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Blue Lock: The film’s stars explain why it’s the ideal anime film for UEFA Euro 2024

The timing for Blue Lock: The Movie – Episode Nagi couldn’t be better. Aside from the fact that there’s a boom in sports-related anime right now, UEFA Euro 2024 is in full swing, so audiences are already obsessed with football.

The new film offers an introduction and a new perspective on the popular sports anime. Instead of Yoichi Isagi, we follow the eponymous Seishirō Nagi, another star in the Blue Lock program, who is fighting for his chance on the international stage.

His path to the hardcore training program that earns him a spot on Japan’s U20 team is very different from Isagi’s. He’s not really a soccer fan, but it’s only when enthusiastic rich boy Reo Mikage notices some fancy footwork and talks him into it that he even scoffs at the idea.

Blue Lock: The Movie

Episode Nagi covers his descent into football obsession as well as the pair’s rocky relationship as only one of them wins the coveted award. It’s all about the stakes and stars Bryson Baugus and Kamen Casey loved every second of getting to expand their roles.

“I was excited that we got more of Reo Mikage. Selfishly, as an actor, I was just excited to be up front – we’re kind of on the bench,” Casey, who voices Mikage, tells Dexerto. “I’m super happy to be here. They’re saying to me, ‘Oh man, we get to star in this thing. Whoa, whoa, then this show must be a smash hit!'”

Although Nagi is the anime’s namesake, Mikage provides the suspense, at least in the first half. He is bored with his privileged, upper-class life, and the competitive, unpredictable nature of soccer gives him something to strive for and be passionate about.

Mikage and Nagi complement each other

Blue Lock: The Movie

The term “golden retriever energy” was used in the locker room to describe Mikage’s charisma, a more accurate description than any other, and it is in complete contrast to Nagi, who is soft-spoken and resists physical exertion at every opportunity. He is often underestimated, although Nagi is more empathetic than most.

“What (English dubbing director) Jonathan Rigg left with me is that Nagi isn’t quite so whiny all the time, but more curious,” says Baugus, who plays Nagi. “He’s alienated from the rest of the world around him. He’s kind of aimless, but he’s also kind of like this ghost that roams the halls, curious about the people around him and everything, as if he knows what makes people tick.”

The pair have a fun, flighty dynamic that makes them difficult opponents, as their fellow contenders for the Blue Lock learn. The film covers the entire first season but focuses on their trials, giving old viewers a better understanding of the lineup and new viewers an entry point.

Episode Nagi gave the cast a second chance

Certain scenes were reshot and both Baugus and Casey were excited about the chance to do more footage, encouraged by the feeling of “recontextualizing” the show so far. “Getting some lines back from the first season, having more insight into the character now, and now even wanting to protect the character and understand the character better, I was really excited to be able to try some new things,” Casey explains.

“I really wish I had had the opportunity to incorporate more of Nagi’s quirks and personality traits into the earlier scenes with him. This film was just the perfect opportunity to do that,” adds Baugus.

Unlike many typical anime heroes, like Blue Lock’s regular hero Isagi, or Tanjiro from Demon Slayer or Deku from My Hero Academia, Nagi doesn’t believe he has much growing to do in the beginning. Honestly, he’s a class above most on the court, but part of the sports movie is that he learns that he needs to train and improve if he wants to win every time.

Blue Lock shows that talent doesn’t win everything

Blue Lock: The Movie

“(Nagi) is an example of a person who is just effortlessly good at something, but at the same time shows that you can go far with it,” Baugus says. “You have to start pushing yourself and finding your own reasons for enjoying it.”

Without giving too much away, once Nagi starts doing this, he and Mikage aren’t quite as close friends anymore. There’s a moment that’s familiar to anyone who’s read Muneyuki Kaneshiro and Yusuke Nomura’s manga (Episode Nagi is an ongoing spin-off of Blue Lock that begins in 2022), but even if you’re familiar, the execution hits like a punch in the gut.

“I could relate to (Nagi’s) need to have his own dream. That he has this dream and that it’s going to happen this way, and the stubbornness we can have in trying to make it happen,” Casey reflects on a particularly difficult scene. “Then when Nagi breaks away from Reo’s idea of ​​what the dream looks like, it completely falls apart.”

An anime betrayal for eternity

Blue Lock: The Movie

Casey raves about getting to play this turn, calling it “beautifully written” and “a dream come true.” It’s the kind of scene that makes everyone thrive; Taku Kishimoto’s script adapts the material perfectly, Jonathan Rigg understood what was needed in the voice acting, and Casey then finds the emotional nuance.

Baugus always takes Nagi’s side – as he should – and points out that what happens is not out of malice, but out of “curiosity” and a desire to be more personally present. However you read it, a rivalry has sprung up between Nagi and Mikage that would permeate Blue Lock Season 2 and all subsequent installments of the franchise.

In league with Haikyuu!! and Slam Dunk, Blue Lock expands our collective understanding of shonen anime by moving from constant battles to intense team competition. It’s still a matter of life and death, but not as much of a matter of life and death as the theatrics.

“(Blue Lock) is a fight for survival. This is not holding hands and crossing the finish line together. There can only be one,” Casey explains. They did such a good job of researching the sport and the way they picked out quotes. You think of Muhammad Ali, Michael Jordan, Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, like all of those people, they have no counterparts. So how do you become like that? How do you become so damn great? What does it take to do that?”

Sports anime develop shonen ideas further

Baugus adds that the ensemble cast conveys an energy similar to some of the major combat-focused franchises.

“If fans have been hesitant about watching a sports show and they like things like Jujutsu Kaisen or Dragon Ball or the usual shonen fighting manga, they’ll find something to like in the more team-oriented shows like Haikyuu!!,” he says. “It’s a team of protagonists versus a team of antagonists, and the stakes are presented in such an exaggerated way that it feels as exciting as Goku versus Vegeta.”

Or England vs France, or Germany vs Spain, or any of the other UEFA Euro 2024 matches. Blue Lock: The Movie – Episode Nagi carefully examines the drive that drives players into these championships, the drive of an elite club that gets to represent its country around the world.

I ask who Baugus and Casey are supporting and they agree that they support the US, but second is Japan. Could Blue Lock inspire the next striker for either country? They could really shake up the expected order of things.

“In 10 years, hopefully Blue Lock will inspire enough American and Japanese players that we’ll see a finale where the two compete,” says Baugus. In the meantime, we have the film, and that’s enough.

Blue Lock: The Movie – Episode Nagi is in theaters now. If you want to know more about what happens next, you can read our analysis of the ending of Blue Lock: The Movie. We also have a list of upcoming anime to keep you updated.

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