There is an “I” in win and that’s all that matters in the anime Blue Lock.
An anime that began airing on October 9, 2022, gained some attention with the help of the World Cup, works to redefine what it takes to play football. Adapting the manga Blue Lock, studio Eight Bit is in charge of the shows production which was also known for the making of That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime.
It takes the world sport and pairs it with one thing - a battle royale.
The premise is that Japan has failed to qualify for the top sixteen in the World Cup. The Japan Football Union decides to take a chance and hire Ego Jinpachi. He believes that in order for Japan to succeed they must create the greatest striker or “egoist” in the world. He views the values that Japan holds such as thoughtfulness and teamwork as a hindrance.
Jinpachi’’s solution is simple: gather 300 of the U-20 strikers and forwards and pit them against one another. He wants to create a striker who throws away the thoughts of teamwork and instead uses their team as a stepping stone to shine like the stars they are meant to be. If you are the last one standing you are guaranteed to play for Japan’s national team as the striker. However, if you fail then you are banned from ever competing for the national team.
Now the idea of a football battle royale might sound outlandish but this show does such a good job of committing to the premise that you can not help but buy in. Jinpachi builds a state of the art facility called Blue Lock where these players live and compete. They have to participate in multiple tests and matches that are meant to cultivate their “egos”. Each of these situations are seen as battles that these players must struggle to fight through knowing that if they fall behind their dreams and career as a football star will end then and there.
The tone of a battle royale might seem ridiculous to put into an anime about playing football. Yet it works so well because you follow and learn more about these characters. They all have various personalities and backgrounds that you can latch onto and root for as they work their way through the competition. There are times when they are put into teams so you watch as they either use one another or sabotage each other to make themselves shine that much brighter.
They talk in ways that are a bit edgy such as referring to themselves as monsters, kings, soldiers and the such. They refer to the pitch as a battlefield and the anime showcases what it means to lose or win as you watch characters sadistically relish in the fact that they just killed the dreams of others. This however helps to build on the stakes and ridiculousness of this type of battle royale.
I chose to watch it subbed because I prefer listening and watching media in the language that they were originally made in. The vocal work includes talents such as Kazuki Ura voicing the main character Yoichi Isagi, Hiroshi Kamiya (Attack on Titan, One Piece) voicing Ego Jinpachi, Tasuku Kaito voicing Meguru Bachira, Nobunaga Shimazaki (Jujutsu Kaisen, Black Clover) voicing Nagi Seishirou and many more talented voice actors. Their work only helps to add to the intensity of the experience as they commit to the characters they are portraying and you can really hear the emotion come through each character.
The show also does a great job in keeping you engaged in the actual sport of football. While it is a bit unrealistic at times, it does have some foundations in reality. Part of the training is to cultivate their skills or what they call “weapons” and grow their “egos”. These range from actual skills that strikers have such as dribbling, strength, mid range shooting, shot power, etc. The anime highlights these in ways that let you know what they are doing is special. At times they are given aura’s that make it seem like they have superpowers when they perfectly utilize their “weapons” which can look similar to when Goku would turn Super Saiyan in Dragon Ball Z.
In terms of the animation, for the most part it is great. At pinnacle moments in the matches, fine details and movement are put in to really sell the impact of the goals, movements and shots that they take. There are times where it dips in quality such as when they have to use CGI for some scenes. It can stand out but they are in brief moments and never during very pivotal scenes.
The pacing can be a bit frustrating during some of the matches or tests. Characters will hold on to the ball in the middle of a game and have an internal monologue. While it's obviously meant to happen within seconds or a minute it can look a bit silly as they are just standing there when the defender could easily just steal the ball from them.
Now is Blue Lock the best representation of soccer? Not at all. Is it exciting? Absolutely.
It completely buys into its premise and builds on what it sets up with each episode. There are 17 episodes out now and with seven more episodes to air, I highly recommend you give it a shot and catch up on the experience that is Blue Lock.