The match against Nagoya Gran Pulse sure is going the distance in terms of being animated, with this week only covering the middle portion of it. After all the defending that ETU’s been doing, Nagoya actually manages to get some good scoring chances until Tsubaki comes out of nowhere to be a shot-blocking defensive hero. Not once, not twice, but three times does he shut down the opposition’s Brazilian superstar trio and their backdoor option Itasaki. Despite his clutch plays on all three accounts, I do have to agree with Matsubara that it does look like ETU’s being driven into a corner with little to no opportunities to win the game. Subsequently, that thought turned out to be a pretty hilarious moment when Tatsumi reiterated that fact like it’s a good thing, prompting Macchan to criticize him for rooting for the wrong team. I may have been sleep deprived and slightly delirious when I saw that scene, but I couldn’t stop laughing at it.
Actually, I found this episode quite amusing on a few occasions, such as when Kuroda spouted out his life story about how he studied a Columbian player named Domingo inside and out when he was unable to read his style of play and stop his offensive rushes. Ishihama and Kiyowaka’s reactions to getting more than they bargained for about asking about how he’s able to shut down Itazaki so effectively was priceless, which put a nice comedic twist on things before Kuroda went on to explain how Itagaki mimicks Domingo’s style yet is noticeably inferior at it. Similarly, Pepe praising Tsubaki for his blocked shots led to a pretty nice and confused reaction from ETU’s rookie and showed that the Brazilians aren’t as bad as Fuwa and Itazaki have been made out to be. They’ve been shown to be easygoing to the point that Fuwa even has problems handling them, so I’ve never really looked upon them as characters that are intended to be disliked.
As for the flow of the game, I’m curious as to what Tatsumi actually has planned for the second half after giving no further instructions during half-time. It seems like whatever strategy he’s come up with from the very beginning is still going accordingly, suggesting that their priority is shutting down Nagoya’s offense and counterattacking on Itazaki’s side when the opportunity presents itself. At the same time, he’s allowed Murakoshi and Sugie to better their play against Zelbert and Pepe respectively, while Tsubaki continues to impress everyone with his speed. I’m still a bit confused by the end where Tsubaki starting seeing the field completely differently, as I’m not sure if it’s due to getting hit in the head earlier, receiving new-found support from the ETU fans, or simply being in the zone where everything looks like it’s happening in slow-motion from his perspective. I’m leaning towards the last possibility, but I’ll have to see how things play out in the remainder of the match. I’m still hoping to see a game-winning goal from Tsubaki at some point and this game would be perfect for that in the team’s first giant killing.
* According to his jersey, “Zelbert” is the correct spelling of his name as far as this series is concerned, so I’ve decided to go with that.