I feel like this was both the longest and shortest episode yet. There were lots of conversations that happened and honestly, it’s amazing how much a team can change going into the second half. Heck! Even Musashino is feeling the pressure. Kaneda is no longer looking like the beast that he was at the beginning of this game. Sorry Kaneda, there’s more to soccer than just overpowering everyone and it’s about time that you learned that. As for Esperion, there’s still a lot of disagreements between the players, but it seems when you stop thinking solely about yourself, you start to see the many options you have for playing the game. 

One thing that really stood out to me this week, is the fact that no one ended up apologizing and there weren’t any resolutions to any previous disagreements. Instead, characters realized that they still need to work together in order to have a successful game and I think that’s not something you usually see in these scenarios. Usually, you have big fights that end with everyone realizing that they are all trying to accomplish the same thing and then everything is all good. Instead, Togashi, Kuroda, and Takeshima all fundamentally view soccer differently, but they all bring value to the table and one isn’t necessarily better than the other. 

And I have to give kudos to the episode for giving us a focus on Togashi. He’s a really interesting character who genuinely loves soccer but tends to be ostracized for various reasons. Hands down my favorite part is when Togashi is reminiscing about both Fukuda and Coach Nozomi. It starts out with him being very deliberate in only caring about Fukuda’s teaching and of course, ultimately being disappointed when he’s stuck with Nozomi, who, compared to Fukuda, is practically a nobody. And that view of Nozomi really bums me out, because over the full season I’ve grown to appreciate him a whole lot more! He’s still the stone-faced coach, but he’s the stone-faced coach that cares about his players and their growth. So, when Togashi begins to recollect what Nozomi has said to him, it feels really good to see him acknowledged. And to top it off, Nozomi is likely one of the first coaches Togashi has had that encourages his play style. Togashi is just seen as a brute and racks up the yellow cards; people are scared of him. But Nozomi? He doesn’t see anything inherently wrong with it. He knows that Togashi is almost being targeted but doesn’t actively discourage it. And ultimately, it feels really nice when you have someone on your side. 

But outside of Nozomi, Togashi also needs to understand how both Takeshima and Kuroda play. Takeshima is a defender through and through, he’s very good at understanding what people are doing around the goal and how to move appropriately to put the most pressure. Togashi is much more of a in the moment type defender. He’s aware of what’s going on, but his movements may not be as deliberate as Takeshima’s. On the other hand we have Kuroda, who by the way, shouts out to him for playing after sustaining that injury, whose every move is deliberate. Every move that he makes has a purpose, whereas other players may be a little more free flowing. Incorporating both of these styles can help Togashi (and honestly a handful of other players) greatly. And then of course Togashi. There are plenty of players in Esperion who can take down Kaneda, but I think Togashi is the right one for the job. It would probably hurt Kaneda more if Aoi was the one who did it, but Togashi’s rougher nature gives him enough to fight back. Let’s go Togashi!! Knock him down a peg!!

I feel a little bit bad about talking so much about Togashi in this post, but I really do think he was a primary focus. There was also some fun stuff with Aoi, but that mostly came in the form of conversations with Fukuda and Hana. They were good interactions, but I don’t have too much to say about them other than the fact that he got some more food for thought. I really like that Fukuda comments to Aoi to not have him be the end all for every play that he calls. Instead, it encourages him to take into account the full field and players. It’s good to want to keep scoring, but sometimes if you only focus on getting the score yourself, you lose a lot of opportunities. Not to mention Ohtomo, Kuroda, and Tachibana are currently the only ones who will directly listen to Aoi. I would say Asari as well, but he’s more of a conditional listener. But hey! He was there to help the team get the goal!

Can you believe we’re coming up on the final episode already? Ahh! This anime has been such a treat and I can’t wait to see how this match ends. Let’s go Ao Ashi, let’s finish this season strong!!


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