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This Week in Anime

by Steve Jones & Monique Thomas,

The prequel film raises the production a bit for Farewell, My Dear Cramer while expanding Nozomi's backstory. Come for the training montage, stay for the pre-game kidnapping.

This movie is streaming on Crunchyroll.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by the participants in this chatlog are not the views of Anime News Network.
Spoiler Warning for discussion of the series ahead.

@Lossthief @mouse_inhouse @NickyEnchilada @vestenet

Nicky, I didn't follow the Euro Cup too closely this year, but I think I can speak for all of England right now when I say this:
Today we'll be talking about Farewell, My Dear Cramer: The Movie. This movie is a prequel to the girls' soccer series that aired last season, and adaption of the manga Sayonara, Football by Naoshi Arakawa (Your Lie in April). This is a prequel movie originally set to come out BEFORE the anime series, but it got delayed due to "unforeseen circumstances."
Likely the same "unforeseen circumstances" that delayed the Euro a full year, but here we are with both in summer 2021! And if you're soccer-starved and require 104 additional minutes of high octane foot + ball action, Cramer has you covered.
Which is nice, because the anime series was unfortunately comprised of mostly flatly-shaded characters and speed lines. It's not perfect, but having actual backgrounds and movement is a big step-up compared to its successor. The Farewell, My Dear Cramer series ended up being the worst anime I watched last season. However, the manga still managed to win me over and land a goal in my heart.
The TV series fell off my docket after the first episode, but that was more a consequence of a ridiculously stacked season than of me disliking Cramer. That said, though, I agree that this film does a much better job of pulling the audience into its story. Even ignoring the production values, the TV premiere split its attention between a lot of different characters, while here we focus exclusively on this wonderful soccer gremlin.
I love all the soccer gremlins that comprise the main cast of Cramer, but the movie's sole focus is on the origins of its main character, Nozomi Onda. Those who have already watched or read the series may know that since childhood, Onda has always just been an ambitious scorer; always opting to be "one-of-the-guys" in order to properly show off her learned skills and accumulate a following. As she enters middle school, however, being the only girl in the boy's league is proving to be challenging, as even her male underlings begin showing her up with their recently improved physicality.
And that's more or less the crux of the whole film: Nozomi going from the undeniable soccer wunderkind to a player whom neither her coach nor her teammates know what to do with, thanks to her gender. Which is, to say the least, a really interesting and thorny conflict that ripples throughout the entire world of sports.
While the gap between different genders exists in all aspects of society, I think sports, especially those that require any form of contact, is one where it quickly becomes more apparent than others. Physical play is one of the first ways children establish a social hierarchy, and kids who are good at sports gain praise from their peers and parents alike. Nozomi's intense passion makes her a prodigy and gains her the admiration of her friends, but it's not enough to let her compete in the "Man's World" after getting seriously injured.

This is also a subject I take a bit To Heart since I was gifted a cursed vessel that meant both my physical and social capabilities have always been a big fat zero.
As a fellow former member of the Picked Last for Gym Club, I feel you. And it's also important to note that they're all in middle school here, so the ridiculous overnight mutations of puberty are also in play. Look no further than Nozomi's childhood friend Yasuaki: in just three years, he sprouts from a tiny curly-haired weakling into a 170cm titan who dwarfs everyone on Nozomi's team.

This does bring up a salient contradiction: not all boys are built the same either. But nobody is telling Nozomi's teammates they can't play in the big game just because dudes like Yasuaki are there. Playing sports means shouldering some inherent risk of injury, so how do we decide what level of risk is "tolerable" or not? And how is this influenced by institutional norms and assumptions?
Agreed. Not even all girls at that age come in equal sizes. The tale of the overly cautious coach making an exception for the determined and skilled girl is a bit of a cliché. People always want to make a scandal of how uneven things are as a reason to keep things separate when in reality, growing up is generally just a universally uneven experience. The Cramer movie highlights this experience by swinging between scenes of the fixated Onda and her childhood friend's fond memories of her. It creates a blooming picture of adolescence.
Yeah, it's a topic we really can't cover with all the breadth and nuance it deserves here. It's definitely really complex, but I don't believe the film goes all that deep into it either. Even Nozomi can't deny that she's physically outclassed by a lot of her teammates now.
But it does make for distinctive scaffolding on which the film builds Nozomi's arc of trying to prove her doubters wrong. This of course means we get a delightfully cliché training montage in the middle of the film, with all of the requisite gross drinks and stopwatches.

There's only so much she can do, even with all that training. However, once combined with her sharply-honed skills, it's enough to give her a fighting chance into getting back into the game for the newbie tournament. But it's not her skills that are her problem, and the adults aren't the only ones with anxieties. Her teammates try to deter her, the coach worries that some of them might not play seriously if they're afraid of hurting Onda, and so even lesser-skilled players like her little brother are placed above her in the line-up.

And as much as this is Onda's story, I think the boys' struggles at expressing their gratitude towards her in the midst of hormone-soup is genuinely just as compelling.
Yeah, I think the film strikes a good balance here by not having a singular villain. Nozomi has to put in all this extra work to keep up, but sports and physicality are just unfair like that. Her coach is reluctant to put her in a game, and he also has to weigh his team members' health and safety. The other boys on the team respect Nozomi's talent and drive, but they're also dumb teens with chips on their shoulders.

Yasuaki in particular says some headass shit, but he's also dealing with a lot of confusing and conflicting feelings about both her and himself.

Yasuaki, who is nicknamed by Onda as "Namek," definitely wins the "Most Confused Boy Award." While some of the guys also have a bit of a crush on Onda, he's definitely the worst at dealing with it, trying to act all big and tough in front of her so she doesn't carry the impression that he's still the kid that "used to barf up boiled eggs" after he moved away.

However, I also think he's the one with the strongest sense of fondness, and he seems to have genuinely taken her passion for soccer To Heart even after all that time. Even treasuring the keychain she once gave him.
See I would've called him out on wearing a bowtie when he was like 10, but the boiled egg bit is pretty funny too.

For him, being good at soccer means finally earning Nozomi's respect, but he also takes that to mean he has to beat her at soccer, personally. It just makes the whole thing a big mess. It's bad for their friendship, but good for keeping the film spicy.

Oh yeah, did we mention that Onda's solution to getting into the game was to simply "beat up my little brother for his uniform and impersonate him?" What else are brothers good for?
That's the film's cold open too. What a good hook. I also like that her whole team, including the coach, immediately see through her disguise. But they let her keep going because they'd be disqualified if the refs find out. She basically holds the whole team hostage to settle her personal grudge. I love her.
It's almost as good as the time she tried to blackmail the coach with an obviously doctored image of his head pasted onto a bikini model.
Nozomi is many things, but smart is not one of them.
All her brain cells have been replaced with a singular soccer ball that bounces around her skull and lights up to produce thoughts like an old screensaver. She's only capable of producing soccer and soccer-related thoughts. And that's why I love her.
Not an exaggeration in the slightest. And because of that, Nozomi, crushed under the pressure of having to prove her soccer acumen over and over, gets too caught up in the competitive aspect of the sport. She and Yasuaki both forget why they started playing in the first place. But that's why we have a big third act soccer game to remind them of the more important things. And to see baby Non-chan.
The third act also has a lot of style departures. I particularly love Namek's sketchy growth sequence, but I'm mixed on most of the final game being CG.
Eh, it's not ideal, but I think it works as a compromise to keep the game flowing and feeling dynamic.
It looks good in motion, but it also makes the characters feel even more doll-like than their character designs. I think it takes a lot to make Naoshi Arakawa's particular art style work so it'll definitely be YMMV for some people, but you can definitely feel the effort.

Plus, the music and the direction help to really sell the mood. I particularly love the strings during the climax.

Yeah, even if the film's a pleasant step-up from the TV series, it's still nowhere near a blockbuster production. But I gotta say, speaking as a total soccer layperson, I still found myself plenty caught up in the tension of the final match. Balls are flying, posts are being hit, and so are shins.
I can feel this image and I'm already sucking air through my teeth.
Nozomi, please. You're like 14. You're not Becken-what's-his-face.

Kids, don't try anything Nozomi does at home—and that includes the bad photoshop of her coach.
But after falling and finding herself again, even her coach is reminded that the important part of soccer is to ultimately have fun.
Soccer, and sports in general, should be something you work hard for, but not force to the point of hurting yourself physically and emotionally. Nozomi, for instance, not only enjoys herself more, but also plays better once she accepts she can't go toe-to-toe with the stronger kids. Instead, she starts using her technical game more, and she (and the team) immediately start making headway.
Even after she DOES get hurt, it's apparent that she's not trying to be a one-woman army anymore. Her teammates start trying to accommodate her when she can't simply charge through the competition.
And a team sport like soccer means you don't have to carry the entire game on your shoulders. You can find your niche and hone that to a fine edge.
I also like how it concludes that Nozomi doesn't have to compete with the boys to be good. She's special in her own way too! This is important because, in both the story and real life, girls' soccer was once in a bad place and in desperate need of talented and skilled players like her. Though it was once in decline, the league actually managed to make a big comeback. Currently, Japan's women's national soccer team, nicknamed "Nadeshiko Japan," is actually one of the most successful women's national leagues in the world!
I haven't finished it, but knowledge of how the TV series progresses definitely helps color my reading of the film. Also, I do find it amusing that in the series, women's soccer is disparaged while men's soccer is vaunted. Again, speaking as a total soccer layperson, my impression as an American has always been the opposite: our women's team rules and our men's team flounders.

But of course I understand even results can't completely overpower cultural mores like misogyny.

I've only ever watched pro soccer the intended way: in Spanish and usually in the midst of a family party. I can't tell you much, but on a small scale, it hits a lot of the familiar feelings of not wanting to be put down by my male peers and also having to deal with all the issues of playing girls' sports.
Yeah, as much as I would've liked the film to have dug deeper into the issue of gender segregation in sports, I still really like it as a serious examination of a young girl athlete and her struggles and triumphs. After seeing her get knocked down over and over, it's really touching to see Nozomi's self-doubts be quelled by loud cheers from the audience.

It might not resolve everything, but by the end of the film she's able to both have fun playing the sport she loves and be taken seriously. She proves that her way of playing soccer is a truly inspirational and positive experience.
Even ol' Namek can't help but revert back to his old crybaby days.

Truly a happy ending for all involv—

Oh right.
Seeing Namek drop the tough guy act to blubber like the annoying kid underneath is genuinely funny and sweet. Also, bonus cameo by my other two favorite soccer gremlins. I really do wish the series wasn't so saddled by obvious issues, but watching this movie makes me feel like I'm seeing what could've been.
Honestly, in a weird way, having this prequel movie come out after the TV series might end up being for the best. It's just the beginning of the story, but as a piece of anime, you could argue it makes for a stronger and more cohesive concluding note.
While I enjoy the cast of Cramer more, this movie is every bit as heartfelt and easy to watch on its own. The movie touches on all the same themes as the series in less than two hours and is just a really light and enjoyable time. I think most people will enjoy Nozomi's energy as a protagonist and as a player. It's not a superb sports drama but it's always enjoyable and a rare example of a recent good female-led sports story in anime form.
Don't know if I'll ever go back and watch the rest of the series, but I feel like I got a decent dose of Cramer here. It was nice.

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