With all of the early controversy and training camps out of the way, episode four of Giant Killing finally takes us towards some real football, courtesy of East Tokyo United's first pre-season friendly against the reigning champions Tokyo Victory. I wonder how they'd both fare against the newly promoted AFC Bournemouth?
With the erratic and flamboyant playmaker Gino as captain and young Tsubaki in the side, both crowd and opponents are more than a little surprised at the line-up for the new manager's first game in charge, but of course there is a method to his madness, and we soon get to see exactly what he's been thinking as Gino takes up a role as playmaker while Tsubaki's pace proves to be the key to unlocking the holes in defence left by Gino's movement. While this pays early dividends for East Tokyo United, Tokyo Victory's captain and manager both soon realise what's going on and start to mix things up to thwart this plan, while a touch of what referees like to call "simulation" puts Tokyo Victory back in the game.
Away from the game scenario, this episode also gives us a bit more insight into Tsubaki's personality, with his quietly and retiring outward nature hiding the determination that he holds inside - A determination that Tatsuki looks to unlock prior to setting him loose with the first team for this opening game.
I think it's fair to say that making drama out of an actual football game in a context that isn't explicitly about football is harder than it might sound, yet this episode of Giant Killingactually makes a pretty good fist of it. While the hardcore footie fan might question some of the scenes and the feel of certain elements of the game as depicted here (the overly exaggerated role of the captain, for starters), overall the effect is a very positive one, with the tactics, mind games and foul play all the kind of thing those of us who watch the game regularly are more than used to seeing. At the end of the day, the proof that Giant Killing's work is done in terms of entertainment is the fact that you can't help but cheering on the team and players; while the elation of seeing them score and the disappointment of watching them concede isn't anywhere like as strong as it is from watching your own team in real-life, it's still tangible, and that's actually pretty impressive for a show like this.