With Japan’s elimination from the 2018 FIFA World Cup, Japan Football Union started a program for high school football players in preparation for the 2022 World Cup. The Union initiates a prison-like training institution called Blue Lock, which isolates 300 young forwards and puts them through rigorous training to create “the world’s greatest egoistic striker”. 


Dany Muhammad (The Indonesian Anime Times)

As a football manga, Blue Lock is often compared to Aoashi on social media. Yes, both of them are football manga. But many used Aoashi‘s more realistic approach to real-world football as an argument that Blue Lock is bad. For me, that’s unfair. Not all sports anime should aim for the realistic side of the game. Even Aoashi has its own “unrealistic” moment for the sake of dramatization. Tachibana’s first goal against Musashino FC is one example.
But while I said that Blue Lock is unrealistic, they aren’t similar to series like Captain Tsubasa either. As a series, Captain Tsubasa puts emphasis on the theme of friendship. Some of Tsubasa’s villains, like Hyuuga and Santana, are driven by the feeling of isolation. Tsubasa fights them to show the importance of teamwork in football. Meanwhile, Blue Lock goes all out to the notion that a great football player is always a loner. If Hyuuga and Santana join the Blue Lock‘s training facility before fighting Tsubasa, they must feel at home. Heck, let’s throw Aoashi‘s Akutsu into the mix. Maybe they’ll have a party.
So rather than treating Blue Lock as a football anime, I see them as a sabaibu-kei (Survival game) anime more. With this reading, we can see Blue Lock‘s unrealistic aspects as criticisms to real-world football institutions. Scholar, Motoko Tanaka, wrote that sabaibu-kei often shows their survival game as an irrational, amoral battle held by the irrational, amoral institution. In this case, Blue Lock is a story that criticizes how an amoral football institution is willing to do anything to win, including imprisoning high schoolers and letting them play unrealistic football. It’s messed up. The fact that Bachira could get away with a clear foul shows that the institution doesn’t care about skills. They just want results.
The craziness of the story is also amplified by the execution. Blue Lock often uses dramatic close-up shots of the character. Those shots just feel epic. The thick and rough line art reminds me of Attack on Titan, another series that is also known for its super dramatic approach. The voice acting is also great here. Hiroshi Kamiya makes Ego sounds like a twisted man. Kazuki Ura’s Isagi sounds like a docile man who can turn into a psychopath anytime his trigger is switched. Some people may feel the execution is too dramatic or too over-the-top. But for a survival story like Blue Lock, it works.
In the end, Blue Lock is not a football anime where the ball is your friend. Here, the ball is merely a tool, just like your dribble, your passing, or your punch. It may be unrealistic, but it’s unrealistic with purposes. Blue Lock is closer to the survival stories like Squid Game, Battle Royale, or Classroom of the Elite. It’s a story where our everyday life is turned into a game by institutions that are so irrational and inept at their job. Earlier this month in Indonesia, 131 people died after watching a football match. Yet the national football governing body refused to take the blame, even though they’re the ones who create the safety regulation. It makes no sense, and that’s something survival game stories have criticized.

Facts and Figures

Source material Manga by Muneyuki Kaneshiro and Yusuke Nomura
Casts Aoi Ichikawa as Gurimu Igarashi
Daishi Kajita as Asahi Naruhaya
Eri Yukimura as Anri Teieri
Hiroshi Kamiya as Jinpachi Ego
Junichi Suwabe as Shōei Barō
Katsuyuki Konishi as Jūbei Aryū
Kazuki Ura as Yoichi Isagi
Kazuyuki Okitsu as Zantetsu Tsurugi
Kenichi Suzumura as Ryōsuke Kira
Kouki Uchiyama as Rin Itoshi
Masatomo Nakazawa as Wataru Kuon
Natsuki Hanae as Ikki Niko
Nobunaga Shimazaki as Seishirō Nagi
Ryōta Suzuki as Junichi Wanima and Keisuke Wanima
Ryūnosuke Watanuki as Okuhito Iemon
Shinnosuke Tachibana as Aoshi Tokimitsu
Shōya Chiba as Yūdai Imamura
Shugo Nakamura as Gin Gagamaru
Sōma Saitō as Hyōma Chigiri
Takahiro Sakurai as Sae Itoshi
Tasuku Kaito as Meguru Bachira
Yoshitsugu Matsuoka as Jingo Raichi
Yūki Ono as Rensuke Kunigami
Yūma Uchida as Reo Mikage
Director Tetsuaki Watanabe
Scenario Taku Kishimoto (Haikyu!!).
Character design Kenji Tanabe (CaligulaGood Luck Girl)
Kento Toya (Nanbaka)
Opening theme “Chaos wo Kiwamaru” by UNISON SQUARE GARDEN
Ending theme “WINNER” by Shuugo Nakamura
Studio 8bit
Official site
Broadcast date 8 October 2022 (1630 GMT, 2330 WIT), 9 October 2022 (0130 JST)

Screenshots and Trailer

©Muneyuki Kaneshiro, Yusuke Nomura, Kodansha/Blue Rock Production Committee
©Muneyuki Kaneshiro, Yusuke Nomura, Kodansha/Blue Rock Production Committee
©Muneyuki Kaneshiro, Yusuke Nomura, Kodansha/Blue Rock Production Committee
©Muneyuki Kaneshiro, Yusuke Nomura, Kodansha/Blue Rock Production Committee

The Indonesian Anime Times

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