It’s a good season to be a sports anime fan, and Ao Ashi definitely deserves its spot at the table. I love that in just this single episode we got to see quite a bit of depth from our main character! I genuinely cannot wait to see how he changes and grows in the future!
In comparison to last season’s soccer anime, Ao Ashi is already miles better in just its first episode than the other’s 12 episodes combined. While that may be a little harsh, today’s episode was incredibly refreshing to watch. We are introduced to our main character, Aoi Ashito, a very skilled soccer player who really doesn’t care at all about tactics. I fully believed he was going to be the hot-headed, asshole protagonist and was fully willing to accept that. But as the episode moves forward, we slowly start to realize, that there’s more to him than just his ego. Like many other sports protagonists, he loves the sport he plays and he also enjoys winning and will do whatever it takes to make the goal. He is selfish but wrapped up in his selfishness is his incredible awareness for his team.
Right off the bat we see his Junior High team playing in an important match for a tournament, very classic sport’s introduction especially if the character is about to graduate and start their next journey elsewhere. Many people are already commenting on how #10, or Aoi, continually receives the ball and makes most of the play. It’s clear from the start that he has the skills to keep up with the game. But shortly after the episode starts, he is provoked by a member of the other team who knows just what buttons to press because he had previously played with Aoi. Turns out no one liked to play with Aoi because of his cocky playstyle which led to him eventually leaving the team. Even though these taunts strike a chord with our main character he keeps calm and the heckling only ramps up from there. Playing along the same idea that no one liked playing with Aoi, the other goalie starts to comment on Aoi’s teammates. He calls them simple for just passing ‘the good player’ the ball. He even goes as far to calling them Aoi’s trained monkeys. And at least for me, that’s where I would have fought back. Turns out, this player goes even further to comment on Aoi’s money situation and his mother’s occupation. So, naturally, Aoi decides to headbutt this player to shut him up… But that was the biggest mistake of the game.
Aoi is ejected from the game which of course leaves his team to struggle and they ultimately lose the game. It’s heartbreaking to lose your final match regardless of if you are going to play the sport again in the future. But Aoi also gets salt rubbed in the wound because he loses his sports recommendation for high school because “[they] do not need a mentally immature player”. No offense mister recruiter, but if you heard what the other kid was saying? I think that was just as uncalled for as the headbutt. I am, however, genuinely impressed that the kid throwing insults actually came to apologize for what he had said. It’s too bad that Aoi wasn’t around to hear the apology (but at the same time, his mom deserved apology too).
But where one door closes, another opens. Tatsuya Fukuda, the coach for the youth Esperion FC, happens to be at the game and despite seeing the unsportsmanlike conduct is extremely interested in Aoi. So much so, that he waits around for the kid to run multiple laps and wake up from passing out just to 1) show him a new technique and 2) to ask him out some of the plays that occurred in the game. It’s with these interactions that we learn that there is so much more to Aoi’s selfish playing style. For one, he’s not the type of player that throws the rest of his teammates to the wayside. Instead, he actually values each and every one of them. They are the first team to genuinely accept him and all of his quirks, and even if he doesn’t quite play by the standards, they all have fun with each other. On the other hand, what seems as selfish, tactic-less plays turns out that Aoi actually has incredible field awareness as he was actually able to keep track of all twenty-two players on the field. So, there’s a whole lot more to him than what he was given credit for. And so, this, along with his stubbornness of trying to learn Tatsuya’s move he is invited to try out for the youth team.
Of course, there is pushback against it though with this reason being the family’s monetary situation. But since this is a sports anime, I fully believe that Aoi is still going to be playing soccer for the rest of the season whether that be on the Youth League, or his High School team. I’m just excited to meet his teammates to see how all the different personalities will mesh. And while I’m suspecting he’ll make the Youth team in some capacity, part of me also wants to see him play with his Middle School teammates. The line one of them said, “We have a goal of taking the weakest team ever all the way to nationals!” Is something that really stands out to me, and I am just a sucker for underdog stories.
Overall, I was pretty impressed with this episode, and it hooked me enough to want to come back for the next episode. I also have some high expectations due to the studio for the anime, Production I.G. I’ve never been disappointed by any of the sports anime that they have been responsible. They were the studios for Haikyuu!!, KNB, and Kazetsuyo and many other highly successful anime. So, I really hope that they deliver all season long! I’m looking forward to what the rest of the story will bring!
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Eva’s First Impression
Dang that was pretty intense start, but I am absolutely here for it!
Due to losing his cool on the field, Ashito Aoi ended up losing an important Sports Recommendation from Dougo Business High. But while it would have been more mature and a greater pay off to have ignore the prick’s provocation, I understand why he couldn’t hold it in. It’s one thing to insult him, his poverty and his teammates, but his mother? You don’t fucking go there. Of course the that bloody prick did that because he knew they couldn’t win the game so as long as he continued to be on the field. He was the one making sure his team’s plays were being carried out properly, incredibly keeping tabs on all twenty-two players on the field- which is insane when you think about it. He even remembered all of their positions AFTER the game was over.
But what makes Aoi such an interesting character is that he’s complicated. So much so that you really can’t afford to just judge him for who he is by the first impression alone. At first glance, yeah he really doesn’t strike you as a likable guy, but as the episode went on, Aoi showed us that despite his attitude and overbearing confidence in himself that has resulted him in getting kicked from a number of teams, he is someone who values those who don’t ostracize him for unapologetically being who he is, flaws and all. Futamihama was the first team Aoi has joined who weren’t put off by his personality, and amazingly embraced him for who he was. And in return, he came to love and respect his teammates as well.
People love to chew him out and accuse him for not being a team player, but that is a mere accusation- at least in the present day. Aoi never treated his fellow Futamihama teammates plays as a loose ball he had to fetch. It was his team giving him the ball to the best of their ability, and every time they did and he scored, it was a team goal, not something he did just his own.
And we see that when he reveals that despite the way he presents him as “the tactic” or “genius forward”, he isn’t actually talking out of his ass. Deep down he is actually an extremely intelligent player that is waiting to be taught properly in order polish that incredible potential. And if there’s one thing we can take away from this, is that in a sense, these type of players tend to be crazy ambitious, but it’s because of that drive is what gets them to where they desire to go. And Tatsuya is a perfect example of that with the way he got the chills when he came to terms that Aoi was no idiot. The kid actually has an insane grasp on the game.
Speaking of the devil, Fukuda Tatsuya happens to also be an incredibly intriguing character, especially given his reputable background as former midfielder who played for the Japanese national team as a, starter at the age of 20, primed by 23 and played in the best league in the world while he was in Spain. It wasn’t until he suffered a serious injury in the final game of the season that he retired not too long after. Now he is the manager and coach of the Tokyo City Esperion FC Youth, giving Aoi an opportunity of a lifetime that he cannot ignore.
But even though he received the offer, it isn’t as simple as imeaditely jumping at the opportunity without any further thought. His mother understandably has her reservations, not just for financial reasons, because even if they did have the money, she would still be worried about how he would cope with living in Tokyo on his own. He’s still young after-all. But his elder brother Shun who knows about Fukuda Tatsuya’s background understand just how significant of an offer this is, so he is giving him his hard earned money to at least have a shot at the try-outs, and said he would be the one to talk it through with their mom. SHUN YOU ARE THE BEST BIG BROTHER!
And seriously, can we just a moment of appreciation for awesome siblings for our sport shows this season? First Rika from Love all Play and now Shun! Man this makes me so happy to see them do whatever they can to support their sibling’s passion. When an life changing opportunity is presented to them, they don’t want them to miss out on it because someone doesn’t believe in them, or because they don’t have the financial means to do so.
Overall I thought this was an incredibly intriguing way to start the series. It’s been a long time coming since a soccer show has really reeled me in as much as this one to did. I am super excited to see what’s in store for Aoi’s journey to Tokyo City Esperion FC Youth. It is a far more competitively ambitious than your usual high-school teams tournaments. Instead we are looking at gathering together the best high school players and forming a team with them, aiming to step onto the World Stage, and I am very excited to see how this will unfold!
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