Sports anime giving dreams to Japanese children isn’t anything new. Anime like 1983’s Captain Tsubasa and 2002’s Whistle! both promoted soccer, while the classic 1968 series Star of the Giants (Kyojin no Hoshi) showed the appeal of baseball to kids. With so many inspirational sports anime, it’s no wonder that “sports star” ranks number one constantly for boys on the annual “what do you want to be when you grow up?” survey given to Japanese children.
While soccer has seemingly been the most popular sport to adapt to anime, this season, we’re getting a completely different sport with the anime adaptation of Shiori Amase’s ALL OUT!! manga: rugby.
On a Friday evening in Tokyo, I got the chance to go to the Chichibunomiya Rugby Stadium to watch the anime’s first episode. Why? Because the first episode was being screened on the rugby field’s giant screen.
While the stands were filled with young boys, salarymen, and old men waiting to cheer on their favorite team in the night’s Rugby match, over at a little stage separate from the field, a crowd of girls flocked to see an All Out!! talk show. What was going on? Wasn’t this show supposed to be a series of dreams for young boys?
After listening to the talk show and watching the first episode of ALL OUT!!, I realized who this show is probably really aimed at: anime fangirls.
The debut episode of ALL OUT!! focuses on the first meeting of Kenji Gion (seen right in the picture above)–a short boy with the energy and temper of a firecracker–and Sumiaki Iwashimizu (seen left), a very tall and timid young man who dislikes conflict. In contrast to Sumiaki, Kenji is extremely sensitive when it comes to his height and will not hesitate to use violence to get back at guys who make fun of him for his short stature. Through a chain of events, Sumiaki introduces him to their high school’s rugby club. In this sport, height doesn’t matter–anyone can be the star as long as they have the ball.
Although Kenji is convinced that this sport is for him, Sumiaki declines the offer to join the team. After learning that Sumiaki’s refusal to play rugby is due his fear of hurting another player, Kenji becomes determined to show him that he doesn’t have to be afraid, as humans aren’t that weak. His plan: have Sumiaki slam into him with all his might, muscular chest and all.
Do you see where some fangirls might have interest in this anime now?
All Out!! is an anime filled with beautiful male characters and only one female character to interrupt the action. If the 2D beauty of the characters isn’t enough to make your heart explode, the entire voice cast for this anime is made up of equally young and beautiful men.
Even famous Japanese rugby coach and former player Yoshihito Yoshida mentioned at the talk show that one of the first things he noticed about the actors for Kenji and Sumiaki–Shōya Chiba and Yūto Adachi–was how good-looking they were. Adachi in particular is not just a voice actor, but a member of the male idol group NEVA GIVE UP.
While the rugby veteran said that he wants the show to be a new inspirational anime for his young son (who was watching in the audience) like Captain Tsubasa was for the previous generation, just by looking at the characters, I get the sense this anime is going to be popular with a different demographic.
ALL OUT!! is set to be a multitude of things: an inspirational anime for kids, an action-packed sports anime for men, and a wonderland of handsome men tackling each other for the female anime fans. Hey, as long as it gets new people interested in rugby, I’m sure the rugby industry won’t be disappointed.
The ALL OUT!! anime will begin airing in Japan on October 7 at 12 a.m. Crunchyroll will stream the show subtitled outside of Japan, FUNimation has announced plans to stream the anime dubbed in English on its website as it airs.
©Shiori Amase, Kodansha/Jinkō Rugby-bu