With ETU down two goals after half time and only instructed by Tatsumi to stick to the original plan and enjoy the game, a miraculous comeback now is bordering on fairy tale-like levels. I would have preferred it if Tatsumi gave the team some sort of encouragement instead, even if it was just a simple, “things aren’t going exactly as we expected, but we’ll pull through if we stick to our game plan.” However, what I can appreciate about his excitement about being down by two is that it’s very Tatsumi-like. Part of the appeal of his character is that he’s really difficult to read, yet produces results that no one — especially not ETU’s players — can ignore. Much like Kuroda, everyone’s often left puzzled or frustrated about their coach’s seemingly unwarranted confidence, but then there are guys like Gino who will try to comprehend his so-called “method to the madness”. As such, I’m able to accept the fact that is the trend of the series, rather than just some wishful depiction of an underdog story that rests upon cliches.
Admittedly, it sure did feel like the latter case in the locker room scene though. Tensions were flaring and the team was in disarray with Kuroda calling out Sugie for not doing his job of shutting down Kubota. Somehow, we were expected to believe that was all calmed down by Tatsumi coming in with a ball boy’s opinion that this game would be really interesting if ETU came back to win it, which wasn’t happening in my eyes. My view changed when the second half actually got underway with Sugie stepping up his game and catching Kubota by surprise, and Kuroda showing confidence that he can get under Hauer’s skin, as I could sort of buy what Tatsumi had in mind in light of those visible improvements. His explanation of how ETU’s players had to change their mindset to one that believes they can win due to their play in the first half helped greatly in that regard too. What’s more, Gino taking the game much more seriously and coming back to support the defense gave glimpses of how he’ll be a pivotal part of this match like he should be. All that’s left now is for Natsuki to make good on the passes that are finally clicking and not upset Gino by wasting his efforts.
Given how this episode concluded, the change of focus to ETU’s forwards will hopefully translate to a momentum swing in their favor next time (i.e. goals). The individual games within a game as far as the players are concerned is what’s making this match interesting from my perspective, so I’m hoping we’ll see more of Akasaki, Sera, and Tsubaki’s mindsets. Interestingly enough, there’s been quite a stir-up in crowd between old school fans and the current United Skulls led by Hata as well. I honestly don’t care too much about that aspect of the story, but do feel it provides some depth. For now, my eyes are fixated on what’s happening on the field though, with anything happening outside just being background developments.