There’s something you should know about me before I start this article: I’m not a big fan of playing sports. I join in if it’s what everyone’s doing, but I don’t actively seek sports to play. I’m even less interested in watching sports. And most of all, I really dislike watching sports movies, where the underdogs learn something about themselves, beat the odds and win against that team of bullies.
So why, with that background, am I about to tell you to watch Kuroko no Basuke, a show about basketball, a show that will make you watch an underdog high school basketball team learning about themselves and beating the odds to win against a series of bullies? Because it’s genuinely very good.
The background, then. Seirin High Basketball Club is entering its second year and wants to compete in national level high school tournaments. Unfortunately for them, this is the year that “the Generation of Miracles”, a group of 5 insanely good middle school players, all join the high school teams. Luckily, though, there is a “Phantom Sixth Man” who played in the same team as all those prodigies, and is joining Seirin, named Kuroko. He doesn’t like the superior attitudes of his ex-teammates, and is out to prove that their way of playing basketball is wrong. Hence the clunky English translation of the title, “The Basketball that Kuroko Plays”.
And now, why do I love the show so much? Well, a few reasons. First, the characters are both fun and funny – in particular the relationship between Kuroko and his polar opposite teammate, the tall and aggressive Kagami. Second, despite my limited knowledge of basketball, the tactics are clever. Teams and individual players have superhero-like skills, all with names like “Eagle Eye” and “The Right of Postponement” – my favorite being a villain who can score three-pointers from anywhere on the court. With such ridiculous skills on the field, it’s how they deal with these odds that’s both clever and entertaining.
And that leads to the main reason I like the show – it’s a master of suspense. Through stand offs between rivals, sinister plot twists and music build ups, the show has a great way of ramping up the tension and then revealing a game changer that’s really gratifying to watch. And it’ll leave you at smart mid-game cliff hangers that hook you into watching the next one.
This show is also a great example of an anime convention I call the “conversation time slow”. Perhaps this came about because anime come from manga, and manga, like all good comic books, need a mix of speech and action to keep an audience interested. If it was only silent fight scenes, you’d probably get bored. The result is that some mid-combat (or in this case mid-game) scenes, 30 seconds of dialogue takes place in 3 seconds of action. At first, I found this suspension of disbelief to be frustrating and unrealistic. Now, I’ve grown to love it as a hallmark of the whole genre.
So perhaps, like the show itself, I’ll leave you with a cliffhanger to try and spike your interest. Kuroko is short and thin. He’s quiet, unimposing, has no stamina, and is incapable of making it through an entire game on the court. And yet he is the star of the team and can turn Seirin’s fortunes around. What to know how? You’ll have to watch the show to find out.