Harsh Lessons in Teamwork: Eyeshield 21‘s Kongo Agon

One of my favorite characters to think about is Kongo Agon from the football manga Eyeshield 21. He’s not a favorite in the sense that I would put him on a top 10 or even top 100 best characters list, but what he does provide is an entertaining and exciting role as an antagonist whose presence allows a more complicated story about what it means to be a successful teammate.

In Eyeshield 21, Kongo Agon is the undisputed best high school American-football player in Japan. His reaction time is unmatched. While others might be stronger or faster, no one has the optimized combination of both like him. Anything you can do, he can probably do better. Agon isn’t even one of those characters who is strong individually but is especially bad at teamwork. He knows how to work within a group, at least to a certain extent. The fact that he’s so superior to everyone else, however, lands him into a classic trap for someone of such extraordinary talent: he finds less worth in those who can’t keep up with him.

When mentioning what his ideal team would be, Agon describes a hypothetical team that’s 21 of himself + one teammate who has a few unique skills. And in a way, he’s right. An All-Star All-Agon team would probably beat every other team around. However, that team fundamentally cannot exist (Eyeshield 21 is not a science fiction series), and this is where Agon begins to falter. He may be perfect, but no one else is, and his inability to truly accept that is what opens up the cracks in his armor and leads him on the road to defeat.

One of the most famous athletes in history, Michael Jordan, ran into a similar problem. Jordan in his rookie days was a once-in-a-generation talent, but felt he couldn’t trust his teammates. What turned it around was his coach, Phil Jackson, who pushed Jordan to assume the role of a true leader, and to motivate his teammates into believing that Jordan trusted them. No small part of this was Scottie Pippen, who could mediate between Jordan and the rest of the bulls and lead by example in the process.

A lot of what made Jordan able to overcome his over-reliance on himself are the very things that Agon ends up failing to learn for a long time. Agon, despite being the best player around, is not an effective leader for a team; he’s closer to a tyrant than a captain. Moreover, the man who could be his Pippen, his brother Kongo Unsui, is shown little if any respect by Agon. Because he views everyone else as so beneath him in talent, he can’t even fathom the relatively minuscule accomplishments of opposing teams as matter at all—only for such an “insignificant” change to hand him a devastating, skin-of-his-teeth loss. Agon is decent at teamwork, but if only he respected his teammates and his opponents more, he could have been invincible.

Perhaps the biggest character development moment for Agon in Eyeshield 21 is the day that he finally bothers to train. Much like Frieza in Dragon Ball: Resurrection F, Agon is begrudgingly pushed to the point that he has to actually try, only Agon’s storyline predates Frieza’s in this particular sense. That realization by Agon, that he has to work at maintaining his dominance, is the ultimate blow to his being. He’s forever transformed, unable to ever go back to thinking that he, by simple virtue of being himself, is enough to defeat everyone.

One thought on “Harsh Lessons in Teamwork: Eyeshield 21‘s Kongo Agon

  1. Pingback: Manga Mavericks EP. 64: "Haruhi Solves Math!" - All-Comic.com

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