In an unexpected example of life imitating art, the Japanese National soccer team pulled off an incredible comeback win against soccer powerhouse Germany wearing uniforms popularized in pages of the soccer-themed manga Blue Lock and Giant Killing.
For most of the 2022 World Cup match between Japan and Germany, nothing suggested Germany would lose. Heading into halftime, it seemed like Japan’s “team first” spirit had, as Blue Lock’s Jinpachi Ego likes to point out, wiped out the “killer instinct” teams need to succeed in a global tournament. However, that all changed in the second half, as Japan rethought its strategy. Japan switched to a three-man backline that added more attacking pressure. When combined with its normally stellar offense, Japan circled the German goal until a momentary misplay by a defender. The first strike came in the 75th minute when five Japanese players flooded the goal area and pounded in a shot against an overwhelmed, and caught-off-guard German defense. The winning strike, which was straight out of the pages of Blue Lock, came just moments later when Japanese striker Asano grabbed a pinpoint pass and took the shot at an improbable angle rather than passing it to an open teammate. Somehow, the ball found the only patch of the net it could possibly go.
It seems the influence of Blue Lock and Giant Killing influence on the Japanese team’s success was not just figurative, it was literal. According to sportswear manufacturer Adidas, the company that supplies the Japanese team with their uniforms, Blue Lock’s illustrator Yusuke Nomura, and Tsujitomo, the illustrator for Giant Killing had a hand in popularizing the design with Japanese fans while at the same time raising awareness of the sport in the public. Naturally, being fans of soccer themselves, Nomura and Tsujitomo, as well as the manga creators Muneyuki Kaneshiro and Masaya Tsunamomto would love to have more Japanese support the sport, which would naturally lead to more people developing an interest in their manga.
The design of the uniforms, which integrates traditional Japanese origami designs into the classic “blue and white” color scheme of Japan’s men’s and women’s national soccer teams was unveiled last summer. To popularize and promote the uniforms, as well as stir up interest in Japan’s participation in the World Cup competition, the creators of Blue Lock and Giant Killing were brought on board to market the concept, especially to the younger and international audiences who are fans of their manga. Consequently, in the run-up to the World Cup tournament, each illustrator published an in-story, featuring images of manga characters wearing the new, blue and white uniforms. More memorable, however, were the images of manga characters wearing the new uniforms with actual real-life players on the Japanese National team.
Naturally what the Japanese National team was able to accomplish on the field against Germany is a testament to their skills individual and group skills. However, the outpouring of support – that key “12th man” in the stands – urging and willing their players to dig deep and deliver on their promise was largely facilitated by the efforts of the creatives teams of the Blue Lock and Giant Killing manga to get the word out. Nothing like the power-ups delivered to players by hometown fans, supporting their players in a foreign land. It was an awesome day for Japanese football and an extraordinary day for the power of manga.