OP: 「カオスが極まる」 (Chaos ga Kiwamaru) by (UNISON SQUARE GARDEN)
Blue Lock innovates on the sports genre by taking the team out of sports. Isagi Yoichi (Ura Kazuki) gets into soccer because of one player and he feels he can continue playing soccer in middle school because he was singled out as a good player. The essence of Blue Lock is that this focus on an individual stands in contrast to the Japanese mindset of “One for all, all for one”, as the Ichinan coach puts it. It makes the argument that team sports is at it’s best when it’s run like a Broadway show-a background cast that exists to support the solo, the MC, rather than a homogenized unit that focuses so hard on individuals not standing out or unbalancing the other teammates that talent gets suppressed.
Example A (or rather 299 according to Ego’s self-admittedly biased ranking) of the soccer underdogs that Blue Lock will weed out or reform is Isagi who fails to try for a winning shot and goes home in tearful frustration. He doesn’t see himself on an equal playing field with the likes of Kira Ryosuke, shown even in the way the way Isagi uses polite language with Ryosuke and glows at being praised by him when they meet outside the compound. He treats him like superior, until Ryosuke points out they are the same age and both rivals. How ironic that Isagi is the one to get Ryosuke out of the game in the end. The way Isagi undervalues himself or more, doesn’t understand his soccer talents is something that’s sure to be a trigger point in a contest meant to play upon any sort of inferiorities.
Psychology is the key weapon in Blue Lock. Jinpachi Ego, the man in charge of changing Japanese soccer, plays it up, describing a do or die goal opportunity that doubtless every player there has experienced (and is still a fresh wound for Isagi). Then, he relies on a mob mentality where a large enough group rushes to join Blue Lock, swaying even the most team-oriented player, Ryosuke, to hop on the azure bandwagon. Which leaves you to wonder-how much of that team spirit Ryosuke displays, is genuinely felt by him, and how much has been programmed into him by his teammates and coach. Ego’s scheme ultimately seeks to break down, playing on the vulnerabilities of group mentality to bring a phoenix out of the ashes.
The art is striking, with crisp colors and bold lines. Fitting for a series as action packed as Blue Lock and brings to life the rough boldness of the manga’s art style. One of gripe I have is Kamiya Hoshi’s (Kamiya Hiroshi’svoice acting for Ego. I was kind of envisioning an all out crazy mad-scientistish voice from the vibes I was seeing the manga’s Ego. I guess the measured and calculating direction Kamiya takes him could work too, since Ego is the brains behind the Revitalize Japanese soccer plan.
The last scene packed a lot of suspense into those final few moments-I didn’t see Ryonusuke getting out right from the get go and from Isagi no less. We already see the survival of the fittest mentality at play here, the competitors stooping to using body shields and face kicks to stay in the game. As for my feelings on this-I am of two minds. On the one hand, my curiosity is piqued by the novel take on team sports and the psychology it involves-Lord of the Flies meets anime “soccer”. On the other hand, I find the “ego above all else” mentality rather discomfiting. One of the things I enjoy about sports series is seeing the teamwork, how the players cheer each other on and grow from each other. I fundamentally disagree with the series’ emphasis on ego-it’s basically raising characters to be selfish ass-holes and praising that. With the lack of actual realistic game time (the tag-thing doesn’t count), it feels more like a series dressed up in a sporty style, but sells itself on the hyped up drama-though there’s not anything wrong with that. In spite of my misgivings, I look forward to seeing how they will adapt the manga, and getting a slice of intense action week to week.