For an anime named Giant Killing, we've seen nary a scratch on those referenced giants thus far from East Tokyo United, sitting as we have been through their disastrous start to the season while aspects of the team threaten to implode entirely. Indeed, come the end of the last episode we saw Kuroda walking away from training - Could this be his last act for the club?
Thankfully not, as it happens, although his displeasure couldn't be greater when he learns from defensive counterpart Sugi that even the club's first-choice goalkeeper Dori thought that the pair were right to be dropped.
Sitting out yet another game, the reasons for their relegation from the team start to become clear to Sugi as he analyses things a little closer - In short, himself and Kuro, as long-standing members of ETU, had been so cowed by defeat after defeat that there were scared of losing, and scared of making mistakes. This left them defending far too deep and not only making their own jobs more difficult but those around them, as sitting inside their own eighteen-yard box all the time meant that counter-attacking opportunities were also few and far between. Finally, Kuro also begins to see the light in his own unique way, realising that you have to forget your mistakes and failures and move on with confidence no matter what.
Not that all of this is helping East Tokyo United in terms of results, as we see them losing their first Japan Cup match and falling behind in the next (is this some kind of group stage of the tournament?) despite improvements in the overall quality of their play. Are things really coming together for ETU when they're still struggling to score, and with players like Tsubaki trying their best but seemingly doing little more than treading proverbial water on the field?
Once again, this episode illustrates beautifully everything that is great about the game of football - The mental attitude and aptitude required at both individual and team levels, the tactics, the surprises that can be thrown up even for a good side playing decent football which have to be overcome and fast, and of course the need for a top-notch manager who can sew all of these requirements together. Whether Tatsumi is the ideal man to embody all of these requirements is still open to debate, but things are moving in the right direction for the team... but are they moving fast enough? As viewers we're yet again caught up in the impatience for results, feeling the drama of a penalty kick and the disappointment of yet more soft goals conceded and games lost, and positing that the manager simply isn't doing enough (or quickly enough) to turn things around. Personally, I'm now almost at the point where Tatsumi needs to win me over to his cause all over again, and I think the only way to do that is with some better results.
God, look at me, talking about East Tokyo United as though they were a real team and my own local side! When I start getting more impassioned about Giant Killing that an England pre-World Cup friendly, you know there's either something wrong with you or you're watching a seriously good sports anime.