In a season that includes the likes of Keijo!!!!!!!!, it’s not surprising at all that we now have an anime series based on rugby. ALL OUT!! comes from the manga series by Shiori Amase, which has been running in the pages of Kodansha’s Monthly Morning Two magazine since 2013. If you’ve only seen promotional materials for the show, then allow me to clear things up by saying this is “the anime with the ripped dudes in really tight clothes and short-shorts.” Yes, we have an official counterpoint to booty-battling this season, and ALL OUT!! isn’t afraid to get a little dirty in the process.
Now that we have your attention, go ahead and grab your mind out of the gutter, you maniac! ALL OUT!! may have some of the fan-service appeal of something like Free!—Iwatobi Swim Club, but at its core it’s a focused sports anime that stays true to what’s so great about the genre in the first place. While the games themselves are fun, it’s all about the spirit of the sport that’s so potent it brings tears to a character’s eyes. The sheer determination of sports anime is magical, and ALL OUT!! doesn’t do anything to stray from this winning formula.
The first characters we meet in ALL OUT!! both have their own contradictory attitudes, specifically the short but fiery guy and the gentle giant. The former is Kenji Gion and the latter is Sumiaki Iwashimizu, and both are first-year students that end up in their school’s rugby club. Iwashimizu may be meek, but he relays the basics of the game to both Gion and the audience. Thus, as tends to be the case with these shows, you don’t need to care or know anything about rugby before watching. Chalk it up as another sport that I learned more about from anime characters than any real people in my life.
The early episodes have Gion battling against his size more than anything else. Because he’s unable to successfully tackle one of the team’s star players during practice, he takes on what appears to be a humiliating punishment. In true sports anime fashion, however, said punishment ends up unlocking the key to a powerful tackle, so it isn’t long before Gion can properly utilize his unique stature to unlock his potential. It’s still going to be a long, hard road to playing on the team, and some of the other members aren’t going to make it any easier for our leads to find their footing.
Director Kenichi Shimizu comes off his success with the anime adaptation of Parasyte—the maxim- to helm this one, with series composition in the more than capable hands of Masahiro Yokotani (Sgt. Frog, Beelzebub). The latter’s knack for comedic writing plays well with the light-hearted nature of ALL OUT!!, which has about as much comedy going on as it does high-stakes drama. At 25 episodes, ALL OUT!! also has the luxury of being a little more lightly paced than some of its contemporaries, and that works both for and against it. On the positive side of things, it gives the audience a little breathing room as they pick up the basics of the sport before moving on to actual competition. On the other hand, the production works some filler and budgetary tricks into the mix to even things out, potentially making an argument in favor of a shorter episode count.
ALL OUT!! isn’t that much different from your typical sports anime, yet there’s something irresistible about it. It’s not quite up there with the best of the current batch like Haikyu!!, but it has enough character to keep you invested, and the rugby action plays out like a more heavy-hitting version of Eyeshield 21. And hey, if you just want to come for the dudes in the key art, there’s plenty of beef to go around.