Observational Drivel on Shin Captain Tsubasa

Japanese cartoons all look the same

Written by Leo N.

Shin Captain Tsubasa was a Japanese cartoon solely about soccer that I used to watch, in Europe, as a kid. I have vague memories of the name of the characters, as those never stuck around for too long for me to remember and besides, Japanese cartoons all look the same. But that's all it was. The main character was some kid, prolly about 15-17 years old and he was a kick-ass soccer player who could, together with his awesome team of unknowns, tackle and defeat school team after school team in all of Japan.

It's peculiar of me to have been watching this show. Aside from strongly disliking soccer, to the point where my Italian citizenship was revoked by an official decree, I really can't think of any good reason why I watched it. It wasn't even good or funny. The only excuse I can think of is that I must've been either bored or it was simply because it was a cartoon. I watched the Beatles' "Yellow Submarine" on the telly and it made absolutely no sense. But I still watched it, simply because it was a cartoon. As a rule of thumb, when you're a kid, no cartoon must be left unwatched.

But it wasn't the cartoon per se, in this case, which got me thinking. It was bizarre little aspects that sort of started coming to mind while thinking of some particular scenes that had stuck themselves in my neurones.

For example, as the main character was running towards the opposite team's net, you'd see it emerging, slowly, from the horizon. A regular football field is only 120 metres long. The horizon is about 3.5 nautical miles away. Since clearly Japan is as much on planet earth as we are, (though perhaps not the population) I can only justify that with the following conclusions:

by calculating the distance of the horizon and comparing how the goalie's net would slowly emerge from afar, the net must be about two kilometres high and eight kilometres wide. This doesn't explain how sometimes they'd overshoot the ball above the net.

But if the net is really that big, then the soccer field must be equally gigantic. So our little hero has roughly 250 kilometres to run, from the moment he sees the top of the net emerging from the horizon, until he reaches it. It wouldn't take him more than twenty to thirty seconds to get there in each episode, so this means he's travelling at 640 kilometres per hour, a hair below Mach 1. It also means that the field, overall, is about as wide as the distance between Boston and New York City.

It is very fortunate they can do this, mostly because if they couldn't, they'd need helicopters to co-ordinate busses below to find all the players and take them back to their change rooms at the end of each game. That could take days, aside from making friendly school versus school competitions very expensive.

And the fans! They must've had the entire South Eastern Asian hemisphere filling those stands, to have so many cheerful faces covering one end of the field to the other.

What about the goalie? If the net is that big and he's there blocking a good portion of it, he must be a good 1.8 kilometres tall, probably a result from the intense levels of radiation after the bombings of Nagasaki and Hiroshima. But more importantly, where does he live? What do they feed him? Is he loved by anyone? Does he even see the ball when they kick it towards his eight kilometres wide net? When he was born, and assuming his mother didn't die from giving birth, were people impressed when they asked her how much he weighted? Did she use a Toyota Tercel as a stroller? Does he cry himself to sleep every night when his peers taunt him by calling him Godzilla? It does make you wonder.

The other supporting characters in the show were rather strange. Aside from our main hero, who satisfied not only all the needs in the field but also those expected from a socially responsible Japanese being, the people around him didn't really make a heck of a lot of sense either, yet they followed the good recipe of Japanese cartoons.

To start off, one of the soccer players had hair so long, it would always cover his eyes. It didn't matter if it rained, was windy, you hung him upside down, you never saw his eyes. He also spoke very little. This is because, he was the cool, hardcore one, who could do things with the soccer ball that defied the very laws of gravity and physics. He was the veteran. He'd be the one that in every episode would answer the question, "why can't we see your eyes?" with a "because I wish the football field to be empty." And suddenly everyone, but you, is enlightened.

Sampei, an entire series of cartoon based on fishing catfish (what will those clever Japanese think of next?) had a long-haired-can't-see-his-eyes dude too. He, too, was quiet, mystical with his Buddha like mantra and mysterious. He would catch catfish with such skill and ease that everyone would look upon in marvel. We later discover that his daddy, purely by mistake, swung the fishing pole the wrong way and rather than hooking a catfish, hooked the kid's eye, ripping it out, hence the long hair. So the character you've been looking upon as the totem pole of knowledge and stability in Sampei's life, turned out to simply be insecure about his new looks. Perhaps there was a lesson to be learned there I only picked up upon now that I'm at work, bored, thinking about this, some twenty years later.

We're never explained in Shin Captain Tsubasa why their long-haired freak has long hair. Unless his dad was teaching him how to play soccer and kicked the wrong ball. If that was the case, I'd hate to see how long that kid's pubes would be, but at least that would mean that he wouldn't reproduce other long haired freaks.

The other reoccurring pal, was the obese, whiny fat kid who couldn't get chicks, loved to eat rice balls and looked upon the main hero as a God. All the girls would be ogling over the main hero, but he was too busy with his sport to pay attention to them. This, somehow, drove the girls even more insane about wanting him. The fat kid would flirt with the girls, get hit plenty, eat more rice balls and whine like a little bitch.

The moral here is simple: to score Japanese chicks, you have to concentrate on soccer and ignore them completely. If you're fat, chase after them and eat lots of rice balls, you're just going to get hurt. Neither one of you will ever get laid.

Incidentally, Sampei had a fat kid friend too, but no girls were ever present and both ate rice balls.

Ultimately, it seemed that despite the main character's insecurities about his abilities, he would always try his best. He was joyous when victorious but short of committing seppuku if he lost.

He took re-assurance from his inferior fat friend that he was better (I'm sure that fatties' moral support and veneration like attitude helped, too) and looked about long-haired freak as the person he wanted to become, unaware of the evil turmoil that lurked beneath that calm sea of black hair.

If the main hero of Shin Captain Tsubasa was ever killed, and I was Inspector Zenigata, (what, me, watch anime? Never!) and my only two suspects were the fat kid or the long haired freak, I'd go straight for the long haired freak.

While both insecure, the fat kid would not be able to come up with a clever plan to kill his pal. Besides, while every man must be tempted to kill their own gods, fat kid had the advantage of basking in his friend's popularity for his own selfish needs, while providing the much needed service of nurturer when his successful pal was having a hard day on the field.

The quiet, silent types do a lot of thinking. They're insecure, true, but very good at what they do, because that's how they find their assurance. His plan to kill the main hero, due to his growing jealousy of his friend's increasing skill (aside from the oohing of those blue haired Japanese girls) would have been growing steadily from the first episode.

When confronted, the forces of denial would sweep him. "I never killed him!" despite the evidence screaming the contrary. He'd make a mad run for it, hop on his motorcycle and try to outrun the police (long haired freaks always have motorcycles because they need to maintain their aura of cool, ya know) and as tears would stream from his face, he'd more than likely kill himself spectacularly, asking for forgiveness to the main hero seconds before his pointless existance came to a crashing end.

None of this actually happened, of course. But perhaps it goes to show you that as kids, we take things for face value, without any malice. As adults, we're capable of examining things in minuscule detail, coming up with theories and answers to things that may not even be there just to satisfy our growing delusion.