Every so often, Steph will write reviews of sports anime and manga. Why? She likes them and she thinks you should watch them, too. If you like sports, you’ll like these series.
I’m through the first twenty-six episodes of a one-hundred and twenty-seven episode series. It’s called Inazuma Eleven, and it was based on a video game series of the same name. Yes, it may be aimed at children, but that doesn’t mean that at age twenty-two I can’t enjoy it.
It is one of the cutest things I have ever seen in my entire life.
Basically, the premise is this: we follow young goalkeeper Mamoru Endou, grandson of famous keeper Daisuke Endou, as he puts together a ragtag team to enter the national middle school soccer tournament. He recruits players by running around his schoolyard and finding them when he doesn’t have enough, and over time more and more people begin enlisting, even his former rivals once they see his spirit. Oh, and everyone has special moves since this is a kids’ show. Some of the special moves are downright hilarious.
I’ve finished the first arc of this show, which takes the kids of Raimon Junior High through the Football Frontier, their national tournament. Thoughts abound after the jump.
SO. FREAKING. CUTE.
Seriously, I haven’t watched anything this adorable in a long time. The show’s all about teamwork and doing the right thing, which is, naturally, because it’s aimed at kids. But when you watch the way the characters interact, bond with each other, and grow as players and as people, you can’t help but be proud of them. They’re only in ninth grade, after all. Some are even younger. You end up wanting to adopt every single one of them because they’re just that cute.
Episodes 1-26 deal with the team’s initial building, as well as the discovery of the Big Bad of the series, Kageyama. For various reasons, he hates soccer and has set out to corrupt the game as much as he possibly can, first by controlling the team of Teikoku Academy. When this fails (and main character Kidou joins Raimon instead), Kageyama takes control of another team, Zeuz Junior High. (As one can imagine, they’re all named after Greek gods.) Endou and his teammates have to rise to the occasion and beat Kageyama by playing genuine soccer, showing everyone what the game is truly about – having fun.
Of course, can you really call it genuine soccer when there are moves like this in there?
(Okay, so that’s before Kidou – the one with the goggles and cape – joins Raimon, but you get the idea.)
The special moves are referred to in the series as hissatsu, which is actually a type of knife. In the series, it roughly means ‘killer technique.’ Basically, the point is that these moves were designed with victory in mind. If that’s the kind of anime you’re into, then this show is probably perfect for you (i.e. if you like both soccer and, say, Dragonball Z). For a kids’ show, the animation is actually pretty good, even though there’s a ton of recycled animation in here (see: every time someone uses their hissatsu). It’s strangely charming to watch middle school soccer players using insanely powered-up moves. There’s something that’s so laughable about it that you just keep watching.
Our main character, Endou, shares his voice with Naruto, but that’s easy to overlook. He sounds significantly less annoying than Naruto does. Endou’s never-say-die attitude is what keeps this team ticking, and although characters who are way too happen have a tendency to irritate people, Endou never gets annoying. He’s too cute to be annoying. The way he idolizes his grandfather – right down to wearing the same style of orange headband – is actually adorable. He’s a charming, likeable kid, and you don’t mind following him around as he recruits soccer players and inspires even his opponents by reminding them that soccer is supposed to be fun. Yes, that’s what most heroes in kids’ shows are like, but there’s something special about Endou that I can’t quite put my finger on. He’s somehow different. He stands out from those other typical shonen heroes to me, although that might be because he plays a sport and I always watch sports series. Either way, he’s memorable.
Why You Should Watch Inazuma Eleven: This is a character-driven series. It’s just so charming to watch because each character is unique in his or her own way. They’re all designed to be easily recognizable – it’s hard to confuse them because they all look so different. Diversity is a good thing. Are you paying attention, Sepp Blatter?
And let’s be honest, watching middle schoolers play soccer using special powers is freaking hilarious. It never stops being funny.
Where You Can Watch Inazuma Eleven: Although never picked up officially in the United States, the show has received a number of European dubs, including one in Great Britain. Endou’s English dub name is Mark Evans. Gouenji’s much more laughable dub name is Axel Blaze.
Personally, I’ve been watching it here, since I live in America. Just between you and me, I think the Japanese names are a little better than the English-language names. Okay, a lot better. Axel Blaze, pffft.
As soon as I finish the next arc, I’ll review it for your reading pleasure! Until then, see you soon!
Steph Diorio is an avid manga reader/anime watcher who uses cartoons to help her get by when it’s not baseball season. When it is baseball season, you can find her writing about the Orioles, the Red Sox, and Stanford University’s baseball team. You can follow her on Twitter at @1863_project.