Giant Killing – 1

Football/soccer is a weird sport for me. Like many Americans, I don’t really watch it often, but unlike many Americans I have an appreciation for it — why wouldn’t I appreciate a sport that inspires such hot-blooded passion in so many people the world over? Plus, it is actually fun as hell to watch in person with a good crowd. I covered my college’s soccer games for the school paper, and I never attended a game I didn’t enjoy.

What does this have to do with Giant Killing? Well, while the production values aren’t the hottest (from Studio DEEN? What a shocker), and the main scenario isn’t original — hotshot, eccentric coach comes in to turn around a ragtag team and take them to glory — this first episode does a fairly good of presenting a place where not only is this sport the only thing that matters, but also that the concerns of the sport spread beyond the team itself. I doubt this is intentional on the part of the story (financial problems are a timeless problem, haha), but Giant Killing‘s scenario is pretty timely.

From what few sports shows I’ve seen/know about, the teams themselves operate in a vacuum — i.e. they only deal with personal problems and the team’s problems. Fans are generally supportive, and with high school teams they don’t really have to deal with the hard facts of life since the schools seem to be generally well off in anime. East Tokyo United, though, has a ton of problems. The higher-ups are worried about getting asses into seats, the fans range from apathetic to downright angry and the players themselves are either not confident or may have an overinflated sense of their own worth.

I enjoy the somewhat idealized nature of, say, Cross Game, don’t get me wrong, but Giant Killing is a bit more in line with how sports operate. Plunging attendance is a legitimate problem in sports, at least in America (and I assume in many other places, given the state of the economy). The NBA has at least a third of the league (probably more) hemorrhaging money, baseball has a big split between the haves and have-nots and America’s most popular sport — American football — is feeling the sting of things as well. The way the problem is dealt with in Giant Killing makes me smile, because it’s exactly what an American team would do: Hire a legend from the team’s past to lead the squad and hope to hell good things happen.

The fan situation is fun, too. I smiled at the fans gathering in protest at Tatsumi’s hire, because it is so true to life — passionate sports fans hold grudges for a long ass time. Any sane person will look at a hugely passionate sports fan from the outside and wonder how in the hell he or she could lose sanity because of a silly sport; well, these sports are more than just that to a lot of people. They’re markers of identity. If you’re, say, a passionate fan of the Los Angeles Lakers, you are not alone; you are one of many Lakers fans who give a piece of their soul to that team and revel in their victories and despair at their defeats. (Also, you hate the Boston Celtics, those dirty bastards. Not going to lie: Seeing the Celtics struggle this season has given me an inordinate amount of pleasure.)

I compare it to being a huge fan of a certain anime series — let’s pick Code Geass. You’re a fan of Geass, so you want to see it do well. You’re on the edge of your seat when the show has great episodes and groaning when it has crappy episodes. You slowly get a bit more into the fandom: Maybe you talk the show up with people on message boards, blog about the series, buy the DVDs, whatever. You even like this series so much that you can rattle off the directors, key animators, seiyuu and whoever else in seconds flat. When people talk shit about Geass — as many do — it irks you, even if you don’t like to admit it. People on the outside may wonder how someone could be so singularly dedicated to this series, but the thing is, unless they are a part of it, they can’t really understand it.

That’s what being a passionate sports fan is like — that passion makes you a bit crazy and prone to doing things you might not do otherwise. Above all, sports are drama. It’s easy to get sucked into it way too much. I consider myself a fairly sane person; however, when the Lakers blew that 21 point lead in game four of the NBA Finals (to the Celtics of all teams!!!!!), I was pretty much catatonic and had to be driven home rather than enjoy myself at a party. The game six curb stomping left me in a similar state. I can’t remember that series without wanting to punch things, which I’m pretty sure is the way my dad feels about the 1984 NBA Finals (the worst series in Magic Johnson’s career). Point is, sports connect to people in ways that make them act out rather bizarrely. Leading a protest against a coach seems silly, but Tatsumi betrayed these fans — in their mind — by leaving ETU for a foreign team. That’s a grudge they’ll hold for a good while.

(But it’s all worth it when you get to celebrate by walking drunkenly down a street after a big victory.)

Now, I don’t want Giant Killing to focus on sports economics or the fans too much — these are simply details I enjoyed and that helped set a cool stage. (Although I do hope it borrows a bit more from real life situations and sets up a love/hate relationship between Tatsumi and the sports media. Tatsumi is a journalist’s dream: An outspoken coach who will undoubtedly feed them gold nugget quotes for stories. However, he will also bring the wrath of God down upon any journalist who tries to stir up shit in the paper.)

The episode itself is just OK, although I think there is good potential here. Tatsumi’s brashness is a lot of fun, and I’m glad to see he is shaking things up right away. It’ll be a lot of fun to see how he manages the egos on this team, too (ego handling is a major aspect of coaching, haha). Not holding out much hope with DEEN working on this, but if the soccer matches are at least decently animated, I’ll be happy.

13 Responses to “Giant Killing – 1”

  1. I guess the fans were mad that ETU didn’t get a huge chunk in transfer fees for Tatsumi. I mean, if the best player for a team that I’m a fan of left and my club wasn’t properly compensated, I’d be pretty cheesed off too :3

    Well, both you and 5camp have gotten me to at least take a provisional look. And with World Cup season and my rabid US Nats fanboyism settling in, I’m afraid this one will demand my attention.

    • Haha, yeah. I’m not familiar with how it works in soccer, but I assume it’s similar to way Japanese baseball players who are still under contract with their teams jump ship to MLB — the Boston Red Sox had to pay for the right to even bid on Daisuke Matsuzaka before they signed him, for instance. Money’s everything. :p

  2. I wouldn’t compare being a fan on anime to fan of a sports team because you can’t drop out of being a fan of a sports team when things go bad. I was a fan of Xam’d but when its second half sucked I stopped being a fan. With sports, you’re stuck with your team. It takes years of sucking to lose your interest in the team, as shown slightly by the folks of this town.

    It’s that thinking that pissed me off about the Endless Eight debacle. People were saying that people who didn’t like Haruhi weren’t true fans. Of course they’re bloody not because it’s not a sport!

    • Well, it’s more concentrated in anime since once the show is over, it’s over, while the sports team will keep on going — so a 26 episode series going into the shitter is like a sports team being completely inept for a decade and alienating all its fans, even though with some different moves they could be contenders. So when dealing with shittiness, I guess there’s a different sense of time since there’s a different context to it all.

      “Endless Eight” was like a team winning a championship one year and then completely dismantling that team, building around another great player and then that player gets injured constantly over the next few years and to top it off, he constantly craps on the fans. It’s that feeling of “What the hell happened?? We used to be good!” with the management/players angering the fans.

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  4. fathomlessblue Says:

    I really enjoyed this opening episode, which is a bit strange coming from a brit with only a vague interest in football (rugby man myself). They actually portrayed the atmosphere/supporters in england fairly well…obviously minus the swearing, binge-drinking and casual violence often associated with it. plus repeatedly calling football “soccer” in the uk probably isn’t the wisest idea.

    I personally hope they carry on focusing on economics and the conflicts between the manager/players/board/fans etc over slice-of-life, as the inner machinations of football clubs are very much topical and front page material, at least in the uk. The series would certainly come across as truer to the spirit of modern football as opposed to an anime that just has football matches in it.

    Its a very turbulent time for clubs at the mo, especially because the the recession. I couldn’t help but chuckle at the old man describing Tatsumi advancing his village team to the FA club to play Portmouth as “the best of the best” when said team is at the bottom of the Premiership and certain to be relegated. I guess a lot can happen in a season in any sport, lol

    • Well, I don’t want the economics/fan aspect to be abandoned entirely, but I hope there’s balance to it — actually the ratio in this episode works fine for me. Enough to know that the problems are present, but not so much that they overtake the soccer action, which is the clear focus.

      And, yeah, the great thing about sports is that they are so unpredictable. In every American sport, there seems to be at least one or two teams a season that shock everyone by being really good, haha.

  5. “the concerns of the sport spread beyond the team itself.”

    I don’t know if you’ve seen it, a friend of mine made me watch it even though I’m not a sports fan, but an American movie that goes into some of that is We Are Marshall. If you haven’t seen it, you might enjoy checking it out. It examines the impact of the loss of a (US) football team on a small community in W. Virginia.

  6. Wow, you literally took most of the words right out of my mouth. The thing about the fans kind of reminded me of the Friday Night Lights book, when the fans deliberately put up “For Sale” signs on the coach’s front lawn.


    Oh well, let’s put the Durantula in his place then.

    Yeah I really enjoyed this episode and I’m so stoked to watch ep 02. DL FASTER GRAAAAHHHH

    • Haha, yeah, much as I enjoy the Lakers sending the Spurs home, a first-round series against the Zombie Sonics should be pretty fun. Not gonna lie: Their youth is a bit scary. Since I watched G Gundam recently, I’d compare the Lakers to Master Asia, while the Zombies are Domon . . . let’s just hope Domon hasn’t received his degree in manliness from Schwartz quite yet.

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