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「エリアの騎士」 (Eria no Kishi)
“The Knight in the Area”

I knew as soon as the close-up of the traffic light appeared that it was all about to hit the fan…

I realize now that I’ve been comparing this series to the wrong Adachi story – it’s Touch that Area no Kishi resembles, not Cross Game. Since I consider both of them to be absolute classics – Touch more of a youthfully idealistic melodramatic fairy tale and Cross Game more of a bittersweet middle-aged reflection – any comparison is both high praise and a high bar either way. Touch was so popular that for a time, the two most popular boys’ names and most popular girls’ name in Japan were those of its three main characters. Area no Kishi deserves to be judged on its own merits, but the heart wants what it wants and I’ve been hungering for an anime that captured some of the magic and emotional depth of Adachi’s work. And while AnK is nowhere near as subtle as Touch, the similarities in tone and premise are certainly there – and so far, I’ve found the first two eps to be emotionally involving and quite rewarding.

To reiterate, I haven’t read the manga and won’t compare the anime to it, and I’ve insulated myself from spoilers (even Divine’s preview spoiler) as best I can, though being as I don’t live in a cave I knew something major was coming up. This episode was all about completing the buildup to that, though, giving us a taste of both Kakeru’s strength and weakness as a player and of the depth of his conflicted feelings towards his brother and the game they both love. It also gave us a longer introduction to a few teammates I suspect will be major supporting characters very soon based on the OP – mainly 2nd-year striker Nishijima Shigeo (Mizushima Takahiro) – the arrogant hothead being set up as Kakeru’s rival – and third-year defender Kunimatsu Hiromi (Suzuki Chihiro) – the calm stalwart who I suspect will emerge as the team leader in Suguru’s absence.

It also gave us a lot more of Nana, who at this point looks like something of a cross between Asakura Minami’s supportive kindness and Tsukishima Aoba’s frustrated athletic brilliance. Nana is a kind of platonic ideal childhood friend, beautiful and caring and interested in the same stuff Kakeru is interested in – it’s no wonder he “stared at sunsets and cried” after she moved to LA, at least according to good-hearted but nosy imouto Mito (Shindou Kei). I’m not sure yet why Nana is playing at being the manager for the boys team rather than starring on the girls team – if the sublime triumph of the Nadeshiko at the Women’s World Cup didn’t prove Japan cares about girls football, nothing will – but I’m more convinced than ever than the “grey alien” is her. She has the skills, she’s the right height (and I’m pretty sure I saw curvature) and the “heart” gesture makes perfect sense after her talk with Suguru. That talk was sadly overheard by Kakeru, and once again plays up both how (ironically) heartless Suguru can be and how deeply Kakeru cares about making Suguru proud.

In the wake of the events of the day prior, when “Mr. No Goal” Kakeru failed to convert any of Suguru’s technically brilliant but impossible passes and Kakeru revealed the reason he can’t use his left foot effectively (he inadvertently seriously injured a senpai) to the alien, Suguru has a dream that Kakeru will become the “Knight in the Area” – the one who will take his place at his side on the national team and convert all his brilliant orchestration into goals. But Kakeru has decided that enough is enough, and he’s ready to make a clean break from soccer. That’s when the “moment” happens – the world-changing event that happens in the first episode of CG and quite a bit later in Touch, and the one we all knew was coming. I knew the basic idea when I saw the walk signal close-up, and while I know the details were different in the manga I don’t much care, because it was plenty effective for my tastes.

That leaves us non-manga readers, of course, to wonder what happens next. I think there’s a good chance this will be a long-running anime and I know it’s a long-running manga, so as in those Adachi works the real story will surely come from the way the others react to the absence of the false main character taken from them. I’m assuming Suguru won’t make it of course, though that seems a safe bet. I also assume Kakeru will carry a lot of survivor’s guilt over what happened, though in reality he shouldn’t because he was totally blameless. I don’t know if Suguru’s charge that he didn’t have the heart to be a good striker was true, but surely this will provide Kakeru the motivation to finish what his brother started for the national team – though whether that means taking his place as #10, the playmaker, or (presumably, based on the title) remaining a striker I can’t say. We don’t seem to have any indication that Nana had feelings for Suguru and there’s seemingly no antagonism between she and Kakeru, so with no obvious obstacles to their romantic development I’ll be interested to see how that side of the story develops.

These two eps certainly weren’t perfect, but I can honestly say there was no bait-and-switch here – I feel as if I got exactly what I was expecting, a human drama with sports as the vehicle rather than a sports shounen that happens to include some character development. The execution was pretty solid, and I like both Kakeru and Nana a lot – I see the potential there for one of the more endearing present-day examples of that dying anime breed, the heterosexual couple. In a season that seems to be offering more throwback-type shows than any for quite a while, Area no Kishi is another timeless series that recalls themes that were once common in anime, but had mostly gone out of fashion.

 

Preview

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January 14, 2012 at 11:31 pm
28 comments »
  • January 15, 2012 at 1:39 amPandorakun

    Enjoyed the episode. I’m really looking forward to how the anime handle the up-coming drama, as the manga tended to be a tad insensitive in parts.

    Nakatsuka isn’t the third-year defender though. It’s Kunimatsu Hiromi. Nakatsuka is more of a comic-relief character.

    • January 15, 2012 at 11:08 amGuardian Enzo

      TY. I’m actually almost hoping it is a little insensitive – that sounds interesting.

  • January 15, 2012 at 2:16 amAlec

    Unfortunately, I got spoiled when I just happen to come across the premise. So no surprise to me there -_-

    This makes me want to watch Touch xD

    • January 15, 2012 at 12:10 pmXellos-_^

      you are better off watching/reading touch. A ripoff is still a ripoff now how it is package.

      • January 15, 2012 at 7:56 pmAlec

        I already watched twice 2-3 years ago though.

        But I realized something after reading half of the ongoing manga : Not just its very similar to Touch, it’s also very similar to H2 and Cross Game.

        There is no doubt in my mind that the creator was inspired by Mitsuru Adachi

      • January 17, 2012 at 3:29 pmshin

        touch h2 cross game are all very similar from the art to plot development

    • January 15, 2012 at 12:14 pmGuardian Enzo

      That’s like telling someone to stop reading Tad Williams because they should just go read Lord of the Rings. Tolkien is obviously the benchmark and any fantasy fan (or not) should read LotR, but anyone in the genre is going to “steal” from him – it’s unavoidable. Rather than dismiss Adachi’s successors I prefer to decide based on the merits of their writing. If this series is good enough I’ll stay with it, and it won’t bother me that Adachi’s influence is present.

    • January 18, 2012 at 11:50 amSsmash

      Is similar because it reflect the glorious time period of mangaka. All buy the same author btw =)

  • January 15, 2012 at 2:35 amLifeAspect

    feels like a cheap ripoff from touch in every way :x. Atleast Touch’s characters were interesting though.

    • January 15, 2012 at 2:47 amAlec

      Touch had many episode, including a few movie sequels to develop the characters.
      It is still 2 episodes.

  • January 15, 2012 at 3:28 amArc

    It Reminds me of… CRUUUUUUUUUUSH GEAR!!!

  • January 15, 2012 at 4:59 amHungryKoala

    Meh, I dont like how they changed the scene from the manga.

    Manga scene was a lot more brutal.

    • January 15, 2012 at 5:31 amAlec

      indeed it was. I just started marathoning the manga xD

    • January 15, 2012 at 7:23 amKentaiyoshimi

      I also liked the way the manga presented that scene. The one in the anime seemed kind of awkward and unnatural to me, whereas the manga scene flowed much better.

    • January 15, 2012 at 10:59 amNexitus

      Agreed, the manga felt a lot more original and sudden compared to how it was presented in the anime.

      I guess this is what we get for trying to streamline and appeal to wider audiences for the television market.

    • January 15, 2012 at 11:27 amGuardian Enzo

      I did read the manga chapter today, just for comparison’s sake – it’s not a spoiler if it’s already happened after all. I agree the way the scene is presented in the manga is somewhat more jarring, but TBH I’m surprised to see so many people as offended as they are by the change. I think the anime chose to go with a little more of a suspense approach – dropping small visual clues that something was coming, while the manga chose to give the characters a chance to react “on camera”. I can see liking the manga version better, but I don’t see it as a deal-breaker.

  • January 15, 2012 at 6:11 amBass.EXE

    I’m glad I kept away from spoilers, too, because up until that truck first appeared to veer, I was not expecting this at all. I thought things would be all happy go lucky and then boom, trucked.

    • January 15, 2012 at 4:51 pmFaye

      Pffft, same here. Maybe I’m naive, but that was totally unexpected. It was like Kimi ga Nozomu Eien all over again.

      After reading the comments about the anime vs. the manga, I had to find that part in the manga myself. I wish they would have actually showed what they did in the manga (as in the immediate aftermath), but other than that it didn’t make much of a difference except my “oh SHIT” became “OH SHIT!”.

      I love this screenshot though. It’s the perfect cross between ‘lol derp’ and ‘OH FUUU-‘.

  • January 15, 2012 at 7:15 amanim3spy

    Sorry to disappoint you but after reading the manga in my opinion It’s not a human drama with sports as the vehicle but it’s a sports shounen that happens to include some character development.

  • January 15, 2012 at 9:45 ambanzemanga

    “These two eps certainly weren’t perfect”. I agree with you Guardian. There were awkward moments here and there which got me to read the manga. They left out some small critical moments which lead to more reasonable and emotional moments.

  • January 15, 2012 at 3:15 pmjames

    I freaking LOL’d when suguru just freaking stopped in the middle of the field and the other guy was thinking “left or right” for like 5 seconds. I know it’s an anime, but as a guy that actually plays (sorry, played) soccer, a lot of the sports side of the anime is laughable. I kind of wish they wouldn’t try to explain everything on the field and just let us observe it on our own. The only thing that I’m really interested in is the character dynamics.

    • January 15, 2012 at 3:20 pmjames

      oh and another thing…how did they not hear the truck behind them crashing into the metal barriers? I guess the conversation was just that deep…

  • January 15, 2012 at 6:34 pmrufe

    It bothered me when they did this in Touch as well. It’s a convenient way to setup the protagonists future, but in real life people have to choose for themselves if they’ll pursue something seriously, give up, or make it a casual hobby. For example, Tatsuya was striving to be an athlete, but was specifically running away from baseball. In this case…soccer….

    I suppose there’s nothing wrong with ripping off Touch, but Touch’s fame makes it pretty obvious.

    Having said that, it looks like it could be a good series. I was pretty impressed with the acting except the main character sounds pretty feminine. There are other women who are better at sounding like boys, I think.

  • January 16, 2012 at 8:40 amXRick

    “HOLY COW!!!” is how I’ve just felt at watching the scene on the manga, despite feeling myself warned by what people was saying here…
    They most likely decided to make the scene more suspenceful and family-friend in the anime, nowadays they make this kind of changes alot…
    Maybe in the BDs they get the full scene intact… Who knows…

  • January 16, 2012 at 8:43 amSinsI

    They are making some weird changes to the original.
    When I saw the older brother looking at younger brother near the bike with the flat tire, I thought he was going to carry him on his back seat, so http://randomc.net/image/Area%20no%20Kishi/Area%20no%20Kishi%20-%2002%20-%20Large%2027.jpg was a real WTF.

    (And after looking through the manga it turned out my first hunch was the author’s choice).

  • January 17, 2012 at 3:35 pmshin

    Felt the accident came off as slightly unnatural. I think this series has most of the elements of a good sports series, so I think ill overlook this rather artificial development and see how it progresses from here.

  • January 17, 2012 at 10:20 pmThe Story You Don’t Know

    Somehow I like how things happened in the manga, starting with how they both rode the same bicycle. It gave out the feeling how really close they are. And that one page in the manga Show Spoiler ▼

    was more dramatic and shocking.

  • January 18, 2012 at 1:46 pmChaos

    I don’t think he died. It would be counter-productive seeing that he and his younger brother are the main characters in the series. My best bet is that he was seriously injured and unable to play for the remainder of the season. Or become paralyze. Thus his brother must take his place. Killing him off would be too much.

    However, when you watch the opening near the end when they show a wave of players who were on the team just before they all jump in the beach, his older brother wasn’t in it. So it’s a 50/50.