Ao Ashi – Episodes 2 & 3

Episode 2

TRYOUTS! TRYOUTS! It’s time for tryouts and I’m very excited to see what Aoi learns while in Tokyo. As much as I want to root for him, he’s definitely going to be the fish out of water among the other participants. Sure, he’s a bigshot from Ehime, but he’s playing with countless other hopefuls from all around the country.

I really appreciate that Aoi shows up and just continues to exude his love for playing soccer. It’s pretty clear that he wants to play soccer on the youth team, but it doesn’t seem like his world would come crashing down if he weren’t to make the team. Would it such? Yeah… but at least he and his friends back home can take their team to new heights. But if he were to make the trip all the way out to Tokyo only to be turned down, I hope he’s able to learn something good from it. (Although, knowing that he’s the main character, I have a feeling he’ll work his way onto the team somehow).

Shortly after arriving for the tryouts all the hopefuls are brought together for a little pep talk. Of course, that pep talk turns into a “We don’t have to pick any of you if we don’t want to.” Which naturally could come to the shock of the participants. If I were in their shoes, I’d also be pretty mad about the whole situation. But if I were the one recruiting for a very talented team, I can understand that perspective as well. I think the “We aren’t a soccer school” element was really key in making that explanation. They aren’t focused on building up the basics and turning them into pro players. They want players who are game ready. Honestly, I appreciated the breakdown that they gave us of how many players would be able to make into the Youth league. Plus, they even brought up those who moved on from the Junior Youth league. It really helped put into perspective just how competitive they are. And on that note! Fukuda didn’t hold back when he essentially told everyone who was trying out that they weren’t good enough to be scouted. He’s going to be fun in this series. 

To be honest, I don’t have a whole lot to say regarding the tryouts themselves. The first element was basic fitness and Aoi is just excited that the other participants seem to be fired up. But he’s also able to find Eisaku and slowly start a ‘friendship’ from there. And I like how they utilized Eisaku. They didn’t treat him like a big shot on the field. He had a temper and didn’t do anything particularly flashy, but by him being there he helped to establish the importance of team morale. It was noted that he was interacting with other participants and tended to be the only trying to build up the teamwork during the exhibition match. I hope he is pretty successful.

Speaking of that match, Aoi and Eisaku were put on a team that was pretty heavily stacked against. And it was nice to see everyone fall into their traditional roles on the field. Until about halfway through, no one had really considered that they were playing with strangers. They just wanted to be the showoffs themselves. Who can blame them? It’s tryouts after all. In addition to winning, you want to standout. So, you gotta overtake the other team and your own if you want a chance. And this is where people start to discount Aoi. He’s playing recklessly. He wants to score and he just wants people to pass the ball to him. Very much… not a team player. If it weren’t for Eisaku speaking some sense to him, I don’t think Aoi would have gotten his redemption near the end of the match. Though, to some of the coaches this redemption might have been too little too late.

But! I am not one of the coaches and I think his play was pretty good! Forcing all the players to leave their position in hopes to box him, while leaving their half of the field free? Good move! Good move! I hope he at least started to redeem himself. He’s both a smart and selfish player and that to me, is honestly what makes him so interesting. I don’t feel like he’s a one trick pony, but there is still so much to learn. I really hope that he is able to continue playing soccer with who he wants to.

And we’ll have to find that out next week! Only 11 of the 86 participants are able to move on to the next round. We already know a couple, including Eisaku, but Aoi is up in the air. I look forward to finding out how the remainder of tryouts playout!


Episode 3

YEAAAHHHH GOOD JOB AOI!! You made it to the next round of tryouts! And once again shoutout to Shun for being such a supportive big brother. I hope Aoi is able to make you proud!!

But, oh boy, this next round of the tryouts has really ramped up the difficulty. First it was just a general fitness test plus a match among the other candidates, but now they are going up against the youth team themselves. Right off the bat, that’s pretty stressful! Even though each and every one of the candidates that made it to the next round are pretty solid players themselves, they don’t have the same connection that the Youth team has with each other. They’ve only had maybe 30 minutes to see everyone’s play styles and even then, most of them probably weren’t paying attention because they were trying to make sure that the coaches saw them.

I’m actually pretty happy that Aoi tried to get the other 11 to come and just chat. It helped to set the stage for those who were a little bit more willing to be team players and those who are just focused on themselves. I really like moments like these because we get to hear thoughts from other players who are not our main character. As much as I enjoy Aoi’s perspective, seeing other motivations really helps with the world building. This time around we get to hear from Eisaku and the boy with button eyes (I’m sorry, I forgot his name). Even though they are just getting ready to graduate Middle School, they see this as their last chance to go pro. Now, at first, I was definitely like ???? HUH???? you still have 3 years to get scouted. But for many of them if they don’t make the team now, they will just enjoy their final 3 years of high school and then retire. It’s a nice comparison to Aoi who really just wants to have fun. Good for him and good for them. I hope they are all able to chase after what they want.

But let’s focus on the actual match… or who they are playing. So, they are playing the Youth team and I was genuinely surprised as to why everyone was surprised that they were playing that team. This is the tryouts to join them… it makes sense that they would want to see how everyone stacks up. But hey, it was probably a good idea to knock the overconfident down a couple of pegs with that move, right?

The Youth team doesn’t really seem all that impressive at the beginning of the game, but if I’ve learned anything from watching sports anime or sports in general is that you shouldn’t discount a team in the first half (unless of course they are getting absolutely demolished and would need a miracle to win). Sometimes they are just sizing up their opponent or they just happen to be a second half team… but in this case… everyone is just playing a position they’ve never played before. RIP candidates, finding out that information must have been a brutal blow to the ego. Very much, “Lol, you’re struggling now? This isn’t even them in their regular positions. And YOU think YOU’RE good enough to play with THEM??” I’m just glad that I’m not the one in the tryouts.

But the one thing that I have to say about entire match is just… Damn Akutsu… who hurt you. Seriously, from his comments to Aoi in the middle of the game about being surrounded by talentless people to straight up trying to break a rib…. I agree with Aoi, he doesn’t need to be a douchebag…. But it really does amp up the drama. I wonder how he will be in the future. Will he still be an ass to Aoi, or will the two of them learn to get along? I think I would be fine with either development. But genuinely… Akutsu, who hurt you.

I’m on the edge of my seat for the next episode! I hope Aoi can score! I hope the candidates all are able to play their best and that we can put Akutsu in his place. Let’s go Aoi!


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