Welp, it looks like after one game Aoi is still not feeling being a defender. He doesn’t quite understand what he needs to do and is still so focused on getting the ball. Old habits are hard to break, but perhaps this was just a good exercise in getting a wider perspective on the field. Given that this was just his first time on defense, I’d say this match went pretty okay! At least no one left the field extremely mad at him!
Overall, I felt that the first half of this episode was pretty predictable. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. We have Aoi playing a new position and not fully grasping the mental change that needs to occur to play such a different position. As a forward, his goals were to get the ball and score. But as a defender… well he hasn’t quite figured that out yet. He wants to go out onto the field, but gets scolded because he’s not aware of his other teammates. And I think that’s a really key thing to focus on. As much as he’s getting yelled at for making the wrong decisions, he needs to think about what is going on with everyone as a whole rather than just maintain the horse blinders for getting the ball. It’s going to take some getting used to, and Aoi isn’t patient so of course he is going to get frustrated.
I’m glad that Aoi at least participated in this game, even if he did find it boring. It shows that he’s at least trying no matter how frustrated he is. But I really do get where Takeshima is coming from when he comments on Aoi’s ability. From way back where he was standing, Aoi’s field awareness was incredible, but it does seem to not be available at all times. If you have a player that’s only good when he’s feeling it, then that becomes hard and unpredictable to work with. And of course, Aoi doesn’t really hear this comment, he’s just too busy repeating over and over again ” This is not where I ought to be… This is not where I ought to be…”. Sorry to say Aoi, but this is where you ought to be. Maybe you can’t be a forward, but you can make the defending position your own! And I hope you find that out soon! Especially before Akutsu’s words dig in too deep. (And speaking of Akutsu…. What did he mean by “You teams are not as strong mentally as High School teams?”… I really hope they explore that in future episodes.)
So, once the game is done, Aoi is left to sulk on a bench but receives some helpful hints from Takeshima. And as a side note, I find it hilarious how quickly Takeshima went to the top of Ohtomo’s ranking of guys he hates. Shout out to Jun for still being in the top three though. But, Takeshima talks to Aoi about his vision and just how Aoi looked from the back field position while he was still playing forward. Aoi’s ability is a mystery to everyone, even Aoi, but I like that someone directly calls him out on his lack of self-awareness. If Aoi could understand what is going on in the moments he makes the incredible plays, well that would certainly be to the teams advantage! And then of course there is the mention of Kuribayashi again. Another person suggests to Aoi that there is something that Aoi should work into his playstyle. Does Aoi know what it is? Not really. But! I really am looking forward to when the two of them are able to chat one on one and maybe swap strategies.
To be honest, the second half of the episode didn’t keep me as engaged as the first half of the episode, so I’m pretty certain that I missed some stuff from Anri’s thoughts on Aoi being a midfielder instead of a defender. She looks at soccer from an outsider’s standpoint. She has never played the game, but she does have quite the passion for it and even wants to become a manager of a team eventually. But as Yuma points out, soccer is a lot freer than Anri makes it out to be. That being said, I do think that Aoi could become a midfielder, especially if he becomes a playmaker like both Togashi and Yuma declare at the end of the episode. I just truly think he needs to spend time all around the field to understand what is going through everyone’s heads. The midfielders are thinking differently than the defenders who are thinking differently from the frontline. Despite them all working as a team, they all have different goals: Maintain the ball, prevent the other team from scoring, get ball in net. And how they all do that is very different. So in having Aoi 1) understand his special ability and 2) understand the unique perspectives of all the players on the field, he could be a scary good playmaker! A perfect piece for the team!
But we still have a long way to go. There is so much for Aoi to learn, and for him to be an expert before the end of the season seems very unlikely for me (but that means there’s hope for another season???). They really catch us with the next episode’s preview for the title, “Just like you” oh ho ho, that can be so many people! Fukuda, Kuribayshi, and heck! even Akutsu can be tossed into the mix. I’m looking forward to watching Ao Ashi next week!