Football (Japan) Lost In Translation . . . Relaunched 2012!
Japan Football: Zaccheroni, Samurai Blue, and general J chatter
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Comic Day* Shunsuke too
shunsuke_comic.jpgThe Scottish Sun's December 17th issue wrote a blurb about Comic Shunsuke, a little 4-square comic strip that is presented in the Pocket Shunsuke services available as a cellphone feature for fans in Japan. Registered members can access via their phones, and get a more personal Shunsuke experience... The comic character is also joined by a band of "superheroes" called Spo-Rangers (the Spo is a shortened expression of "sports"). The comic character is kinda cute, ain't he?

Anyway, the cellphone service (which I don't subscribe to) also includes frequent voice messages from the Celtic midfielder, with topics ranging from Celtic and JapanNT game content to more private comments about things going on in his personal life (though to be honest, Shunsuke is such a private person, I don't think he says anything that is exceptionally revealing). If you live in Japan, you can access and register via Nakamura's website >>Click to go to website.

Nakamura's message following last weekend's Inverness game:

"This game against Inverness was particularly significant in our bid to widen the points between Celtic and the second place Hearts (who lost to Rangers in the same round).

Just after the starting whistle blew, we gave up a rather unlucky goal, but with Hartson's goal we were able to even the score by halftime.

The second half was a difficult game for Celtic; we couldn't get the needed goal. Inverness's strategy was to defend well first and aim for a counter. We were well defended against, and we could not find a way in, lacking in offensive options. It felt like were just passing the ball around. We fell into the trap of the opponent's strategy. Inverness played an ideal game for a team in their position (being lower in the ranks).

The result was a draw, but the content was Inverness's win.

I don't think we have to change the definition of our style/play, but we do need to improve the quality of each individual play.

The next round is our last of the year, and the one after an important encounter with Hearts awaits. I want us to get the victories along with good content."

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Tsubasa and Misaki
I have introduced a couple "Captain Tsubasa" entries this year, and some of you may wonder "what the hell?" In all honesty, I have never read a Captain Tsubasa comic. But I remember my younger brother did when he was in grade school. He bought all the comics, he even filled pages of notebooks with his own attempts at drawing Tsubasa characters. And most of all, it influenced him to choose football as his afterschool sports of choice. It was a tremendous cultural phenomenon back in those days among Japanese children.

You must remember, this was all back when Japan didn't even have a very clear idea of football, before the J-league, before we as a country could even dream of assuming to participate in the World Cup.

Many people say that had it not been for Captain Tsubasa, we may have not been able to culminate enough interest to launch the J-league to begin with, and thus would not have had the opportunity to host the World Cup as quickly. It may be hyperbole, but even so it shows that the comic had a tremendous influence over football-consciousness in Japan... not as a reality perhaps, but as an ideal. The fantastic technique, the miracle plays, the overarching themes of loyalty and friendship, teamwork, sportsmanship, and hope even as underdogs and even when everything else was working against them. >>Here's one fan site

shinji_tsubasa.jpgI mentioned in earlier entries, a few instances of where the fantasy world of Tsubasa intersected with the real world of football. The first time, it was a brief aside, mentioning that the creator of the comic, when asked a few years ago, who he imagines is the closest to fitting into the Tsubasa character. He said it was Shinji Ono (pictured sleeping next to his dog Chocolat in a Tsubasa tee) if he played at Barcelona. This was a while ago, so I'm not sure if he still would answer in the same way.

The second time was to show how Captain Tsubasa has successfully gotten exported worldwide. The France league's Grenoble football team mascot is based on the Captain Tsubasa comic characters, and I also mentioned that various famous European players (like Zidane and I think Totti) have shared they were influenced by Tsubasa as children.

In a recent interview, Daisuke Matsui said that his ideal is still defined by the limitless sense of inspiration and creativity displayed in the Tsubasa comics. And when I saw a very old photo of Japan goalkeeper Narazaki as a young boy, he was dressed in the black long-legged long-sleeved outfit with the cap, just like Tsubasa goalkeeper Wakabayashi -- despite the mid-summer heat (as did my brother, who was the GK at his school when he was a boy, and I used to tease him about copying a comic character). Wakabayashi was by far the "coolest" (kakko-ii) member of the team... The "golden midfield" that we know in today's Japan NT, players like Nakata et al are considered the generation of Japanese footballers who read the comics in its heyday and grew up to lead our national team.

We are continuing to see the aftereffects. Those same kids who grew up reading the comics til the pages were worn have now grown up into young mothers and fathers. But it was still a little suprising to see the first names "Tsubasa" and "Misaki" among the list of the real life current U-14 National team. The U-14 is in Korea right now training and playing a few local friendlies.

In the comics, the full name was Tsubasa Ohzora (Tsubasa means "wings" and Ohzora means "big/great sky"). It is a rare name to see in real life, and I would say that anyone who names their kids Tsubasa is aware of its immediate correlation with the comic character. The character Misaki's full name is Taro Misaki, but in the comics he went as "Misaki", his last name. And here again, it is quite pointed to name your boy Misaki as a first name. You almost can't help but immediately connect it to the comics. He was known as the character with a pure and straight nature, so perhaps the hope was that their baby boy would grow up to have the same kind of purity and openness of heart.

misaki_comic.jpgtsubasa_comic.jpg

With such names, the two actual boys in question, Tsubasa Yamasaki and Misaki Uemura (both born in 1991), must get a lot of curious comic-related questions or teasing. And the fact that there are two players now on the U-14 team with the Captain Tsubasa-related names is probably what is most interesting. It does make one expect to see amazing plays and shots, the kind you only see in the...well, world of comics. They obviously show promise, otherwise they would not have been chosen as part of the JFA Elite Development Program. But they are two of twenty, so I guess the important thing is for all these kids to get as much opportunity to play and learn.

As a sidenote, there is also a player on the same U14 team called "Atomu" (or "Atom")... as in the manga Tetsuwan Atom (you might know it as Mighty Atom or Astro Boy), another extremely popular manga that dominated the tv ratings from the 50s. >>Click to see website

Come to think of it, people name their kids after all types of things/people. I heard that recently a Scottish couple, a Celtic fan, named their newborn son "Shunsuke" (boy, that little boy is headed for some awkward moments introducing himself). So I guess anything goes. (Though a few years ago I remember some parents in Japan wanted to name their boy "Akuma", meaning devil, and the government wouldn't allow it...)
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