OP Sequence

OP: 「ハイヤーグラウンド」 (Higher Ground) by S.R.S.
Watch the OP!: Streaming ▼

「僕はサッカーが好きです」 (Boku wa Sakkaa ga Suki Desu)
“I Like Soccer”

I’ve been pretty damn happy with my last two sleeper picks, Kamisama Dolls and Chihayafuru. So how does Winter’s candidate fare?

There are an awful lot of reasons to hope Area no Kishi might be something special. The manga is extremely well-regarded, penned by much-honored screenwriter, novelist and mangaka Kibayashi Shin (writing as Igano Hiroaki). The manga is oft-compared to Adachi Mitsuru and, more specifically, to Adachi’s Cross Game. If you know me at all, you know that I consider that hallowed ground indeed. While there’s always the danger of a manga being a pale imitation, in the realm of emotionally-charged sports shounen it’s almost impossible not to be influenced by Adachi-sensei – in much the same way any modern epic fantasy can rightly be said to have elements of Tolkien. In short, Adachi is the mark they all shoot for, with varying success.

At first glance, it’s impossible not to see the ghost of Cross Game in Area no Kishi. It shares the same plain but realistic character designs, the same muted pastel color scheme. The animation is solid and unspectacular, and there are echoes of extremely close childhood bonds torn asunder by the time of adolescence and a traumatic event that shaped the lives of all the main characters. To that point no, I don’t know what the big reveal is here – CG got it out of the way in the first episode but AnK only teased it. Frankly, I’d rather not know – I’m happy to find out when I find out.

What we have for certain is a second-year middle schooler, Aizawa Kakeru (Sanpei Yuuko, always an interesting choice for boy roles) who loves the game of soccer but has stopped playing it despite having once been a superb youth player. His older brother Suguru (Fukuyama Jun) is a legend of the Japanese U-15 squad and the star of the middle school team, for which Kakeru is now a manager. Suguru is clearly seething about his otouto’s refusal to play, and considers him a quitter for doing so. As to the reasons for Kakeru’s decision we see only hints – he’s unable to use his left leg while playing, he has flashbacks of a traumatic event on the field. Kakeru’s only on-field action is practicing by himself in a park at night. It’s during one of these sessions that a mysterious “alien” in a mask shows up, and flashes some mad skills. Might this be Mishima Nana (Itou Shizuka) – the childhood friend of Kakeru, a soccer buddy he called “Seven” who moved away to America when they were in fifth grade?

Yes, that could easily be an Adachi premise – there’s no doubting it. But I sense some real potential in this love-hate relationship between brothers. Kakeru clearly idolizes his brother, but also resents his good fortune, while Suguru appears to view Kakeru only with contempt but constantly tries to push him into what he sees as the right path. It seems pretty likely that Nana is going to be a point of contention between them as well – Kakeru certainly sees more than cleats and shin guards when he looks at her now, and I get the feeling that Suguru might be the sort of boy to take something his brother wants merely because he can. As I said, there’s some serious dramatic potential there.

On the whole I thought the first episode did a very nice job of setting the scene. It was nicely paced, and hinted at the complexity of the fraternal relationship well. Of Nana we don’t have as clear a picture, but she made a good first impression and I think it’s a fair bet that romance is going to play a major role in the story sooner or later. My sense is that this is a sports shounen that’s going to be about the people more than the sport, and I see the potential of a very deep and slow-developing character study. The manga is already on 27 volumes or so, but at this point we have no idea about the anime. Will it get 50 episodes to tell its story as Cross Game did? Area no Kishi, like that masterpiece, really seems like a story that will unwind slowly, and need lots of time to craft its magic. I had high expectations going into the premiere and they were largely met – I’m not expecting a rival to Cross Game here, but if the series is half as good as that one it’ll be twice as good as most anime.

 

Preview

45 Comments

  1. Great post! I don’t read manga (so I also didn’t realize it was the person who penned Cross Game). I loved the first episode but then again I’m a fan of sports anime. On a side note, this was a lot of better than POT II which had a really crazy plot off the bat. Anyway back to my point, Area no Kishi has a lot of depth like Chihayafuru. There are similarities I see where the main characters compared themselves to their popular and more loved sibling. But the difference is that Suguru actually thinks about his brother. Despite his rough method (Show Spoiler ▼

    ), I was touched with how he didn’t want Kakeru to lie to himself. He didn’t want his brother to put himself down and give up without trying. I personally I like this show more than Cross Game, seeing how it might go. I hope this anime will become one of winter’s gem 🙂

    zani
      1. But you should be able to tell that Area no Kishi has nothing to do with Adachi Mitsuru’s works. The art style and the way how the story is told is completely different. Mangas/animes from the same authors usually have pretty clear similarities.

        André
      2. I did notice that, which is why I surprised at first since I mistakenly thought the author was the same. Then when Mike corrected me so it made sense. Ok I shall stop with this post. I don’t want to create a spam here….

        zani
  2. Curse you Enzo, some of us don’t have that much time to watch anime as before (especially with a large backlog and several other long runners on the plate) and then you go ahead and write a post making this show look like the second coming of Cross Game. Now what the hell am I suppose to do?

    You evil, evil man.

    To that point no, I don’t know what the big reveal is here – CG got it out of the way in the first episode but AnK only teased it. Frankly, I’d rather not know – I’m happy to find out when I find out.

    This could be due to my knowledge of sports manga and common developments with this sort of story line (or maybe it was fairly obvious going by the opening and Kakeru fantasies) but I think I had figured out what that reveal is going to be. It’ll be interesting to see how long do they intended to prolong it for (hopefully to develop the cast more so we can get a stronger sense of loss).

    Arabesque
  3. Finally it’s here! I hope this is going to be a 50 episode series as well. There are so much story about it and it would be a shame to cram it in 26 episodes. Unless they plan to do multiple seasons.

    Serapita
  4. The manga is oft-compared to Adachi Mitsuru and, more specifically, to Adachi’s Cross Game. If you know me at all, you know that I consider that hallowed ground indeed. While there’s always the danger of a manga being a pale imitation, in the realm of emotionally-charged sports shounen it’s almost impossible not to be influenced by Adachi-sensei – in much the same way any modern epic fantasy can rightly be said to have elements of Tolkien. In short, Adachi is the mark they all shoot for, with varying success.

    I’ve started on the manga awhile back, and while I’ve yet to gone through the whole thing, I have to say that AnK has none of the subtleties of Adachi’s work. While Adachi’s use of “show, don’t tell” is about as good as it gets in mangas, Ank is much more like others mangas in that it’s all about tell, tell, and more tells 😛

    Mike
    1. I agree. Area no Kishi has nothing to do with Adachi’s series. I’ve read some of the manga of it and I decided to drop it because it was too cliche and too plain. It doesn’t have half of the creativity of Touch, Cross Game, Katsu, etc. Really, it’s a pretty average manga overall. It’s just another sports shounen manga.

      Adachi’s manga = Classics
      Area no Kishi = avarage sports shounen thing

      André
  5. I wasn’t expecting much from this anime because I just watched it on CR on a whim, but I was definitely pleasantly surprised. I couldn’t stop thinking about Cross Game when I was watching this either, which is too bad because I think I liked Cross Game so much since what happened in the first episode was so unexpected to me, but now I’m expecting things from Area no Kishi… >.<

    Yuumei
  6. GRRRRRRR!!! I’m reading the manga (scanlated) and there are only 11 volumes out!!!! damn it release some moreeeee.
    I was hooked by the manga from the start hope the anime does the manga justice (haven’t seen it yet).
    Wait for the big plot “twist”, it’s awesome.

    arcanes
  7. I’m not going to lie. I’m really not a fan of the “realistic sports” genre in anime and manga. That’s why I love Captain Tsubasa and Inazuma Eleven so much.

    Dendoh_fanboy
  8. That first episode rocked, it got me hooked, now I’ll be looking forward to it every week. Sure it’s predictable, sure it follows usual tropes of sports anime, but done right that’s what I LOOOOOOVE. Else I wouldn’t be watching Pretty Rhythm Aurora Dream.
    I especially liked how Suguru cares for his brother, yeah I think he really does. he knew he wasn’t honest with himself. It would’ve been even better if he punched/Brightslapped him for being a wuss.
    Haven’t watched Croos Game yet so I’m free of all the comparison shackles I guess…

    Rockmanshii
      1. Yeah, because recording your thoughts to clarify them for yourself now and to help remember who you once were later in life is being a total pansy, right?

        Is this what we’ve come to, really? A man can’t even keep a fucking DIARY without his masculinity being called into question?

        Anonymous
      2. man, calm the fuck down.

        I watch anime for christ sake, I’m not super masculine either. It’s the timing that made it hilarious. It quickly cut from him yelling to him writing calmly into a diary to smooth piano music. That to me is comedy gold lololol

        james
  9. Anyone seeing the direct similarity between AnK and Touch? Identity setting, but switch baseball with soccer.. Umm I wonder. I consider Touch to be one of the greatest manga/ anime of the sport genre. This will be good, I can feel it!

  10. man, calm the fuck down.

    I watch anime for christ sake, I’m not super masculine either. It’s the timing that made it hilarious. It quickly cut from him yelling to him writing calmly into a diary to smooth piano music. That to me is comedy gold lololol

    james
  11. Show Spoiler ▼

    naru646

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