There are various things that unite the generation of men born between the mid-70s and the mid-80s. The first is having attended high school in the 90s, the golden age of grunge, of Enrico Brizzi’s books and of the World Cup lost by a whisker. But also of Capello’s Milan, Marcello Lippi’s Juventus and Ronaldo’s Inter.
The second is having experienced the passage of the millennium as a topical moment in one’s life and having seen the birth of satellite TV, with all the strengths and weaknesses that the multiplication of the offer entailed. The third is having seen the Disney rebirth, the advent of Pixar and the entry of a PC in every home.
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But what unites those children who have now become adults most is probably their childhood, characterized – the first in the history of humanity – not by shared fairy tales, nor by common street games . But from Japanese cartoons.
THE REFERENCE CARTOON OF A GENERATION
If you were a boy, the reference cartoon, almost the only one, was without a shadow of a doubt Holly & Benji , the series set in the world of youth football. Years later, when that generation had become an adult, the manga from which that anime was based also arrived in Italy, Captain Tsubasa by Yoichi Takahashi, serialized starting from 1981 in Japan but translated into Italian by Star Comics only in 2000.
Perhaps also for this reason, in the imagination the characters have kept the Americanized names of the anime, so much so that even today we remember Julian Ross, Mark Lenders, Tom Becker, Philip Callaghan and the whole gang. Often, indeed, in the five-a-side football fields the elderly forty-year-olds continue to compare themselves to one or the other of those fictional players.
To pay homage to that long and glorious series, let’s reconstruct today the events and misadventures of five unforgettable characters of Holly & Benji or, to refer to the manga, of Captain Tsubasa .
Oliver Hutton / Tsubasa Ozora
The Attacking Midfielder Capable of Winning the World Cup and Playing in Brazil and Spain
Tsubasa Ozora, better known as Oliver “Holly” Hutton, is the absolute protagonist of the series, both in the manga and in the anime. And it is despite a short-sighted international title has long hinted that the lead role would be shared equally between him and Benjamin Price, aka Genzo Wakabayashi. But this never happened except only in the very first episodes.
At the beginning of the manga Holly is 11 years old, having just moved to Nankatsu and enrolled in the final year of those elementary schools. He is a friendly kid, well disposed towards everyone, but with a great passion for football, so much so that he considers the ball his best friend and always carries it with him.
His father is a ship captain and this activity allows him to meet Roberto, a former Brazilian footballer saved by Tsubasa’s father after a suicide attempt. Now, to repay his debt, Roberto is in fact the little boy’s coach, constantly urging him with the promise to bring him sooner or later to Brazil, to establish himself in the world of football.
LEADERSHIP CHAMPION TOO
Despite being in fact a wild card capable of playing in any position on the pitch, Holly is the almost perfect attacking midfielder. On his side he has class – his dribbles are terrifying and almost unstoppable – and leadership within the team, given that he is by far the strongest player (and recognized by his teammates as such) but also a footballer capable of encouraging all players. elements to give the best. He demonstrates this from the beginning by the attitude he manifests towards Bruce Harper, of whom we will come back to talk again.
He made his debut with his elementary school team (Nankatsu in the original and Newppy or Niuppi in the cartoon), where, in addition to Bruce, he also met Sanae Nakazawa or Patty Gatsby, his biggest fan and in the future his girlfriend and wife. The little Tsubasa then enters the representative town (Nankatsu SC or New Team), facing and winning the national championship after a very tight final against the Muppet (Meiwa) of Mark Lenders, his main opponent on Japanese soil.
With the Under-15 national team he then flies to Paris for a tournament that sees the Japanese prevail over West Germany. Finally he manages to fulfill his dream by going to play for San Paolo on Brazilian soil. At the age of 19 he then won the Youth World Cup against the Brazil of his mentor Roberto and was finally bought by Barcelona , establishing himself in the La Liga.
Mark Lenders / Kojiro Hyuga
The Tiger Shot of the Most Powerful Center Forward in the Far East
Holly’s real and main antagonist in the early series and the only one able to replicate her strength on the pitch is Mark Lenders (Kojiro Hyuga), the center forward that New Team is facing for the first time in the national school final. elementary. The final is won by the team of Holly and Benji despite the Muppet prevailing in the initial round.
Lenders is a powerful and physical striker, as determined as Tsubasa is to pursue his goals. In the beginning, in fact, the purpose for which he plays is to win the scholarship that the Toho school offers in the event of winning the tournament, which would allow him not to further burden the already precarious family budget. Even though he was defeated, he was still taken by the school and also participated in the national middleweight championships, losing twice in a row in the final, again against Nankatsu SC.
In the third year, however, something changes. His old coach – alcoholic but experienced Jeff Turner (Kozo Kira) – accuses him of losing the grit he had as a child and subjects him to a series of grueling personalized workouts. Doing so leads him to create a devastating new shot which is called Tiger Shot.
THE THIRD CONSECUTIVE FINAL
It is a shot that, after a long exclusion from the starting lineup, is unsheathed by Lenders in the third consecutive final against Tsubasa. That shot allows Toho to block the eternal rivals on a draw, so much so that even after extra time the decisive match ends at 4-4 and the organization decides to proclaim both teams on equal merit as champions.
In the following series, Hyuga becomes the center forward of the youth national team, forming a very strong attacking couple with his old enemy Tsubasa. After creating other special shots, on which he bases a large part of his offensive power, he beats the competition of the Japanese-Uruguayan Nico Holder (Ryoma Hino) and does well at World Youth. All this means that the player is bought by none other than Juventus. In Italy, he made his debut in an unsuccessful test in which he was canceled by a sort of comic Thuram, which led Juve to give him on loan in C1 to Reggiana.
Bruce Harper / Ryo Ishizaki
Am’s Mascot Transformed Into a Rock Defender
One of the characteristics of Captain Tsubasa is that all the characters are, in their own way, very determined and undergo very severe physical tests in order to improve their skills and grab their dreams. Mirror of a Japan in which sport is seen above all as an opportunity for personal affirmation, this characteristic tended to make both the comic and the anime quite heavy from an emotional point of view.
Perhaps for this very reason, the creator Yoichi Takahashi immediately introduced a series of comic elements aimed at easing the tension, so as not to make the story too dramatic. On the pitch, the most defusing element was undoubtedly Bruce Harper – aka Ishizaki Ryo -, one of Holly’s first and most faithful friends.
Tsubasa in fact meets Ryo shortly after his arrival in the new city and it is he who tells him about Genzo Wakabayashi (Benjamin Price), the very strong goalkeeper of city rivals. Captain of the Niuppi / Nankatsu, he is a defender of the truth at the beginning of the story not too strong, so much so that his secret weapon seems to be the “face parade”. That is, he interposes his body between the opponent’s shot and the goal, often ending up receiving a ball in the face.
UP TO THE NATIONAL TEAM
Over time, however, his skills are refined and he manages, at the cost of great efforts and sacrifices, to carve out a place as a starter in all the teams in which Tsubasa is able to express his talent. And that is in the New Team and in the various youth representatives of Japan.
When his strongest friends end up being bought by foreign teams, splitting up between Brazil, Italy, Germany, and Spain, he becomes one of the landmarks of Jubilo Iwata, a team owned by Yamaha who – in the real world – is just between the end of the 90s and the early 2000s it experienced a golden period. In fact, he won the national title three times and won the Asian Champions League thanks to players like Dunga and Totò Schillaci, who went to play the last seasons of their careers in that training.
Julian Ross / Jun Misugi
The Glass Sample and His Heart Disease
There are characters who, within the manga as well as the anime, have managed to win the hearts of fans despite never having had an excessive space. One of these is Julian Ross, aka Jun Misugi, a footballer with class and superfine style but very unfortunate, so much so that a congenital heart disease earned him the nickname of the glass champion, as beautiful to look at as he is fragile.
In the story, he makes his first appearance during the national elementary championships when his team (Mambo in the anime and Musashi in the manga, a Tokyo formation) faces the New Team in the semifinals.
The game is characterized by various interesting elements. First of all, it should be remembered Holly’s indecision, in front of the request of Julian’s girlfriend (Amy, or Yayoi) to let the opposing team win – since her boyfriend would have retired from football at the end of the tournament -, hesitates on the da make yourself. Then it must be emphasized that Musashi turns out to be very efficient tactically, applying the offside trap for the first time and putting the protagonists’ attack in serious difficulty.
Finally, Julian Ross decides on this occasion to avoid the doctors’ order not to play more than 10 minutes per game and remains on the pitch for the whole match, signing a splendid hat-trick but putting his own life at risk.
INSPIRED BY JOHAN CRUIJFF
In the end, Mambo is still defeated by 5-4 precisely because of a goal scored by Holly during the recovery. Strongly inspired by Johan Cruijff, whose movements and style he reproduces (as well as the jersey number, 14), Ross continues to play only game segments even in middle school. He is then called up for the Paris tournament where he shows, when he is not playing, that he can be more than a valid second manager.
At this point, however, thanks to an operation, Misugi solves his heart problems and can return to the field full time. The prolonged inactivity, however, transformed what was potentially the best promise of Japanese football, perhaps even superior to Tsubasa himself, into a player out of shape and closed in an attack by many players in better shape than him. For this, he decides to recycle as free, also acting as a backward director and leading the defense to conquer the World Youth.
At the end of the series, he plays in the Japanese J League, in Tokyo FC, a team that in reality has also recently been coached by the Italian Massimo Ficcadenti. He then also goes to Bellmare Hiratsuka.
Ed Warner / Ken Wakashimazu
The Acrobatic Goalkeeper of Muppet and Toho
The beginning of the series had been characterized by the bulky presence of the aforementioned Benji Price, Holly’s first true antagonist, with whom he later becomes a great friend. However, the strongest (barring injuries) and most charismatic goalkeeper of the various Japanese youth teams was Ed Warner, whose name in the original and in the comic was Ken Wakashimazu.
Her first appearance comes, surprisingly, during the semifinal of the elementary school tournament that Mark Lenders’ Muppet is facing against Philip Callaghan’s Flynet (in the manga, Hikaru Matsuyama’s Furano). The two teams are in fact stopped at 2-2 and at the last minute, a penalty is whistled in favor of Flynet, which Callaghan is preparing to shoot. At that point the Muppet manager makes a risky move, replacing his goalkeeper with Ed, who was injured in the early part of the tournament.
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The penalty was promptly canceled by the new extreme defender, who immediately launched the counterattack and allowed Lenders to score the final 3-2 goal. But the surprise is not only in the unexpected appearance of the character. Warner is in fact a goalkeeper as acrobatic as he is spectacular, who, thanks to the karate training given to him by his father, usually catapulted himself against the opposite post to parry and use it to give himself the push to reach the other end of the goal.
This system works because in fact, in the anime as in the manga, the shots take a very long time to reach the goal, in a way that has often been the subject of ironies on the length of the field and the earth’s curvature.
OWNER AT THE PARIS TOURNAMENT
In middle school he follows teammates Lenders and Denny Mellow at Toho, where he becomes the starting goalkeeper and later also captain, contending for dominance at the New Team for several years. In the national team he became a starter in the Paris tournament, performing in particular in a spectacular match in the semifinal against the hosts of France when he managed to parry, already injured, the penalty of the champion opponent Luis Napoleon.
However, for World Youth, he is preferred Benji Price, who has been playing in Europe for years and therefore has more experience in the international field. This leads him to leave the team amidst the controversy, only to return after yet another injury to Benji. In the last series ( Golden-23 ) he was deployed in the Olympic National team by Jeff Turner also as a striker.