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 39 - Shingo Aoi is Here
Watch in Japanese with English subtitles:
Watch in Spanish:
The episode starts with Katagiri telling the Japanese federation he’s confident the youth teamers can beat the Netherlands, and reveals he has one more secret player he wants to use. That player is Shingo Aoi, who has been playing for Inter Milan. None of the other Japanese players know him. Interestingly, the club’s name isn’t censored for copyright reasons, even though other teams like Barcelona and Juventus were. Also it’s not stated outright, but I’m sure they mean the Inter youth team.
Shingo Aoi means “green light,” and his main attribute is his nonstop running and speed. Weirdly, one of the journalists says Inter is one of the weakest teams in Italy. I guess he’s an AC Milan fan.
Ken Wakashimazu, the second goalkeeper, meets with the coach to tell him he wants to be the starting keeper against the Netherlands, but the coach tells him he will pick Genzo. Ken, upset, tells the other players he is giving up since the coach has decided not to pick him and storms off training. The other guys are not impressed, but Ken brushes them off. Hyuga launches a shot at his face in anger, but Ken blocks it easily with one hand, impressing everyone.
Shingo flashes back (this show loves flashbacks) to losing in school to Tsubasa’s team. He’s crying, thinking about quitting, but Tsubasa tells him to keep going. That apparently inspired him to become a professional player.
Katagiri tells Ken that Shingo started from nothing to get to where he was. This leads to another flashback in which Shingo somehow goes to Italy alone as a child, and gives a random man a bunch of money to allow him to do a trial with Inter. The guy leaves and obviously the youth coach has no idea about this arrangement, and tells him there are no trials at the moment.
Shingo is out of money and has no trial. He goes to a plaza and befriends someone who gives him food, who is then chased away by some men. The young player starts shoeshining for money, and then finds a ball and starts doing tricks. People give him money on the street for his ability with the ball, which allows him to eat.
He eventually goes to the youth coach and begs him to let him play. The coach lets him shine shoes, but then eventually an injury in the youth team allows Shingo a chance to play.
Back in our timeline, Shingo is still on the training pitch even though it’s night time. Ken goes down and tells him to practice shots with him. The rest of the team notices and are impressed.
Once the late night training is done, Ken notices Shingo has a necklace. Shingo says it’s his lucky charm, at which point we get another flashback in which we learn Tsubasa gave him a Brazilian coin as a good luck charm when Shingo showed up at the airport to wish him luck on his trip to Brazil.
The next day, Shingo expects to be first to the training ground as usual, but is surprised to see the entire team was early. Then, Ken apologizes to the coach for storming out of practice.
The players then start a practice match in which, coincidentally, the players from the Nankatsu school (including Tsubasa) are on one side and the players from Nakahara (including Shingo) on the other.
Shingo is able to dribble past a few players, but Tsubasa successfully tackles him. Tsubasa compliments him, revealing he still remembers him from their school matches, and says he still remembers him from the airport, as well. Shingo is touched and promises to do his best to help the Japanese team.
Time passes, and the hype for the Japanese team is building in the media, and the fans are starting to believe. Supporters are gathering at Yokohama stadium. The players are going down the tunnel... the match is seconds from kick off... and! The episode is over!
This episode is all about Shingo. The show often displays heroic characters with tragic backstories, with the overall message being “don’t give up.” And Shingo is definitely an example of that. Plus, the coach’s decision to pick him despite not being as famous (apparently) turns out to be an inspired bit of man-management, as he motivates the entire team to train more.
The next episode we will finally, definitely, get to see the match.