While a coach can do a whole lot with a team, in the end it's down to the team itself to really do the heavy lifting and figure itself out.
What They Say
In Giant Killing a ragtag bunch from East Tokyo are struggling in Japan's top football league. The team is going through an abysmal spell right now where they are nearing the bottom of the table and have lost 5 matches in a row. The losers haven't done much to team moral, because it was already low. Fan support, on the other hand, is looking bleak. In the world of football, once the fans turn on a team the end is near. Teams don't recover. Coaches are fired, players are sold, and teams drop to smaller divisions where profits often prevent them from ever being successful against even mediocre top division programs. East Tokyo United, ETU, can only blame their coach right now. And Coach is ready to give up this next game to prove to his team and fans, that against the biggest club in the nation he can make this team win.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Tatsumi's style of coaching is certainly one that's not going to go over well with a lot and seeing him demote the captain, Murakoshi, points that out pretty quickly both to the players and to the fans that are still following the team. His unorthodox style is certainly confusing to the players as during their first supposed free practice, none of the coaches show p. At least on the field as Tatsumi and the assistant coach are watching from the bushes to see what kind of behavior comes out of it. There's a certain shaking out going on as Tatsumi lets the players rise and fall on their own to show who they really are. With Tatsumi forced to not be a captain and to let things go as they well, there's a definite schism in the team that's even more prominent than before.
The camp takes an amusing turn as the players almost begin to rumble as Tatsumi misses out on stopping them at the right time. Even worse is that there are some members of the press there and seeing the team going through such events certainly won't be good for their image. What helps to change the mood is the arrival of Luigi Yoshida, a fairly well off looking player who was waiting in Okinawa for the training camp to begin only to realize that it was taking place somewhere far colder. Luigi's got the rich boy look and laid back attitude going but he seems to have a certain presence that has an effect on other members of the team. It's not exactly deference or respect, but he's able to stand out in a calming way.
The practice goes through some interesting ups and downs as Tatsumi starts to get a feel for what he has to work with. The introduction of Yoshida changes up the dynamic a bit and there's an interesting almost adversarial feel between him and the coach that adds some pressure if not tension. With Yoshida's style, Tatsumi gets him to show his stuff and he does it in a way that will make him look good no matter what, but it also gives hint to his true ability and that's what Tatsumi wants. He wants to know what he has to work with and having it all in this raw form, argumentative, dysfunctional and disunited, allows him to reshape it as he wants as he starts to understand what it is that he has in front of him. As the episode shifts towards a pre-season match, we start to see more of what he's going to do.
Giant Killing moves along well here by getting some of the newer players a chance to get involved and interact with the starters in a different way while bringing in one of the more personality-oriented characters in Luigi Yoshida. All of it occurs under the view of Tatsumi as he's starting to mold his team, though his particular style and sense of humor doesn't exactly work well with a lot of them. A lot hinges on how Murakoshi handles the situation and he's doing his best for the team, but others like Kuroda are close to having the whole thing fall apart completely. Much of what will happen will ride on their first pre-season match if Tatsumi can finagle things just right, but even here he's blunt in saying he can do only so much. And it's true, because it's the players that have to do the heavy lifting and follow through while learning how to play together well and react quick to situations. This is another solid episode that has me excited to see how it will go. Finally, a show with a thirty-five year old lead who isn't either dead to the world or a child in a man's body.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English Subtitles
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.