by Anne Lauenroth,
How would you rate episode 1 of
All Out!! ?
Community score: 3.4
How would you rate episode 2 of
All Out!! ?
Community score: 3.7
It's the first day of high school, and the time has come to pick a school club for our protagonists. Gion – brash, loud and burdened by the height and self-control of a grade-schooler – has no clue about rugby, but seeing the team members tackle each other in practice entices him to assume the sport would be a good fit for him. On the opposite end of the physical and emotional spectrum, soft-spoken Iwashimizu is a sensitive giant with ample rugby experience, before an unfortunate event in the past caused him to become scared of his own strength. Needless to say, both first-years will end up joining the rugby club and eventually become friends.
As far as premises for sports series go, ALL OUT!! isn't exactly reinventing the wheel by adding a few more pounds of muscle to its character designs, and neither is the show one of the most visually striking productions of the season. It's nonetheless off to a competent start, much more so after the second episode than the first one, which had me slightly worried how well Gion and Iwashimizu would be able to carry the show, given that their only appeal seemed to stem from being polar opposites.
Gion's only defining trait and motivation – not running away from a fight and wanting to learn how to tackle – felt insufficient to qualify him as the story's main character. Luckily, despite still being occasionally annoying, Gion shows a willingness to put his money where his mouth is. What's more, he shows actual aptitude despite his size and lack of experience. Gion is the kind of guy who bounces back twice as strong after falling down, and while he's more of a brawler looking for a way to become stronger than burning with passion for a sport he still knows close to nothing about, seeing him endure and even let himself be humbled in exchange for getting closer to his goal was promising. He still has a way to go in the respect department necessary for team sports, though – the only person Gion's commited to at this point is still himself.
While Iwashimizu seems genuinely concerned for his new friend, Gion mostly turns the "useless tree trunk" into a tackle training prop. Dragged out of the literary club (populated by more girls than the one obligatory attractive female character on the rugby team), Iwashimizu basically lets himself be bullied into joining the rugby club. We shouldn't feel too bad for him, as his tragic flashback makes it clear how much playing rugby meant to him before he accidentally injured his previous pint-sized rugby friend, Miyūki. Gion's indestructibility will probably help Iwashimizu overcome his trauma and rediscover his self-confidence in the long run, if it weren't for the upcoming game against Miyūki's school that screams "relapse time" before Iwashimizu can even begin to heal. I'm still waiting for him to get lines beyond the occasional depressed sigh and whispering Gion's name.
So far, ALL OUT!! has only introduced us to a fraction of the other rugby team members, a clever choice used to break the fourth wall in one of episode two's several more genuinely funny moments (compared to the constant cartoonish Mickey Mousing and "I will punch you if you call me short" jokes from the premiere). There is Sekizan, whose outlandish character design requires some suspension of disbelief. He puts Gion in his place when he gets a little too disrespectful. Easygoing vice captain Hachioji only opens his eyes when it's time to train, and Ebumi is shaping up to become Gion's personal rival. Apart from another new addition to the team, the rest of the players have yet to step out of the background. All I can say about them now is that some of these boys look like they hit the ground face first a bit too often.
This brings us to the game of rugby itself, and just like Gion, we still know very little about it. I'm very much in favor of avoiding too many exposition dumps and keeping viewers on a need-to-know basis, even moreso if the series manages to get some self-aware jokes out of withholding information for pacing concerns. Still, we have yet to see what makes rugby a fascinating sport deserving of its spot as the third most popular team sport in Japan. Some stills with speed lines interspersed with close-up running shots before cutting back to sideline commentary serve little to convey the passion Iwashimizu once felt for the sport and Gion will hopefully begin to experience after his first game. Hopefully, the series' obviously limited resources will still give us the chance to experience the thrill of a full-contact sport.
Until then, we just have to take Gion's word for it.
With All Out!!'s first three episodes now available on Funimation, it's time for a first dub impression. The English script takes a surprisingly liberal approach to localization, often adding or exaggerating jokes far less pronounced in the Japanese version. This actually helps the flow of episode one's first half, which was never All Out!! at its best. Characters' mindsets become clearer thanks to subtle changes, which greatly improves Gion's likability. When Hachioji tells him how anyone can be a star in rugby, Stephen Sanders' Gion doesn't simply repeat the words, but turns this into a question about himself, which Hachioji confirms. Several of these smaller changes portray Gion in a remarkably different light, making him less annoying, less brash, less simpleminded, and a whole lot more relatable.
While it can be argued that such changes stray too far from the original (even though it greatly enhanced my enjoyment of all Gion's scenes), not all the characters profited equally. The one to draw the short straw is Sekizan, who is no longer the same earnest, hardworking, respect-demanding champion. This isn't Christopher Wehkamp's fault, but rooted in the script. Changes are mostly subtle, but when Sekizan calls Gion too short to play rugby instead of just making a general observation about his height, Gion's anger becomes completely understandable. What's worse: It makes Sekizan – who is all about respect – look disrespectful. His request to use polite speech with the seniors obviously wouldn't translate well into English, but the solution is somewhat undecided, making it hard to understand why exactly Sekizan would be justifiably annoyed by Gion. And with Gion now more likable, Sekizan ends up looking unnecessarily grumpy. I had no problem understanding why he would throw Gion through the room in Japanese, while in English, he comes off almost as a jerk, something I find very unfortunate. Brad Smeaton's Hachioji is still the same chill guy Ryota Ohsaka voiced, while Iwashimizu's enormous insecurities don't translate quite as well into English.
All Out!! is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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