Giant Killing

Genre: Sport
Score: Very Good

Tatsumi used to be the star player for East Tokyo United, but he suddenly left to play for a foreign team. ETU’s standing collapsed without him, even dropping a league at one point. Now he’s come back as the coach, trying to turn the failing club’s fortunes around. But can anyone on the team trust him?

As a few of you may be aware, my revulsion to football normally rivals that for babies. The entire concept leaves me not just cold but scornful and sneering. So it was with some surprise, incredulity and annoyance that I discovered that this football anime is actually rather good. Very good, in fact.The key, I think, is that it’s not just about football as the fans see it, with wins and losses and statistics and shouting. It’s about all the subtle psychological factors that affect a team’s success. ETU is a broken team, full of anger, mistrust and bad blood. Somehow Tatsumi has to change that, shake up the status pro and understand what makes each player tick, and how they can be made to play together.

It culminates in a single 90 minute match spanning about 5 episodes – which sounds rubbish, but is actually a detailed look at how teams work, how people affect each other’s moods, and how a detailed psychological game can be played under the surface. The real battle is between Tatsumi and the rival coach, and the style of their team’s play reflects that. It really is Tatsumi’s game: all through it we see touches of his strategy at work, and of the opponent’s, even though he’s not allowed to interfere with the pieces in play.

So even a guy who despises football likes this anime.