Inaba Naoya is a cry baby whose life was changed after he was saved from bullies by a yankee from Kasu High School. He grew up abroad but that did not stop him from aspiring to study in Kasu High School one day -his hero's alma mater. He returns to discover that Kasu High School is frowned upon by the townspeople as school of the hopeless and pales in comparison with Suiran High School which brings good name to the town for being the no 1 water polo teams in Japan. Not wanting the legacy of his yankee hero to be over, Naoya decides to save Kasu High School by bettering Suiran High School in water polo.
As a typical high school sports comedy drama, Suikyu Yankee has plenty of tried and tested formula to follow but in an attempt to differentiate itself from others, it successfully butchers all potential good things which can come from such genre. The title itself is an irony as there is very little water polo actions and the only yankee thing throughout the whole 10 episodes is Naoya's hair.
It is the very first series which feature water polo and they fail to capitalise it. The struggle of forming the team, finding a suitable training location (which obviously ends up in a water tank of sea aquarium), and the summer training camp are too similar too Water Boys which happens to be another Fuji TV drama from a decade ago. The practice scenes do not feel unique to water polo and it seems to be just a fanservice to have the boys in speedos. The matches are so short and not inspiring: they show neither how difficult it is to play water polo nor how intense water polo matches can be. The final match is made worse with the fact that Suiran is playing 'dirty'. I find it disgusting for a no.1 team to resort to such when playing against a bunch of amateurs. No matter how they want to spin the story, having 1 genius + 6 beginners in opposing team should not and cannot be a major threat against a no. 1 team. The most terrible thing is that all Goda's dirty actions are not punished until the end.
The team bonding is also quite poor and each team member's reason for joining the team is weak. These undermines any potential emotional parts about team spirit and camaraderie. The victory over Suiran is rather tasteless and feels ridiculous for a team of amateurs which have only played for few months can win over a no 1 team in Japan. It feels kinda lame as I don't see any struggle or development from Kasu's team to be better in water polo and hence I cannot empathise their joy to finally overcome Suiran. They even fail to incorporate the yankee's never give up spirit and that makes all the inspiring words from Kurosawa (the yankee who inspired chibi Naoya) pretentious.
There is way more romance than usual high school sports comedy J-drama at the expense of the screen time for development of the water polo team. I think it does more harm than good.
The only unique and good thing that Suikyu Yankees handle uniquely is the sports rivalry between Ryuji and Torao. Instead of going the usual pathway of who is better as an ace, Ryuji realises that he won't compete with Torao. Torao is a better floater (i.e ace and scorer of the team) while Ryuji is better as a playmaker to support floater. Instead of competing with Torao to be the better floater, Ryuji decides to focus on his strength as a playmaker and will make Naoya a better floater than Torao.
The characters are generally very one dimensional and there is very little character development. Most of Kasu water polo team are childish who take turns threatening to quit when something bad happens. Yes, even our main character is also guilty of doing that. Ryuji feels more like a sore loser rather than someone who gives up because of poor self-confidence. We also have the baka trio whose main contribution is providing comic relief and make up the number of the water polo team. Surprisingly, Chiaki is the one with more significant character development and maturation despite the initial outlook of joining the team for childish ulterior motive of impressing the teacher. That is a good surprise there.
As much as I like Nakajima Yuto as Hey! Say! JUMP member, I think he can't act as a yankee. I mean he has this good boy vibe that he can't shake off., no matter how much he tries. But if you consider his character as a good boy trying to act as a yankee at school, then he acts pretty well. I also find it disturbing how Ohara Sakurako (who plays Nagisa) reminds me of Maeda Atsuko while Yamazaki Kento looks like a hybrid of Sato Shori and Nakajima Kento from Sexy Zone. Lol.
Suikyu Yankees really reminds me of Water Boys albeit it feels like an inferior copycat of Water Boys. Water Boys series are one of the first few J-drama series that I watched -although I never write any blog on them as the drafts are still in a word document in my laptop- and Suikyu Yankees makes me want to rewatch them. I watched Water Boys almost 10 years ago and I feel emo to realise how old I am :( It is quite amazing how my preference still has not changed and after watching sports school drama, I still feel pang of jealousy that I never had the chance to play sports during my school days. Sigh if only I could turn back time...