Captain Tsubasa might be the world’s most famous fictional footballer. This Japanese manga is loved around the world, although not always known by the same name. In Latin America, it’s known as Supercampeones. In Spain, it’s Oliver y Benji. In the USA, it’s Flash Kicker. In France, Olive et Tom, and in Italy, Holly e Benji. (Quite why they have to keep remaining characters, I’m not sure.)
It tells the story of a Japanese football prodigy named Tsubasa Ozora (known in different countries as Oliver Atom, Oliver Tsubasa, Majed, Andy Dai Zhiwei.. you get the point) and has been adapted into different anime and video games. It started in the 80s but its enduring popularity (even among professional footballers) has led to new issues of the manga, as well as more TV shows and more games being released up to this day.
You may know all this, but did you know Tsubasa joined FC Barcelona in the manga and show? We’re going to take a break from real football and watch some anime and relive the story...
Episode 2 - Tsubasa meets Roberto
Watch in Japanese with English subtitles:
Watch in Spanish:
In Episode 1, we saw Tsubasa playing with Sao Paulo (AKA Brancos) and having an extended flashback all the way to his childhood. In that sequence, we met the major characters like his best friend (Ryo), his love interest (Sanae), his rival (Genzo), and his mentor (Roberto). Click here for that recap.
This episode starts with some slightly surreal flashback in which Roberto, dressed up in his Brazilian national team kit, is kicking a ball in an empty stadium. We go back to the ... not quite as far past ... (remember this is all one big flashback in the middle of a game) where a doctor tells Roberto he has an eye condition.
He flashes back (boy, this show likes flashbacks!) to being a kid in the slums of Brazil, promising his mom he will become a pro player and help her out with money. Back in the slightly more recent timeline, he’s staring at a cross pendant.
The kids notice him, and he asks them how to get to an address. Tsubasa looks at the address, and surprise! It’s his house! Apparently, his dad gave it to Roberto. This leads into yet another flashback.
Tsubasa’s father, a sea captain of sorts, apparently met Roberto in Brazil and told him to visit Japan and stay with his family. One of the kids notices that he is a pro player, who apparently played with the Brancos and was a top scorer for the Brazilian national team. They convince him to teach them how to be better. Roberto advices them to be “friends with the ball,” to go everywhere with the ball.
Roberto also tells the story of losing his mother to a factory accident. He quits the sport out of sadness, but a shopkeep comes by and tells him his mom had already paid for half the price of a new ball for him to get as a birthday present. Roberto says he can’t afford the other half, but the shopkeep says not to worry about it, and to repay him by dedicating a goal to him when he’s on the national team.
Back in the not-so-distant past, Roberto teaches the kids what a bicycle kick is and later goes home with Tsubasa. Again, something about a child taking a drunk man home should be a little concerning but thankfully nothing bad happens. Roberto muses about why he’s in Japan, to see a doctor to help with his eye condition, but vows not to tell anyone so as to not worry them.
Ryo and another kid are eating octopus treats when Sanae reveals she has created a special banner for Tsubasa. This is an early sign of the romantic angle to those two. Meanwhile, Tsubasa is attempting Roberto’s special shot in the rain, which involves hitting the crossbar from a standing position, then scoring the rebound with a bicycle kick. He fails at first but finally succeeds, and Roberto congratulates him.
The episode ends with Roberto and Tsubasa having fun in training while Roberto narrates a letter he sent to the Brazilian national team coach, telling him he has found the doctor in Japan but his situation remains very complicated.
This episode focuses heavily on Roberto, who will remain an important character. The appeal of the show is how it lives out fantasies a lot of us had as kids: being the best player at school, scoring a winning goal, but also for example, meeting a football star who would train us personally. This episode sets that up well, although if you are like me, you are kind of hoping for the show to advance to the “current” timeline where Tsubasa is already a pro player. But it’s good to get the backstory out. On to episode 3!