The Nihon Review - Anime Reviews & Editorials

Kuroko’s Basketball 2

Title: Kuroko’s Basketball 2 aka Kuroko no Basuke 2
Genre: Drama
Company: Production I.G
Format: 25 episodes
Dates: 6 Oct 2013 – 30 Mar 2014

Synopsis: Following a disappointing loss to one of the stronger schools in a recent tournament, Seirin High School has no time to lick its wounds. The most prestigious high school basketball tournament — the Winter Cup — is around the corner, and all the best high schools in Japan will compete in it. Kuroko Tetsuya, Kagami Taiga and the rest of Seirin know they must train harder than ever if they hope to defeat the schools led by the “Generation of Miracles,” the top players in the nation.

The Highlights
Visuals: In general, much better than in the first season.
Pacing: Some games just aren’t as interesting as others, so the pace occasionally drags.
Finale: Not quite as good as the last game from the first season, but a solid way to conclude things.

Kuroko’s Basketball has a fun first season. It starts off a bit slow, but it eventually finds its way once it embraces its crazier side and builds to a fever pitch by the end when by far the best game of the season closes out the show. For better or worse, the second season of Kuroko’s Basketball follows a similar path: the beginning is slow, mostly because the first couple of games aren’t all that interesting, but it builds in intensity before the best game of the season plays out. It just so happens, however, that the best game is in the middle rather than at the end.

Even when the games aren’t as exciting, though, the basketball is generally more visually engaging this season. Not only is the animation much improved and more consistent than in the first season, the layout of each game and how the viewer sees the moves unfold is also much better. A big problem in the first season is that the camera is often too close to the action. The result is that passes and layups and other moves with a lot of motion to them would look stilted and uninteresting. They had little room to breathe and flow into one another. This is much less of a problem in the second season. The games are more smartly presented: closeups to emphasize big plays, with enough space to let everything up to those plays impress and tell a story. It’s not exactly an ESPN-level production, but it gets the job done admirably.

Unfortunately, the actual basketball isn’t always as exciting as the first season. Seirin is continually portrayed as an underdog, but there’s also a sense of escalation that continues from the first season — the abilities grow ever crazier, peaking with the basketball equivalent of transforming into a Super Saiyan. Seirin keeps getting stronger but must also keep its underdog status, so many of the games employ gimmicks or feature opponents that are absurdly strong. For instance, one opponent plays quite dirty, being as physical as possible behind the referee’s backs so that they won’t get called for fouls and trying intentionally to injure Seirin’s players. It makes this team villainous, but it also makes the actual game boring to watch, which drags the pacing. The basketball gets much better when the games are more competitive on a skill-based level. However, by this point in the series the teams are so good that the games eventually turn into a back-and-forth match of basketball magic. They’re entertaining to watch as pure spectacle, but it takes a lot of the tension out of the games. It’s a waiting game to see which over-the-top superpower will win the game.

That said, the games still feel meaningful because Kuroko’s Basketball has done such a solid job of building the characters and their relationships and making everyone sympathetic. Kuroko himself continues to provide a solid foundation for the series. His understated humor is always welcome, and his passion and sincerity can always be felt even though he is a mostly stoic character. Kagami’s emotion and wildness on the court make him a good partner for Kuroko. The antagonists have interesting personalities, from Aomine’s supreme confidence in his own ability to Murasakibara’s seeming disdain for basketball while asserting his dominance on the court. The side characters get their moments to shine, too. The Seirin seniors are particularly fun. Most of them lack the crazy powers that the best players possess, but they find ways to make their presences felt in big moments. When someone like Hyuga hits a 3-pointer and talks trash to the first-years on the other team, it’s still entertaining because the series has done such a good job making him and characters like him matter despite being mere mortals.

Kuroko’s Basketball remains entertaining despite the seams of its formula coming apart a bit. The characters are still sympathetic enough that their successes and failures provide worthy stakes when the actual basketball doesn’t totally live up to the hype.

The Rating: 6

Reviewed by: Shinmaru

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