Okay, so admittedly I’m a little late on the Sports Anime hype train. But to be fair, I was too caught up in getting into a decent university when Haikyuu! started airing in 2014. And then when I did get in, I was too busy trying to graduate with my wits intact. So, I completely ignored all the cute swim-shorts wearing anime husbandos from Free! that were plastered on my timeline. And now that I’m finally back to indulge in my weeb obsessions, I’m starting to see a pattern with these sports-themed anime. A lot of them focus on the ‘power of friendship!’ aspect, yeah but also? They are oddly BL (Boy Love) bait. And Blue Lock, a soccer-themed anime, is no different.
Is Blue Lock a Boy Love series? No. It’s a little too intense on the hate aspect of a rivalry. But is it still weirdly queer in how it shows its characters and their bonds? Absolutely. But to be fair, that is just how a lot of sports anime are made, with a huge focus on male relationships and rivalries and that tend to come off as homoerotic at best and gay as heck at…also best? Look, I’m a yaoi fan girl. So, I can’t complain either way.
But Blue Lock is significantly different than any other sports anime I’ve binge-watched in the last couple of months. I.E. it’s less ‘Let’s go team!’ and more ‘we are intensely passionate rivals’. But it still retains the essence of a competition-based manga, where it’s dynamic and very, very aggressive. And really, that’s where Blue Lock shines, by putting a spotlight on the individual that’s playing rather than the teamwork aspect.
But it’s got heated feelings regarding competitions and even hotter male characters. So, of course, the shipping wars in this manga’s fandom are rampant. But at its core, Blue Lock is an intensely engaging manga about soccer players and offers something so unique compared to the sports manga currently available. Think Kuroko No Basket, but better. Sounds too good to be true, right? Let’s get on with the review!
The Main Premise Of Blue Lock
I think one misconception people have with sports anime is that they believe sports anime are repetitive and boring. Because really, how interesting could you make soccer for someone who isn’t an active fan? But that’s why Blue Lock stands out from the crowd, with a strong Shonen inspiration in its storytelling.
Japan’s not doing great during the FIFA World Cup of 2018 after they finished 16th overall in the illustrious tournament. To counteract this and better their chances, the Japanese Football Union decides to reach out and hire Ego Jinpachi, a legend in the soccer world but an enigma too. Luckily, he agrees to help and doubles down on a plan of attack. His goal? To use a training regime known as the Blue Lock to catapult Japan into soccer stardom.
But it won’t be easy. Blue Lock is an extreme training regimen aimed at creating the world’s greatest egotist striker. And if someone fails at completing the Blue Lock program, they will be cut from the team and never get to stand as Japan’s flag bearers. However, a non-descript high school soccer player named Yoichi Isagi decides to join the program, both to get some clarity on his playing style and then to become the best soccer player in the world.
Blue Lock: The Breakdown
To say that this manga is a refreshing take on the sports genre, in general, is an understatement. The way the story focuses on singular characters furthering themselves to be better than the next is very reminiscent of something like Slam Dunk.
The writer, Muneyuki Kaneshiro, really thought things through when plotting out how the selection criteria would work with something like the Blue Lock program. They certainly have a way of creating a narrative more engaging than it should be. It’s great writing, keeping me hooked.
What I appreciate most is how the actions of the characters aren’t heavy-handed or exaggerated to the point where it looks like they have superpowers. It’s intense, it’s exhilarating but it isn’t played up for grandeur. The story itself is gritty, really processing the characters and letting them shine in their way rather than building up a teamwork narrative that you see so often in manga like these.
And of course, the art is spectacular. With illustrator Yusuke Nomura taking the helm, every panel looks dynamic and gorgeous.
Is Blue Lock Worth Watching?
Is this going to be a guilty pleasure secret BL that I watch for shipping? No. Sure, there are a couple of scenes where the characters flirt with one another and it’s all in good spirits. But that’s not the focus of Blue Lock.
Blue Lock is an underrated heavy hitter just waiting to break out into the mainstream. It is a Shonen Sports hybrid done right and if that’s your thing, I honestly can’t recommend it enough!