What’s it about? Haru had no interest in the sport of futsal until a friend dragged him to see an under-18s championship game, where Haru was blown away by the sheer cool factor of one of the star players. Now, despite being firmly an amateur, he loves futsal—enough to dive into an impromptu game against some bullies, and enough to catch the eye of the school’s team captain.
To steal a joke from my co-staffer Dee, it sure is convenient that they decided to cut out the middleman and officially title this show with the nickname it was going to get anyway. Boy howdy, gosh darn, these sure are boys who play futsal. There’s not a whole lot more to say about this episode, so my condolences go out to anyone looking for an engaging, dynamic sports anime this season. Nothing about this show is exciting enough to warrant five whole exclamation points.
I mean, it’s fine. I’m not exactly a connoisseur of sports anime, but I feel—based on the outpourings of enduring love I’ve seen for other series—that there’s a lot this premiere could have done better and stronger. The visuals are a bit basic, the characters imbued with this flat and washed-out quality, and their movements are always just a liiiiittle stiff. The action sequences—the sports scenes, the crux of the show—are okay, but rely noticeably on cutaways, dramatic still shots, and the same animation of the ball hitting the net over and over again.
If you’re good enough at futsal you apparently gain the ability to attach big shounen battle power-ups to your kicks, complete with dragons and fire and lighting, so I hope we see more of that! But I’m thinking that’s going to be the kind of thing saved up for climactic scenes, and the majority of the matches will be pretty bland to watch.
Did someone recently place a hex on the micro-genre of soccer anime, cursing them to never quite have enough resources to effectively tell stories about their sport?
But animation quality isn’t everything, and good characters and an engaging narrative can keep an audience hooked even if the show isn’t super slick. I wish, then, I could say that the cast of Futsal Boys—the futsal boys themselves—captured my heart. The truth is they’re a squad of fairly archetypal pretty boys fighting a squad of fairly generic “thugs” and delinquents.
Which is a shame, because the show opens with some promise, or at least with some energy: we’re introduced to Haru doing what looks like a combination of breakdancing and parkour (correct me if I’m wrong). It’s the most bonkers, high-energy scene in the show and it goes completely unexplained. His reintroduction into the present-day story sees him—if you’ll forgive an Aussie-ism—absolutely stacking it on a bike: zooming down a flight of stairs, flying over a classmate’s head in dramatic slo-mo, then crashing down onto concrete. And he’s apparently fine, so I guess whatever he was practicing at the beginning gave him rubber bones. I wish it had given him character traits!
As it is, he ends up feeling like part of a roster of market-proven character types. There’s the plucky, airheaded but earnest newcomer, the aloof loner with a secret heart of gold, the cool captain, the skittish and nerdy team manager, and… wait, oh my gosh, the cast list for this series is as long as my arm. Who are all these dudes?
Ah, I see. Futsal Boys is a multimedia franchise, with a mobile game forthcoming. I hate to say it, but it’s probably there that you’ll find more detailed backstory and dynamic characterization; this first episode, at least, felt extremely surface-level in its delivery. That’s not to say it won’t improve, but none of these character debuts made enough of an impression on me to want to stick around. No, not even to see if they beat the bullies and win the match. Sorry, lads.
Futsal Boys never quite commits to the zaniness those early scenes seem to set up, leaving it feeling light-hearted and bland without being wholeheartedly comedic. If you’re not a sports anime fan, it probably doesn’t have enough pizzazz to win you over. If you’re already a sports anime fan, you can probably already recommend six other shows that you’d rather be watching.
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