I actually hadn’t heard of “Blue Lock” until recently, with its recent adaptation into an anime. On top of that, I don’t usually watch sports anime, so I was willing to let it pass by without a second glance. However, because of the various clips of the show’s events and other people’s ramblings about their thoughts on the show that appeared on my TikTok feed, I caved. It didn’t look like the usual “power of hard work and friendship” show, so why not give it a shot?
To give a brief overview, the show basically focuses on Isagi Yoichi (Kazuki Ura) a high school soccer player who in the beginning of the show loses his chance to go to Nationals when his team fails to make the winning goal. As you can guess, he’s pretty bummed out about the whole thing, and has nearly given up on his dream of being the best soccer player in the world.
But then, he gets a second chance! Alongside 300 other strikers (one of which is from the team he just lost against), he is called to participate in a competition called Blue Lock, proctored by a man named Ego Jinpachi (Hiroshi Kamiya). The ultimate goal of this whole endeavor is to find a striker to launch the national Japanese soccer team to victory in the World Cup. Those who decided to participate will live at the Blue Lock facility, train and fight it out in the form of soccer-based challenges to progress further in the competition. The winner becomes the greatest striker in the world, but the 299 losers will find that their soccer career is over for good.
So as you can guess, the stakes are high.
The first challenge is a game of tag, where the one who is “it” has to hit someone else with a soccer ball to make them “it.” The last person to get hit when the time runs out is disqualified. This moment is where you really see the personalities of the different competitors shine through. One character speaks on the necessity for fairness, while another seems more or less unbothered by the whole situation entirely. Tensions are high, no one wants to lose and time is running low. And during this moment, when our protagonist ultimately gets sucker-punched with a soccer ball in the gut, we see the determination and selfishness that previously was only hinted at. He doesn’t want to lose.
However, on top of this desire to stay in the game, an interesting character trait pops up alongside his selfishness. Yes, he doesn’t want to lose. But he also seems to want “to grow” as a soccer player as well. The easy way out isn’t enough for him. He wants to earn his place in this space, and earn the role of the greatest striker.
These two want to mingle together to form a surprising alliance and a fierce betrayal (one that in my opinion needed to happen). And with that stunning turn of events, the first elimination takes place, the first episode ends and the real fight begins.
In episode two, the focus is more on developing the relationships between the highlighted characters that Yoichi lives with in the facility. We get to see friendships and rivalries (and a weird mix of both) develop, and get a better sense of how they are going to interact, as well as the details of their living situation. A key thing that audiences are told about is the importance of their rankings, which don’t just affect competitions, but also determine the perks one gets in the living facilities, serving as an added incentive to do well.
This focus on character isn’t just limited to the competitors however. Viewers get a view of the process behind this competition outside of the facility, where we learn more about Anri Teieri (Eri Yukimura), an employee of the Japanese Football Union who is determined to see Japan’s soccer team win the World Cup, and the one behind the Blue Lock program in the first place. This revelation is followed up by the introduction of Itoshi Sae (Takahiro Sakurai), an annoyed midfielder with no faith in Japan’s soccer players and on the hunt for a forward to win the Champions League with. After leaving an interview, the soccer player happens to pass by a press conference held by the Japanese Football Union about the Blue Lock project, and immediately becomes invested in seeing just what happens. And just like that, a new player is introduced to this intense soccer world.
Continuing this trend of relationships, the next challenge is revealed to be a team competition! The 11 strikers will have to face off with another set of 11, a huge change from the sniping elimination of the first episode. And with the dramatic display of both teams and the playing field, the second episode ends.
I think what draws me so much to this show is how much selfishness and competition is highlighted in the show. They framed a sport that is constantly described as a team activity, even in the show, as a battle royale, and it provides an extra layer of curiosity and investment in the “action” attributes brought to it. After all, in a way, if they don’t win this competition, the players are experiencing the death of their soccer careers. It’s all or nothing, and as a viewer you know that not everyone is going to make it. As sad as it is, it makes me want to see how far everyone is going to get, how these new relationships will hold up against the desire to win and ultimately what the final showdown is going to look like.
To make a long article short, I am really excited about this new twist on the sports genre, the intense challenges that we are going to see in the future and the way that the relationships between the various characters will develop and fall apart. I think that it’s going to be a rather emotional ride (since I have already started to get attached to some of them) but I’m willing to suffer through it to see how this ends.