Original Run: January 8, 2020 - April 15, 2020 Number of Episodes: 12 Genre: Sports
***Warning, the following may contain spoilers for number24. Reader discretion is advised.***
Natsusa Yuzuki (voiced by Kengo Kawanishi) was an up and coming rugby star. Unfortunately, a horrific car accident brought his playing days to a close. However, Natsusa loves his sport too much and refuses to remove it from his life.
Once recovered, Natsusa returns to the Doushisha University rugby team to serve as its manager. Although it is a little challenging at first, he quickly settles into his new role.
He might miss running on the field, but Natsusa does not let that discourage him. With a combination of his rugby knowledge and ball-busting attitude, Natsusa becomes an indispensable figure for his former teammates.
In 2019, we were given Try Knights. I bring this up for two reasons.
- If there is another rugby anime out there, please tell me in the comments section below.
- To say number24 was better than Try Knights is not acknowledging an accomplishment. After all, Try Knight was a spectacular trainwreck, and number24 established its superiority within its first five minutes.
Do not go thinking this means number24 was good. No, it had many, many problems. Again, that is why telling you that it is far more watchable than Try Knights would be like saying a beautiful sunny day is brighter than a cold, moonless night. Nevertheless, Try Knights was firmly on my mind when I learned this would be a rugby-centered sports anime. Plus, it would be wrong to pretend that my hopes for number24 were high when starting it.
I fully expected to slog my way through twelve episodes and give you an exacerbated review focused on this show’s un-remarkability.
However, I can’t do that. number24 was a delightful surprise. I find it hard to believe, but I actually enjoyed this show.
I want you to think of every sports anime or movie you’ve ever seen. I’m willing to bet the overwhelming majority of them follow a tried-and-true formula. Our protagonist, sometimes with a group of friends, gets drawn to or is familiar with a particular sport. It is not uncommon for some characters to be a sort of prodigy. Often, the sport’s rules and terminology need to be explained for audience members who may be unfamiliar with them. Finally, the protagonist must build a team that will try to conquer the “national stage.”
number24 didn’t bother with half of that.
This series’ team was already well-established. All the characters were quality rugby players, and each had already found some success at the top levels. For the most part, everyone knew one another, and not once was anyone considered the underdog. No new rivalries were formed between other squads. There was no comically evil, stupidly strong group of players deemed to be undefeatable.
Yeah, this show was a bit different than what I’ve seen before.
Do I think number24 executed this style perfectly? No. As such, the question we should be asking is, “What the hell happened in this show then?” More on that point in a moment.
Sports stories can be overly dramatic; they emphasize tense matchups, long odds, and comradery. This is not a criticism since these traits serve as the appeal for these types of narratives. Still, I can’t tell you how many sports anime I’ve seen that have treated an upcoming game as the deciding factor to determine the world’s fate. number24 took that ridiculousness away, and I believe it was for the best.
Additionally, Natsusa Yuzuki was a fantastic lead character. In all honestly, number24 would probably have fallen into utter obscurity had it not been for him.
I don’t know any other way to describe Natsusa besides enduring asshat. To the people he was closest to, he was an unrelenting teaser whose pettiness and spite was, in a strange way, comforting. He took away a lot of the unnecessary stress and seriousness that seems to plague a lot of sports anime.
For example, when his team was losing a match, Natsusa wouldn’t fall into existential dread. He was usually realistic, and if the team couldn’t pull off a win, that wasn’t some apocalyptic scenario. It was like – I don’t know – they were playing a game. In a way, Natsusa’s acceptance that there might be better players on different teams more fully illustrated his love for rugby than when other protagonists work themselves to death in the hopes of getting stronger.
It was astonishing to me how much I enjoyed this series. I don’t want to say this was the best sports anime I’ve seen in a long time since, as I mentioned earlier, it did have problems. But knowing how bad things can get, this show was a welcomed treat.
If Natsusa wasn’t part of a scene, then I, frankly, didn’t care what was happening. No one else in this show held even the slightest bit of my interest.
Although I was intrigued by number24’s lack of norms – having the team already be set – I had one issue with it. There were too many characters; there were way too many characters. It felt as though this series was already on its second season.
Players had connections with one another before we learned their names. Remember, the Doushisha University rugby team was already a well-known entity. It was a respected school and a consistent contender on the national stage. Along with that, many of its members had been playing high-profile rugby for years. Therefore, they had long-established friendships; there was a ton of personal history.
All that could have worked had number24 focused on, at most, five characters. Instead, almost every Doushisha player was given some screentime, including in-depth conversations and backstories. It really did feel as if this series was a continuation.
The premise number24 started with was Natsusa deciding to stay as close to rugby as possible despite a severe injury. Through his role as manager, he advised his former teammates on how they could improve their skills. Natsusa was this show’s anchor, and he served the role well.
Why then would I bother caring about the connections between players when Natsusa wasn’t involved? These were details that held no bearing on what was happening in the series, a.k.a., filler content.
Also, number24 had the classic sports anime annoyance of infusing backstory during a critical match. Oh, did I say, “infuse?” I meant “introduced.”
In the climactic finale game, several players, who had nothing to do with Natsusa, went into why they played rugby and what a win would mean to them. This series had eleven episodes to get this stuff out of the way, and yet, it chose to shove as much inconsequential fluff right at the end as possible.
This didn’t ruin the series. However, that’s not a positive since number24 consistently did this; it was a persistent problem. Fortunately, when this show returned to a match or focused on Natsusa again, things instantly picked back up.
number24 had surprisingly strong aspects, but it was also dangerously close to being a complete mess.
Aside from a few irritating traits, I have to give this series a win; it took me by surprise.
Although its core was typical sports anime through and through, this show did things that helped it stand out. It had an impressive structure, as well as an outstanding protagonist. It could be funny, charming, and exciting when it wanted to be.
Things might have been a tad much on occasion, but nothing ever became overwhelming.
Thus, number24 has earned a recommendation.
But these were just my thoughts. What are yours? Have you seen this series? How would you advise number24? Leave a comment down below because I would love to hear what you have to say.
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For Anime Hajime, I’m LofZOdyssey, and I’ll see you next time.