The match between East Tokyo United and Tokyo Victory is on and it’s a good one as we get a taste of Tatsumi’s giant killing abilities. To that end, we’re also introduced to one of the star players on the opposing team, Mochida (Kanna Nobutoshi). You can’t have good drama without unique antagonists in a series, and Mochida fills that role perfectly by using underhanded tactics against Tsubaki (Mizushima Takahiro) to try and throw ETU’s up-and-coming rookie off his game. As a result of that, we got a good glimpse of some character development for Tsubaki, who has a lot more talent than he lets off most of the time due to how he buckles under pressure. In case you aren’t aware already, Tsubaki is one of the main protagonist in this series, so it’s nice to see the story’s focus shift to him relatively early on.
At the same time, I felt it was a good moment for Tatsumi’s exceptional managerial/coaching abilities to shine as he gave Tsubaki the encouragement he needed to surmount the mental hurdle that’s been holding him back. It may sound weird, but scenes like that always have a tendency to catch me emotionally off-guard. It’s likely due to the fact that I, much like everyone else, have been in a depressed or discouraged state of mind before and didn’t have the luxury of someone being there to help pick us back up when needed. Even when there is someone there, it’s rare for that person to be able to state things in such a way without any sugarcoating so that they actually sink in, much like they did in Tsubaki’s case. Following the revelation of his desire to change and improve as a player, I was moved by Tsubaki’s determination when Mochida tried to blatantly trip him yet fail to do so. The music during those slow motion scenes were simply awesome in bringing out his newly-found resolve, especially with the way Tatsumi’s words resounded in his mind. I seriously felt like I was on the verge of some manly tears there. It was simply bone-chilling.
To help balance the hard-working type seen in Tsubaki, Gino was utterly awesome at teasing Mikumo, the opposition player who was assigned to mark him the entire game. ETU’s newly appointed captain’s words came off as more arrogance than anything else, but I felt there was a subtle psychological effect he was going for as well. Whether or not this was part of Tatsumi’s instructions I don’t know, but it’s hard to deny how well it worked out when Mikumo turned his attention towards Tsubaki’s breakthrough attempts up center-field, freeing up Gino exactly like they wanted. Having ETU score the first goal sure gave the impression that this was going to be another giant killing in the bag, but as I mentioned before, things aren’t a shoo-in even with Tatsumi’s at the helm. He’s ridiculously smart when it comes to devising strategies, but he’s still no miracle worker by any means.
As such, I just love the drama that was added when Mochida’s revealed to Tsubaki that the soccer world can be pretty cruel, before taking a dive to be awarded a free kick and use it to score a goal for Tokyo Victory in response. You’d think I’d hate Mochida’s character because of that, but it’s in fact the opposite as he clearly holds respect for Tatsumi yet does what’s within his abilities to win the game. It’s a back and forth mind game as much as it is a soccer match when it comes to this series, so it’ll be interesting to see what Tatsumi has planned for the second half. I get the feeling that ETU will still lose the match, but if they’re able to turn some heads and prove to the crowd that this is a newly rejuvenated team with a serious chance of winning, then their effort will not have been for naught.