Oh right it’s the quarter-finals, I forgot we hadn’t had those yet! The match is Nankatsu vs Hirado, with this tournament’s resident Huge Guy, Hiroshi Jito. In general he’s not a character I find particularly compelling and I don’t know why they’re trying to present him and Hirado in general as this huge obstacle. Having said that, I still had a surprisingly good time watching this match. 3-0 to Hirado in the first half, yikes. It’s nice to see Tsubasa sweat sometimes.

Poor Morisaki got thrown under the bus so hard, but I guess he had it coming. He’d gone a few matches without totally humiliating himself. To be entirely fair, though, what exactly is he supposed to do about some of Hiroshi’s shots? One goal he caught the ball but got thrown into the goal with it anyway (is that a legal goal in real football? I have no idea. It might be? I can’t imagine it comes up much). How does one prevent that? I guess it’s still Morisaki’s fault for not being jacked enough to stand his ground against power shots. Wakabayashi would have dug his heels in.

In addition to being a generic “strong guy seeks strong opponent” shounen character, it seems that Hiroshi is also another in an apparently endless line of characters who considers assaulting his opponents’ physical weak points a legitimate strategy. And apparently most of the referees in this universe are in agreement. How is Hiroshi not being red-carded for intentionally aggravating Tsubasa’s very public shoulder injury? He’s tossing him and the rest of Nankatsu around like ragdolls here. I’m so confused about how fouling works in this show. It’s not like they never penalise it, but they’re so, so inconsistent. Sometimes a player will get punished for a rough tackle and sometimes a player will break someone’s fucking leg and play won’t stop for a single second. And if this is just the level of aggression one needs to expect from football in the Captain Tsubasa world, I repeat, why has the tournament doctor let Tsubasa play?

There are some strong contenders for the most gratuitous example of referees ignoring blatant fouls/injuries (see: most matches featuring Hyuga), but I think this episode might be the worst we’ve seen so far. I mean, Tsubasa actually loses consciousness for what looks like several minutes and nobody appears to have been penalised. I loved this whole scene so much, though. The moments where Nankatsu are losing are very revealing of Tsubasa’s character. The thought of failure is so traumatic for him that he has a vision of the trinity (the father Wakabayashi, the son Misaki, and the holy ghost Roberto) revealing unto him the sacred power of the Drive Shot, which is funny enough on its own, but it’s made funnier by how low the stakes are when you really think about it. Like oh no, somebody else might get a chance to win the nationals this year, how horrible. Would Tsubasa really be stopped from going to Brazil if Nankatsu didn’t win three times in a row? Of course not. So what’s the big deal? Let Toho win, Hyuga could use a break (if he can even get on the pitch, that is).

But no, they’re not going to do that, of course they’re not. Nankatsu are going to score anywhere from 4-6 goals in about 10 minutes next episode and the natural order of things will be restored. That’s going to be nice.