Natsusa Yuzuki entered university expecting to be the rugby club's ace, but he can no longer play rugby due to certain circumstances. Ibuki Ueoka is a senior who also quit playing rugby. There is also Yasunari Tsuru, Natsusa's junior who finds him disagreeable. On the other hand, another junior, Yuu Mashiro looks up to Natsusa and follows in his footsteps. Last, there is Seiichirou Shingyouji, Natsusa's childhood best friend. This is an original rugby anime of former teammates who fight together in matches of Kansai's university rugby league. (Source: MAL News)
Number 24 looks like it might be about rugby in the same way that Stars Align is about soft tennis. Not that anything indicates that this is going to be another trauma-fest, but in the sense that it’s the players rather than the sport that is important, at least in this episode. That’s certainly not a bad thing (unless you were hoping for a more mature All Out!!), and in fact looks like it might give us a different angle on the sports show, something that’s particularly important in a season when Haikyu!! is coming back; if number24 is going to compete with that perennial favorite, it really needs to bring something different to the table.
That difference is largely in our protagonist. Natsuhisa may still think of himself as a rugby player, but the truth is that a motorcycle accident six months before the start of the show cut that possibility short, and now he’s taken on a role as a manager rather than the star rookie player he was before. That means that we’re going to be seeing this sports story through the eyes of someone who isn’t actually playing and no longer quite fits in with the rest of the team; essentially he’s become an outsider with inside information. That’s not a comfortable place to be, for him or anyone else, and that’s something that we see made abundantly clear in this episode. Best friend Sei treats Natsuhisa like he’s made of glass, older players are only cautiously glad to see him, and younger players are actively angry about the accident and resent Natsuhisa for the fact that another player quit the team after it. (Hints at the start and end of the episode imply that this teammate was the driver.) No one really knows how to act around Natsuhisa, and while he puts up a good show of not being affected, it’s obvious that he is, and his “lessons” to first- year player Yuu show that he’s adept at hiding his feelings behind a mask of conviviality.
That all of this is largely done without the use of the Sledgehammer of Symbolism is a major plus, and part of my decision to give this a 4 instead of a 3.5. (Honestly, it was a close call.) Even when he’s talking to Yuu or Sei openly, Natsuhisa never lets on that he’s uncomfortable, the closest coming when he’s helping Sei with a stretch. Even though he was the passenger in the accident, it’s clear that he feels guilt over it, and like the blame he’s getting from other players is at least partially deserved. Guilt is likely to be a driving emotional factor going forward for Natsuhisa, Yuu, and Ibuki, but with that also comes learning to cope with it, and that should be interesting. Even more appealing, however, are the relationships building between the characters, all of which look like they have potential in however you choose to interpret them.
Even if they don’t play much rugby (which they apologize for in the preview), there are enough small details building up to make this worth paying attention to. (The aborted pat on the head is an especially good one, as it shows both the past and present relationship between the characters.) If it can keep the angst in check, I think this could be a keeper.