The Anime that Took a Shot up the Charts


Samara Lasker, Staff Writer

I haven’t been interested in basketball for several years. It’s been at least two years since I last participated in a game, and much longer since I last watched a complete game on television. I’ve also never been a big fan of sports anime in general. When Kuroko’s Basketball appeared on the Spring season chart, I didn’t even give it a second thought because I was so used to it. But it was something I never got tired of. The more I watched, the more I became engrossed in it. I honestly never imagined that I’d be looking forward to the inevitable second season.

In the first place, Kuroko isn’t a basketball fanatic. Kuroko is about the Japanese sport of Magic Shounen Basketball, which is an entirely different game from traditional basketball. If you want to watch anything that genuinely shows the sport, I recommend watching an NBA game instead, because Kuroko is not about that kind of thing at all. Nonetheless, if that isn’t important to you, the sport of Magic Shounen Basketball is a significant element of the show’s attraction. Everything that makes shounen battle series so fascinating is applied to basketball in this game, which is a first for basketball. These games have an added “oomph” to them because of the ridiculously long hangtimes, the backboard-breaking dunks, the cross-court rocket passes, and the weird reasoning behind some of the schemes. As a result, they appear more like epic fights than regular high-school basketball games.

Every character has a unique ability that they develop throughout the course of the show – there’s the copycat, the high jumper, the invisible passer, the perfect rebounder, the guy with a birds-eye view of the court, the normal guy, the guy who can make a shot from anywhere on the court, the team that moves like ninjas, and of course the guy who’s just inhumanly good at basketball – and they all work together to achieve their goals. Every element is designed to give more flair and excitement to the games, transforming the show’s brand of basketball into a legitimate sport in its own right. Rather than focusing on the entire game, the show can take a step back and examine a specific facet of Magic Shounen Basketball with each game, studying its limitations and the influence they have on the play styles of each team. The fact that it adds to the excitement of the games is, of course, what matters in the end — it’s the perfect quantity of cheese to enhance the flavor without overpowering the dish.

It’s also vital to note that the emphasis is mostly on the actual basketball contests. In-between moments of hilarious escapades and training episodes are interspersed throughout the game, but they are sparsely spaced enough that they feel like a welcome respite from a long series of games rather than an irritant that gets in the way of valuable gameplay time. This is mainly a classic underdog story, but the series is ready to take the risk of having our underdog squad suffer a humiliating setback in a pivotal game, and from that point on, the series deviates from its usual development and experiments with new ideas.

Even though Magic Shounen Basketball isn’t particularly impressive in terms of technical animation, the show uses the limited resources it does have work to its advantage. Slow motion and close-up stills are used to emphasize the most critical moments, and the effective use of camera angles gives them the power they require when the framerate can’t keep up, albeit the movements can be clumsily drawn at times. In spite of the fact that the animation begins to wane, the soundtrack keeps the adrenaline pumping with a super-cheesy blend of strong metal guitar and the occasional dubstep-esque bass beat. For as ridiculous and overdone as the music is (and I admit to having laughed out loud at it on more than one occasion), it is a good fit for the goofy cheesiness that is Magic Shounen Basketball. The opening and ending themes are both powerful and energetic, and they do an excellent job of getting you excited for the game.

Two aspects of what the show achieves with them, on the other hand, stand out to me as particularly impressive in this regard. In the first place, the main character – Kuroko – is actually only a supporting character on the group. He’s terrible at basketball. He has literally nothing left to do but pass. He has no chance of winning a one-on-one match against even the worst players on the show, and he has no desire to do so. While this stands in stark contrast to the usual shounen protagonist, whose sole ambition is to be the finest ninja/pirate, fighter, chef, or whatever, it also serves as the foundation for the team’s and the show’s overall concept of how important teamwork is in any endeavor. Despite the fact that it’s a fairly clichéd shounen theme, Kuroko (both as a show and as a character) conveys it in a far more honest manner than other series in the same vein. 

The Generation of Miracles, on the other hand, is a major strength of the show’s characterization. Kuroko’s singular contribution to the show’s core themes is just as important as the Generation of Miracles’ contributions, which bring various new layers of their own to the drama. The fact that they are former teammates, as is immediately clear, intensifies both their rivalry and their kinship, making their confrontations all the more heated. The fact that they are such formidable lone wolves who want their teams to just stay out of their way makes them an excellent contrast to Kuroko’s team-oriented basketball strategy. Although they are adversaries, what is particularly striking about how the show handles them is that, despite the fact that they are opponents, they receive equal attention to Kuroko and Kagami. The characters, despite the fact that they are not on the underdog team that we are supposed to be rooting for, are just as well-developed, and their interactions with one another and Kuroko are just as crucial as the results of the games itself.

Kuroko can be a little sluggish at times. Yes. Is the plot of the narrative very straightforward? Yes. Is the game of basketball itself a farce? Oh, that’s right. Is the quality of the animation always up to par? No. Is the show, taken as a whole, pretty mediocre? Probably. Is it still tremendously entertaining to watch? Yes, without a doubt. In spite of (or perhaps because of) the cheese and shounen-ness of it all, Kuroko’s Basketball is a pretty amusing anime that took me by surprise and ended up being the episode I looked forward to watching each week this summer. Just like Kuroko, it sprang out of nowhere and had no real explanation.