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 38 - Golden Age of Hope
Watch in Japanese with English subtitles:
Watch in Spanish:
The episode starts with Katagiri, the Japanese scout, writing a report about the Japanese youth team players that won the championship recently. Tsubasa is with Barcelona, Hyuga with Juventus, Genzo with Hamburger SV, and another player, Taro Misaki (also known as Tom) apparently has announced a move to France after being last season’s J-League MVP.
We cut to Genzo talking to a club teammate, who tells him that the friendly against the Netherlands will be a real challenge. Despite not qualifying for the 2002 FIFA World Cup, the Dutch team is very strong, says the teammate. This is an interesting melding of the real world as the Netherlands did in fact fail to qualify to the World Cup hosted by Japan. I actually looked up if Japan played a friendly against the Netherlands before the World Cup, but that turned out to be fiction.
Hyuga is training hoping to best Davi in the friendly, and Tsubasa is thinking about showing up his Dutch teammates. Tsubasa gets a call from the Japanese team, which isn’t much of a surprise, but then we see the Japanese scout meeting with the Japanese FA. The squad list he gives is apparently the entire Japanese youth team, not just the four key players. The officials aren’t too impressed. The FA president tells him to think about it, but Katagiri doesn’t back down. He finds an ally in the team’s manager, who says it’ll be a good time to test out the young players ahead of the World Cup, which convinces the federation.
Meanwhile, Tsubasa comes back and sees Sanae. Apparently they hadn’t seen each other in four years. I thought they were in a relationship by now? A little confused by the skip I made. Oh well. Anyway, Ryo and a bunch of Tsubasa’s old schoolmates are having a kickabout in the park. Genzo shows up, announcing he is also called up for the friendly. Ryo is still trying to make his debut in the Japanese league, and the rest of the youth national team are there as well talking about their place in the professional football world. They start having a mini match in the park, when Katagiri shows up.
He lets them know the youth teamers will be allowed to earn their first cap. They’re shocked but they show they’re determined to beat the Netherlands. The scout tells the press he picked the youngsters because he thinks they’ll be good enough to win the FIFA World Cup. The manager then tells the team in a meeting that he wants them tuned up for the World Cup. If they can’t beat the Dutch team, he says, they have no chance to win the tournament. Interestingly, the Netherlands apparently saw the list of youth players and refused to send their best players.
Katagiri flashes back to his Japan national team playing days, when he lost to Korea 3-0. He thinks the new players will succeed where he failed, and travels to the Netherlands to tell them to bring their best players. Meanwhile, the Japanese players are in training and talking about the Netherlands not sending their best players, but Hyuga tells them that it doesn’t matter and they need to beat any opponent.
Katagiri meets with the Dutch federation but they insist on not sending their stars, while the coach continues drilling Japan back in Asia. The coach of the Netherlands, Otto Leigaat, is at Japan’s training to scout them. (I think he’s based on the coach of the Dutch team then, Louis van Gaal.)
That’s pretty odd to allow the opposition manager into your training routine but oh well. Otto is impressed with Japan’s ability and calls the federation. He tells them Japan are strong and he should be allowed to bring his starters. The episode ends with the friendly match nearing and the Netherlands sending their best.