Will Sera's stumble be the thing to push him to the next level or will it cripple him entirely?
What They Say
Experiencing a long streak of poor performances for several years in the Japanese professional football league, the East Tokyo United (ETU) hires Takeshi Tatsumi as manager to try to break the curse that seems to have fallen over the team. Will he be successful in turning the team around?
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
As events turn serious, at least as serious as they can be as Sera's injury isn't as critical as it can be, Tatsumi's still his normal self. While in the midst of a casual meeting, he's spending his time going through the soccer cards he just got and is frustrated that none of his players are in the pack that he got. And Tatsumi being who he is, his curiosity is as to whether there are cards of the coaches in there as well. It highlights his personality perfectly and only makes it more amusing when Sera, sitting outside watching kids playing soccer, opens up a pack himself only to get a Natsuki card right off the bat. Sera's problem will likely be more psychological than anything else as he's already feeling that he's at his limits when everyone else is sure that he can go much further.
What turns out to be really nicely done is the conversation that Sakai has with Sera about what it is that it takes to be a good player. As Sera is feeling sorry for himself and the like, Sakai talks about the way the young view things in comparison. Sakai's in his early thirties and there's only so far he can go, but he plays it hard and in the end thinks he's the better player because of what he does in comparison to both Sera and Natsuki. It's an interesting bit of motivation to use that pushes Sera to realize that he's got a long career ahead of himself if he really starts training properly. When things go poorly, it's easy to turn to feeling sorry for yourself and that can start a vicious cycle of events. And with Natsuki nipping at his heels to take his spot and get back in the game, Sera certainly isn't lacking in motivation.
A good chunk of the episode focuses on the game between the ETU and Urawa where Sera is in the stands watching. It's a bit odd to see injured players sitting so far back and out of the way as you'd think they'd be on the bench providing encouragement and support instead, but watching from the back with the larger picture in mind can be helpful for any player. For Sera, watching Natsuki take the field is like a stab in the heart, especially considering the wacky style that Natsuki has for his entrance. It's a bit rough for the man at first, but his style is certainly odd and it causes for a particular kind of uncertainty that helps out in the long run. It also has a great moment where we see those cheering him on, which includes his family (even though the daughter is sound asleep!) which helps to humanize him even more.
While we've see Natsuki doing a bit of his showboating style in practice and being out there with his personality in order to catch Tatsumi's attention, he does bring something unique to the field that gets the team energized. It's a bit unorthodox but that admittedly fits in a bit with the way the ETU is running these days. It's also something that serves to give Sera the right kick in the pants along with what Sakai says to keep his head properly in the game and motivated for getting better and taking back his position. There's a lot to like with Sera's arc and even Natsuki comes across better by the end of this episode so you don't feel too bad for liking him. You may just not want him to dominate the episodes as much for a bit and to let someone else step into the spotlight for a bit.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English Subtitles
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 1080P HDTV, Dell 10.1 Netbook via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.