The time has finally arrived, my long-awaited sports anime that ticks off all the boxes and then some, leaving me wanting for more. The set-up, our characters, their journey, and the final game all contribute to what I love most in this type of show. I don’t know if a sequel is in the works, but if it happens, I will be there cheering wildly from the stands.
Aoashi opens with a familiar premise: a young man hopelessly in love with a sport, but with much to learn. There are usually only a few types of protagonists in these kinds of anime, and this one opts for a raw but talented soccer athlete, a diamond in the rough. Ashito Aoi captured my heart almost immediately with his dark curly hair and never-give-up attitude. I typically avoid people brimming with arrogance, which viewers might mistake to be the case with his greed for scoring goals–while this is true to an extent, it does not accurately describe him. When a chance encounter sets the path from his obscure country home to an elite team in the city, he goes after it with all his being. This determination sets the precedent for his incredible growth as an athlete destined for the spotlight.
As someone who loves sports anime anime and is always interested when a new series airs centering on soccer, I really ought to go back and watch some of the classics because I can’t recall any in recent years that have fully caught my attention. I can name plenty of others in sports like baseball, tennis, ice skating, and rock climbing, but not my favorite of them all. Weird, right? DAYS, The Knight in the Area, Shoot!–they all disappointed in varying degrees of mediocrity to downright trash. When Aoashi was announced, I didn’t let myself get excited. Thankfully, I quickly realized that this time the hype was real. Here was an athlete I could really get behind and cheer on towards his goals, literally and figuratively. When considering the other sports anime of the fall season, there wasn’t any contest–Aoashi was a winner.
As much as I love the lead character with all his excitement and weaknesses, I equally enjoyed getting to know his teammates, supporters, and friends. We don’t get too much in the way of character development in the rival teams, but that’s okay given the pacing of the show and the enhanced focus on the main crew. One of the prevailing issues in the story is Aoi’s complete lack of understanding of the fundamentals. Forget trying to explain the basics to him, or even show him–he’s a creature of feeling who has to experience wins and losses for himself to fully get what he’s missing and how he can obtain it. He has innate talent, which is what drew our legendary coach towards him in the first place, but talent without technique nor understanding of the constantly moving animal that is the sport is alone and unworthy of team play. Aoi takes a long time getting there, but once the concept roots itself in his mind he learns at an incredibly fast pace.
The final arc in this double-cours show really highlights this growth of not only Aoi, but also of his teammates. We see this with the Tokyo City Esperion FC Youth, as well as their opponents from Tokyo Musashino Youth. As the game reaches fevered heights, the gap begins to widen. Esperion’s B Team, comprised of Aoi, Otomo, Kuroda, Tachibana, Takeshima, Togashi, and others show formal trial member Kaneda why they made the cut and he didn’t. Even in the depths of despair when Esperion looked to lose, they never gave up. They stood up repeatedly and kept attacking from different angles, wearing down Musashino and eventually overwhelming them.
The writing set a pace that perfectly fit this first season that sets us up easily for a sequel should that ever be announced. Aoi’s dreams are partially realized now that he’s made the A team, but the story feels like it’s just beginning. I want to see him stand side by side with the guys we’ve only ever seen at a distance, Kuribayashi and that asshole Akutsu. We need to see more development of Hana and Anri’s characters, girls who mostly stood on the sidelines as Aoi’s supporters but deserve their own storylines. I want more, and I want it NOW.
Rating: 1 dango
- 0 dango – average and forgettable.
- 1 dango – very good in its category.
- 2 dango – excellent show that is worth a try.
- 3 dango – exceptional show one must watch.