Posted on 25 July 2010 with categories: Giant Killing

One of the best episodes of Giant Killing so far. Everything worked so well here, and on top of that we finally got to hear some new tracks from the OST. This episode really did an amazing job in heating up the tensions between the three forwards of the ETU.

I love how they all have their own issues here. Sakai is old and past his prime, but nevertheless a veteran. Sera meanwhile has his speed to back him up, which landed him as a solid forward and a place on the team’s starters. Natsuki on the other hand can make some amazing goals, but he’s also a nutcase, and the creators have been hinting for quite a bit now at how his talent may have some unexpected drawbacks.

It’s great to see that now we finally got to see Sakai’s version of the story. His age here definitely gives a new dimension to this story, because at this point I really feel like all three of them deserve the position as forward, and aside from Natsuki’s personality, it’s not like any of them are extremes on the team: they’re all solid attackers who may not be able to score much, but Sera and Sakai have both shown that they can keep pressure forward. Natsuki in the meantime is nowhere as extreme as Tsubaki.

One of those tiny scenes I also loved was the one in which Natsuki looked at his wife with that endless optimism of his. Even though his daughter fell asleep, he still kept going with those inner monologues of him. This episode had surprisingly little attention to the supporters, but they were definitely all there, along with two new people who joined the group of older fans.

Part of what made this episode also so awesome was the background music. Interestingly, the creators had some Latin-inspired tunes, and instead of using it with the Brazilians in the previous arc, they chose for something much less stereotypical in making it symbolize Natsuki’s inner euphoria. My favourite part however was the tune that was played, just after the first goal was made, and everyone was making their counter-attack. It’s because of that tune that the goal afterwards came out of bloody nowhere. I also loved Tatsumi’s face when that goal was made: it was the face of dread, as he feared that Natsuki would get even more confident than he already was.
Rating: *** (Awesome)

Posted on 18 July 2010 with categories: Giant Killing

It’s interesting to see how many things this series is doing at the same time. I mean, every episode has its main focus, in this case Sera, but at the same time it really takes every chance it gets in order to flesh out its other characters a bit as well. I mean, we have Sera here who is worrying about his position in the team, but at the same time: he isn’t the worst player in the team. His attacks may not have been scores, but he actually kept quite a bit of pressure on the opposing defences, which allowed Murakoshi to score, which at the same time showed that he had very much learned from Tatsumi, back at the start of the series.

Also, while Sera is currently fearing Natsuki to kick him out of the team, Natsuki isn’t the least bit worried about Sera, but rather only has eye for Tatsumi, wanting recognition. In the meantime, this episode kept dropping hints that Sera’s stand-in, Sakai also has his own issues. So, if I got this right, then we have Sakai who has issues with Sera but is being ignored, Sera has issues with Natsuki but is being ignored, while Natsuki is having issues with Tatsumi while he’s (largely) being ignored.That’s quite elaborate, considering that this episode also succeeded in throwing in some tactics, making every team different with minute details and how past plays affected their strategy, while it at the same time didn’t forget the fans and the press, which also got their moments in this episodes beyond mere cameos.

Also, Sera’s injury. Seriously, I don’t know anymore. This is the third time now that this series has made a big deal of an injury that afterwards didn’t turn out to be anything major. They’re definitely building up to something with that, but I think that episode sixteen is still a bit too early to start using this trump…

Speaking of which, can some manga-readers confirm how far we’re into the manga right now? As in, how many volumes does it have, and does this series look to be on schedule?
Rating: ** (Excellent)

Posted on 11 July 2010 with categories: Giant Killing

Haha, a new character! The creators really picked the perfect guy to stir up a little tension here and there, PLUS, they also finally explained exactly why things have been going so awful for the ETU during the past season. On top of that, the character himself also is quite a character to watch. That’s three flies with one hit.

Natsuki is just hilarious, and this episode made it really believable that the team rather lost its touch after this hunk of energy left due to his injuries. Murakoshi may be a good captain, but he lacks the energy to really inspire the rest of his team, like what Natsuki and Tatsumi did. Gino also is a good scorer, but he’s way too lazy to really be a reliable backbone for a team.

It’s also interesting how this episode addressed the issue of the soccer club’s habit of buying other players, and how at times it can completely backfire. A player may be very talented, but there’s a lot of danger in him, burning out if he can’t find his place within the team. The guys at Sapporo handled this well: there was tension in the team, but those three Brazilians fit in well with the others, along with pushing the rest of the team to their limits.

In any case, I also love how this episode focused on yet another one of the players who hasn’t gotten much attention yet: the forward, Sera. With a lot of players showing their best sides right now, and Natsuki suddenly coming back, he needs to think a lot about himself if he doesn’t plan to just give away his position.
Rating: ** (Excellent)

Oh, and this series surely has nice timing, airing on the day of the world cup finals. Seriously, it really is crazy outside right now. You see fans dressed in orange everywhere. Good luck to the Dutch team. And the Spanish too, of course. ^^;

Posted on 4 July 2010 with categories: Giant Killing

This is just one of those series that can be awesome, even in episodes without any action. This was all meant to be an intermezzo, but it still was an excellent watch, and really gave some extra depth to the people it featured.

Most of all, this episode was about the older fans, trying to re-find their nostalgia, and Yuri’s work addiction. It was quite adorable to see those older fans, trying to get their friends from the past interested in football again, even though most of them have grown out of it. The sheer passion they have in this really is addictive, and it really shows that this series is as much about the players as it is about the fans.

Meanwhile, Yuri got some development as she realized how early office workers are finished with work. She’s surrounded in such a masculine environment. Her overworking to the point of getting no sleep was handled subtly, but the rest of this series also has a ton of even more subtle characterizations. I loved in this episode that we got to actually see Kuroda’s fans. They were… peculiar. Another thing I love is that Tatsumi really is someone who’s trying to look cool. And yet, when a goal is made, he screams just as wildly as anyone else around him.

Out of all the series that are currently airing, this now is my favourite, now that Sarai-ya Goyou, Yojou-han and Full Metal Alchemist have ended. While those were all full of production values, this one really shows that even on a small budget you can be very detailed in your storytelling. This series is really full of life, but in a completely different way from the three above mentioned. The first half already was amazing, but I’m very interested to see whether it can surpass itself in the second half.
Rating: ** (Excellent)

Posted on 27 June 2010 with categories: Giant Killing

Yeah, so the result of the match was predictable. But like always with this series, it’s everything around it that made it memorable. The euphoria, the different reactions of everyone,. That made this really into a colourful episode. It’s really refreshing to see another sports series in which it doesn’t mean the end of the world if you lose: in this series, what matters is the long run.

It seemed like everyone had a different way to interpret the match: Murakoshi was simply glad to have another win again. The fans on the other hand were ecstatic that they finally won again, while that one fan of Tsubaki in particular got his old passion back. That Japanese forward meanwhile was immediately thinking how he destroyed himself during that match. The Nagoya coach was more looking into the future (which really fits his professional outlook), while Tsubaki was already seeing more and more opportunities to break through his defence. The football is one thing, but what really makes this series memorable is how it brings all of these different characters together.

Also, I like how the creators handled Tsubaki: he’s really meant to be this future talent who is still very rough around the edges, but yet he’s far from your average shounen hero. He’s really still a rookie and this series knows it. He has the ability to pull these crazy stunts, but that’s all exactly because he just loses himself in his soccer. This episode also stressed very much that football is a team sport by letting Gino score. Also, I loved the way he was at a loss for words when those Brazilians came up to him, and had to answer that interview.
Rating: ** (Excellent)

Posted on 20 June 2010 with categories: Giant Killing

I think that the only criticism I can give on the way that the anime creators adapted this manga (from the perspective of someone who hasn’t read it, of course) is the recap at the start of this episode. They’re getting longer and longer now, and this episode just went a bit too far with THREE MINUTES of recap. But then again, it could also just be a way to kill time. Just about everything here was very well planned out, and you can see that a lot of thought went into it. My guess is that when this arc was planned out, it didn’t fit into a full amount of episodes, so who knows whether, instead of dragging the individual scenes on, the creators just put a number of recap minutes at the beginning of each episode.

In any case, I now very much understand why the creators took so much time for the match against Nagoya, even though the rest of the pacing was so much faster. Due to the predictability of this match, they really NEEDED to take their full time to get their point across. And I must say that they handled it very cleverly: all of the previous episodes, while hinting at how this would be the turning point, also kept suggesting that Tatsumi was going for a draw here. Only at the last possible moment did he reveal his strategy, and Tsubaki indeed lived up to his promise by scoring in his signature way.

But even then that doesn’t mean that they won, due to that cliff-hanger: the episode ends with the former star player, dead-set on returning the favour. We here have a guy who is dead set on scoring a goal, which is also a thing that the creators have been building up through the past number of episodes: it’s still nowhere near certain that this will indeed be the ETU’s first win. This effect would entirely have been lost if the match was just played within one episode.

Another upside of this is that we get a lot of insight about the Brazilians here. They’re nowhere near the stereotypes that they were when they first were introduced, they really are formidable and have a lot of insight into the game. What’s also interesting is that this doesn’t even show them at their best: we never really get to see Carlos, the best of the three, shine, because Tatsumi is consciously avoiding him. Most other sports series would have gone for the entire opposite: draw out some sort of confrontation with the most skilled player at the center of the conflict.
Rating: *** (Awesome)

Posted on 13 June 2010 with categories: Giant Killing

Whoa, with the usual fast pace of this series, this match suddenly slowed down the pacing a lot, to give a great feel of the match. And even then it’s not even certain that this will deliver Tatsumi’s first win:the best they can do is 0-0 with such a set-up in which everyone defends. You would expect Tatsumi to suddenly change strategy as soon as the second half starts, but even that is no possibility here. It might just be that this match is just another part of the chain that will lead the ETU to victory, and that this is just a match meant to solidify the team’s defence.

It’s also great to see that the opponents here know what they’re doing. They’re not just very powerful, but also use their head in their tactics. The weak link is just that they don’t know that Kuroda devoted a section of his life to one particular player. It’s interesting how that coach didn’t notice that, even though Tatsumi did; it’s probably out of cockiness. He kept talking about professionalism, and how he desires such a team, but at the same time he feels like a coach whose head is a bit too much in the clouds.

The photographers were also a nice addition, it’s part of what makes this show so addictive. They don’t just show a bunch of photographers to the side, they also give them a bit of depth by talking about their profession.

Also, what was up with Tsubaki at the end? Was last episode’s cliff-hanger just a sneaky red herring or something? This could prove to be interesting, considering how Sera collapsing only turned out to be a minor deal (I really thought that that guy would be so badly hurt that he would at least not be able to walk straight for the duration of this match).
Rating: ** (Excellent)

Posted on 6 June 2010 with categories: Giant Killing

As this series is very fast-paced for a sports series (I mean, it’s been ten episodes and we’ve already seen what? Six matches?), I’m actually very surprised at how colourful the creators still made the enemy teams. This time with the Brazilians as well: it’s not like these guys are rounded characters, but their roles in their own team were really well explored in this match, in between the action of the football match.

I at first thought that this episode was entirely going to be about trying to stop that threesome, but that turned just to be one part of the story. A lot of focus also went in the original ace of that team, whose ego is suffering pretty badly now that he’s not in the spotlights anymore, even though the coach may still see him as a key to winning this thing. The playful portrayal contrasting with those grudges was just enough to make all of then dynamic and interesting to watch.

As for the main cast, as this was the longest match in this series so far, I love how it involved all of the major characters here, whether they did well (the defenders) or whether they just couldn’t get through (the attackers, note how Tsubaki just couldn’t get his attack right). Tatsumi may just keep bragging that this will be the match that will turn the tide, and the time indeed seems about right for them to start winning a bit, but the creators still portrayed this episode as a struggle to keep those Brazilians at bay.
Rating: ** (Excellent)

Posted on 30 May 2010 with categories: Giant Killing

So we’ve already had English, Dutch and French, and now this episode also throws in a bunch of Brazilians. Awesome. Their portrayal is a tad stereotypical, but they did well in contrasting with the rather uptight Japanese players. And who knows, something’s telling me that the next episode will add a lot more colour to them. One of the reasons this show is so awesome is because of its huge and incredibly diverse cast, and with this episode it became even more diverse.

This episode had no soccer matches, but for a series like this that’s no problem at all: it again showed that this isn’t just a series about football, it’s a show about everything that involves football, from the players to the fast to the press and the coaches and all of the other staff members behind a team who all have their own functions. With so many details, I can more than forgive the few unrealistic parts about the soccer.

The cast really is huge, probably the largest of the entire season, but nearly all of the characters here stand as individuals. Take the supporters for example: you have the loyal fans, then there are the fans with the most status who rally everyone on to cheer as hard as possible, and then there also are the older fans who long for the nostalgia of the old Tatsumi.

I also loved Tatsumi in this episode, you can really see that he knows that he’s not going to win easily, and even he has to motivate himself a bit after such a losing streak of five matches. I think that for a lot of people, they’re into a test of endurance: how long can they keep up with the team’s abysmal performance? How long will it be before Tatsumi will live up to his name and brings a victory to the team? Seriously, out of all of the sports series I have seen so far, this one feels by far the most unique.
Rating: ** (Excellent)

Posted on 24 May 2010 with categories: Giant Killing

I guess it’s true that Giant Killing has a lot of shounen elements, although as a genre, I’d probably classify it as somewhere in between Shounen and Seinen: there’s not one genre that this series completely fits into (other than ‘sports’, perhaps). It’s of course a matter of tastes, but to me that in itself isn’t something bad. In fact, I’m glad to be able to watch such a good shounen series again. The key to a good shounen for me is to make it fun and whatever action it focuses on interesting, alongside the usual stuff as great characters and pacing.

Giant Killing brings us a very interesting twist on the ‘underdog’ trope. What we have here isn’t the usual story of a team of losers trying to become stronger and winning. It’s more like this series is about healing a broken team. The problem with the team was that it was unbalanced: it focused too much on defence and it wasn’t aggressive enough. The keys here were the two defenders and Murakoshi, who kept putting pressure on each other, so much that they didn’t allow each other to escape this visual circle. Tatsumi then came and divided the problem. Tsubaki turns out to just be a red herring: his backstory is nice, and with more experience he’s really going to make it big, however he wasn’t vital to the team’s survival.

On top of that, I just love the small details that the creators keep inserting. Take a look at the street and the people in the background: it doesn’t just feel like random people standing or walking past, but it’s drawn in such a way that it feels alive. It’s a shame that the creators had to use CG for that, but it really works. Also, in most anime when a character does something outrageous or weird in front of a bunch of strangers, you usually see these strangers just look, or utter a few “oohs” or “eeehs”. The guy on the bike went even further, though, with his brisk reaction to a guy who suddenly starts yelling out of nowhere. Also, is it me or are the stands getting emptier with every match here? They used to be full, however with the losing streak of the team continuing you can actually see less and less people showing up.

One thing I also loved was the moment at which the penalty was taken. The opposing player noted that he used to work together with Dori. Nothing more, but that line was enough to give both him and Dori a much more interesting character, by showing that they’ve done plenty of other stuff in their lives. A great way to flesh them out.
Rating: ** (Excellent)

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