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 41 - Break the Dutch Wall!
Watch in Japanese with English subtitles:
Watch in Spanish:
In the previous episode, Japan were down 1-0 at halftime and barely hanging on against the Netherlands in a pre-World Cup tune up match.
This episode starts with the fans worried, and then cuts to the manager in the Japanese locker room giving a speech. He makes a change at the half - taking off midfielder Takeshi Sawada for sweeper Jun Misugi. He tells his men to allow the defenders to defend better and let the midfielders attack more. Hyuga confidently asks for the ball saying he will score one way or another.
Backed by a driving guitar beat, and lots of nice cuts, it’s legitimately a cool scene.
Netherlands kicks off without any changes, but Tsubasa takes it from them right away. Once again he is surrounded, but he is able to find Hyuga. However, the striker once again loses out to Davi. Japan are right back onto it though, and look better, moving fluidly. However, the Dutch react well and take the ball and spring a counter.
Overmars finds Kluivert (sorry, it’s hard for me to remember their fake names) with a throughball in attack. However they are completely shocked to be caught completely offside. Good move, Japan.
Jun is congratulated by the team for doing this, although I’m pretty sure it’s impossible for him to do it alone but oh well. He takes the free kick and finds Hyuga, who is still determined to score. He stands motionless, but then sprints past a few defenders. He stares down Davi from far away and is clearly trying to one-up him once and for all.
I was fearing a moment of selfishness from Hyuga, but he actually makes a good pass to Tsubasa. Tsubasa returns the ball to Hyuga, who is at least temporarily free from Davi. However, Jaap Stam is in the way now. Hyuga continues his two-man game with Tsubasa by passing it back to him. The Japanese captain is chased by Davi, so he decides to make an acrobatic volley, in a semi-cartwheel. However, Van der Sar saves with relative ease.
Meanwhile, Aoi Shingo gets the news from the coach: he’s coming in. He gets the ball straight away and starts dribbling. He’s very good with the ball, but he is surrounded quickly and gives the ball up. On the other side, Davi is charging forward. Aoi stands in the way, but Davi blows past him quite easily. Aoi returns and gets knocked again in literally the same animation. Except - much to Davi’s surprise - Aoi actually got the ball this time.
Aoi is a spark off the bench, helping return some momentum to Japan. Tsubasa and him are passing back and forth in attack. Tsubasa makes a long pass to Aoi, who flies in the air and captures the ball, somehow keeping it in. Stam, who is like 10 times bigger, easily tackles him.
It’s back and forth, with the Netherlands countering now. It’s looking like Japan might just lose this one. Davi dribbles past everyone with some fancy footwork and is left one on one against Genzo. Aoi however is somehow able to run back from the other side and makes a block with his face. That takes the sting out of it and Genzo saves. Tsubasa and Misaki then move the ball forward, and we are told there are only two minutes left.
Tsubasa blows past a few opponents but once again Davi is in the way. The Japanese captain turns and lifts the ball over his opponent, a trademark of Carlos Santana (the Brazilian character, not the guitarist.)
He then appears to do his own trademark - the drive shot, sending it high in the air. Stam tries to block it, but the spin on the ball drives it back down to a waiting Hyuga - a disguised pass!
Hyuga and Van der Sar run towards the ball, still in the air. The striker does a diving header - and appears to have shot well wide of the post! But what’s this? Oh, it’s Aoi, who has made another lung-bursting run back to the attack. He gets his head to it and - goal! Japan equalize!
And the match ends with the super sub’s goal, 1-1!
The Barcelona manager watched the game and is asked what it means for Tsubasa’s chances at his club. He offers no comment.
Davi tells Hyuga he avoided their clash, but Hyuga denies it. Davi now respects Hyuga, and tells him he prefers a teammate who isn’t stubborn anyway.
The team celebrates the draw, but Tsubasa reflects that they are still not nearly good enough. He tells his teammates they need to practice more and improve. And that’s the end of the episode!