「約束のチケット」 (Yakusoku no Chiketto)
“The Promised Ticket”

You can consider this an unpaid commercial for the best series almost none of you are watching.

I’m going to ask the LiA readers to bear with me for a bit, because I’ve been thinking for a while of using the bully pulpit of RC for a little preaching about Ginga e Kickoff. So, this post is going to be as much about the series itself as it is about this episode – and yet another excellent one it was – in an attempt to give new viewers some understanding of just why this is such an excellent show. I’m under no illusions that this will ever become as popular among Western anime fans as it is Japanese, but I know that at least a few viewers have found GeK because of my posts at LiA. I won’t speak for everyone but I’ve had quite a few tell me just how glad they are they did, and so far I haven’t had any complaints.

With very few exceptions – most of them exceptions because they’ve scored hugely with fujoshi, like Oofuri, Prince of Tennis and Kuroko no Basuke (Ginga has had some success with this market as well) – sports anime tend to fly under the radar even in Japan, and certainly the West. The manga are often extremely popular, but the anime don’t get a lot of attention. And if you add the element of being a series about kids younger than high-school age, and you’ve pretty much used up all your strikes with most fans. Despite the lesson of shows like Dennou Coil and Noein, shows about preteens are a poison pill for many Western viewers irrespective of their individual merits. Since Ginga is squarely outside the target zone both in terms of genre and cast, it’s never going to have much of an impact outside Japan.

But here’s the thing – and to me, it’s the only thing that really matters – this show is good. Not just good, but damn good, and it deserves a lot more attention than it’s getting. It’s broken through the barricades and become something of a surprise hit in Japan, topping fan polls and spawning a fairly large crop of doujins. Of course Japan is generally less resistant to sports anime and shows about kids, and it doesn’t hurt that as a nation they’re crazy about soccer. But the main reason GeK has done well in Japan is because it’s a show of very high quality across the board, a show that entertains and doesn’t pander, and it stands out from the crowd for that reason alone.

So why should someone who hasn’t been watching start watching Ginga now, 27 episodes into what’s at least a three-cour (hopefully more) run? For me, the gold standard of sports anime about kids is the first season of Major – which is also the best sports anime of the last decade in my view, and certainly the best season in that series (I really don’t consider Cross Game a sports series, for the record). And Ginga e Kickoff is the best since then. It combines brisk pacing, excellent animation and art, a very strong cast and superb writing. It gets the sports part right – the Hippocratic Oath of sports anime just as “be funny” is that for comedy – but it gets the people part right, too. The kids in this show are flawed but lovable, totally believable creations whose development over the course of 27 episodes has been natural and a delight to watch. I said a couple of weeks ago that when one of the kids (especially the everyman main character, Tireless Terrier Outa Shou) achieves a real breakthrough in their personal growth, it feels as if I’m watching my own kid celebrate that achievement.

That, I think, is key. If you’re going to make a show about kids that’s more than just good entertainment for kids but one that really has something to offer teens and adults, you need to do two things. First, you need to make those viewers feel a sense of affection for the kids. Second, you have to have an adult perspective in the series to balance that of the kids, and you have to have humor and drama that appeals to adults on a different level than it does to kids. Ginga succeeds in spectacular fashion on both scores. The kids are a cross-section of personalities and talent levels, none of them perfect but all of them fundamentally good kids, precocious without being obnoxiously so. And in addition to the snappy wit we get to see adult problems presented alongside kid problems, and watch the adults – primarily the coach, Masaru Haneshima – deal with things the kids can’t really understand. And as for the sports, the on-field action is exciting and realistic, appealing to anyone in the audience irrespective of their demographic.

So that, in very brief terms, is why you should marathon all 27 eps of GeK and catch up to the current ep. The fansubs are finally almost caught up and fairly timely, and there’s no time like the present. Either way if you aren’t already a viewer feel free to skip the next bit where I talk about the episode, which continues in the vein of the last one – the building of the new Momayama Predators in preparation for the Golden Future Cup, an 8-on-8 tournament that offers the Japanese champion a chance to compete in the world final in Spain. Aoto finding his place on the team is still very much a focus, but the main thread this week involves Erika-chan – and not so much for her Tiger Beat crush on the blonde, blue-eyed Mini-Messi Aoto.

I’ve loved how GeK has dealt with the problems of Tagi in the last few eps – a kid who lost faith in his ability because his body grew too fast to keep up with itself, something many boys face at his age. Now Erika is facing a very different problem, and one that almost all girls her age who are into team sports deal with – all of a sudden she’s not taller and faster and stronger than most of the boys anymore. The cast of GeK are sixth-graders, which means this is the last year Erika can compete officially in co-ed soccer. To make things worse, she’s seeing the two players who were easily a few steps below her – Shou and Reika – take massive strides on their own.

The reality, of course, is that if you’re a hard-worker it’s easiest to improve when you have the most to improve at. Add to that Shou is a late bloomer, and he’s at the age where a boy is naturally going to grow into a stronger athlete – benefiting from the same thing that derailed Tagi, who was already tall and strong for his age – and Reika was able to give herself a huge jump-start by losing a lot of weight. I think there’s a lot of insecurity and jealousy for Erika here. To be blunt I think she liked the fact that she could look down on Shou and Reika dismissively – though she would only verbally demean Shou, never Reika. Now though, Shou is a better dribbler and passer than she is thanks to the blind soccer experiment, and if Reika-chan isn’t exactly Carlos Puyol she’s certainly no longer a laughingstock on the pitch. And some of those boys Erika used to be able to outrun can now keep up with her – or worse. It’s a tough situation for her, no doubt, and the fact that she’s simultaneously dealing with her first real crush doesn’t help.

But Ginga always give you the positive with the pain, and things are looking up in other respects. Tagi really steps into his own as a character here (young seiyuu Ikeda Kousuke is doing a terrific job) proving he’s both insightful and patient, offering Erika good advice (take a cue from the diminutive Aoto, who dominates with skill and change-of-pace) but not forcing it on her. And Aoto is slowly letting his defenses down around the others (up to now, only Tagi has been allowed to be his friend) – picking up the nickname “Gon” (perhaps Nen is the reason he’s such a soccer genius despite his size) from Ouzou and subtly being integrated into the teams camaraderie as the training camp at the Saionji villa continues. He even gets a surprise birthday party thanks to Tagi, though Erika’s cake (250 degrees Celsius, girl – seriously?) proves a bit of a debacle.

All in all, what this ep – the last, seemingly, before the soccer kicks in hard again – accomplished was a perfect balance between Erika’s slightly self-pitying angst (she’s 12 – she’s allowed) and the spot-on carefree vibe of the boys (and Coach Haneshima) having fun and being slightly goofy, which is what 12 year-old boys (and overgrown ones that coach them) do best. As with many great shows the quality extends deep into the cast list, as even characters like Kyoko are given full, nuanced personalities that make them stand out as individuals. The Triplets continue to become more and more caught up in the spirit of the team as they exhibit their individual quirks (an octopus as a birthday present?), and fittingly it’s the ever-overachieving Shou-kun who thinks up the perfect last-minute gift for Aoto – a “ticket” promising that the team will get him to Spain, where he hopes to see his father – and makes sure to include Erika (who actually thanks him, which may be a first) and the rest of the team though the entire idea was his.

Getting the balance right is very difficult to do, and making it look as easy as Ginga e Kickoff does is even harder. It’s one of the best shows of 2012, and that would be true whether one person or a million were watching it. I hope the series gets a few more fans as a result of this post but in the end, we watch anime for ourselves – and I’m very happy to have this outstanding series as a part of the anime landscape.




  1. I see this show as what it is: a good kid’s show. Nothing wrong with that, but it’s what most people are interested in. I have no interest in sports anime in general anyway as they all tend to be shouneny shounen kid shows with exception of Slam Dunk (manga only, anime still sucked).

  2. A series almost none are watching and none gives a damn about missing it: Ginga e Kickoff!!

    You don’t have to feel bad for liking this, like Zoidberg suggested above, since this is no SAO, but no amount of preaching can turn a forgettable dud into a masterpiece.

      1. Right… So not liking what you like = having a closed mind. Oh the classic pushback answer. C’mon, man~~~~~:P

        Anyway it’s not like I have an inherited bias against kid soccer anime shows. I actually watched almost all the way through of “Moero! Top Striker“. I bet no one here knows what this is, eh he he. Certainly not Enzo or anyone young enough to give a blank stare at the sound of dial-up 56K modem internet (watch out, I’m reminiscing a certain past events in details!! …or dreading them…). Some of French dudes may remember what this show was, though, cough, cough.

      2. @Death: I remember L’école des champions. Anyway, my only advice to you that you probably won’t follow is to get down your mighty chair and to stop saying things about a show you don’t even watch, you’re embarrassing yourself. It feels like you remember the sound of 56k modems so well because your mental age haven’t increased since.

        @Enzo: I’m a sports show lover, especially soccer ones, and I have to admit that one totally went past my radar. Must’ve forgot to write it down when reading the spring preview. You’ve convinced me to watch it. Thanks. Knowing me I won’t get to it right now though.

      1. EmD, face palm, face palm~~. Re-read my sentence and you will get it.

        Or do I need to remind you of my general contempt and hatred on SAO?? I bet 3 of those 4 thumb down are from outraged SAO fanboys and maybe 1 genuine GeK fan. I haven’t been to SAO posts lately, but they hate me there for trashing their favorite show, which I did with a pleasure as it freaking deserved it. Just go back to circa SAO 11-16 posts. I felt like I needed to set this fact straight. Of all things, gets accused of being a SAOsheep, grumble grumble… You hurt me deeply, EmD. 🙁

      2. I apologize. I misread your sentence. I don’t think liking SAO should be something to be ashamed about though.

        Liking Kirito though…yes, be ashamed haha especially since 95% of what’s wrong with SAO is because of him

  3. “…become something of a surprise hit in Japan, topping fan polls and spawning a fairly large crop of doujins”

    What exactly is your source? Sankaku Complex? I can’t find anything to back up your claims.

      1. Getting into a weekly sales ranking with 389 DVDs is not good at all, in fact it’d be a flop if Ginga were a late night show, which it thankfully isn’t. It’s the ratings and (presumably) sales of other misc. merchandise that determines it’s success.

        Also, Bigglobe polls are hardly ever (mostly never) a good reference to prove a point because of the way the polls are handled. They shouldn’t be taken seriously and just enjoyed for amusement.

        I can believe that the show has a strong doujin base though. It seems to be popular among fujoshi (likely the same crowd that loves Inazuma Eleven). The adorable shota designs definitely gives the show an extra edge. Hell I’ve been interested in it for that reason too, certainly not the because of soccer.

  4. Ginga E Kickoff falls into one of the many traps that don’t tend to do well with most people:

    1: It’s a sports anime
    2: It’s a sports anime about soccer
    3: It’s a sports anime about soccer supposedly for kids
    4: It’s not heavily subbed for all the above reasons stated

    And thus, you get a show people tend to ignore. Only a very few will actually want to give a show like that a chance and then enjoy it for what it is. GeK is one of the better series to air this year, so I’ll give a shout out to Enzo for posting it here, and hopefully some will just be curious enough to give the show a shot.

    1. I’ve been watching this series since Episode 1 – and I just love it to pieces (like I also love “Inazuma Eleven” and its sequels. This, in terms of sports anime) 😉 I agree, though, that it only isn’t much loved by a majoirty fans for the reasons you stated (it’s a pity, because I do believe, like Guardian Enzo, that it’s one of the best animes in 2012) 🙁

      Glad to find out that it has become a suprise hit in Japan 😉

  5. This show is good. If anyone reading has tried watching it and didn’t like it, that’s cool. Not every show will appeal to every person, such is life. But if anyone reading has never tried to watch it due to some preexisting notions about what they think it is, I implore them to give it a shot. I almost always hate sports anime (I didn’t even like Kuroko no Basuke) and I generally despise small children but this show rises above all that and still manages to be good through a combination of interesting but believable characters and extra sharp writing. Don’t be misled into thinking this is a children’s show because most of the characters are children. I am certain that kids would enjoy it but there is an awful lot for older people to enjoy too.

    Give it a chance.

  6. Saying that this is just for kids would be the equivalent of saying LOTR or Harry Potter is just for kids (which of course some people do, but they are missing out) And you will be missing out if you don’t watch this.

    I would compare it to Ano Natsu and Chihayafuru for originality and the way it makes you feel about the characters. Stellar.

    I apologize for going all preachy, I wouldn’t normally convince anyone to watch whatever shit I watch, but the past 5-7 episodes have been an absolute feast for the heart and brain, it’s been like Christmas eve five-six weeks in a row.

  7. It’s Momoyama Predators! (maybe it was bait for viewers)

    I think the strong point of this series is its natural dialog between characters. I just love how any two characters can interact so well and naturally at any possible moment.
    Glad to hear it’s so well regarded in Japan.
    I’m specially interested in how will be the spain part (I hope they’ll get there).

  8. Well, Ging e Kickoff is a pretty good soccer anime which is best at teaching children about growing up, sportsmanship, and all the aspects and excitements of the soccer sport; a pretty nice introduction to the sport for those who are new to soccer. I really like the character development in this, especially that of Rikka. Also, there’s good balance between comedy and seriousness in the show, and it’s also a show where the “good guys” don’t always win, although all the characters are working hard to become the best soccer players in the universe/galaxy (hence the “Ginga”). Conclusion: more people should watch it.

  9. I have been watching this since the beginning and I’m glad that I haven’t missed this. It’s great to see it on my favorite blog, alas only for a single episode.

    By the way, why won’t you consider Cross Game a sports series?

    Sinan Çevik
    1. Most episode reviews of Ginga are on LiA (lostinanime.com, Enzo’s own site), in case you didnt catch that.

      Hm.. Because of the huge drama substory? Or rather, that the drama was the main story and Baseball the substory? Well, I don’t know, I better let the OP answer.

    2. In my view Cross Game is a personal drama first, a baseball story second. The sports is the “carrier” in Adachi manga generally rather than the disease itself – it’s a device to help him tell his real story. I think this is even more true in CG than in Touch.

      We get way too focused on genre generally, but it’s ironic that Adachi is universally classified as sports shounen, when in reality I don’t think he’s either.

  10. I play soccer since I was a kid and have been watching many soccer anime like Captain Tsubasa and Giant Killing. This show is well directed and never I find myself yawning when watching this. The music during the match is quite catchy too 😉

    1. It has more to do with the kid friendly looking soccer theme of the show than the blogger himself, I’m pretty sure. That and that the said blogger is saying that it’s the best thing ever, therefore the pushback.

      1. I hate to nit-pick, but “best thing ever”? This works better if you respond to what’s actually in the post.

        Tre, TBH I really don’t much care. One of the perks of being a blogger and taking the time to do this every week is getting a chance to evangelize for the shows you love. If people want to get their panties in an uproar about that, that’s their problem – if one or two more people end up watching the show because of this it’s worth it for me.

      2. “One of the perks of being a blogger and taking the time to do this every week is getting a chance to evangelize for the shows you love.”

        Fitting, as you have a tendency to pompously sanctify anything you touch.

  11. I personally liked Area no Kishi more than this to date but the show appears to be heading in a good direction with Aoto and Shou/Reika improving. Ginga had a few episode streak in the middle which were rather dull in my opinion (like the 3U episode).

  12. I just want to vouch for Enzo about Ginga E Kickoff. It may come as the under-rated series of this year. Well, personally.

    But hey, he managed to get me to visit this site since it has the show’s title in my RSS feed.

    Can you direct me to those “doujins” you speak off? Translated ones?

    1. Well I’m in Tokyo, so I can’t really do much about the ones on the shelf at places like Toranoana. But there are certainly doujin sites around the interwebs that are easy to find, and a quick check just now reveals some of the doujins have made it there, though not very many translated.

  13. I knew this would happen if you posted this on RC Enzou, it’s like scrolling through a bad flame war from my dorky weaboo years BUT I DON’T CARE

    If out of 10 haters or close minded people we get one more person on board to enjoy this series, I’m all for all the complaints and scoffs.

    This series isn’t “deep” or complex but it’s got something a LOT of anime shows (especially sports series) just lack, which is that sense of childish enjoyment and excitement and heartache and everything else. It FEELS like a sports game and constantly makes me smile. I’m super attached to everyone in the show, no lie. It’s just something I think a lot of people have forgotten, that you can enjoy something without having a super deep reason to. Heart over mind for sure, and Enzou and I and the other like 11 people over on LiA who love this show are going to keep enjoying it because of that.

      1. That depends on what you consider a weeaboo. If you definition is someone who loves a certain culture enough to try and understand it, live there, struggle and immerse themselves in it, then sure, he’s a weeaboo. In which case we’ve got really different definitions because in my opinion anyone’s who’s EVER lived in Japan for even a while will tell you that it’s completely from the deluded and over-fantasized rose-colored image weeaboo’s (my definition) have of it.

        Which is someone who either knowingly or unconciously insult the culture they’re emulating by stereotyping it into the sort of cliche and trope packages they see in anime, manga, or the more eclectic otaku and megalopolis lifestyle (go visit Ikebukuro, Akihabara and Tokyo then compare to places like Nagoya and Seto and you’ll see what I mean).

        That does NOT mean anime, manga, or game fans. I mean the people who think it’s alright to behave inapproriately or insult others because they’re image of what Japan should be like doesn’t conform to reality. I mean the really annoying kids who are in the same group as me in a tour of Japan who get into fist fights over whether Bleach or Naruto is better at a ramen shop in the south Tokyo airport or the idiot probably pre-teen girl who thinks that it’s ok to randomly grope strangers in a hot spring or break into the guys’ room at night I WISH I WAS MAKING THIS UP.

        So yeah.

    1. Neither what I said or what you said was true. I’m of the personal belief that opinion’s can only ever be opinions (unless we’re arguing over math and physics theorems, then I’ll get into a different debate). And I happen to like Enzou and his reviews so I’ll defend him when I feel like I should or make remarks about the actions of the people criticizing him, but it doesn’t mean I’ll tell you to you that you can’t state your own opinion.

      Actually, not like I can anyways. But I will disagree.

  14. I was looking for another anime to watch, and after seeing this post, I decided to give Ginga e Kickoff a shot (pun intended). I have to say, it is quite a good anime. I usually prefer more adult sports animes like Hajime no Ippo and Giant Killing, but I’m very happy with this show and will definitely continue to watch.

    In the first few episodes, I was a little unconvinced by a group of 6th graders who could keep up with a professional team, but once they started playing others their own age, the show became much more believable.

    You said you wanted this post to generate more fans for the show. Well, you made one out of me! ^_^ Thank you.

    Cora Dee

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