“The Return of the King”

It’s pretty clear that neither the mangaka or the director of this adaptation was too worried about unrealistically building up Araki Ryuuichi, but the shaft of light from the heavens as he walked (floated?) onto the pitch may just have been a bit much…

I suppose I’m just going to have to get over the whole thing about Araki losing 100 pounds in 10 days, but just for the record – short of death, that’s pretty much impossible and even then I’m not so sure. But that’s exactly what happened here, it seems, as it was indeed clever Coach Iwaki’s plan to have him lose the weight in secret and be a surprise entrant in the match late. This serves several purposes, not least of which maximizing the use of guy who isn’t fit enough to play much longer than 20 minutes, but it also led the FC to all out from the opening whistle because they weren’t expecting any help, and the surprise provided a boost to them and a shock to the SC.

This episode was all soccer start to finish – and then some, as the game and the episode spilled over into extra time. Araki made a huge difference from the minute he ascended from the skies and took over for Endo as central midfielder, immediately displaying an array of fancy moves and issuing commands to his inexperienced teammates. I can’t imagine the ep will have been of much interest to a non-soccer fan, but as a devotee of “the beautiful game” I rather enjoyed it. For all the over the top drama, the conflict between the FC and SC is a very real one that can be seen in any international competition – the creative and flowing attacking style vs. the disciplined, defensive minded style that plays the game mostly through the air rather than on the ground. The two best sides I’ve ever seen at playing “beautiful football” (a Dutch expression, as it happens) are the Japanese Women’s National Team (the “Nadeshiko” that won the 2011 World Cup) and the current F.C. Barcelona, starring the best footballer in the world, Lionel Messi. It’s clearly Messi that Araki’s skills are modeled on – a tireless runner, an incredible passer, and a conductor of the first order.

The episode had pretty much everything in football terms. Kakeru finally used his left foot, Matoba got off a couple of beautiful nutmegs (embarrassing as hell when that happens to a defender), Arakai scoring on a chip over a charging keeper, Kakeru’s strike off the goal post, and at the cliffhanger, even a bicycle kick from Kakeru (who’d already scored his second goal). Bicycle kicks are the golden unicorns of soccer, and you see a goal scored that way in top-line competition maybe once a year, but the most significant football moments of the episode actually came from Oda, the heart, soul and most talented member of the SC. Not only did he break the team’s directive against dribbling longer than five seconds, but he actually executed a deft backheel pass that almost resulted in the winning goal. It’s clearly a watershed moment when the SC actually disobeys their coach, and I expect the fallout from that to be interesting.

One thing no one has explained as far as I know is what happens if this game ends in a tie – who represents Enoshima High then? SC by default? A replay, extra time, PKs? This is an important question (no manga spoilers, please) and one the next ep will surely confront – unless Kakeru’s bicycle kick dents the old onion bag. Shounen manga convention dictates that the SC wins by one means or another, as you really aren’t supposed to beat the enemy on the first try, but we’ll see. Apart from that, there’s not much to talk about apart from the football – to be honest, I wasn’t expecting so much action so early in what I assumed was a character-driven tale. Until we get back to that – exploring Kakeru and Seven’s relationship deeper, for starters – it’s hard for me to have a firm opinion on Area no Kishi. The game episodes have been fine – not spectacular, but entertaining enough and decently choreographed, and the unrealistic dramatics have been held to moderate levels. But I’m mostly in this for the drama, and I’ll need to see more of that before I decide just where I stand.




  1. well, considering they removed pretty much most of the training scenes and the actual part where Nana played with them… it figures that they would remove the trick shot that Araki did. I’m kinda disappointed in that but logically, it probably would not work in the current laws of the game.

    Though they did make up for it by having Araki score with a rabona chip shot so i guess they made him look good in the end. Though perhaps in sportsmanship terms, it was rather arrogant of him to do so lol.

  2. I’m on the opposite spectrum as you GE as I’m in this for the sport and boy did this episode satisfied me. My guess as to FC and SC is that both will represent the school. I’m thinking in terms that SC will be the official school representative and FC will be a regular soccer club that competes outside of school events. That way even Seven can play with the club XD. I however will be surprise if FC does have a part in representing the school as a school club.

  3. I can’t imagine the ep will have been of much interest to a non-soccer fan, but as a devotee of “the beautiful game” I rather enjoyed it.

    Yeah, I’m not really huge on soccer so I was bored for the first part of the episode. When they started showing all the footwork and animation of the ball moving a little later on then it got pretty interesting.

    But I’m glad there’s a lot of action going on though since they cut out a huge match from the manga.

  4. Last ep you mentioned about how a sports anime needs to do three things well for a game episode, and I really think AnK is dropping the ball in the animation department. I mean just look at the closing shot, why is Kakeru doing a bicycle kick six feet in the air?

    1. Because you’re upside down, a bicycle kick can reach much higher than just a normal jumping header, not to mention you can apply a significantly greater amount of force. They also probably went with a bike kick because only the best of the best can land one. You need absolutely perfect timing, otherwise you’re just some dumbass flopping around on the pitch.

  5. I really liked the part where they score a goal, follow up with 5 nearly consecutive (can a brother get a clear, ffs?) “decoy shots,” and score another goal. And that only took 10 minutes? No big deal… oh yeah *sarcasm off*

  6. I just don’t see this show digging in to the characters very much. Tadashi Agi just doesn’t seem to be that interested in characters. I think his strength as a writer (and his interest) is in plot/events. That is good news if you like the action on the pitch, but if you are waiting for an exploration of Kakeru and Seven’s relationship, or anything other than a superficial characterization of the various players, my guess is you will be disappointed. (Not based on reading the manga, but from my reaction to Tadashi Agi’s other shows).

    1. Yeah I think it makes me wonder what happened in the original story. It looks like it will be a rather straightforward soccer series. It kind of ruins the premise of the story that they built up with the Suguru as well as how Seven seemed to have an interest in him. It was a very much like subtle Adachi remix. I think these small nuisances make characters more charming.


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