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 40 - The New Japan National Team!
Watch in Japanese with English subtitles:
Watch in Spanish:
When we finished episode 39, we were introduced to Shingo Aoi, Japan’s super-determined, super-quick ace in the hole. And after seeing the team in training, the game was finally about to kick off.
We start this episode with fans outside the Yokohama Stadium with the game between Japan and the Netherlands about to kick-off. We get the names of some of the players for the Netherlands who are:
1. Van Len Fort: A keeper, known in the manga as Vaalen Voort, and surely based on Edwin van der Sar
8. Willem Arminius: In the manga known as Davi, and surely Edgar Davids.
14. Albert Potter (C): Known as Overus in the manga, and surely Marc Overmars
We then hear the names of the Japanese team: Genzo, Ryo, Makoto, Hiroshi, Hikaru, Taro, Tsubasa, Takeshi, Hajime, Shun, and Kojiro Hyuga.
Next we cut to reactions from everyone which takes quite a bit, but finally we kick off!
Japan control the ball, Tsubasa makes some sort of ridiculous dribble past a guy (I barely understood it), and then he crosses to Hyuga. The striker receives the ball and strikes a shot on target. But then, in comes the block from a Netherlands defender! His name is Gustav, but by his bald head and large frame, it’s clearly based on Jaap Stam.
Hyuga’s signature move is called the “Tiger Shot.” I never quite understood what made the Tiger Shot very special, it was basically just “kicking it really hard.” I recall a few times in kickarounds as a kid that there was one guy who would call out his attack the same way they did in the show. He’d actually yell “Tiger Shot!” before shooting. This made him very predictable, but he could really kick it hard and it legitimately hurt to block it!
Anyway, Gustav is much stronger, obviously, and blocks the Tiger Shot with little effort. Taro Misaki (#11) catches the rebound and reasons that such a big player won’t be able to move quickly. Gustav tackles him though, and clears the ball. On the attack, Davi/Willem drives the ball forward for the Netherlands. He passes it to #4 who passes it to #5, who has the look and shirt number of a former Barcelona player - Giovanni van Bronckhorst. The ball finds the way back to Davi, and he continues with his ahem, overly physical style. He sprays it wide to Potter/Overmars, who cuts in towards goal. At a slightly uncomfortable angle, but with no defenders in sight, he takes a shot. Genzo makes a big save and Japan hang on.
His punt finds Tsubasa, but he is tackled by Davi, who is basically everywhere. The Japanese defenders try to tackle him, but he leaps with the ball, and then somehow shoots from that position.
The shot is barely deflected by Genzo with a fist (quite why he would use a fist in this situation I’m not sure.)
However, the rebound is pounced on by a Dutch attacker - Bernhardt, who is clearly modeled after former Barcelona and Netherlands striker Patrick Kluivert. It’s a goal! The Netherlands lead within 10 minutes, and Japan look quite defeated.
The Netherlands switch to a 2-4-4 formation, hoping to annihilate Japan. Katgiri is shown in the stands saying he’s willing to step down if his gamble to play the youth team players in this friendly doesn’t work. Meanwhile Potter is taking another shot on goal, forcing Genzo into another save. Japan are swamped, and Bernhardt is the next to crack a shot. Genzo this time reacts somewhat poorly and only gets his fingertips to it, and the ball looks destined for the net after a weak deflection - until Tsubasa comes flying in and makes a goal line block!
The Netherlands basically are toying with Japan, with Genzo being forced into saves. Rarely do Japan have the ball; Hyuga gets it and is being marked by Davi, who wins it with a slide tackle. The Netherlands start a lighting counter which is finally broken up by Tsubasa. However the Dutch team surrounds him, making it so he can’t escape. Hyuga is left isolated as Japan’s 9 other outfielders try to put out fires. Tsubasa loses the ball, and Bernhardt takes another crack and once again Tsubasa is forced to make a ridiculous flying block.
Japan seem gassed, and are having to rely on Tsubasa defending more than he’s used to. The Netherlands continue leading 1-0, and it’s only not worse thanks to Genzo’s big saves. On the bench, the Japanese manager tells his subs that he won’t make any changes until the 45th minute. The subs say their goal is to analyze the game and see an opening when they are brought on.
With half-time nearing, Tsubasa makes a dribble and evades a slide tackle from Davi. He passes to Hyuga, who is marked by Gustaf. The striker prepares his trademark Tiger Shot, only to attempt a lob at the last moment which this time evades the defender, but the keeper anticipates well and saves. The half ends with Japan losing 1-0 and looking absolutely exhausted.
Tsubasa reflects that he’s not used to being so far away from goal and wonders what his team can do. The episode ends with Japan in trouble and looking outclassed by a team who didn’t even qualify for the FIFA World Cup. Coming up next: can they turn it around?