A new champion
The Mizuno Morelia II Japan is one of the Japanese brand’s mostly popular boots and continues to pop up on pitches all across the country and the world. In the past decade though, the Morelia Neo series has run closely behind and become the main choice for Mizuno veterans and newbies alike. But something that many people (myself included) have wanted from the beginning is a mash up of the two. The idea of that full kangaroo leather upper slapped on the more aggressive Morelia Neo soleplate has been requested for years. With the release of the Morelia DNA Japan, we have finally got our wish and it has been more than worth the wait. Mizuno have nailed the execution.
Fit and Feel
As is typical of many Mizuno boots, the Morelia DNA Japan is soft, supple, and pliable from right out of the box. The fit is excellent from the get-go and the boots were comfy enough to wear straight into a two-hour practice session with no issues to speak of. Mizuno’s process of lasting boots for 24 hours is again of great benefit here. Without having to worry about the fit, I was able to play confidently from the start. I was expecting there to be some awkwardness since the soleplate was not designed for this upper but there were no issues to be found. In fact, the opposite was true. I realised that Mizuno had changed the shape enough on the upper of the Morelia II so that it matched perfectly with the soleplate. If you are worried that this somehow compromised the feeling of the upper, it has not. The kangaroo leather is the same top of the market upper that we expect from Mizuno. It does in fact feel slightly softer than your normal Morelia II Japan.
The Runbird deserves a lot of credit for not just making this a slap together job and calling it a day. Of course, we should not be surprised given how well Mizuno pays attention to little details on their boots. One of the ways this was accomplished was by making the midfoot slightly narrower than the regular Morelia II. This is because the soleplate of the Neo series is slightly narrower.
Another way the Morelia DNA Japan achieves this is by making the heel cup slightly narrower as well. Since the Neo series has an external heel counter and the Morelia II does not, this is a more obvious change. However, just because the heel fit more snug than the Morelia II does not mean that it felt too tight or was uncomfortable. This is due to the fact that Mizuno added more padding than is found on the Morelia II and the soft brushed lining that we see on the Neo series. This makes for a great combination that provides comfort and cushioning on the heel.
Some might worry that this means the boot has a narrower fit like the Neo and Neo Beta, but I did not find this to be the case and since the Morelia DNA Japan has a full kangaroo leather upper, this means that there is some stretch there to adjust to the shape of your feet. I personally prefer the tweaks made to the upper because it means I can still get that fabulous touch that is found on the Morelia II while still having a boot that feels “faster” on feet.
When it comes to sizing, these fit more similar length wise to the Morelia II, rather than the Neo series. If your normal size has space on the end and you like a tight fit, go half a size down. However, if your normal size is already a little snug, go true to size. I personally went a half size down than normal, similar to what I did with the Morelia II Japan. And because the deep lacing system allows for a lot of adjustability, these boots will fit a variety of foot types.
Touch and Dribbling
At this point it, if you have read my review of the Morelia II Japan, you would think that the upper performs similar. For the most part, it does. Although like I mentioned earlier, the leather seems slightly softer than the normal Morelia II. I am not sure it really improves the touch, since it is hard to improve on virtual perfection, but it is appreciated all the same. I did notice that the slight tweak of the shape made me feel a little more “quick” with my touch. Maybe part of that is down to the feeling that the Morelia DNA Japan is more like a speedboot than its brother. Aside from that, the touch is precise, clean, and natural.
There was the same feeling with dribbling as well. While not too different from the Morelia II, having the Neo soleplate on the bottom did give the impression that this was more like a speedboot in this sense as well. Now, it could possibly be all mental, but a lot of the game is mental as well and feeling like you have any advantage can give you an edge. Since it still is that lovely Morelia II upper, you have a nice soft sensation when dribbling the ball. It is always welcome for me.
Passing and Shooting
Aside from the grip (which will be covered later), this is one of the parts of the Morelia DNA Japan that differentiates the most from the normal Morelia II. Having that Neo soleplate means that there is more of a solid feeling when pinging the ball. The soleplate helps keep your foot on a solid base when hitting long passes. There have occasionally been complaints that the Morelia II soleplate becomes too pliable after a while and since the Neo soleplate is for a speed boot and thus stiffer, it nullifies this issue.
This also might be a small thing, but I have always favoured boots with an external heel counter when it comes to long range passes and especially shooting. For me, boots with an external heel counter tend to keep locked in place better when the ball is being hit with power or manipulated into a curl. So, combining the Neo soleplate with the soft kangaroo leather upper from the Morelia II means I get that clean, precise feeling on the ball while still having a solid soleplate and heel counter to keep my foot stable when shooting or crossing the ball.
There are boots without an external heel counter that have felt good to shoot the ball in, like Mizuno’s own Rebula series, but even with those I have begun to feel like an external would be a benefit to the boots overall. Think about a lot of the power boots in the past, plenty of them have strong external heel counters. Even my favourite Wave Cups do not feel as good as the Morelia DNA Japan does when it comes to shooting. It is really enjoyable to hammer a ball in the Morelia DNA Japan and the I feel my shooting is more precise in these than other boots.
While the combination of this upper and the Neo soleplate makes for several changes elsewhere and is noticeable, in terms of grip its functionally similar to the Neo III and the Neo Beta. Here is some of what I said about the soleplate then:
”Another change that they have made is making sure they perform well on artificial grass and the studs have been reinforced to be more durable. This reinforcement also means that they don’t flex as easily under pressure. This allows the boots to feel a lot more balanced when running and sprinting. It isn’t as aggressive as other speed boots but for a rounded stud soleplate they are far more aggressive than you might think… if we take the growing popularity of AG pitches into account, I think the conical studs gives the boot an advantage over the other brands in terms of a lowered risk of injury and less chance of stud pressure… What seals the deal for me as well is that these conical studs work respectably well even on pitches with softer ground. The traction was still aggressive and more than what you would expect from a speed boot. It is nice for once to have a soleplate that can be worn on multiple surfaces without issues.”
I still stand by what I said before and the soleplate is plenty aggressive without being over the top, so it is still great on multiple surfaces. It is a terrific soleplate with plenty of performance.
Possibly my new favourite boot
While overall I prefer the stud layout and the studs of the Wave Cup, as well as the fit of the forefoot of the Wave Cup, as a boot overall the Morelia DNA Japan has maybe become my new favourite boot. It performs so well in many situations, and I love that supple upper combined with a more aggressive soleplate. I found myself wishing that the Wave Cup had an external heel cup like these, and I prefer the heel fit in the Morelia DNA Japan over the Wave Cup. It certainly has given me a lot of food for thought and the Morelia DNA Japan is now at the top of my boot rotation. It is brilliant.
When the Morelia DNA Japan was first released, I figured I would enjoy the boot and I was looking forward to playing in and reviewing them. However, I was surprised at how much I enjoyed them. The concept of a Morelia II upper with a Neo soleplate is not anything overly complex but the execution is so good it might end up being the boot of the year. I am hoping that we see more colourways sometime in the future because based on the sales in Japan alone, I was not the only one who was looking forward to these. More of this, please! If you are on the fence about these, don’t be. If you only grab one Mizuno boot, this is probably the best way to go, and it shoots to the top of the list for best leather boot on the market. A piece of excellence.
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