OK, full Shounen Jump goggles are definitely on with Kuroko no Basuke. The Generation of Miracles is aptly named if one of their members never misses a shot – and the laws of shounen being what they are, he’s likely to be only the 4th-best player of the bunch. Even in the highly fanciful world of SJ sports, that’s pretty heady stuff. With his rain-conjuring moonballs and good-luck teddy bears, Midorima-kun is one of the more agreeably weird characters in the cast.
First, of course, there’s the matter of Otou-san and his teammates at Shinkyo – who I didn’t think much of, frankly, until I saw what Seirin did to their next three opponents. Otou-san turned out to be a pretty easy mark in the end, since Kagami is apparently incapable of fatigue – as the game wore on he kept jumping higher and higher, while Otou-san was the Dad who fell to Earth. I guess the cape in the ED last week was just for show, and Dad’s feet were made of clay in the end. But they only lost by 12, and that with Kuroko on the bench for much of the second half.
The next three rounds progressed pretty quickly, and I confess I was quite surprised to see Seirin destroying their opponents so handily – all the while preserving Kuroko and in some cases not playing him at all. If I’m allowed to nit-pick, I don’t think the anime did an especially good job (I don’t know how it was in the manga) of showing us the abilities of the second-years apart from Hyuuga, because I don’t think we’d seen anything from those guys to think they could destroy opponents who’d already won tournament games by the margins we saw here. Kagami is obviously a stud, but why is Seirin suddenly so dominant that they can blow out quality opponents with Kuroko never leaving the bench?
Speaking of Kuroko, one area I hope the series goes to is his development as a player. We’ve already seen his ghost—like ability and passing sense, and the impact it has on games. What I’d like to see is some focus on Kuroko’s mental abilities – his knowledge of the game – as well as his struggles. Why is fitness level such that he needs so much rest? Will he ever actually make a shot (he’s the anti-Midorima, I guess)? His talent for the game is a little too much mysticism and not enough reality to be really interesting at the moment. As to the guy himself, we continue to get little glimpses into his head – I love seeing him “angry” at his old teammates, and “fired-up” at the prospect of playing strong opponents. I wouldn’t say these are cracks in his façade, exactly – more like a peek between the blinds covering a window.
The shape of things to come is pretty clear, with the “Three Kings” – the dominant schools that rule Tokyo high-school hoops – providing the obstacle Seirin must overcome to be a serious basketball school. Shinsenkan (King of the West), Seihou (King of the North – don’t tell Robb Stark) and Shuutoku (King of the East) have ruled Tokyo unchallenged for ten years – and it’s Shuutoku that enters the spotlight first, as that’s Midorima’s team (since there’s no mention, I assume there are no GoM players at the other two) and a potential finals opponent. Seihou waits in the semis but the rules dictate that’s a game Seirin should win, because Shuutoku is the boogeyman of this arc – and Midorima the heavy. Given the fact that the semis and finals are (oddly) scheduled on the same day and Kuroko’s conditioning, I expect high drama with an exhausting struggle against Seihou, leaving Kuroko exhausted for the finals.