East Tokyo United (ETU) has been struggling in Japan's top soccer league for the past few years. It has taken everything they have just to avoid relegation. To make matters even worse, the team has lost five matches in a row, leading to abysmal team morale. Even the fans are beginning to abandon them, and rumors hint that the home ground municipality is going to withdraw their support. With countless coaches fired and poor financial choices in hiring players, it is a downward spiral for ETU.
The board of directors, under pressure from general manager Kousei Gotou, takes a gamble and hires a new coach—the slightly eccentric Takeshi Tatsumi. Though considered a great soccer player when he was younger, Tatsumi abandoned ETU years ago. However, since then, he has proven himself successful as the manager of one of England's lower division amateur teams.
Tatsumi's task won't be easy; ETU fans call him a traitor, and the team is pitted against others with larger budgets and better players. Yet even the underdog can take down a goliath, and Tatsumi claims he is an expert at giant killing.
Addicting, suspenseful, and fun, this is a story about what it takes for one dysfunctional soccer team with a poor record to regain its honor and make it in the national soccer league. This team is called ETU (East Tokyo United). The members of ETU start out with a lot of difficulty; they have poor communication, conflicting personalities, mixed low and high self-esteem, and an overreliance on one team member. But within every player, there is a talent that is waiting to be manifested. Their new coach, Tatsumi Takeshi, helps to bring out the ‘giant killing’ in all of them.
Sports anime tend to have a
few story elements in common, like a central main protagonist who is a young prodigy, stereotypical characters (there always has to be the cute, black-haired rival), and lots of filler episodes dedicated to showing their normal lives (dating, school bullies, etc). However, Giant Killing moves away from these and turns out to be something refreshing in its genre. It’s a short series that spends its time wisely to develop its characters while still focusing head-strong on the sport. There is no central main character, or a prodigy for that matter—everyone works hard to achieve and maintain their skills, and they receive an equal amount of attention.
Giant Killing takes a nice introspective approach to the characters while they’re playing soccer. They constantly think about their situation, worry about their performance, and try to concentrate. It is on the field where most of the character development takes place, as they learn to apply their mind and improve their skills.
ETU’s players are adults (20 – 33 years old), and they each have a unique combination of personality and skill. For example, Tsubaki (midfielder) is young, shy, and conscientious, and he is the fastest runner on the team. Gino (midfielder) is the narcissistic cool-guy known as the “prince,” though he’s wisely observant, and he makes very accurate ball passes. Natsuki (forward) is also narcissistic but in a loud, eccentric sort of way, and he shoots very beautiful goals. Murakoshi (midfelder) is looked up to as the leader, but he is way too controlling and lacks some energy due to being older. There is honestly never a boring moment with them, whether they’re just practicing, playing for real, or sitting on the bus to go home.
You might as well call coach Tatsumi a psychologist. He is good at studying and understanding the minds of his players. His specialty is to take advantage of their personalities in the games, purposely pairing them up with certain opponents and counting on them to make personality-driven decisions. Though the funny thing is, not a single player or outsider understands HIM. Tatsumi is rather blunt-spoken, informal, and unpredictable; he designs unusual practice activities, comes up with reckless-sounding game plans, and rarely ever expresses worry. Simply put, he’s an oddball, but deep down he’s a good strategist who can unite his players.
The players on the opposing teams are just as well-developed and are incredibly DIVERSE. They speak the language of their nationality, such as English, Portuguese, French, and Dutch, which is a refreshing change from having everyone only speak Japanese. A few obvious differences between these teams and ETU are their levels of organization, strategies, and behaviors. They have a lot more momentum going on because they have accumulated more recent wins, and everybody likes to have a big ego. But when they’re put under the fire by surprise, they face similar internal problems as ETU, such as their personalities getting in the way of each other.
As for the side characters, you just have a few people working along with Tatsumi, as well as a reporter, a cameraman, and fans. What is so awesome about the fans is that you see three generations of them: the old fans who are rekindling their passion for ETU, the younger loyal fans, and the adorable kids.
At first glance, the character designs are simple and boring. At second glance, they’re actually very detailed. The shape of the head, eyes, nose, chin, and hairstyle differ among all the characters, causing them to look very distinct from one another. The main turn-off is just that they don’t look all that pretty.
The soccer matches are animated very well. When viewing them from a distance, CGI is clearly used to make every single player on the field move at the same time. Watching them close-up, it’s impressive how they pass the ball and shoot goals; they really twist their bodies around in odd ways to make these kinds of moves, and at some pretty awesome camera angles.
The soundtrack here is catchy and decent. The OP song “My Story ~Mada Minu Ashita e~” by THE CHERRY COKES is very upbeat, full of cheery shouting, and uses the bagpipe as a leading instrument. The ED song “Get tough!” by G.P.S sounds similar with the exception of it being dominantly rock. The rest of the music is repetitive but decent enough.
If you’re looking for an entertaining sports anime with diverse adult characters, national teams, various spoken foreign languages, and maybe a slightly eccentric coach, then look no further. Even if you’re not really into this genre or sport like I am, it can still be a great watch. The soccer matches are very detailed and tense, and the players develop wonderfully every time they play. The interactions among the characters are best part of the show; they're bursting with personality, and they make the games incredibly addicting to watch. This one shouldn’t be missed!
When I was younger, I used to watch an anime series called Kickers which revolved around football (or soccer for some). It was one of my very first encounters with anime and it definitely left an impression on me as a child, especially with its inspiring message and characters. Of course, as I grew up I started realizing that the world isn’t as perfect as Kickers depicted it—you wouldn’t always end up coming out on the winning side from conflicts and battles. I also learned that there’s no “I” in team and that a single person can’t stand victorious without some kind of help. Kickers
was an anime series that took football and depicted it in an idealized form, but it’s not Kickers that I’m going to talk about, but rather a much more recent anime that also deals with football, but in a very different way.
Giant Killing is an anime series based on the ongoing football manga of the same name. Despite what its title may suggest, Giant Killing delivers a realistic depiction of a sports team and its struggle to compete in Japan’s top football league. In other words, no, it does not feature football players battling each other with samurai swords and magical abilities. As a matter of fact, I don’t recall any people dying throughout the entire running time of this anime either. All jokes aside, the title ‘Giant Killing’ refers to the act of an underdog team coming out victoriously from the hardest of matches and winning against all odds.
The story focuses on Japanese football team East Tokyo United (or ETU short) which is having difficulty competing in the country’s top football league and barely avoided relegation last season. There is little hope for the team and even its fans are slowly starting to abandon it, but all is not lost yet, for ETU has selected a new manager for the upcoming season and he is not to be taken lightly. Former East Tokyo United player, Takeshi Tatsumi is hired to coach ETU after previously leading the English amateur team FC Eastham to victory.
Takeshi Tatsumi is a highly puzzling and intriguing character and often works in unconventional ways when training his team and preparing them for upcoming matches. His eccentric ways and his mysteriously confident personality easily make him the most interesting and important character in the series, but he is not the anime’s main focus. As a matter of fact, there is no such thing as a protagonist in Giant Killing. Instead, the series concentrates on the ETU team as a whole and even though it does feature some minor character arcs from time to time, it always remains devoted to portraying the characters as a group rather than individuals with a predetermined level importance.
Unfortunately, Giant Killing also comes with a limited budget and therefore may prove to be unsatisfying for some when it comes to its portrayal of the football matches. Action and tension are present, of course, but Giant Killing falls short when it comes to delivering fast-paced football games. Some will be okay with that while others will irreversibly turn their heads and prematurely walk away from the series. However, those who do decide to stay will come to experience a football anime series that is very unique at its core and which will deliver some really impressive things that will ultimately make up for its shortcomings in the animation department.
Unlike the series’ animation, Giant Killing boasts a fairly good look in terms of art and style. Each of the characters present throughout the anime have their own specific appearance, which helps a lot when it comes to the viewer connecting with them and being able to identify them individually early on. Even though the anime tries to focus on each of the ETU players in equal amounts, some characters tend to stand out more than others.
In addition to Takeshi Tatsumi, who always remains a central character and is vital to the progression of the story, there are other notable characters such as the team captain and veteran Shigeyuki Murakoshi, who fans call ‘Mr. ETU’ for keeping the team together through the hardest of times, inexperienced but talented newcomer Daisuke Tsubaki and Italian midfield superstar Luigi Yoshida (or simply Gino), nicknamed ‘Prince’ for his impressive abilities on the field and his narcissistic tendencies. Of course, these are only but a few of the extensive amount of characters that Giant Killing manages to bring to the story. Apart from the football players, the series also goes on to develop side characters such as fans of the team, journalists, photographers and even opposing team players and managers.
Despite what some may believe, being able to enjoy Giant Killing does not depend on whether you’re a football enthusiast or not. Knowledge and understanding of the sport are not as crucial here when it comes to the anime’s watchability. The series does an excellent job at delivering an exciting look into the world of football, particularly that of team ETU, and the interesting characters help keep things exciting from start to finish. Sports anime may not appeal as much to some than they do to others, but it would be a shame to miss out on Giant Killing and what it has to offer simply because it’s often very different from the usual ride and viewers may find it a very rewarding experience.
Football was never a particularly popular sport in Japan compared to the rest of the world. Sure, they have a strong national team on a continental level, and have competed in the World Cup from 1998 in every subsequent edition, not to mention co-hosting the World Cup in 2002 with South Korea. But honestly, while it certainly seems to have a lot of fans in Japan, I'm not entirely sure you can consider a country which still calls football "soccer" passionate enough about the sport to matter (no offense to any American or Australian folks here).
Realism in portraying the sport is even rarer. Sure, there's
stuff like the captain Tsubasa sequels, but generally football anime tend to be perfectly content with focusing on teenagers too much for their own good.
This is where Giant Killing instantly stands out from the crowd. The show revolves around a coach rather than the players, and is paced extremely well. There is a fantastic focus on the dynamic between the coach and players and their various goals, and it works extremely well and ends up being more about the psychology of managing a team, which also plays out very well and there is a lot of time spent preparing for games and improving skills rather than randomly powering up in the middle of a game.
The show's cast of characters is absolutely massive, and while the show definitely spends a lot of the time focusing on the players, there is a surprising amount of focus on the fans, children who support the team and the media coverage of team events, not only from local media in general but also from the team newspaper. This is extremely different from any sports anime I've seen, and it takes a lot to make it work in a realistic manner, which this show does amazingly well.
There is a lot that is brought up here about how to get people into loving football as well, not to mention fans who gave up on their team and eventually may come back. This makes it work not only as a show, but even as something that can explain to people why so many others love football and what makes it so appealing to so many people around the world. It isn't the world's most popular sport for nothing, folks.
The show is extremely humane in how it treats goals and the means to get there, and never makes the goal easy or hard to reach. The characters can fail just as much as they succeed, rather than use super powers and practically make it to their goal magically for no reason other than they just can.
The artwork is distinct and pleasant to look at, with character designs being very distinctly drawn and very unique. The show avoids stereotyping the characters into various cliches based on their nationality or region and instead tries to develop them individually as their own character, though there are a lot of shout outs to many various real life football stars from Japan to Brazil to Serbia, and it is really fun to find them out.
The animation is generally solid, and the cinematography looks fantastic but the problem is that the CGI has a tendency of looking really well and meshing with the animation one scene, then looking completely out of place the next. This can ruin immersion for a lot of people, and it tends to happen more frequently at distant shots of football games.
The show is overall extremely enjoyable and very different from your typical sports anime. Hell, I'd argue it can be seen as an introduction into the genre since it breaks a lot of the typical cliches that the genre follows, from teams winning miraculously for no reason in every single game to random super powers to having characters that don't move past archetypes.
This show is special and it knows it's special, and while it ends on a cliffhanger that should have been continued in another season (which is unlikely), the ride to getting there is well worth it and I honestly feel that even if you dislike the sports genre this at least deserves to be seen and is well worth the attempt. I highly recommend it and legitimately hope you enjoy it.
Being an avid follower of the sport, the concept of underdog triumphs never cease to interest me, Giant Killing is one such show that is all about stealing wins out of the opponent's pocket and making comebacks.
East Tokyo United also known as ETU, find themselves in a slump after numerous slip-ups and consecutive defeats. As a result frequent sacking of the manager is not a rarity for the club. However, desperate for a reversal in fortunes, the club appoints the eccentric Tatsumi Takeshi as their very recent manager. Giant Killing revolves around Tatsumi as the manager of ETU as they try and get out of
their losing streak into the once basking glory that's been lost in recent times. Now ETU are a fairly successful club in Japan's Pro Football League with their own share of history. A decade earlier they were the champions of Japan, with Tatsumi himself being a pioneer for ETU's success as a player. The appointment of Tatsumi as ETU's new coach doesn't go down well with either the players or the fans, as they all have their own contradicting opinions towards Tatsumi. A major chunk of frustrations from the fans is the fact that Tatsumi's sudden decision to leave ETU for a foreign club in his playing days right after when ETU last won the league was the starting point of their downfall. Stalwarts such as Murakoshi who was a crucial member of the team who helped ETU bounce back after they relegated into the lower leagues, question Tatsumi's determination to lead ETU and make them a prominent team in the league once again.
The show follows a very realistic approach. The characters have their limitations which adds to the appeal and has a feel of realism in it. This is one of the strong aspects of Giant Killing. It's not exactly your typical shounen football show where the underdogs pull off a win simply by their sheer willpower and completely discarding the strategic aspects. Giant Killing may not heavily rely on tactics alone, but there's enough there to support for an outcome. It's not overly psychological, but its fairly simple and calculated. Tatsumi's intentions and careful planning synchronizes with the pacing of the show, the right tricks are revealed at the right time. I feel that the common misconceptions surrounding Giant Killing is that its not underrated, but rather under-appreciated. If you come here looking for the exact same psychological twists and mind play as in One Outs, you won't be satisfied. Giant Killing is a show which earns it bread-and-butter through proper world building and development of the characters. They're shown to be as flawed and are given enough time to correct themselves. It's a character driven show which might not be to everyone's liking. The titular figure Tatsumi Takeshi is shown as a carefree individual but there aren't restrictions on his abilities. In other words, Tatsumi is very humanly and not a God who can change the game just because of his presence. Almost all of his actions have a corresponding reasons which are conveyed at different suiting intervals. His character is like a stronghold of everything surrounding him. This is one my reason for appraisal of Giant Killing.
For a show so unusually unattractive, its seemingly difficult to get invested in the show. But personally I was able to get used to it rather quickly. The characters look quirky and exaggerated, the balls and the grass neatly animated with frequent use of deliberate CGI. Excluding the very art style of Giant Killing, the animation quality is refined and quite apparent with rare mismatches and inconsistencies. The only subject of dissatisfaction might be the regular use of weird facial structures to depict the mood of characters. While that might be on the negative side the frequent use of "sakuga" drawings also are done to almost perfection. Accompanying the visuals are also some quirky soundtracks to lighten the mood and in times to convey stimulation. The cheers from the crowd is also very much apparent and feels very atmospheric. Different teams chanting different anthems of their own adds to the mood and feels very real. With Tatsumi being the main figure, Tomokazu Seki's energetic voice feels refreshing and sends across the message of what kind of characteristics he has to the audience. One of the interesting inclusions in the show was the addition of foreign languages like French and Dutch. While its universally accepted that characters no matter what their background is talking in Japanese was a basic thing, this felt very refreshing and something new that you don't see that much in any other sports anime, all adding up to Giant Killing's genuineness. The opening and ending are standard and used just for the namesake, although the opening really conveyed what the mood would be like to be in an actual stadium.
Giant Killing has its fair share of shortcomings with a few characters not getting enough screen time for development, and an abrupt ending that was also dragged a little. 26 episodes might seem little considering where the show lands in on at that point of time, a second season would do great justice. Overall Giant Killing is still a great show and which is currently the most accurate one around about football. I'd recommend watching Giant Killing with an open mindset.