It almost pains me to have to refer to this as my last post on GIANT KILLING, because this is only the start of much more awesome things to come for ETU. Unfortunately, none of it will be animated, at least not anytime in the immediate future. What did surprise me about this finale though was that it entailed much more than the curry party the preview from last time had me believe. Not only did it include scenes from various matches that ETU had, but also showed them riding the momentum from their huge upset win against Osaka. In the midst of their three game winning streak, it was nice to see Natsuki finally score a goal as well. It’s probably worth noting that he was still struggling with putting key scoring chances away, but at least this served as a sign that things were headed in the right direction for him. ETU wasn’t shown to be completely invincible however, as the loss of Kuroda due to a one-game suspension and Akasaki to the under-23 Olympic national team resulted in a scoreless tie. However, that didn’t take away from the fact that ETU finally had some sort of national level representative, who went on to help win the game against Hong Kong.
With ETU making it through the Japan Cup preliminaries and into the top eight for the first time in three years, the little bit of drama from Gino asking for a maintenance day off in their next match made me wish I’d get to see what Tatsumi had planned for their match against Kawasaki without his star playmaker. From that, the door was already left open for the next episode, before the episode drifted off to a curry party team-building type of event that Tatsumi decided on a whim. Of course, no one saw it that way with how he dragged everyone into helping instead of practicing like they were supposed to — particularly not Kuroda for having to hand out fliers. Regardless, it did change the mood into a more lighthearted one and gave off a sense of a well-deserved rest for the team, and gave us a glimpse back to the very start of the series with a bit of reminiscing between Tatsumi and Gotou. The latter almost gave off a sense that they’ve accomplished what they were both after, but the change of gears back to a focused and recharged team ready to finish the second half of the season strong sure showed otherwise. Season two please?
I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve never really been into sports anime; however, there really isn’t any particular reason for that other than a tendency to overlook them. Quite frankly, I probably would have done the same with GIANT KILLING, had I not taken the time to find out for myself if it’s a series I would enjoy. When I was in the process of writing the Spring 2010 Preview, that fairly ignorant outlook on the genre was quickly turned around when I started reading through a bit of the manga and found that I couldn’t put it down until I finished the entire first volume. There was something extremely captivating about the underdog story it portrayed, where a soccer team in a slump was banking its future on a former star player of theirs who had left for England and started coaching amateur clubs to “giant killing” results. Without any understanding of exactly what Tatsumi’s strategies entailed or how he was able to pull off the huge upsets he did with the players that he had, there was also a mysterious aspect to his character that kept me reading so that I could find out. It didn’t take long for me to become a believer in Tatsumi’s ability to think outside the box either, as I was immediately hooked when he took a bunch of ETU benchwarmers and upset the starters in a scrimmage. The best part of it all was that Tatsumi never seems to exude seriousness or any sort of authority, yet produces undeniable results that no one — not even the hot shot teams in the Japan Football League — can even ignore.
Upon getting into the anime, I was always looking forward to seeing what new and interesting strategies Tatsumi would come up with, but also found myself taken in by all the character development in the players as well. The initial tension between Tatsumi and Murakoshi gave a good taste of some of the people problems that would be encountered in the series, with Tsubaki’s subsequent arc showing just how much depth there are to some of the characters. On the field, this translates into all the internal thoughts running through the players minds, which coupled with the slow motion action, really helps bring out the suspense and excitement in the series. Some of the close matches and timely goals even gave me goosebumps with how awesome they were portrayed, plus brought out a sense of jubilation that I would have never expected to get from a sports anime. It was that intense at times, particularly on the matches that spanned several episodes, and is one thing that I will sorely miss having on a weekly basis. I never once enjoyed having to wait an entire week to see a game play out, but the series almost always made the tease worth the wait. In terms of testosterone-filled, adrenaline-pumping rushes, this series provides that and much more.
With only half the season covered in this 26-episode adaptation and ETU making it through the Japan Cup preliminaries and making the top eight for first time in three years, it goes without saying that I’d love to see a continuation produced so that I can see these boys go all the way. The victory over Osaka Gunners was a defining point that showed how far the team’s come along, and this finale went on to reiterate that their hard work continues to pay off, but I’m still left wanting more. Be that as it may, I don’t think I could ask for anything more from an adaptation. It was an awesome ride through and through, ended on a high note, and left me looking forward to more of the story. The production quality by Studio DEEN wasn’t anything to write home about — as is usually the case with educational-like series airing on NHK — but it wasn’t even close to being poor enough to take away from the series in any way, shape, or form. Given all of the above, I’d recommend this series to any viewer who can enjoy watching or playing sports, regardless of whether or not they’re into sports anime or even soccer in particular. If the mere thought of an underdog story piques your interest, you can’t do yourself any wrong by checking out GIANT KILLING. Give it a chance and you’ll likely be glad you did.