BLUE LOCK THE MOVIE -EPISODE NAGI- is the third sports-related anime film I’ve seen in the past year, coming on the heels of the basketball drama The First Slam Dunk and the volleyball picture Haikyu!! The Dumpster Battle. I think this is my favorite of them. The sport this time is soccer and the story deals with what it takes to become great at it.

Nagi Seishiro is a high school sophomore who feels his life is boring. (If he were a character in Inside Out 2, he’d be Ennui.) His oft-used catchphrase is “That’s a hassle.” He uses it to describe just about everything that doesn't involve playing games on his cell phone. During a chance encounter with peer Mikage Reo, Nagi demonstrates serious reflexes. Reo convinces him to join the school soccer team, where he can put those skills to work, even though it’s a – you guessed it – hassle. Before long, both boys are drafted into the BLUE LOCK Project, a training school designed to create the greatest soccer player in the world.

Although soccer is at the heart of the film, it’s not the key component. BLUE LOCK THE MOVIE is about ego. The program uses tactics designed to elevate the egos of the players, knowing that becoming a true champion means believing you’re worthy of such an honor - more worthy than anyone else, in fact. Nagi may view playing soccer as a hassle, yet over time he discovers something inside of himself that he didn’t know was there. Honing his abilities suddenly becomes much more important once he understands what he’s truly capable of.

That’s a compelling arc, even if you don’t like soccer. Sequences of unusual training exercises and the development of unexpected rivalries between players help to drive it. There are a couple genuine surprises in the story, as Nagi realizes that achieving greatness occasionally requires making difficult personal sacrifices. Seeing him go from an apathetic teen to a hardened, determined athlete is fun.

BLUE LOCK THE MOVIE -EPISODE NAGI- is beautifully animated, using the format to capture the fast pace and exciting nature of soccer. The running time flies by because there’s always something important happening. The movie is a spinoff of a series that was based on a manga. You need not have seen the show or read the books to follow along. Picking up the story is a cinch. The ending sets up where the series will go next, meaning there’s not a nice, tight resolution. But that’s fine. Nagi’s personal journey is sufficiently stimulating to entertain existing fans and newcomers alike.

out of four

BLUE LOCK THE MOVIE -EPISODE NAGI- is rated PG-13 for language and brief partial nudity. The running time is 1 hour and 31 minutes.


© 2024 Mike McGranaghan