A sports anime that's fairly unique for the medium of anime, but viewers who've seen American sports films will recognize the tropes early on. Still, decent production values and execution of the premise make this series worth a watch (even if it won't be killing any giants in the ratings department).
It says something about the anime industry when not centering on high school or high school students is enough to make your show unique. Giant Killing takes a road less travelled and follows the fictional professional club East Tokyo United, going for a more realistic approach devoid of any over-the-top sports superpowers. The name 'Giant Killing' comes from what manager Tatsumi calls his tactics for defeating large, powerful clubs with a small, weak one. And considering that East Tokyo United has no budget, a second-rate stadium, a tiny fan base, and a decade-long losing streak, they might just be the smallest and weakest club in Japan's top soccer league.
With the premise out of the way, let's get down to the craft of the story. A point in this show's favor is that it is willing to let ETU lose from time to time. Most stories featuring underdog teams have them lose the first few games, then turn things around and blast their way to the championship against the clearly evil powerhouse squad- ETU endures hot streaks and cold slumps in a believeable manner. Another point is that there is no clearly "evil" squad or character that goes around kicking puppies and twisting their mustaches just to make sure the audience knows to root against them (aside from one slimy ex-ETU manager, but even he isn't too badly overblown). Finally, the tactics Tatsumi uses to win the critical soccer matches actually have a degree of foreshadowing to them so they don't seem like Deus Ex Machinas pulled out of thin air because the plot demands ETU win.
Unfortunately, these critical matches are also some of Giant Killing's weaker moments, as there were times a game could have been wrapped up in an episode or two less than what was used- so occasionally the plot can feel a bit padded. Also, given that the manga is still ongoing as of January 2016 and this show was released in 2010, it should be obvious that the anime doesn't cover its source material in its entirity. However, the ending was still solid, demonstrating that East Tokyo United has turned a corner is no longer the punching-bag club they once were. Frankly, I thought the anime ended at a very good point- before the matches got stale, but with the main challenge cleared so there's still a sense of closure. The story doesn't stray too terribly far from the archetype, but is unique and well executed enough to last its 26-episode run.
The art is decent but nothing special. Animation quality is acceptable, with the use of CGI being fairly well done, restricted to large crowd shots and full field shots where there is a lot of motion and the lack of detail is less noticeable. The shots with traditional animation weren't particulalry inspired, often just showing close-ups of individual players during the matches, or at most showing a small range of motion, with large scale plays always rendered in CG. The character designs, however, are certainly unique as they aren't stereotypical anime looks, and are varied enough that you never have trouble telling characters apart even with the large cast.
Sound in Giant Killing is definitely the high point of the show. Both the OP ('My Story'- The Cherry Coke$) and ED ('Get Tough!'- by G.P.S) are stellar, going for a British punk sound that immediately conjures up thoughts of both soccer and giving impossible odds the finger (which is to say they fit the theme of the show perfectly). Also, bagpipes. The soundtrack itself is fairly basic, with nothing that you probably haven't heard in a sports movie or show before. As this show hasn't been dubbed in English (and likely never will be due to sports anime/manga typically selling poorly in North America) you'll have to watch it in sub. I could certainly tell the voice actors apart and get sense of their characters, but not being a Japanese speaker there's a limit to how well I can say they did or didn't do there jobs. There's a smattering of English-language dialogue throughout (soccer is an international sport after all) and while I could tell it wasn't the first language of whoever was speaking, it was never ears-bleeding bad either. Lastly, I want to mention the sound effects, which rarely stand out to many in even the best anime. The effects used when the ball was being kicked gave a real sense of power and speed, like a pro soccer player really had struck the ball with all his might, greatly helping the imersion.
For if you like cocky, eccentric geniuses, manager Tatsumi is your man. Since ETU doesn't have the raw talent to dominate opponents he has to change tactics nearly every match to attack whatever weak points the opponent has, be it over-reliance on certain players, tatical inflexibility, or simply not taking his small club seriously. His oddball personality and unique way of doing things tend to drive most of the people around him nuts, however. The rest of the cast is solid as well, though there are limits to what you can do when you have to cover a lot of characters with little time. All the major cast members have distinct personalities, most of which undergo a degree of development. The substitute players and less important staff tend to be more one-note, but since they're on screen less it's forgivable. Overall, the characters are pretty good for a cast this large and for this genre of story.
Giant Killing may not kill any anime giants, but it is an entertaining ride for those looking for a good sports anime.
Giant Killing was a show that I had high hopes for that in the end just couldn't deliver. The premise of the show managed to be both worn out and new at the same time. You have a lack luster sports team that is struggling to stay afloat and a new coach comes with lofty goals and a plan to turn things around through strategy. I've seen this played out in western media a lot but this is the first time I had seen it in an anime.
The story for this show had a lot of potential but in the end had some major flaws. I thought the idea of changing the team through strategy to be an interesting change but in the end you only really see it done in three games. The rest of the show he just leaves the team to fend for them selves in painfully hard to watch episodes. Also the pacing of the series was rather poor as they would blaze through multiple games an episode and then spend 4 episodes on one game. The luls in between the games that matter leave you rather board.
The art style of the show was rather unique and was refreshing but the quality of the animation was rather poor. If would be smooth on more important episodes and jerky one others. There as also the occasional use of horrible CG.
I liked the music used in the series as i thought it fit the mood well, but there were some voices that were a little grating.
There was the character growth in the beginning as the team began to reform under the new coach and that made the earlier episodes watchable. In the end though there are a lot of things that were hinted at in the beginning that are left rather unresolved at the end of the series. By the end of the show i didn't really have any characters that I liked or hated. The characters that i came closest to caring about were side characters for one game .
Giant Killing is a refreshing change for any sports anime fan that is light and enjoyable. You get a semi-satisfactory ending but a lot still feels unresolved. It could really benefit from a second season but i don't see that happening. For a non-sports anime fan or a non-soccer fan i would advise you to stay away from this one as you can easily find something better.
I'd like to say its a typical sports anime but it is in some ways and it isn't...
The general plotline is typical. A weak soccer team meets an eccentric but talented coach and soon, they begin winning games and fulfilling their potential. Nothing crazy and unexpected here.
The animation wasn't the typical type. The art style was different, which is, dare I say, refreshing. Nothing special here though either.
The music, I did like. It brought the atmosphere of the game to life. Lets put it this way, the background music was good enough to make me want to own several tracks on it. Since the first thing I tend to notice about an anime is its background music and since I tend to be picky about my bgm music, this is saying something.
Character development was average. Didn't particularly LOVE a character but didn't hate any either. They were all pretty meh.
Overall, I enjoyed it (as I am a generic sports anime fan). While surprised at its short-ness (only 26 episodes), I guess I'm also thankful its short and sweet. There's nothing worse than a generic sports anime with never-ending episodes of games after games... No wait. I take that back. There are worse things... like a harem of magical girls all in love with the same wimpy male lead whose spine is nonexistant. My point is though, the shortness of this series was, while surprising, a good thing about it. Although, I'm kinda suspecting there might be a season 2? Who knows. If there is, I'd probably watch it :)