The series premiere of Blue Lock aired on Saturday and it definitely left me with mixed feelings. Some good feelings, some bad feelings, and some feelings of “I’ve definitely seen this before.” So let’s break down why the series premiere of the highly anticipated Blue Lock had one of the more questionable premieres this anime season.
Blue Lock Series Premiere – The Good
There’s no denying that one thing that stands out to readers of the manga is the artwork and the intensity it brings. And the series premiere did a fantastic job of sticking to the manga’s artwork as well. The close-ups felt intense and not overused, unlike what we saw constantly in DanMachi Season 4 from the Summer 2022 anime season. Some of the characters are already extremely interesting. Big guys are polite until you give them a reason not to be. And some side characters bring that extra bit of excitement you need so the entire series doesn’t just ride on how the main character acts, especially when one of them, Meguru Bachira, is almost a spitting image of Luck from Black Clover.
The animation also needs to be given credit as well. While not much happened in the series premiere that would make sakuga enthusiasts lose their minds, which is usually the case with premieres since they’re more plot-driven episodes, there’s no denying some of the camera work and compositing towards the end of the episode was impressive. And the opening that was shown at the end of the episode is undoubtedly one of the best I’ve seen all season. However, despite the wonderful artwork, creative use of 3D space in a wide arena, and intense ending that could give any viewer chills, there are still some things that rubbed me the wrong way about the series premiere.
Blue Lock Series Premiere – The Disappointing
I understand the need to get away from the typical sports anime trope of following the main character that’s chasing their dream and doing so with their teammates. But that doesn’t make Blue Lock any more special than others even though it tries to make egoism its main point by going about it in a death-game, battle-royale type of way. Eijun Sawamura from Ace of the Diamond was completely self-centered at the beginning. Just like Yoichi Isagi from Blue Lock, despite being good to his teammates, Sawamura believed that he should be the ace where he ended up going as soon as he got there. And instead of Isagi, who actually respects other soccer players his age of the same caliber of talent, Sawamura had no idea about the other amazing pitchers from across Japan and figured he was the best from the beginning.
But the problem I have isn’t that Isagi is an egoist at his core, it’s the fact he automatically flipped the switch to become one by the end of the episode, whereas Sawamura properly developed and was humbled multiple times to bring down his ego a bit. But Isagi had one emotional breakdown during the premiere and now he thinks “It’s all about me. I will crush anyone standing in my way. That’s the way of a true striker.” Then one guy he seemed to look up to, Kira Ryosuke, who was his only “friend” in the episode, Isagi goes on to betray him right out of the gate despite calling Ego Jinpachi (the one in charge of Blue Lock) “crazy” and saying “what this man is saying is probably wrong” just moments beforehand.
It made Isagi’s egoism at the end feel superficial and I couldn’t take him seriously whatsoever, especially since his “betrayal” of Ryosuke was also fueled by Bachira’s help. Not to mention, that’s some mighty quick development for just one episode and it leaves me with the feeling that Isagi’s resolve is absolutely bogus. Just in the span of a few words spoken by Jinpachi, Isagi went from “this man is crazy” to “he makes all the sense in the world!”
When developing the exposition for a story, it’s best to show the main character with a clear objective in mind, whether it be good or bad, selfish or selfless, rather than have him question what he wants to obtain right at the very beginning unless it’s some sort of rom-com or slice of life series. Don’t teeter tot and leave me wondering who this main character even is at the beginning of the story. At first, Isagi completely disagreed with Jinpachi, but then he agreed. Then the first “game” they were put through started and he thought it was crazy (again), then decided to go full Mandolorian and have a “this is the way” mentality with becoming the best striker and taking out anyone necessary no matter what. But if you like that in a main character, then Isagi is perfect for you.
I also understand the viewpoint that the psychological aspect of the series and turning one of them into the best striker in the world that could lead Japan to a world cup victory is vital. But having just watched the series premiere, I hope none of them make the cut. Even the biggest egos in sports still credit their teammates to some degree. And using Noel Noa as an egoist example for beating Lionel Messi and Christiano Ronaldo is ridiculous in of itself given Noa isn’t a real person and he was just created to further the allure of being an egoist striker.
If you’re going to mention real players in the episode, then bring into the argument another real player. Don’t compare some characters in the series to real ones then proceed to quote other real players. Noel Noa is based on Robert Lewandowski (striker for FC Barcelona), so why not just make Lewandowski the prime example in the first place? Having a soccer anime where the idea is to become the prime self-centered striker who is all about themselves purely based on Jinpachi’s “biased decision-making” formula needed to help Japan win the World Cup seems ridiculous in the long run for the sake of the story. “The objective of the game is to score the most goals.” Yeah, no kidding. Same with every other sport. “The team with the most goals wins” isn’t a breakthrough discovery and every sport has players that contribute to that more than others. So all of this makes it feel like a social experiment about something that’s already obvious rather than an actual sports story with a respectable end goal. Again, this is just from watching the first episode. So, of course, this can all play out differently.
The “I’ve Seen This Before”
The one thing going through my mind this entire episode was how this feels damn-near similar to the hit Netflix series Squid Game, or any death-game anime you’ve watched really. The similarities are uncanny and it takes away from what’s supposed to be a fresh new series. In Blue Lock, everyone is invited to partake in a social experiment or “game” as they would call it, the same as Squid Game. When everyone is at the starting gate, a moderator greets them and tells them about what’s going to happen and they have the chance to either accept the terms or go home, just like Squid Game.
But instead of a pile of money, the appeal in Blue Lock is to fight for a guaranteed spot on the Japan National Team. If someone partakes in Squid Game and fails, they die. But in Blue Lock, instead of dying, their chance of playing for the national team is guaranteed 0%. They both hang the big goal over the contestants’ heads to convince them that they need to partake (Squid Game – players facing serious debt, they need the money, Blue Lock – teenagers facing the low chance of ever achieving their dream of playing in the World Cup). Of course, there are differences as far as living conditions and everything of that nature goes, which I’ll admit is nice to see. They aren’t living in some pig sty. Blue Lock is a state-of-the-art facility, even if it does look like an oversized police academy from the outside.
In further regards to similarities, just like Squid Game, Blue Lock focuses on the selfish nature of humans and the lengths each other will go to to save their own selves. But a huge difference between the two is that Squid Game‘s main character, Seong Gi-hun, was selfless at heart but had to make selfish decisions, and he had great remorse for them as well. He made you feel sympathetic the entire time because, unless you’re a sociopath, it appeals to that guilty conscience most of us have. The series did a magnificent job of properly showing who he is as a person. Yet, Isagi is now a stone-cold killer (not literally) all of a sudden, and that’s fine in some regard, but it still came across superficial as I stated before and I couldn’t take him seriously at all like I could Bachira.
So if that’s the case then I want to see him either become the most ego-driven striker he thinks he can be at heart or prove that he can become the best striker in the country and lead Japan to a World Cup while still being that guy who admires his teammates and other great players. For me, it’s a simple matter of “okay, you squished one ant, now are you going to drown the entire colony with water?”
Blue Lock Season Premiere Wrap Up
All in all, it’s honestly hard to sit here and say I loved the Blue Lock series premiere as most people did. I feel there are plenty of other series that had a better first showing for this season than Blue Lock for many reasons, including Golden Kamuy Season 4, My Hero Academia Season 6, Bocchi The Rock, and Mobile Suit Gundam: The Witch from Mercury. I don’t mind the different approach to the sport and the genre itself, but it felt like I was watching a psychological anime with a soccer ball thrown in the middle of it rather than the other way around—and that’s a very weird mix in the first place.
The concept has its appeal, and I see why so many people were excited about it, but I find the execution to be extremely difficult to take seriously as both an anime and sports fan. I hope I’ll have some characters to root for to actually become the next big-time striker. However, in a trial where it’s ego vs ego, and the goal is literally to make players even more self-centered to become the best striker, that can grow stale over time and leaves little room for anything exciting, more so surprising, to happen, especially since we got the first “betrayal” out of the way in the season premiere. But rather than having Isagi going back and forth between self-centered and sympathetic throughout the story, I’d like to see indecisiveness be left at the door he decided to be the first one to run through.
Episode 1 rating: 6/10
Images via Crunchyroll
©Muneyuki Kaneshiro, Yusuke Nomura, Kodansha/”Blue Lock” Production Committee