2022 is going to be a huge year for soccer. The beautiful game will see the first-ever world cup tournament held in the Middle East when it kicks off in December 2022 and the highly anticipated anime adaptations of Ao Ashi and Blue Lock will debut. The soccer anime scene is about to blow up, and Netflix needs to be a part of it, here’s why.
Sports anime have been extremely popular in recent years, but arguably none have been more popular than the beloved high school volleyball anime Haikyuu!. But after years of dominating the sports anime scene, two upcoming series have the potential to usurp the throne. Those two challenges are Yuugo Kobayashi’s Ao Ashi and Muneyuki Kaneshiro’s Blue Lock.
What is Ao Ashi?
On January 5th, 2015 the first chapter of Aoashi was published in the Japanese magazine Big Comic Spirits. The story is centered around aspiring soccer player Ashito Aoi, who dreams of becoming a professional. But his dreams are dashed when he is the reason behind his team’s elimination from a tournament, however, his talent catches the eye of Tatsuya Fukuda, the youth coach of Tokyo City Esperion FC.
While the first few years of the manga’s run went relatively under the radar, the past few years have seen a rapid surge in the manga’s popularity, and fans all over the world have been clamoring for an anime adaptation.
What makes Ao Ashi so special and popular amongst fans is the level of detail the story goes into explaining the tactics of the game. Between formations, player positions, attacking, defending, passing, training drills, it’s a great education of the beautiful game without being boring.
Ao Ashi and Haikyuu! share a lot of similarities, but one of the most important aspects shared between the two stories is how welcoming they are to newcomers of their respective sports, while at the same time being able to avoid insulting the intelligence of fans of respective sports too.
Ironically, both anime series have been produced by Production I.G, which makes Ao Ashi as the natural successor to Haikyuu!.
What is Blue Lock?
On August 1st, 2018 the first chapter of Blue Lock debuted in Kodansha’s Weekly Shōnen Magazine. The story of Blue Lock takes place after the 2018 Russian World Cup where the Japanese National Football Team placed 16th in the tournament. As a result, the Japanese Football Union builds a facility called Blue Lock, which is dedicated to finding the very best of Japan’s talented pool of players.
Haikyu! is to Ao Ashi what Kuroko’s Basketball is to Blue Lock. Basking in the fun of its shonen genre, Blue Lock takes soccer to that over-the-top level of fun that could only be appreciated through manga and anime.
What makes Blue Lock stand apart from its other soccer counterparts is how unbashful the story is to completely disregard the sports anime cliche of friendship and teamwork, and instead, feed on the egos of its characters as they all compete against the other to be the very best of Japan’s aspiring youth.
Beautifully illustrated, the animation studio Eight Bit has a mammoth task on its hands to please fans, however, judging by the trailer, fans of the manga have nothing to fear and should be incredibly excited.
So why should Netflix pick up Ao Ashi and Blue Lock?
If it isn’t already clear, both Ao Ashi and Blue Lock are the future kings of sports anime. And while we have seen some half-decent soccer anime in the past, such as Days and Inazuma Eleven, both Ao Ashi and Blue Lock will be on a whole different level.
Currently, the hype around the upcoming releases of the Ao Ashi and Blue Lock anime is mostly limited to its manga readers, but once both series begin broadcasting in Japan we expect their popularity to explode, much in the same vein as Haikyuu!.
What about Netflix Jail?
Naturally, thanks to Netflix’s past history with some of its anime titles, fans of either series would be worried that a stint in Netflix Jail would stop them from watching until several weeks or months after its broadcast in Japan. However, thanks to recent anime releases from Netflix, the term Netflix Jail will be a thing of the past.
Netflix has begun experimenting with the weekly releases of the anime series Blue Period and Komi Can’t Communicate. Both of which are proving to be extremely popular.
If weekly releases are the future of Netflix’s internationally licensed anime then there would be no excuse for the streaming service to not attempt to acquire the licenses of Ao Ashi and Blue Lock.
At the time of writing it’s unconfirmed where Ao Ashi and Blue Lock will be available to stream outside of Japan. So, with the clock ticking, Netflix needs to act soon.