Kuroko no Basuke – 02

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I can’t be the only one who’s noticed that Aida-chan has an obsession with getting her players to strip.

Shounen Jump manga are notoriously slow starters, and sports series certainly aren’t exempt from this trend. That can make them somewhat hard to figure out in the early stages, and I’m still at that stage with Kuroko no Basuke. Some things are pretty clear – the series is going to be well animated by I.G.. There’s a very solid knowledge of the game of basketball grounding the show – sure it’s SJ, but this isn’t a total disconnect from reality when it comes to players and their talent. But if I were to pick one word that sums up the impression I get from KnB after two episodes, it would be “quirky” – just like its main character.

I see evidence of this in lots of ways. Unlike most sports shounen, I find myself at a loss to predict what a character will say most of the time, or where the narrative will go next. There’s a somewhat kinky overtone to Aida, too, and her odd methods remind me just a bit of the stuff we saw in Oofuri. Then there’s Kuroko himself, who’s as hard to read as a character as he is as a player. It’s interesting and odd to build a series around someone so emotionless and flat – as he himself said he has “no sense of humor”, though he’s certainly capable of being unintentionally funny. In effect, this leaves Kagami – by contrast a much more conventional shounen character and an emotionally transparent kid by comparison – to do most of the heavy lifting in the first two eps. It’ll be interesting to see if this continues, because you’d think sooner or later the mangaka has to let us inside Kuroko’s head a little more – but in doing so, he risks destroying the characters mystique. We get bits and pieces here – Kuroko’s motivation for not following one of his fellow “Generation of Miracles” teammates to high school is that he never felt that they played as a team – but he’s still mostly a sphinx. Intriguing, but remote. But it’s still very early.

There are plenty of new faces this week, and old ones who get a little fleshing out. There’s Aida’s Dad (the always excellent Shinichiro Miki) The three other first-years get their introductions – quite literally, as Aida makes them declare their goals on the rooftop of the school, under the threat of having to strip naked and confess if they don’t meet them (kinky Aida-chan). Kawahara Kouichi (Yoshimoto Yasuhiro) delivers the ep’s biggest laugh when his goal turns into a soliloquy about his childhood, hopes, dreams and basketball. Hiroshi Fukuda (Sasaki Hiroo) shows he’s a good-hearted but gullible soul who just wanted to help. Furihata Kouki (Mizutani Naoki) really just wants a girlfriend, but that’s not good enough for Aida – so he says he’ll be the best at something because that’s what the girl he likes said it would take for her to date him (I’d keep shopping, Kouki). Of course Kagami’s goal is predictable enough – to beat the GoM and be the best in Japan.

Unfortunately Kouichi-kun’s long-windedness deprives us of what would have been the really interesting goal to hear, Kuroko’s, as the kids are booted from the roof for raising a ruckus (he does write “We will be the best in Japan” in the dirt, but I’d like to think he’d have used that bullhorn for something more personal). What introspection we do get comes from the first GoM player we meet, Kise Ryota (the suddenly very busy Kimura Ryohei) the star freshman of the Kaijou High team that Aida has signed up for a practice game with (and a model, too). He’s the self-professed “weakest of the Generation of Miracles” but still plenty good enough to make Kagami look silly – and while he claims to have been best buds with “Kurokochi”, our blue-haired android doesn’t remember it that way. He takes Kagami’s relative ineptitude as the signal that Kuroko is wasting his time and invites #15 to join him at Kaijou – but Kuroko refuses.

So our themes are in place – Kuroko wants to build a team, and not just a collection of stars (it’s the Bulls’ way over the Heat’s way). I suspect the other GoM members will show up in turn, each talented and arrogant enough to provide hurdles for Kuroko and his teammates to overcome (after failing a few times). It’s a good setup – but my favorite part of the series so far (along with the excellent soundtrack) is how it’s just a little off-center and weird in everything it does. Where I still don’t make the connection is on the emotional side, especially with Kuroko – I really want to hear Ono Kensho remind us of why he was arguably the best male seiyuu of 2007 with his work in Ghost Hound.

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  1. b

    Ooh, first match already even if it's practice match. I liked it when Kise imitated Kagami's move and there was a shadow of Kagami following him. Real nice. There was some QUALITY at some parts in this episode though, most notably the faces of the people in the background but overall it's animated nicely.
    Can't wait for the actual match.

    The lack of comments in this entry leaves me in despair D:

  2. S

    You really dived deep into the substance there. Great read!
    I especially liked your example of the Bulls' teamwork vs the Heat's raw talent for what the encounters with the miracle boys might look like.

    Interesting show indeed. However I'm not sure at this point if I will watch it to the end. It will likely depend on how our team here will develop their style of play.
    I'm eager to see how our boy Kuroko will be implemented in the team. If he doesn't develop some basic skills I can't see him as a starter.
    While his low presence gives him the ability to create unpredictable ball movement -as was shown in the first episode- I don't see much else potential in that other than becoming a steal'n'assist machine á la Chris Paul.
    To be honest I think his lack of presence makes him into a liability on the defensive end. It's all about presence there. You have to get your opponent to take a shot he's not comfortable with.
    Maybe Kuroko will be fouling all day long without the referees noticing?

    But it's clear that I'm having loads of fun with Kuroko no Basuke. I just hope with all the raw talent and rare abilities they won't forget about how crucial a good defense is.

  3. A

    the manager definitely has that kind of obsession lol
    This episode is good but not as good as the first episode
    Next ep is going to be great i hope, match here we come

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