How do you make me doubt myself? Ask me how many players there are on the field in a game of soccer.
I kind of know it’s 22, but even then, it never fails to make me go, “Oh wow, so many? Really? Huh. That’s a lot of people isn’t it?”
So when the Blue Lock anime came out, I was surprised by how much I fell in love with it.
You see, I’m an esports nerd. 1v1, 3v3, 5v5, these are the types of numbers I’m used to. When you go beyond that — 11v11 — it blows my mind.
I’m a girl who doesn’t watch sports (except basketball during the Kobe-Shaq-Phil Jackson LA Lakers era), who doesn’t even know the rules, positions, or celebrities of soccer, and who has absolutely no interest in it. And yet, I enjoy watching the Blue Lock anime just like any soccer fan would — because it’s a complex story that everyone, especially gamers, can relate to.
Spoiler-free Blue Lock anime review: it’s worth a watch, even if you don’t like sports
Alright, confession time. The only reason why I was remotely interested in the Blue Lock anime in the first place was because of the seiyuus.
The show cast many S-tier Japanese male voice actors whom you’d instantly recognize from other S-tier shonen like Attack on Titan and Jujutsu Kaisen, as well as the biggest RPG game in the world, Genshin Impact.
Hiroshi Kamiya, Junichi Suwabe, Nobunaga Shimazaki, Takahiro Sakurai. Need I say more?
You know what, I shall — Yoshitsugu Matsuoka, Soma Saito, Yuma Uchida, Kouki Uchiyama.
The fangirl in me is squealing. Nothing like sports anime (bless Haikyuu) to unite all the seiyuu kings and princes in one place.
That said, there’s plenty of anime that bring in high-profile voice actors but fail to deliver in other aspects of the story. The Blue Lock anime is not one of them.
It’s a typical shonen, yes, but what makes the first episode so compelling is that it presents clashing philosophies at multiple levels: national, prefectural, and individual.
The premise is that Japan wants to win the World Cup. It’s insanely important to the country, and according to certain higher-ups in the government, the only reason why they haven’t won despite being a top team is because they lack an outstanding striker.
Specifically, they lack a selfishly outstanding striker with an ego.
And so, the government created Blue Lock, a special training program that aims to suss out the ultimate under-18 striker who will go on to represent the country. Everyone else who fails to make the cut will never be considered for the national team, not even in the future.
The 300 strikers chosen are constantly faced with an inner battle. All along they’ve been taught that soccer is a team game, yet they’ve been challenged to change that mindset in this dog-eat-dog program. Every single mini exercise and game forces them to constantly make difficult choices: to play for themselves, or to play for the team. Every decision has major consequences.
It’s essentially Squid Game, but not that brutal.
Any MOBA player will instantly relate. The striker is your marksman, your physical damage carry, the only one who can carry your team past the finish line because everything else doesn’t matter. The only thing that matters is that your carry kills all enemies and sieges the base, just like in soccer, where the only thing that matters is that your striker scores more goals than the opposing team.
But it is still a team game. No matter how selfish you play in solo queue ranked games, you don’t always win despite going 15/5/4. These are the same challenges that Blue Lock players face.
Managing them is a mad man running the program named Ego, who believes deeply in his methods. Then, there’s the general public and members of the government, some of whom are against the policy. There are also Japanese national soccer players who are curious about the striker it’ll produce.
And so, unlike other shonen where there are clear heroes and villains, no one in Blue Lock is innately good, bad, right, or wrong. Each character, based on their beliefs, is making difficult choices at every turn in every episode, within the larger sports ecosystem — a reflection of how national sports are run by various countries in reality.
Blue Lock clearly offers something different in the shonen and sports genre, and is even able to speak to the hearts of gamers. I’ve been loving it since the first episode dropped, but the one thing it can’t do is make me watch soccer in real life.
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