Shonen anime such as One Piece or Naruto often have a few characteristics and cliches in common. The main character aspires to achieve a monumental goal, but their start is always shabby and humble. On their way to their goal, they meet precious friends, forge close relationships, and move forward, step by step, towards victory.
Of course, it wouldn’t be an adventure if the main character didn’t go through trials and tribulations. The first time they’d get close to their goal, something unexpected would happen, maybe they’d even lose some of their invaluable companions.
But the protagonist never gives up. They’d meet someone special, who would help them overcome their difficulties and with renewed strength and camaraderie, they’d thread onwards. The formula repeats until the end goal is achieved and with it — a happy ending.
Sometimes, these anime cliches spill over into the real world and affect real-life stories. In this adventure, the protagonist is DRX head coach Kim “cvMax” Dae-ho.
Shabby start to continuous success
The background story of the protagonist is perfect: cvMax is the son of a businessman, raised by a single parent. His father did not approve of his son’s passion for gaming and wasn’t all that supportive, but his educational methods and philosophies molded cvMax into an adult with strong, solid principles.
After trying a thing or two, cvMax finally put his faith in his League of Legends ability and pursued a streaming career. As he struggled at the crossroads of life, he won his first title — an AfreecaTV exhibition tournament in 2017 — and this reinvigorated his determination towards the esports life. While his first two applications to coach at ROX Tigers and Jin Air Green Wings were rejected, Griffin’s (now) former director Cho Kyu-nam, offered him a life-turning opportunity.
It wasn’t an LCK job but it was a step into the industry nonetheless and in 2017, cvMax took the reins of a Challengers Korea team. Stepping in to lead names like With Choi “Sword” Sung-won, Lee “Tarzan” Seung-yong, and Shin “Rather” Hyeong-seop, cvMax turned the bottom-feeding Griffin into a 3rd place finisher in his first season. CvMax was later promoted to head coach and called in Son “Lehends” Si-woo and Park “Viper” Do-hyeon onto the team. With the promotion, his aspirations also grew manyfold: “My goal is to win Worlds”.
In March of 2018, another main character joined cvMax: Jeong “Chovy” Ji-hoon. The synergy between the old and new Griffin players and cvMax was beyond expectations. They won the 2018 Challengers Korea Spring Split without dropping a series and burst through the promotion series to reach the LCK.
Expectations of the newly-promoted team were mellow: dominating in CK rarely translates to LCK success. However, cvMax and Griffin started the 2018 LCK summer split with a six-game win streak, casting doubts away and giving start to an adventure that would lead them to three consecutive LCK grand finals appearances.
Trouble to go down in history
The two runner-up finishes in 2019 led Griffin to the World Championship and for cvMax, that was a step closer to his new goal. But his dream was shattered before he could set his foot on the stage. In September 2019, mere weeks ahead of Worlds, Griffin and cvMax suddenly announced that they will be parting ways.
Many fans were frustrated at such sudden news, as they saw cvMax as the main engine behind the evolution of Griffin from a bottom-tier Challengers team to Worlds contender. CvMax offered only a short comment on his departure, saying “the results weren’t good enough”. And even though he didn’t travel to Worlds with them, cvMax still supported his players... until one interview with Choi “Sword” Sung-won.
Sword asked cvMax to stop stating false things about the team publicly, whereas cvMax only had cheered for his players. Disappointed, cvMax responded with revelations that would quake the LCK, and Korean esports, greatly. CvMax’s story of the unlawful loaning of Griffin jungler Seo “Kanavi” Jin-hyeok to JD Gaming, and the foul play of Griffin’s management in director Cho grew to almost uncontrollable proportions. First Riot, and then even the national assembly got involved, ushering the “LCK pro gamer standard contract” — a standardized agreement, ensuring fair employment for Korean pro gamers.
As cvMax walked out of his former team and towards new opportunities, he watched as his old world imploded behind him. Director Cho was banned from the competitive League of Legends scene. Griffin was fined and parent company STILL8 was ordered to divest from the team. Without leadership, Griffin would eventually crumble, get relegated out of the LCK, fail to make Challengers playoffs, and, finally dissolve.
The wave of punishment temporarily affected cvMax, with Riot issuing him a competitive ban as well, as during Riot's investigation, they found evidence of cvMax having verbal or physical violence to his players. Immediately, cvMax protested by talking in a stream about what the allegations were. The fans were enraged when they heard about what cvMax told which led to 1-man protests and boycotting the league. As a result, Riot stepped back and postponed the ban until further investigation by a third party.
Meeting new friends
Carrying the mantle of a whistleblower, admitting to having used strong language while giving feedback, and with Riot Korea watching his every step, it seemed unlikely — even with the ban postponed — that any LCK team would seek out to hire cvMax. Even so, DRX CEO Choi Sang-in reached out with a helping hand.
As part of his welcome to DRX, cvMax was given full authority to managing the team, but there was a problem — there was no team to manage. Every single player had left and only veteran Kim "Deft" Hyuk-kyu had stayed, for now at least.
Deft was the first person cvMax reached out to. An “old” “old” player in the scene, with a career stretching over eight years, the head coach considered Deft’s mechanics to be still very reliable. There was no need (or time) for a fancy sales pitch: cvMax blindly requested that Deft trusts him. A simple ask, but enough to tow Deft’s instincts into re-signing with DRX.
The problem with the new DRX was the solo lanes. The hot jungler that cvMax had nurtured, Kanavi, had departed for the LPL, and he may have had to start trainees in the top and mid lanes, too. But another miracle manifested to save cvMax: Chovy and Choi “Doran” Hyeon-joon, who became free agents during the “Griffin scandal”, followed cvMax to join DRX. While many anticipated Doran’s move, given the great relationship between him and the coach, to see Chovy leave million-dollar plus offers from around the world on the table to follow his former coach was rather surprising.
On his move, Chovy commented that there was nothing to think about. From the start of his pro gaming career, his goal had been to win Worlds with cvMax, someone he considered a revered teacher. When asked about giving up a chance to get paid high salaries, Chovy’s gave a wise answer:
“The amount of money you need depends on how you spend it. Considering a large amount of money and the value my life in the future has, I decided that it’s more valuable to play in DRX than in a foreign team.”
Soon after, cvMax filled the jungle role as well, calling in a young prodigy with aggressive style and outstanding mechanics, but one who still lacked deep comprehension of the game — exactly the type of player cvMax liked the most. In a month, Hong “Pyosik” Chang-hyeon went from a streamer and Kindred master, to DRX starter.
Again, another step closer
The protagonist overcame critical difficulties and met important people on his way. Some comrades re-joined him, staying loyal by his side but still, his dream was far away. To get to cvMax’s ultimate goal, winning Worlds, DRX had to reach the World Championship stage, stepping over the strong teams of the LCK first. Considering there were two rookies and one semi-rookie on the starting roster, expectations for DRX to reach the playoffs were low.
But as you might’ve guessed by now, another one of those anime cliches manifested just in the right time of the arc. As if by magic, the main character’s team stood strong and got to a 14-4 record in the Spring Split, going neck-and-neck with the veteran-heavy T1 and Gen.G. In the playoffs, DRX defeated DAMWON Gaming and lost to T1, finishing third.
DRX only returned stronger in the summer, with better synergy and improved performances. They concluded the regular season and playoffs in second place, officially securing the ticket to Worlds. Finally, cvMax — who was robbed of his rightful Worlds appearance in 2019 — could step on the stage he had been dreaming about.
Three years had passed since he started telling people that his goal is to win Worlds. Next month, the first page of his new story will be written.
It doesn’t matter how it ends
We still don’t know how that anime is titled as it hinges on what challenges cvMax faces at Worlds. Obviously, it doesn’t have a set ending either. If cvMax does reach his goal of winning Worlds, there will be new ones: winning two or three straight, or beating T1’s record perhaps. On the other hand, the anime could end without him ever getting to the finals.
Whatever the ending is, this anime already has value, because it’s happening in our reality. There is no other writer but cvMax himself, drafting his own autobiography. The capabilities he’s shown as a leader, the exciting matches from the players, the mentality to never give up, his will, and faith for his goal have already given the viewers more than enough to enjoy and be touched. What’s more important is that this anime will be continuing in the future for at least a few more years.