Giant Killing 20 – Getting Ahead of the Game
This episode does a solid job of setting up numerous storylines to play out through the course of the game, with various levels of payoffs that come in this episode and are sure to come as the match progresses.
The big result, of course, is the goal scored for Osaka via Hauer’s header at the end of the episode. What is most impressive is how many different parts are juggled to lead to that goal. First we have the match-up with Hauer and Kuroda. The fans are understandably worried because Hauer is bigger and stronger than Kuroda; however, Tatsumi has faith in Kuroda’s ability and smarts (along with a helpful suggestion about Hauer’s weak point), and this pays off at first as Kuroda quickly senses Hauer’s weaknesses and gets inside the big man’s head.
But those same weaknesses that allow Kuroda to defend Hauer — his need to be in a precise position and have the ball delivered to him due to his poor footwork — are also the foundation of his game. Kuroda needs to keep focus and have his timing and positioning to be top notch when defending Hauer . . . which is exactly what Osaka’s constant attack slowly grinds down. The pressure mounts, Kuroda leaves his spot when Katayama sprints in, seemingly ready to shoot, and Hauer makes him pay by getting into position and using his size and strength to score the goal.
Ironically, it’s also Kuroda’s strengths that lead to Hauer getting position to score the goal. Kuroda has unwavering confidence in his ability. Tatsumi tells Kuroda about Hauer’s weakness, and Kuroda knows perfectly well how to defend Hauer from that point on. But where Kuroda had something personal to spur him on against Itagaki in the Nagoya game (Kuroda didn’t want Itagaki to show him up under any circumstances), there’s nothing especially personal to keep Kuroda’s confidence in check, and he makes the mistake of believing he can leave his man alone and give help that might not be needed. Then Hauer strikes.
Another story that has payoffs in this episode — and surely more to come down the road — is Kiyokawa vs. Katayama. This match-up is initially based on speed: Kiyokawa has the quickness to keep up with Katayama. But perhaps Kiyokawa is jumpy at the moment, or the constant attack is causing him to lose his focus, too, because Katayama pulls the wool over his eyes twice with the same feint trick. And this directly leads to Katayama getting into position to draw the attention of the defense and set up Hauer for the goal.
(A quick aside: I love how Katayama’s supposed selfish play is also drawn upon for this segment. Most would probably expect Katayama to have kept the ball himself and taken the shot, especially after Hatake’s missed shot that was drilled straight into Katayama’s head moments earlier. But instead, Katayama shows that he is dedicated enough to winning to concede the shot to someone who has a better chance of scoring.)
But unless Kiyokawa is going to look like a total idiot the entire game, he is going to catch up to Katayama’s trick eventually. The question is, what will happen after that? Will Katayama have the improvisational ability to come up with another trick to throw Kiyokawa off balance, or will Kiyokawa finally overcoming Katayama lead to a goal for ETU, just as Katayama’s footwork set up the score for Osaka?
Then there’s the wild card, Kubota, who is heavily hinted to be the Osaka player in which Blanc is most interested during the match. Sugie cannot seem to get a handle on him during the match; he plays with a weird sense of rhythm and timing, and Sugie cannot properly predict his movements. Add onto this the superb passing ability Kubota has displayed so far, and you have someone who is a sneakily dangerous player. He doesn’t have the immediate flash of either Katayama or Hatake, or the pure physicality of Hauer, but he is clearly someone to watch. The only question mark is whether he has any shooting ability, or if he is just a great passer . . . not that just being a passer is reason to discount someone.
There’s also the fact that we have seen dick all from Sera and Natsuki so far because Osaka has constantly been on the attack . . . and the Prince’s continued recovery from his injury. Lots of stories to play on here!
Not a good start to the game for ETU (though no doubt they will come back eventually), but a good start for this final arc. I like the way all the elements make themselves apparent and logically build throughout while also being flexible enough to play on viewer expectations. Can’t wait to see how the game develops further!