I’m currently watching Suikyu Yankees, a Japanese drama airing on Saturday nights on Fuji TV. The title translates to Water Polo Yankees. (Yankee is a sort of old fashioned term for high school delinquents) Since it’s a fun series, I’ve decided to recap the episodes and share my thoughts. Just as a note, I’m watching it in Japanese without subtitles, so there are some things I don’t understand. But I still understand enough to recap the episode at least! So here we go with episode one! I didn’t take any screencaps for this one but the rest of the recaps will have them.
I’ll start of with a cast list of the important characters so we all know who’s who.
- Nakajima Yuto (of Hey!Say!JUMP) as Inaba Naoya, the main character
- Takaki Yuya (also of Hey!Say!JUMP) as Kitajima Torao, his rival
- Ohara Sakurako as Iwasaki Nagisa
- Yamazaki Kento as Mifune Ryuji
- Chiba Yudai as Kimura Tomoki
- Nakagawa Taishi as Shimura Kohei
- Yoshizawa Ryo as Kato Shinsuke
- Mamiya Shotaro as Chiaki Ryo
- Oomasa Aya as Chiharu (she’s the main teacher but I’m not sure about her name)
The episode starts with a “10 years ago” caption and a crying kid. I’ll refer to him as Baby!Naoya even though he’s probably like six. Anyway Baby!Naoya is crying because he bumped into this mean guy and got ice cream on that dude’s shirt. The dude and his friends were being really mean to Baby!Naoya and even poured water on his head. And that’s when this magnificent high school Yankee kid appeared! He’s played by Yokoyama Yuu (of Kanjani8). This is kind of weird considering that Yokoyama is in his 30’s, but it’s a flashback so I guess we’ll give him a pass. Anyway Yankee!Yoko beats up mean dude and saves Baby!Naoya. Then he gives him a speech about not giving up and also gives him his jacket. Baby!Naoya basically had fanboy stars in his eyes (and I think the editors could have photoshopped them in but there was probably not enough money in the budget because they have to pay all the cast in this show. And the cast is HUGE.)
Anyway, now it’s the present day. A new school year is starting and this girl named Nagisa is excited because Naoya is coming back to live with her family. (Apparently they were childhood friends and Naoya moved away but is moving back now. I missed whatever explanation there was about where he was living before. I hope it was abroad though because that would explain LOTS. But we’ll get to that.) The audience only gets to see Naoya’s boots when he shows up at her house and Nagisa’s shocked face. Ooh mystery~!
Cut to the school (called KasuKou for short). We get to see the teachers who don’t seem to be all that important and are mostly stereotypical ones anyway. The only real important introduction is Oomasa Aya’s character, Chiharu. (And I’d like to point out that Aya is only 23. Takaki, who plays the rival high school student is 24. LOL casting department)
And then we get an introduction to the students. There’s Ryuji who is the silent and brooding type. And there’s the “San Baka Trio” which translates to the Three Idiot Trio in English. (I don’t think they were called that on the show but I follow the show’s official twitter and that’s what they call them.) I can’t keep up with their names but they’re totally obsessed with some idol girl. Also there are two other sort of weird-looking boys. One is named Chiaki and he’s apparently in love with Chiharu-Sensei, and there’s some sort of running joke where he keeps getting knocked to the ground. So after all these characters are established, Naoya finally appears. The camera still doesn’t show him as he writes his name on the chalkboard. And then he finally turns around and he’s wearing ridiculous-looking aviator sunglasses and has slicked-back blond hair. (Which looks hideous because you can see the black roots and it’s a weird shade of blond. But that’s the point. It’s stereotypical Yankee style) The whole class has no idea how to react as he greets them just like a stereotypical Yankee one would see on TV. The scene ends with him giving a letter of challenge to Brooding Ryuji (who he refers to as Banchou (Leader) for the rest of the episode. LOL). Ryuji just tries to ignore him.
There’s a scene after this with Nagisa who goes to a different high school. It’s called Suiran and it’s supposedly well-known for its water polo team. Torao is the star of the team. Anyway, Nagisa is the manager for the team and some of the water polo girls are mean to her. Okay then?
Later Nagisa eats dinner at some restaurant, says hello to Ryuji and the Baka Trio who tell her about their crazy new student. She runs off to yell at Naoya because she’s embarrassed by him. Or something. It was a weird scene and one of the few where I was a little confused.
At the same time, the audience sees Naoya on the roof of the school cluelessly trying to figure out why Ryuji didn’t show up for his challenge. (Honestly, Yuto’s character is kind of hilarious because he’s so into his Yankee persona and just plain doesn’t understand why no one else is into it). Anyway, Chiharu-Sensei shows up because she’d seen the challenge letter. (There was a hilarious close-up of it where Naoya had apparently miswritten one of the kanji and marked it out and wrote the right one beside it. It was a visual joke and I’m sorry it doesn’t translate well when I type it out.) Chiharu-Sensei and Naoya talk and Chiharu decides that Naoya’s kinda weird but an okay kid.
When Naoya returns, Nagisa yells at him for being an idiot. Naoya was still sort of clueless. And then Nagisa tells Naoya that his school is going to close (I assume after the school year is over? Naoya was devastated because he couldn’t leave the school that his beloved Yankee!Yoko used to go to. The whole thing reminded me a bit of Gokusen, another drama about delinquent students.)
The next day (after school I guess?) Naoya is wandering around town and sees a poster for Suiran High School’s water polo team (Torao’s face is the biggest one on the poster. LOL). My favorite joke in the whole episode was Naoya squinting at the poster and then misreading Suikyuu (Water Polo) as Mizu Tama (literally ‘Water Ball’). I laughed. I laughed a whole bunch. And then I laughed some more. It’s not even that funny. Oh well.
In other news, the Baka Trio get beat up by some of the Suiran kids on the water polo team (not including Torao though) because the Suiran kids are apparently assholes. Ryuji runs into the Suiran kids afterwards. And PLOT TWIST: Ryuji used to go to Suiran and was the ace on the water polo team but he quit for some reason. Torao and his girlfriend show up during this bit but it’s not really important. Torao is basically only an array of bored/disinterested facial expressions at this point. (In another sort of plot twist, I think they implied that Torao’s girlfriend used to like Ryuji. Oh exciting love triangles to come soon)
Anyway, later Naoya runs to Suiran High School and challenges Torao… for some reason. For honor or something? It was Yankee-ish I’m sure. I wasn’t paying much attention since Takaki Yuya was in a speedo. (They were in the middle of practice) Anyway, it’s a one on one challenge and whoever has the most points after 10 minutes wins. Poor Naoya really has no idea how to play. And Torao tries to drown him like at least twice. I was amused although I don’t understand why. Anyway, as the score is finally 9-0, Naoya figures out a way to keep Torao from pushing him underwater and he gets the chance to shoot. Of course, the ball bounces off the top of the goal. Naoya loses and passes out. The Suiran water polo coach lady shows up, takes Naoya to the nurse’s office, and says hello to Ryuji who’s been watching the whole thing. (Torao finally gets to make a different facial expression which is “JEALOUSY” …LOL)
After all that’s over, the next day everyone shows up at school and Naoya is on the roof to make an announcement. He reveals this hilariously large poster (it hangs from the school roof to the ground) proclaiming something about doing water polo to save the school (actually I’m not sure but I’m guessing because that seems the most Gokusen-like thing to do). And of course, he’s still calling it Mizu Tama. I laughed again. Way too much.
And that’s it for episode one! I think this show has potential even though it doesn’t try to break free from stereotypical school drama cliches. I thought the huge cast would be too intimidating to learn but most of the characters are distinctive in some way that makes them interesting. It certainly is ridiculous in a lot of fun ways. Let’s see where it goes from here!