Thursday, 10 April 2014

イナズマイレブン / Inazuma Eleven: season 2

As season 2 of Inazuma Eleven kicks off, they fully embrace that charming incredibly-stupid-and-over-the-top-idea-done-very-sincerely style of storytelling that nothing at the moment does as well as anime and its related media - like the Inazuma Eleven games. 

If the first series' story of a ragtag group of football-playing boys with pure hearts and lots of shounen-tastic FEELINGS going undefeated from incomplete and unpracticed school team to national champions who can beat others with powers that are literally godly sounded daft, just wait for this. Is the next level competing with adult teams? Foreign children from nations like Brazil? Oh no. No, what happens in season 2 is that aliens show up and begin destroying cities with their cannonball-like footballs. Who is assembled to fight them off with football? World cup teams? The Japanese national players? No no - the schoolchildren of Raimon Junior High. Of course! 

Not without some roster changes, however. When Aliea Academy first appear, they injure many of the team and render them out of commission for the entire season - including my favourite Handa and his close friend Max, as well as the funny little dot-eyed kid. 

Other players depart on journeys of self-discovery, including star striker Hitsugaya...wait, sorry, Gouenji. Speedy girly-boy Kazemaru and funny little buck-toothed midfielder Kurimatsu last a while but eventually feel they have to leave the team, though may well return. 

To fill these gaps, a whole lot of colourful characters are needed. Strange, quiet boy with an uncanny knack for befriending the ladies Fubuki becomes a star player for a while, but has issues up the whazoo and essentially serves as a benchmark for the others to catch up to. Two girls join the team - the prime minister's tomboyish daughter after Aliea Academy go so far as to kidnap him, and an outspoken gyaru-type. Then there is the little prankster Kogure-kun and brash surfing savant Tsunami. 

Most uselessly, but most adorably, is the Endou fanboy Tachimukai, who they put on the team despite the fact he's really a goalkeeper, and soon becomes the weak link, which is strangely adorable because he tries so hard. The series ends with the dramatic appearance of an old ally and an old foe, who work together to defeat one of Aliea Academy's three top teams. Then comes a curious cliffhanger ahead of the short third season. 

The scale has become even more ridiculous than ever before - and characters in the previous series were stopping time and summoning vast stone walls. Here there are wormholes and great demons - but there's a sort of dispensation for madness when it comes to sports special moves, and it's more of a surprise that you get aliens and explosions and huge submarine training facilities (for school football teams) and presidential kidnappings. It's that silly a series. 

And yet at the heart of it is the relationships between the various young boys, their fiery rivalries and strong bonds. That's really the point of this anime, probably of all sports and indeed school anime - and it does it far too well to ignore. I didn't know when I set out that I'd want to finish this story, that I would end up starting to associate Takeuchi Junko's voice with Endou more than with Naruto, and be very happy to enjoy more and more series. 

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