With the tide of the game changing, Dulfer has to make some unusual changes in order to try and turn it back.
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)
Tatsumi's strategy, as loosely defined as it has been, is starting to have an impact on the Osaka team and we're seeing Dulfer making some surprising changes. Taking out a few key players that are now being pushed to their limits a bit after being worked so hard in the first half removes some key strengths that he's had out there. Even the mere intention of changing out players has a dramatic effect on the Osaka team though since it points to there being a weakness of some sort and that's not so subtly demoralizing. And as the game plays pretty quickly at times, the sudden shift can lead to a surprising goal that nobody even thought possible, which lets Sugi really shine beautifully for a moment in a way that leaves him completely shocked.
A good part of Tatsumi's overall strategy with the team, as opposed to this particular game, shines through with this episode. Watching as he does from the sidelines, he's able to highlight the different in the two teams as Dulfer polishes a player to a specific position in a way and removes those that don't work. Tatsumi is intending to polish all of them in a way tha makes them all shine through in a beautiful way. Sera is the one that the focus slowly turns to as the game clock runs down and he works through his feelings of not being worthy of being on the team. Following this character, the one that feels that he's being polished by Tatsumi and wanting to prove he's worth all the effort, is that kind of moment of pure beauty that you can't get in most other shows. There's an achievement here to him that outstrips character growth in other series because of how it plays out. And like others on the team who have gone through it, it's exhilarating.
Two things with Giant Killing are working beautifully at this point. The first is that the energy of the crowd and the team is amazing after the tide has turned. There's far more investment by all at this point compared to the first half where things were going hard and it was difficult to keep up the enthusiasm. The second is watching the way almost everyone gets a moment to shine in this episode as the team is coming together beautifully. Kubo has some intense moments, Sera is working incredibly hard to prove himself even though he doesn't think he belongs there and Murakoshi has a great little steal that adds some energy to it all. So many of these guys have been worked through and built up that seeing it come together so perfectly like this, especially highlighted through Sera this time, is truly great execution of fantastic material.
The evolution of the ETU really does come through here, though it points them in the right direction rather than bringing them to a conclusion. With one more episode to go, and no known second season that I'm aware of, what we get here is definitely a spot on culmination of their achievements that shows us just how much they've grown and how far they still have to go. It also sets up some great rivalries to follow in the future, between both coaches and players, which is always a lot of fun because you want to see a rematch happen, just not for this length of episodes for that particular game. Giant Killing has been one of my favorite shows of the season for watching character growth and performance growth and this episode did not disappoint in the slightest, from solid animation, great character moments and wonderful soccer action.
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.