Sorry for the extended break with this, guys! Real life got pretty hectic and I unfortunately fell behind in documenting the exploits of the Captain, but I’m back to it now for the home stretch. I’ll be catching up on my missed episodes with double posts this week. Anyway, let’s get on with it!

Episode 44

This episode was not as fun as it could have been, sadly, mainly because they decided not to give it much in the way of animation budget. Furano are one of the most likeable teams in the league in my opinion but their gameplay isn’t very dynamic, and this “Oh nooooo watch out, Nankatsu are down in the first half!” thing is getting pretty stale, so the visuals sort of needed to carry the match, and they’re just not there. I imagine they’ll pull it out of the bag for the end, but it’s still a shame that the semi-finals can’t be given more than a quick once-over. The final match better look amazing, that’s all I’m saying.

I feel so bad for Furano, though. Everyone other team has something crazy going on like acrobatics or karate or Hyuga, and Furano’s whole thing is that they’re from a cold place. It’s not particularly gripping watching. But I do love Matsuyama’s romance plot. The headband thing is too cute, as is Yoshiko (aka Anego of the North, seriously, they look so similar) herself. The whole episode could have revolved around them and it would have been better off for it.

On a more positive note, I give him a lot of shit but Ishizaki has really stepped his game up in the last few episodes and it’s actually very refreshing. Credit where credit is due, Ishizaki. I’m sure he’ll ruin it soon enough, though. In fact, they’ve definitely made efforts to make the team in general more cohesive. So that their inevitable success in the finals seems less unfair, I guess.

I am honestly completely baffled by Tsubasa’s constant refusal to tailor his play to his physical state. What the hell, Tsubasa? Why must you do this? I know Nankatsu were a goal down, but it’s not nearly late enough in the game to be trolleying out overhead kicks like this when you’re already half-destroyed. If Matsuyama weren’t a nice guy he might have been out of the tournament altogether.

Tsubasa’s face every time he gets injured doing stupid shit.

I shouldn’t complain, though, because it’s basically his only compelling character trait. Even when he can barely stand, Tsubasa has to ensure he’s the dominating force on the field, to the point where he’s willing to risk his entire future for short-term gain. He’s spiralling into a pretty dark place in the race to the V3, and Roberto is definitely to blame for at least 45% of this.

There’s not a lot of suspense going into the next episode; Nankatsu have secured a lead and Furano more or less seem to have accepted their loss, so I’m hoping that a decent chunk of the episode can be romance subplot rather than sportsball. Or if it’s sportsball, let it at least be well-animated please.

Episode 45

There we go, this episode has much better animation. And does Furano far more justice in general. They might not be the fanciest team in the league, but they have the Power of Friendship. It’s not quite enough to win, as it turns out, but you at least get a token goal out of it, which is enough to look respectable while you’re losing. Which is Furano’s entire brand anyway. Respectable losers: the backbone of youth football.

See, the announcer gets it. Frankly, Furano are such a nice, cohesive team that it almost feels like an insult that the series keeps trying to hammer it into our heads that the rest of Nankatsu are anything more than Tsubasa goal-faciliatators. Sure, they’re able to pull off impressive feats of teamwork, but 90% of the time the aim is to get Tsubasa where he needs to be. They’re a one-man team. I don’t know why they think the audience isn’t fine with this. If we weren’t, we’d be long gone by now.

They’re really trying to sell Ishizaki as a cool guy at the last minute here, between his newfound competence and his little “let’s ~believe~ in our glorious captain and his broken shoulder” speech. I’ll let him have his moment in the sun, but I hope he knows nobody is buying this for a second. Surely he’ll choke horribly in the finals.

Tsubasa’s winning goal was some stone-cold bullshit of the highest order and I loved it. Sometimes I like to imagine that Tsubasa actually has sunconscious control over the laws of physics but he only uses his powers for football advantages, like some sort of Chad Haruhi.

Yoshiko and Matsuyama’s post-match airport confession scene was brief but wonderful, as expected. Fair play to Matsuyama, almost outrunning a damn car straight after playing a full match. All for love. He may not have Tsubasa’s skill, but he has something even more valuable, something that Tsubasa could never hope to take away from him: an internet girlfriend. I bet Sanae just about died of jealously when she heard about this. If she moved to America Tsubasa probably wouldn’t notice for about a week and a half.

My favourite plot point of the episode was Katagiri driving Matsuyama to the airport after he collapsed on the side of the road. Was he going that way anyway or did he just hear about the situation and decide to help out two crazy kids in love? I fervently hope and believe that the former explanation is true.

The finals are well and truly in sight now, with seven episodes to go! I’m still kind of sad that the semi-finals match was so rushed, but this leaves us in a pretty comfortable position for the last match, so I’m optimistic that the series will be able to finish on a high note. And next episode is a Coach Kira episode, which is an exciting prospect on its own.