Inazuma Eleven

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Name: Inazuma Eleven
Abbreviation(s): Inazuma, InaIre
Creator: Level-5, Akihiro Hino
Date(s): 2008-present
Medium: Video games, anime, manga, stage play, etc.
Country of Origin: Japan
External Links: Wikipedia
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Inazuma Eleven is a multimedia franchise centering around middle school soccer, played with super-powered "killer moves". Beginning in 2008 as an RPG for the Nintendo DS, the franchise quickly expanded into an anime adaptation through which most Western fans became familiar. At its height, Inazuma Eleven was among the top tags on Japanese fanart site Pixiv.

The series is celebrated by fans for its wild story elements even beyond the super-powered techniques, including murder, fake deaths, aliens, human experimentation, and time travel.

After the success of the first two trilogies, Level 5 attempted to launch a new chapter called Inazuma Eleven: Scales of Ares, but production difficulties delayed and most likely prevented the release of the ambitious game version, and to date Scales of Ares consists only of the anime and its sequel, Seal of Orion.

Canon

The first Inazuma Eleven trilogy spanned three games/anime seasons. Its sequel Inazuma Eleven GO is set ten years later and focuses on a new protagonist, Matsukaze Tenma, attending the same school as original protagonist Endou Mamoru. While the first trilogy focused on reviving a failing soccer team and achieving worldwide recognition as a legendary team, the first season of GO focuses on a world in which the true meaning of soccer has been marred by that very success. Later seasons of GO revolved around protecting soccer from attacks on its very existence, and protecting the earth from being destroyed by aliens, also through soccer.

Scales of Ares takes place one year after the first original game/season of the anime, and is a canon-divergent AU centered on another new cast of characters, with appearances from the first generation of characters. Scales of Ares follows the Raimon Eleven's championship win in the first season, but it's set in a different universe featuring, most notably, living versions of characters who were dead in the original trilogy.

Ever since the second storyline (the Aliea Academy arc of the original trilogy), the games were released in dual versions similar to Pokemon releases. The different versions contained minor differences in storyline along with separate special teams to be fought post-game. Special rare characters could be unlocked through passwords found in magazines, and others could only be obtained by linking to another version of the game. The third installment of the series, Spark and Bomber, also had a Pokemon Crystal-like third game, Team Ogre Attacks!, that added many new scenes to incorporate the villains of the franchise's first movie. T-Pistonz+KMC created separate theme songs for each game version to match the differences in title and storyline, and these theme songs would later be used as the opening themes for the first and second halves of the anime adaptation.

Fandom

Inazuma Eleven was initially targeted towards a child audience, but the series soared to meteoric heights thanks in part to the prominent focus on relationships between male characters. The franchise welcomed both fujoshi and the original target audience. In comparison to many sports anime, the characters of Inazuma Eleven experience intense trauma such as orphaning, longterm abuse and manipulation, major illnesses, attempts on their own lives or those of family, and severe physical peril. Angsty fanworks dealing with canon events are popular and easy to come by, and because the series is ultimately an optimistic one for children, fluff is equally popular.

A parody of Inazuma Eleven in the anime Outbreak Company
The 2013 anime Outbreak Company parodied the franchise's reception

The games contain thousands of recruitable characters, with widely varied designs and personalities, any of which can become a major part of gameplay. While both anime and games focused on a core cast of main characters, fans were also able to engage with minor characters, and the Scout Character/Orebun tags on Pixiv became mini communities for people to create stories about their own personal in-game teams.

The series is not officially subbed in English, and the UK localizations of the games remain so niche that the sixth and final dual games, Big Bang and Supernova, were never localized. For this reason, the English-language fandom has never reached the same size as other sports anime fandoms. However, it retains a small but devoted fanbase in both English and Spanish.

Several techniques and background characters that appear in the anime are based on fan-submitted designs. Some easter egg content was added based on the result of a 2010 online popularity poll, but 2chan posters flooded the poll in a coordinated attack on the fujoshi/child audience of the franchise. While the winning character received his promised appearance in a theatrical film, the reliability of all future polls was permanently compromised. Future rewards for these polls were limited to special art of the winners.

Tone

Many lines from the series take on a comical quality due to the characters and universe being so obsessed with soccer. In a scene from one of the theatrical movies, a character plays a clip of main character Endou's catchphrase, "Let's play soccer!" and announces, "These words are the devil's spell." The franchise embraces this tone and makes use of a tongue-in-cheek heightened reality in which soccer is indeed the most important thing on this or any planet. The occasional side character in the games will express resentment at how the soccer team is favored by the school, or hint that their own favorite pastime has equally intense competitions going on offscreen, but overall soccer is paramount.

The sequel, Inazuma Eleven GO, presents a world in which soccer has become so vital to school performance that matches are now fixed ahead of time to prevent any school pulling ahead by too much. (This system is referred to as "soccer communism" by fans.) This is shown to be a direct result of Endou and his friends' success in the original series. In GO's second season, soccer is banned nationwide due to the interference of time travelers, and dramatic scenes play of soccer balls being burned in front of sobbing children. These scenes, unlike those of characters' intimate personal turmoil, are not taken seriously by fans despite their importance in-universe.

Deadly Trucks

Recurring series antagonist Kageyama makes use of trucks in many of his schemes, and several characters have been orphaned or seriously injured in truck accidents that were arranged by Kageyama. At the very beginning of the series, the sister of central character Gouenji is revealed to be have been put in a coma by one such truck. As a result, the talented Gouenji is reluctant to play soccer again. Originally, this was was most likely a reference to the beginning of classic soccer manga Captain Tsubasa, but it caught on as a popular joke among fans of the series and continued to recur in the series.

The truck motif may also have been inspired by an occasion in the life of Level-5 CEO Akihiro Hino that he later named as an inspiration for his other series Yo-kai Watch. He once saw the body of a cat lying in an intersection after it was run over, and it made such an impression on him that one of Yo-kai Watch's main characters is Jibanyan, the ghost of a cat who was killed by a truck.

Penguins

One of Inazuma Eleven's trademarks is the Koutei Penguin series of killer moves. The first in the series, Koutei Penguin #2, first appears in episode 13 of the original anime. A "forbidden" version that causes physical trauma to the user is introduced in season 2, and a total of 15 versions are shown throughout the games and anime. The Penguin series is usually associated with Teikoku Academy, and Teikoku's students and coaches are often depicted in fanworks as penguins or as having a fondness for penguins. There are nods to this in canon as well. The franchise produced an official commerical for Happy Feet 2 in which Kidou, Sakuma and Fudou perform some Penguin moves and then go to see the movie.

The Gojou Incident

A poll showing Gojou in first place
Gojou first pulling ahead in the poll

In 2010, a popularity poll that promised an aged-up design and appearance in GO for the winning character was hijacked by 2chan posters to produce a win for background character Gojou Masaru, rather than any of the fan favorites. Gojou was chosen due to his creepy appearance. As a result, Gojou returned in canon as the coach of a special team in one of the theatrical movies. After that, ballot stuffing became a tradition, and the franchise went along with the joke by adding options in later polls like an airplane (which did indeed win). However, the creators stopped promising official content for the winners of these polls, recognizing that they'd lost any chance of getting genuine results.

The details of the vote-rigging were covered in a post on HobbyDrama in April 2021.

"You're about to experience the wrath of a god!"

The first and second seasons of the anime received an English-language dub that was noted by most for its poor voice acting and overall bizarre quality. In particular, the character Aphrodi's voice was compared to that of Mickey Mouse. On 2/19/2013, Tumblr user diabolicalhardcore made a context-less post in response to a clip from the dub:

*MICKEY MOUSE VOICE* YOURE ABOUT TO EXPERIENCE THE WRATH OF A GOD
https://diabolicalhardcore.tumblr.com/post/43453634485

The post was reblogged by someone who referenced Kingdom Hearts, and spread far beyond its original audience. Eventually the post was re-enacted by someone reading the line in an actual Mickey Mouse voice, and it gained even more traction. It became perhaps the most widely spread post about Inazuma Eleven on Tumblr, mostly by people with no knowledge of the original context. As of March 2021, it has over 250,000 notes.

Shipping

The huge cast of bishounen characters made the series a hit with fujoshi audiences. The most popular ship on Pixiv is the original trilogy’s main character Endou Mamoru with teammate Kazemaru Ichirouta, who is said in the games to be a childhood friend of his. However, Endou is the most shipped character in the franchise, and there are many other popular pairings, mostly of ships that receive prominent focus in the anime. Kiyama Hiroto/Midorikawa Ryuuji is the most popular ship for the fandom on AO3.

Inazuma fandom is much less beholden to same-team ships than other sports anime fandoms, due to the nature of the games and the fact that characters often switch teams in canon. Characters can and will be shipped for any reason, including canon interactions, mutual popularity with fans, or hair color.

Inazuma Eleven: Scales of Ares introduced Nishikage Seiya, the first boy in the series to openly express romantic feelings for another male character.

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