The Nihon Review - Anime Reviews & Editorials

Kuroko’s Basketball

Title: Kuroko’s Basketball aka Kuroko no Basuke
Genre: Drama/Comedy
Company: Production I.G
Format: 25 episodes
Dates: 7 Apr 2012 – 22 Sep 2012

Synopsis: The Teikō Middle School basketball team had been labelled unrivaled after winning for three consecutive years every championship game they were in. This impressive track record was attributed to the star players, whose exceptional skill and raw talent earned them the moniker ”Generation of Miracles”. Following graduation, each member of the Miracles went on their separate way to join different high school basketball teams. Kuroko Tetsuya, once part of this undefeated team as a sixth member who earned the acknowledgement and respect of the others, decides to enlist in Seirin High School’s basketball club. There he meets Kagami Taiga, a basketball player with promising ability, and they both make a pledge to defeat the Generation of Miracles and become the top players in Japan.

The Highlights
Main cast: Color coded for your convenience.
Basketball: Leans to being over dramatized, but remains the focus throughout.
Animation: Competent most of the time; improves occasionally during key moments.

The one thought which kept resurfacing while I was watching Kuroko’s Basketball was how conceptually similar it is to Slam Dunk. Which is a very strange thing since aside from the focus on the same sport and both originating from the same publication, Weekly Shonen Jump, the similarities between the two series otherwise are few and far in-between. Kuroko’s Basketball’s premise is nothing like Slam Dunk’s, and the more sensationalized matches in the former are as dissimilar as you can get from the realism of the latter. Indeed, even the most unbelievable moments in Slam Dunk cannot compare with the plays displayed in the former, which has abilities such as being able to successfully score three-pointers with a perfect accuracy rate, becoming invisible on command and the capability of copying techniques and styles on the fly without any prior training. Kuroko’s Basketball makes it clear that it subscribes to the fantastical school of thought of Shonen when it comes to the sports realism.

To the shows credit, it does acknowledge how ridiculously insane it is for a basketball player, and high schoolers at that, to possess such absurd latent abilities and attempts to weave it into the overarching goal of defeating the Generation of Miracles. The logic is that since the opponents that our duo and their school are going up against are of such formidable skill, becoming the best in the nation is only a step afterwards. While it is good that the series has set a high benchmark with a clear destination that it can comfortably work towards, the matches are difficult to be involved in when the odds are overwhelmingly in favour of the Miracle’s team. It is one thing to have a really good player on the opposing team, another to have that player be comparable in ability to Shaquille O’Neal and Tiger Woods and is shown to perform shoots that defy reason even in the series’ own constraints.

That said, while the fictionalized basketball does make it more difficult to be engaged in matches, it is not something that brings down Kuroko’s Basketball. The incredible abilities of the Generation of Miracles do not undermine the message that the show is sending about hard work and cooperation, faith and trust in sports teams despite being dangerously close to doing so at times. It might sound strange to read that after knowing that there is a player in Kuroko’s Basketball that is good enough to be compared to a professional NBA legend, but ironically enough it is the play offs against this player who is perhaps the most individualistic and egocentric that manage to produce the biggest development for teamwork in the entire series.

Moments against unbelievable odds, where loss is all but certain, and his team mates are beginning to lose the energy to carry on, Kuroko refuses to surrender and insists going on despite the inevitable. The most invisible player who is told that he has no presence end up being the one who has the most unbreakable will; even when Seirin High experiences crushing defeat, they face it having given it their all and manage to pull back together for more intense training in order to be better and improve on their solidarity. Likewise in the finale, which I found to be the most exciting match out of the entire series by far not least due to the more leveled playing field of having two of the Miracles go against each other. In this match we are treated to the same lesson as in the aforementioned match, this time in seeing how devastating the effects of the defeat are on the losing team and their desire to become better and improve in order to prevent their team mates to experience the same disappointment and pain.

This is why I kept on thinking of Slam Dunk while viewing this anime. Despite the glaring differences, deep down both shows are about the same concept: young men who, decide to work together to reach their dreams and be the best they can possibly be in doing what they love. Along the way they learn about trust and depend on each other, growing as a team aiming for the unreachable. If that sounds cheesy, it very much is. But, much like its own titular character Kuroko’s Basketball does not attempt to hide it. It does not attempt to hide anything really; it is as transparent as it can be, with its intentions clear and its aim straightforward.

In the end, that honesty was what won me over. Past the shiny elements, the dramatized basketball and absurd skills, Kuroko’s Basketball is deep down something that is purely about kids trying to better themselves in order to be the best. And when it has such a message, its really hard to hate it for what it makes clear from the start.

The Rating: 7

Reviewed by: Arabesque

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