When this title was announced for the spring season, my reaction was "Oh, football..." and pass it by -- but towards the end of its airing, it had become one of those series that hardly ever got talked about, but always positively when it was mentioned. So, with a fairly thin line-up for autumn, I went back and gave the first episode a try...
And it has turned out to be my pick for the best series of the year, by being so much not what the bulk of anime has become in recent years : the characters are adults, there's no romance, or borderline smut, or cute girls doing things cutely. It also confirms the trend that series where the characters have perceptible noses are ones worth investigating.
The story opens when East Tokyo United, a team in a prolonged slump, bring back a former star player, Takeshi Tatsumi, from England, where he as been coaching amateur (or at least not full-time professional) sides to good effect -- like taking them to the 4th round of the FA Cup. This return as coach after having abandoned the team years before rankles amongst some of the players and many of the fans; the more so when he finally shows up at training, and chooses a starting side mainly from the reserves.
Slowly, with a mixture of shrewd insight, and complete irreverence to the way things are done on and off the pitch (like sloping out of a press conference for an informal chat with the manager of the national team), Tatsumi starts to bring the team together. At last ETU notches up a few wins, and then in the climax of the series, have to face the Osaka Gunners, who in their previous match steamrollered a stronger side than ETU 8-0, in a match that actually spreads over more than 90 minutes of air time.
The manga continues; we have only come half-way through the new season, and there isn't a plot-wrapped-up end. If there were to be a second season, I'd watch it.