofy but they’re basically fine; people are looking shocked and/or tense as you might expect, it all checks out. But then on the lower right you’ve got a random shot of the audience smiling away happily like nothing’s happening and I don’t understand why it’s here. Who put this here? And the way Tsubasa falls when Hyuga shoves him up into the air is one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen. But for the most part, the visual direction is particularly good. Serious sakuga at times.

Nankatsu are at a really serious disadvantage going into the final few minutes, but at least they have… Ishizaki. Yaaaay. To be fair, he did well this episode. But I have a feeling Tsubasa et al are going to need to start recovering quick.