Ganbare, Kickers! (がんばれ!キッカーズ Ganbare, Kikkāzu!?, roughly translated Fight, Kickers!) is a romantic soccer kid manga drawn by Noriaki Nagai. It was published by Shogakukan in CoroCoro Comic magazine from 1985 to 1989. The series won the 1987 Shogakukan Manga Award for best children's manga. The story is usually classified as Comedy, Drama, Shōnen and Sports. Cover art can be seen here.
The manga was turned into an anime series by Studio Pierrot during 1986–1987. It ran 26 episodes and one 40 minute special, but only 21 episodes were aired in Japan. In 1990 the anime arrived to EMEA in its dubbed version and had some success in the Middle East (الهداف Al Haddaf), Iran (فوتبالیستها), Italy (Palla al centro per Rudy), Spain (Supergol), France (But Pour Rudy), Poland (Piłkarze) and especially in Germany and Austria (Kickers).
The story is about an enthusiastic kid soccer team at the Kitahara elementary school, who struggle without a competent striker, when little Kakeru Daichi's (大地翔 Daichi Kakeru) family moves in to the town. He immediately applies to join the team, keen to use his skills gained in the kid team of famous soccer club "The Falcons". With Kakeru the team becomes complete in every sense and he motivates the team to challenge the "Red Devils", a strong secondary school team whose goalkeeper Uesugi is considered undefeatable. They lose 10 to 1, but Kakeru's scoring a single goal is still a small miracle. Under the strong leadership of their own goalkeeper Masaru Hongo, Kickers then enter the kid championship and fight their way up through hard won victories. Meanwhile, Hongo falls in love with Ayumi Daichi (大地歩 Daichi Ayumi), Kakeru's cute, sporty sister. In turn the striker enamours Akuna Yukie, a fragile, angelic pianist girl, who happens to be Uesugi's much younger sister. These affairs lead to some embarrassingly funny situations as well as numerous complications with the team's devoted and jealous cheerleader trio.
For a short while, Kickers gain a professional trainer whose instructions help them win their way to the semi-finals, just to meet the Red Devils once again. After a dramatic match, that spans two 20 minute episodes, Uesugi fends off Kakeru's final freescore and so the Kickers are out! The devastated team is soon divided by the arrival of Harry, a famous junior talent, who has been fired from three big name teams already for subversive behaviour. He infiltrates and splits Kickers, but his rudeness and Hongo's strong leadership re-unite the team. Harry then seduces Ayumi and assembles a faux team out of the school's scum so he can defeat the Kickers almost alone. Although the naive Kakeru is no match for the older and much stronger Harry, the Kickers's teamwork spirit and Uesugi's support secures a victory in this dirty match and Harry is devastated. The anime series ends with a redeemed Harry reconciling with the Kickers, before leaving the town to play overseas.
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- When the trainer is shown leaving Japan, his ocean liner is named "Pierota (Pietaro)" in reference to the animation studio.
- The Kakeru's family dog is named Maradona. The Argentinian soccer legend was indeed extremely popular all over the world at the time Kickers! was in the making.
- The anime was doomed by bad timing when it went on air in Japan while the Captain Tsubasa soccer saga was still running. The more established sport anime series won, as the little kid characters in Kickers! could not appeal to an equally wide base audience, forcing its early termination (only 21 of the 26 episodes were shown in Japan).
- In the Italian dub of the show, in the first episode was mentioned which Kakeru came from Shutetsu, the Genzo Wakabayashi's team. Really these ties between Captain Tsubasa and Ganbare,Kickers! exist only in the Italian and French versions and these were invented by Mediaset so as to make to increase the audience of the anime
- Original story: Noriaki Nagai
- Director: Akira Sugino (alternative spelling Akira Shigino)
- Senior script writer: Sukehiro Tomita
- Junior script writers: Hiroshi Kaneko, Isao Shizutani
- Art Director: Satoshi Miura
- Character Design: Takeshi Ozaka
- Background art: Satoshi Miura
- Composer: Jun Irie
- Producer: Yuni Nunokawa (alternative spelling Yuji Nunokawa)
- Yuko Kobayashi - Akuna Yukie
- Ikue Ohtani - Kiyoshi Hara
- TARAKO - Taichi
- Michie Tomizawa - Tetsuya
- Urara Takano - Mamoru
- Chieko Honda - ?????
- "小学館漫画賞：歴代受賞者" (in Japanese). Shogakukan. Retrieved 2008-06-13.
- Studio Pierrot official site
- RTL II "Pokito" - official German website with full episode descriptions
- at Anime News Network's Encyclopedia
- German Opening of "Kickers" (Full Version)
ar:الهداف (مسلسل) fa:فوتبالیستها it:Palla al centro per Rudy pl:Piłkarze