Keppeki Danshi! Aoyama-kun – 01 (First Impressions)

Morita-san is taciturn. Tanaka-kun is listless. Sakamoto is…Sakamoto (haven’t you heard?). And Aoyama-kun…is a clean freak. He’s also a elite young soccer talent who was selected for the national team’s under-16 squad.

But unlike Tanaka in particular, there’s not much to Aoyama beyond those dual main qualities. His constant scrubbing, and the adoration of his legions of mostly-female fans, becomes tedious pretty fast.

His soccer senpai (and advantaged rich kid) Zaizen also grows weary of Aoyama’s shtick pretty quickly. We get it; dude’s a germophobe…though even that’s arguable, since he doesn’t wear surgical masks everywhere and doesn’t seem to have much of a problem being outside.

We learn in the cold open, and it is confirmed when the team practices against a rival elite team led by the washboard abs-bearing Takechi (who is trying to poach Aoyama) that Aoyama is indeed a singular, if bizarre, soccer talent; applying his obsessive “cleanliness” with a gameplan completely devoid of physical contact, combined with sharpshooter precision on passes and shots. But look to someone else for checks and headers.

Admiring Aoyama from afar (and possibly content to keep it that way) is the very cute but also clearly fixated Gotou Moka, who would like to think she’s locked in on what Aoyama thinks and does, since they’re soulmates or something.

But ostensible side characters like Zaizen, Takechi, and even Moka herself are all more dimensional characters than Aoyama, simply because they have more to say and we see things from their perspective.

Don’t get me wrong: Studio Hibari has rolled out a very good-looking anime in Keppeki Danshi; many of Aoyama’s moves in slow motion are cinematic in their presentation. The character design is clean and crisp. Overall the production is competent. The comedy is well-timed if unexceptional so far (the abs-bearing guy is particularly lame). Colorful—if still shallow—personalities abound.

But the main problem so far is the titular character. Aoyama is little more than cleanliness and soccer ability, and he’s always observed from a distance. He has to develop as more of an actual human being if the audience is going to be expected to connect with and keep rooting for the guy.

There’s a slight but promising glimmer of that when Aoyama suddenly comes to life with five minutes to go, even getting dirty in service of winning the game because he really hates losing.

But if we don’t see more of stuff like that, and continue in the vein of “OMG look at what clean-freak thing Aoyama’s doing now!” ad nauseum, Aoyama-kun won’t just be a “Cleanliness Boy”…he’ll be a Boy I’m Not Watching.

DAYS – 12

screen-shot-2016-09-17-at-7-20-07-pm

The Gist: Tsukamoto’s kick goes wide at Seiseki loses the game, and is out of the tournament. Everyone is devastated and eventually cries and resolves to win in the next tourney.

Kazama is most effected because he doesn’t understand the emotion of caring and he hates it, but loves that he finally cares about a team. Tsuka and Tsundere-chan are maybe a couple now, having shared a meal and spilled tea on the table. The other first years are jealous…

The Verdict: I am officially surprised Days pulled such an utterly generic mid-show twist. However, for such an average show, the lack of a payoff for all Seiseki’s hard work totally kills my interest for watching more.

Kazama’s emotional response was well delivered, true, but man do I not care enough about any of this to want to sit through 6 episodes of ‘building back up’ to a show down episode. Not after a quarter of the season was dedicated to ONE game. Yuck.

16rating_7

DAYS – 11

screen-shot-2016-09-11-at-1-19-57-pm

The Gist: Tsukamoto finally takes the field and his buffoonery immediately lightens the mood. Refreshed and reinforced, Seiseki puts on serious pressure and the Kazama/Tsuka duo proves too much for Saku High to beat.

However the episode ends tied 2 to 2 with under five minutes to spare. Presumably Seiseki will win it, based on next week’s preview but a cliff hanger is a cliff hanger.

The Verdict: Oy! With the opening being dedicated to recaps and the cliff hanger, this single game will have taken essentially 4 of the season’s episodes. That’s an awful lot for a relatively average looking sports show — and even with all the time given to building up this single rivalry, I still don’t know half of the cast by name, nor have a strong connection with anyone other than Tsuka and Kazama.

And really that’s a shame because a more competent hand could probably do s lot with what’s here to work with. The under dog protagonist has a dead dad and a crippled mother and his best friend is an abandoned child who’s only self value was his talent for soccer — that still didn’t stop his family from abandoning him. It’s got honest drama at stake… but not so much going on screen.

oy!

16rating_7

DAYS – 09

Screen Shot 2016-09-05 at 2.36.56 PM

The Gist: Sakuragi and Seiseki play about 2/3 of their game this week. Neither has the true upper hand. Tsukamoto spends the episode sitting on the sideline to absorb some general pointers from the coach (or not). We learn a little more about some of the players and Kazama develops a bit more — to the point of getting his face smashed in to save the day.

It may be surprising that Nozomi wasn’t even in the episode and that the crowd shots were all ‘nobody’ NPCs chattering about pretty much nothing. Not a lot actually happened and the budget constraints of animating soccer made that extra painful.

Screen Shot 2016-09-05 at 2.37.33 PM

 

The Verdict: while it actually breaks with expectations by not resolving the match within the 1.5 episodes I anticipated, the result was not particularly noteworthy. Lots of time was spent on internal monologs, or with Tsuka crying on the sideline.

We just don’t have enough of a relationship with the team to be invested in this week’s struggle, which is only compounded by meeting the upper classmen — the people who play on the team — several episodes after the first years who do not play on the team.

16rating_7

DAYS – 08

Screen Shot 2016-08-21 at 1.35.08 PM

The Gist: we finally meet Tsukamoto’s wheel-chair mom Nozomi, who’s 86 lbs, blood type A, specializes in Origami and likes children and caramel sauce. She worries that her feminine son has no friends and or is being bullied in school.

However, Tsuka gets a ton of texts from his friends before the big game and she comes to realize, like his father, who’s funeral was full of friends, Tsuka’s gonna be okay…

Then it’s time for Seiseki High to face off against Sakuragi Metropolitan for the inter-high finals that will determine who represents Tokyo in the regionals. Brooding and speeches and a few throw away jokes about Tsuka not being allowed into the match because the guards think he’s a middle schoolers eat up most of that time, which leaves next week for the actual match…

The Verdict: This was absolutely paint by the numbers as far as sports dramas go. It’s all about the big game and raising our expectations for that games’ outcome. Since it’s mid-season, I can only assume Seiseki will win next week because of some Tsuka juice but the other outcome would be to crush their spirits and force them to train for the next tourney. (chosen by shows like Haikyuu!!) I find this unlikely, because enthusiasm and ‘raw untrained tallent’ isn’t at the core of this team. So a reload wouldn’t really do anyone (except Tsuka himself) any good.

Regardless of next week’s outcome, this week wasn’t very interesting. Rather, it was completely what you would expect by the genre and uneventful. Not even the smile-moment where Tsuka’s mom see’s his texts really made an impression. She’s been introduced too late as a motivation and too slap-sticky to take serious.

Also, nice ‘dead dad’ out of left field Days. WTH?

16rating_7

2014 World Cup – “Itai!”

Photo ©2014 Ryu Voelkel

This photo kind of says it all. Things were surprisingly promising at the half, knotted up at one goal apiece thanks to a stoppage time equalizer by Okazaki Shinji, but then Colombia brought out the steamroller.

The match was another story of Japan’s impressive technical proficiency being nullified by apparent indecision in the box and physical domination by a larger opponent. Still, Blue Samurai fought hard and with heart.

This concludes RABUJOI’s very brief coverage of Japan at the 2014 World Cup.

(Photo ©2014 Ryu Voelkel/Howler Magazine)

 

 

 

 

2014 World Cup – KUSO!

wc3

Well, Japan was aggressive, hogging the ball a whopping 75% of the time and out-passing something like 5-to-1, but none of their shots went in the goal. Even though Greece was a man down, they seemed to be playing for a hold, which would net them at least one point, and not trying to win for three, while depriving Japan of two more.

After their scoreless draw, Japan and Greece share the dank basement of Group C. All is technically not lost, but Japan missed a crucial opportunity to control their own destiny, and it doesn’t bode well that they weren’t able to deliver a decisive blow to the weakest team in the group.They play Colombia next Tuesday, and they’ll be playing for pride…and a very slight glimmer of hope.

Omedeto, Nadeshiko!

Hearty congratulations are in order this morning, as the Japan women’s national football team (Nadeshiko) won the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup, becoming the first Asian team to do so. If it wasn’t in the cards for the U.S.A. to win this year, I’m glad it was Japan who beat us. The ladies deserved it. The nation needed it. The men’s team will have their chance in Brazil in 2014 (a USA-Japan final is unlikely, but not impossible!), but for now, savor the victory, Japan!