Captain Tsubasa (Japanese: キャプテン翼 Hepburn: Kyaputen Tsubasa), is a popular long-running Japanese manga series, originally created by Yōichi Takahashi in 1981. The series mainly revolves around the sport of association football focusing on Tsubasa Oozora. The series is characterized by dynamic and exciting football moves, often stylish and implausible. The plot focuses on Tsubasa’s relationship with his friends, rivalry with his opponents, training, competition and the action and outcome of each football match. Across the multiple Captain Tsubasa mangas, the plot shows Tsubasa’s and his friends’ growth as they face new rivals. Takahashi decided to create Captain Tsubasa inspired by 1978 FIFA World Cup in Argentina.
The Captain Tsubasa manga series was originally serialized in Shueisha’s Weekly Shōnen Jump comic book magazine between 1981 and 1988, spanning a total of 37 tankōbon volumes. This was followed by numerous sequels. Captain Tsubasa and its sequels have sold over 80 million copies worldwide, making it one of the best-selling manga series. The original Captain Tsubasa manga series was adapted into a TV animation series, produced by Tsuchida Production, whose first season premiered in Japan on the TV Tokyo network between October 10, 1983 and March 27, 1986. Numerous movies and television series have followed with the latest one starting in April 2018.
Captain Tsubasa became into one of the most memorable manga and anime worldwide, most notably in Japan due to how it popularized association football. Multiple real life players have been inspired to become professionals after seeing the series. In a poll conducted by TV Asahi in 2005, the Captain Tsubasa anime series ranked 41 in a list of top 100 anime series.
Tsubasa Oozora is an 11-year-old elementary school student who is deeply in love with football and dreams of one day winning the FIFA World Cup for Japan. He lives together with his mother in Japan, while his father is a seafaring captain who travels around the world. Tsubasa is known as the Soccer no Moshigo which translates as “heaven-sent child of football”. When he was only barely a year old, he was almost run over by a rushing bus while playing with a ball. However, Tsubasa held the ball in front of him which served as a cushion for most of the impact. The force of the bump blew him away, but he was able to right himself with the ball. Hence, Tsubasa’s motto of “The ball is my friend”. Ever since he was little, he always went out with a ball. His mother concludes that he was indeed born to only play football. At a very young age, Tsubasa already had amazing speed, stamina, dribbling skills and shotpower – he astounded anyone who saw him play.
At the beginning of the story, Tsubasa and his mom both move to the city of Nankatsu, a fictional town in Shizuoka Prefecture well known for their talented elementary school football teams and where Tsubasa meets Ryo Ishizaki, a football-loving young student who often sneaks out from his mother’s public bath houses and chores to play football. He meets Sanae Nakazawa (also known as Anego) an enthusiastic girl who also loves football and helps cheer the Nankatsu high school team on and Genzo Wakabayashi, a highly talented young goalkeeper whom he soon challenges to a game in Nankatsu’s annual sports festival. He also meets Roberto Hongo, one of the best Brazilian footballers in the world who is a friend of Tsubasa’s father and who starts living with Tsubasa and his mother in order to train Tsubasa. Roberto becomes a mentor to Tsubasa and helps him to harness his football skills, convincing him to join Nankatsu Elementary School and its fledgling elementary school football team, which Roberto later coaches as he passes his techniques onto Tsubasa.
Tsubasa meets Taro Misaki, who has travelled around Japan due to his father’s job and soon joins Nankatsu. The two become the best of friends on the pitch and real life, forming a partnership soon to be renowned as the “Golden Duo” or “dynamic duo” of Nankatsu. Soon Tsubasa and his Nankatsu team start taking on the best of elementary school football, meeting such talented players as Kojiro Hyuga, Ken Wakashimazu, Jun Misugi, Hikaru Matsuyama and many others. Tsubasa’s Nankatsu squad wins numerous youth national championships and he wins the U-17 World Championships for Japan, before leaving the country to play in Brazil.
Author Yōichi Takahashi was inspired to write Captain Tsubasa after watching the 1978 FIFA World Cup.
Yoichi Takahashi was delighted by association football after seeing the 1978 FIFA World Cup. The matches, players and fans’ love towards the sport inspired him to write a manga about football. Another relevant aspect on this decision was the fact that Takahashi liked football more than baseball because he considered the players to have more freedom during matches. Despite football not being popular in Japan, Takahashi aimed to depict it through his manga and to reach the general public. Because of the non-popularity of the subject, getting the approval to write the manga by its publisher, Shueisha, took between 2 and 3 years, which was also difficult since it was his first manga. Rather than using professional players, the manga author instead used children as protagonists, hoping readers would identify themselves with the cast. Nevertheless, Takahashi already had in mind that through the series the main characters would grow up and become professionals.
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In the making of the cast, Takahashi designed multiple characters with different traits in order to deliver multiple traits that would serve as obstacles for Tsubasa to surpass. The large number of characters made Takahashi careful with their designs and he wanted to give each of them recognizable features. One of Tsubasa’s early rivals, Jun Misugi, was given skills that surpassed the protagonist’s. As a result, he gave Misugi a heart condition that would balance the match between their teams. When asked why Tsubasa’s teams always win, Takahashi stated it was because he aims the manga to be long and thus a defeat would reduce its length. While the series was initially aimed at children, Takahashi was surprised at how, across the years, it has also attracted adults, as well as at the impact it had on Japan’s football. When talking about its themes, Takahashi stated the main one is honor, which is meant to be superior than money, something which people value more.
As Takahashi liked European football due to its competitive level, he decided to make Tsubasa leave São Paulo and join Spain’s F.C. Barcelona at the age of 21. In 1998, Takahashi traveled to Barcelona and enjoyed the Camp Nou stadium so much that he was inspired by it to make the Barcelona team Tsubasa’s future team. Nevertheless, Takahashi asserted it was a decision taken at random and joked that Tsubasa would have joined the Real Madrid if he had visited Santiago Bernabéu. For this part, Takahashi started using professional players inspired by real-life football stars, most notably Rivaul (inspired by Rivaldo) who would mentor Tsubasa in Barcelona. Due to Tsubasa’s inexperience in his debut as an adult, Rivaul becomes his mentor.
As of 2010, the manga had not been translated into English, but French, Italian, German, and Spanish had been published. As of 2017, several volumes were available in an official Arabic translation and a third of the first print run of these were donated to Syrian refugee children by the publisher, Kinokuniya. Source