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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Inazuma Eleven is an anime series related to soccer-themed video games of the same name. Some of the sporting matches get heated, both verbally and physically, and you'll hear players say things such as "losers," "idiots," and "wussy" to each other. Occasionally exchanges get violent, with punches thrown and kicks hitting their mark on a victim. There's also a lot of yelling in spurts, particularly as Mark attempts to inspire his players to greatness. On the upside, this underdog story centers on a group of unlikely players who find common ground in their enjoyment of the game as they learn about perseverance and overcoming fears and who are inspired by their earnest, considerate team captain.
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What's the story?
In INAZUMA ELEVEN, soccer fanatic Mark Evans (voiced by Erik Scott Kimerer) tries every tactic in the book to light a fire under the players in Raimon Jr. High's soccer club, but nothing he does inspires them to put forth any effort. In desperation, he calls upon the spirit of his grandfather, a legendary coach and player, to help him field a decent team. So when one of the country's most dominant teams challenges Raimon to an exhibition game and the school threatens to eliminate the soccer club altogether if it doesn't put forth a good showing, Mark redoubles his efforts to recruit some talent. The results are predictably bad. Still, just when Mark thinks all hope is lost, a mysterious newcomer named Axel Blaze (Bryce Papenbrook) takes the field and inspires a turnaround with his incredible skill. But will Axel's talent and Mark's coaching techniques borrowed from his famous grandfather be enough to keep this team on a winning path?
Is it any good?
The visual similarities between this series and its partner Nintendo DS game series are immediately evident. The show's anime style makes a natural transition to the TV screen, and dialogue does a decent job creating backstories for the main characters. And with soccer action that oscillates between normal speed and slow motion to show off the players' mad skills, young footballers will find plenty to cheer for.
Inazuma Eleven also is a classic underdog story, and with a likable Mark at the helm of the ne'er-do-well team and his grandfather's guiding spirit behind him, you want to wish them well. The contests are marked by some combative talk ("shut your face" and "crap," for instance) and there's some bullying at play, but otherwise this is an inviting tale of team dynamics, friendship, and the joy of realizing potential.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the relationship between what you watch and what you buy. Kids: Did you know about the Inazuma Eleven video game before watching this show? Do characters on TV and in movies turn your head when you see them on products in the store? Is this always a bad thing?
What qualities are important in a strong leader? Which of these do you see in Mark? Can everyone be a leader, or does having too many leaders complicate matters? Do your kids like to be in charge among their peers?
Mark is inspired by his grandfather's example to be a great player. Why are role models important? What can they teach us? Do your kids have role models at home? At school? Can someone you've never met be a role model?
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