Giant Killing 6 – Bringing the Drama

Sports anime are often dogged with the stigma of, “I don’t like this sport, so I wouldn’t like watching this series.” But speaking as someone who isn’t really into soccer (at least not at anywhere near the levels of my absolute favorite sports), Giant Killing is a pretty great advertisement for soccer. After watching the above scene, my immediate reaction was, “Man, I absolutely have to watch a soccer match in a rabid country at some point in my life.”

Really, if the viewer (or reader, in the case of sports manga) lets him or herself get caught up in the experience, aren’t all sports anime great advertisements for the sports they represent? (Notable exception: Basquash. That made me want to watch basketball less afterward, and I love basketball.) They’re in a medium with which we’re all familiar and (presumably) love. They cut out all the slow, boring parts of each sport and highlight all the action-packed parts, like watching a YouTube video of nothing but great soccer players scoring goals from crazy angles for five minutes. They distill the drama and make it palpable to everyone watching, not just those who intimately follow sports and know all the players. Everything is visible to the viewer; they know the players, and thus, they know the sport.

I don’t know how many non-sports fans see sports in this way, but basketball, baseball, football, soccer and the like are essentially real-life fiction. There are colorful characters, larger-than-life heroes and devious villains; built-in conflicts; unforeseen twists; and the euphoria of victory. (And also obnoxious fanboys and fangirls. :p) Sports are drama in its purest, most human form, raw, unbridled, unleashed for the viewer to see either on the TV screen or — even better — in person. I love the movies, I love reading a good book and I love watching anime, but there is nothing quite like the electricity of seeing a good, dramatic sport in person, whether it’s an NBA playoff game, a college football game to kick off the season or a championship boxing fight.

There’s just something about being a part of the crowd at those events that makes the drama more real, more distinct. It’s the difference between watching a movie on DVD and watching it in a theater with a ton of people; yeah, technology can make the home experience bigger and better, but nothing quite matches the drama of the live experience. Plus, for me, there’s just something more exciting about knowing the realness of it all, the grittiness and high-powered intensity of actual people battling it out for honor, pride and the right to call themselves the best.

Another aspect of sports drama I love is how inherently ambiguous it is in terms of heroes and villains. Especially in competitive team sports, there are rarely clear-cut heroes and villains. Take this recent example: I guarantee that during the Los Angeles Lakers first round NBA playoff series against the Oklahoma City Thunder, there were very, VERY few people cheering for the Lakers who weren’t already Lakers fans. On the one hand, you had the Lakers, the big market bullies, led by embattled star Kobe Bryant; a team that spent much of the season bitching at each other; a team that many saw as entitled, arrogant and frustrating due to their propensity for winning after coasting for long stretches.

On the other side, there was the Thunder, a young, likable and exciting team, happy to be in the playoffs, no doubt, but also licking their chops at the opportunity to dethrone the defending NBA champs. They were the underdogs with heart, the team that wouldn’t give up and gave the Lakers a challenge right out of the gate, eventually pushing Los Angeles to a tough six-game series where the Thunder finally lost. To much of the country, the Lakers were the villains; to me, the Lakers were the heroes, the experienced veterans teaching the upstarts a thing or two before putting them back in their place.

(And that’s only the major narrative thread. There were so many other subplots: Was Derek Fisher washed up because he couldn’t guard Russell Westbrook to save his life? Could Kobe match shots with Durant? Was Pau Gasol ready to back up his tough talk and will himself to become the Lakers’ 1a instead of their No. 2 guy? Could the good-hearted team play of OKC overcome an L.A. squad who had not played as such for a good chunk of the year? And on and on and on.)

But that’s just it — the narrative of sports is often malleable. Heroes and villains depend on perspective. Nobody but New York Knicks fans liked those thugball Knicks teams of the 1990s, but I bet any self-respecting Knick fan would defend those teams to the death because of their toughness, their physicality and the way they connected with the confidence and swagger of New York City.

With many stories, the elements are set in stone. We know who the heroes are, and we know who the villains are. The heroes might be flawed, and the villains might be sympathetic, but they have their roles nonetheless. And while readers and viewers may add their own interpretation of events, the narrative is still under the control of the creators. In sports, though, the narrative is entirely up for grabs — the players and teams have a piece, the media has a piece and the fans have a piece! We decide our heroes and villains; we decide how to see them. Real life gives our athletes a shade of color found only in the greatest stories.

Bringing this long tangent back to this episode of Giant Killing, that is part of what fascinated me about the above scene where Tatsumi gives his speech to the press while the coaches give him angry looks. Tatsumi is controlling the narrative of sport. He takes advantage of the media; he casts ETU as the underdog, puts the pressure on the other squads to perform. In a way, he also casts his team as the morally righteous underdog, improving themselves and ready to wage war against the league’s dominant bullies.

It’s fantastic. Onstage Tatsumi seems brash and arrogant, but his speech is actually carefully calculated. He works the media flawlessly; there’s no doubt they framed ETU exactly the way Tatsumi wants them to be framed. Tatsumi is placing the story on his side: ETU is the hero; everyone else, the villain. How would you perform if you knew for certain you were in the right?

(But, of course, in life there are always little twists, as evidenced by the goal to close the episode. Even Tatsumi cannot control the narrative to that extent. Adversity, baby, adversity.)

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12 Responses to “Giant Killing 6 – Bringing the Drama”

  1. fathomlessblue Says:

    While i’ve never seen a flag quite that size before or with Shinigami??? (or whatever those creature are) I agree that nothing gets your blood racing like a live match. The depictions of crowd atmosphere where spot on down to the chanting.

    So far this series has definitely distilled key scenes into the football matches shown. Football’s a bit of a hard sell to non-fans. The more you get into it the more you realise that tactics, passing, tackling etc throughout the match are just as important for a great game as the goals itself. I’ve seen 0-0 matches that have blown me away and ones with plenty of goals that have failed to excite. While points are ultimately important to win a league its the skill that has the fans coming back. For casual fans or just the curious its harder to get into this mindset. I think thats why football isn’t as big in America. I’ve seen pretty great games played on international tours that have ended in booing as they’ve been goaless, to the extent token penalties where required to give the game a clear victor.

    Giant Killing focuses on what casual viewers would consider the the highlights of a match but thats not a bad thing. As long as people enjoy the show regardless of their connection to the spot then it’ll be a success.

    In regards to the press conference, psychology is an important part of a managers job in football and Tatsumi’s comments where very much in line with how many act. For example Inter Milan manger Jose Mourinho has a similar casual attitude coupled with an off-beat humour which make him very endearing to both fans and non-fans but also focuses attention on him rather than the players, while Manchester United’s Alex Ferguson uses mind games to undermind his rivals.

    Finally while i’m in no position to comment on the Dutch used I don’t think i’ve ever heard such a great combination of both excellent and awful English language used at the same time. Unintentally hilarious. Also the national manager may be the only French person in existence to admit to enjoying british food. That was the most unrealistic part of this show so far, lol

    • Yeah, as you watch more sports, you grow to appreciate the subtleties and become more enthralled by the little things. Defensive struggles can be pretty entertaining as long as they’re legitimate struggles and not just poor play on the parts of the athletes.

      I love when coaches play mind games with the media. So much fun. The Lakers have one of the all-time masters in Phil Jackson.

      Haha, as a connoisseur of terrible Engrish, I greatly enjoyed this episode. So much accented English and halting English. Quite funny.

  2. BoozerX Says:

    You have to bring the 90s Knicks.
    I love the 90s Knicks!
    Great post.
    And see live the giant flags in a match is incredible.
    I am from Argentina and the Boca – River match is the most visceral under the sun.
    One of the giants flags of Boca (my team) was from Maradona himself.

    • Haha, I hate the ’90s Knicks. Don’t like their style of play (they took the roughness and trash talking too far), and their 10 trillion series with the Miami Heat in the late ’90s were completely unwatchable. I don’t hate the Knicks as much as I hate the Celtics, mind, but they’re up there.

      Nice to have a reader from Argentina though! Pretty cool that the NBA has made it all the way down there. Manu Ginobili is from down there, right?

  3. BoozerX Says:

    the flag

    • fathomlessblue Says:

      Great flag, as for Maradona…. well i’m British so anything I say will be biased against him. Still if I had my way this clip would be inserted in the dictionary under the word farce.

      ps. Don’t take too seriously, I don’t want to start a war with Maradona fans, lol

    • Pretty kickass flag. I approve.

  4. Fuck yeah rawr! Agreed on all points.

    I have much to say about Giant Killing and underdogs, but I’ll say it in my own post.

    On your other points — LOL bandwagon Thunder Fans, made up of 99% Kobe haters, 1% Lakers haters, and 100% both.

    Where did they go when the Thunder lost? They didn’t feel like cheering for the Jazz did they? After all, the hardcore Jazz fans probably believe that Baka-Raptor came from outer space.

    I find it funny how players and fans pray… I mean PRAY for victory. It’s outright asking God to pick favorites. It’s truly fascinating to me, similar to how watching a well-played match is akin to a religious experience for me (as game three LAL @ UTA was, or Nadal def. Federer in Wimbledon 2008, and Nadal def. Verdasco in Melbourne 2009).

    • “Where did they go when the Thunder lost? They didn’t feel like cheering for the Jazz did they? After all, the hardcore Jazz fans probably believe that Baka-Raptor came from outer space.”

      hahahahaha

      And, yeah, it’s pretty crazy how a lot of fans can get REALLY into their team. I love the Lakers, and I’ll be like “oh shit oh shit oh shit” during close games, but I’ve never literally prayed to God for victory (even when I still believed in God :p). But I won’t act like I don’t turn into a little kid when watching games.

      Oh man, I remember watching that Nadal/Federer match when I was hanging out in the newsroom at college. What a ridiculous, ridiculous match. Got my heart pumping just thinking about it right now!

  5. BoozerX Says:

    two more flags we have several

  6. MsOfficer Says:

    Haha Kobe’s embattled alright, & this didn’t help:

    http://msofficer.com/2010/05/14/queen-kobe/

    http://twitter.com/msofficer

  7. […] “So why do you watch sports?” my more civilized geek friends ask, “this shit is so boring.” I don’t really see it that way. I consider sports a refreshing alternative way to get my share of drama. Sure, you have to understand the rules and knowing about teams and players help, but sports are just that: real life drama. If I may take a quote from my fellow anime loving sports fan, “There are colorful characters, larger-than-life heroes and devious villains; built-in conflicts; unforeseen twists; and the euphoria of victory. (And also obnoxious fanboys and fangirls. :p) Sports are drama in its purest, most human form, raw, unbridled, unleashed for the viewer to see either on the TV screen or — even better — in person. ” -Shinmaru (Unmei Kaihen) […]

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