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Manga / Ganbare, Kickers!

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Ganbare Kickers is a sport manga by Noriaki Nagai, which was serialized in CoroCoro Comic from 1985 to 1989. It was later adapted into an anime series by Studio Pierrot, which aired from 1986 to 1987 for 26 episodes. It's also known as Palla al centro per Rudy (Italy), But Pour Rudy (France), Supergol (Spain), Kickers (Germany), or Pilkarze (Poland).

A Spiritual Successor to Captain Tsubasa, it's the story of a Tsubasa-like kid named Kakeru Daichi who moves into another town with his family and joins an underdog soccer team. Despite the team being repeatedly defeated and dismissed, Kakeru is able to motivate the players thanks to his talent and determination. The Kickers enter the kid championship and slowly start getting better results and winning their first matches.

The series was quite successful in Germany and Austria, not so much in Italy, Spain, and France where it was largely overshadowed by Tsubasa's popularity. It's worth noting that, despite the many similarities with Captain Tsubasa, there are also some notable differences. Here the main character is not an Invincible Hero, it's slightly more realistic and there are less Improbable Sports Skills (if you ignore the trio of players from the rival team), and unlike Captain Tsubasa where everything is about soccer and played very seriously, this is more of a light-hearted comedy about the friendship of a group of teenagers who happen to love soccer even if they are not exactly champions. And while soccer is their primary interest, there are occasional subplots about their personal life (and sometimes, love life).

The series provides examples of:

  • Academic Athlete: In one episode the Kickers play against a team where all the players are also academic geniuses. They use their intelligence (and computers) to analyze the strengths, weaknesses, and strategies of all members of their rival teams. By contrast the Kickers, because of their dedication to sport, don't have enough time to study and are all mediocre students (except Hongo who gets good grades and is also an Academic Athlete).
  • Chick Magnet: Hongo, with his three airheaded fangirls (an Unwanted Harem) and Kakeru's sister Ayumi (he likes her back).
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: When Kakeru's team challenges the "Red Devils" (a strong secondary school team whose goalkeeper Uesugi is considered undefeatable) the first time, they lose 10 to 1.
  • Distracted by the Sexy: Happens in the episode 19 where the soccer-team challenges an all-female team where all the girls wear short skirts. With the exception of Kakeru, the main character, the boys are easily distracted during the game.
  • Dolled-Up Installment: In the Italian version of the anime, it's mentioned Kakeru comes from Syutetsu, Genzo Wakabayashi's old school from Captain Tsubasa. This is not true, and while the two series are very similar, there's no relation between the stories.
  • Dub Name Change: Kakeru is called Rudy in the Italian and French dub, Rafael in the Spanish dub, and Gregor in the German dub.
  • Expy: All from Captain Tsubasa.
    • Kakeru for Tsubasa. The Ace of the team, number 10, he even physically looks like him.
    • Hongo for Wakabayashi, goalkeeper, wears a cap, same proud attitude. He’s much less of an Ace though.
    • Uesugi for Wakashimazu. The goalkeeper of the rival team, a Long-Haired Pretty Boy.
  • Fat Comic Relief: Taichi Ota, an awkward, obese Big Eater who serves as The Load of the team. In some dubs, they even give him a Simpleton Voice.
  • Friendly Rivalry: Uesugi, one of the main rivals, is very cordial and respectful to Kakeru and considers him a Worthy Opponent.
  • Gentle Giant: Taichi, the overweight Big Guy of the team. Despite his size, he's friendly and well-meaning.
  • Hot-Blooded: Kenta Ishii, being an impulsive hothead who is often prone to starting fights.
  • Lovable Jock:
    • Kakeru. Top player of the team, cheerful, honest, humble, all-around Nice Guy.
    • Hongo may be too serious (bordering on Sugar-and-Ice Personality) but he's a very good leader/captain and by far the most reasonable person of the team.
  • No Name Given: The three omnipresent cheerleaders.
  • Not So Above It All: Hongo is usually the Only Sane Man but there are times when he snaps or is too stubborn. He was also one of the players being Distracted by the Sexy in the episode 19.
  • Pom-Pom Girl: The titular soccer-team has three cheerleaders that follow the team in every game. While they are primarily interested in the team captain and goalkeeper Masaru Hongo, they always support the whole team.
  • Spiritual Successor: To Captain Tsubasa.
  • Stout Strength: Taichi is too fat to be a good player, but he's definitely much stronger than his teammates. This proves to be useful a few times.
  • Token Romance: The romantic subplots of Kakeru/Akuna and Hongo/Ayumi. The two girls have little screen time and barely interact with the protagonists.
  • Tomboy and Girly Girl: Ayumi (Kakeru's sister and Hongo's Love Interest) is an athletic girl with Tomboyish Ponytail while Akuna (Uesugi's sister and Kakeru's Love Interest) is an Elegant Classical Musician.