by Lauren Orsini,
Growing up can be scary, and doubly so for a member of the Generation of Miracles. It's alarming enough to watch your body evolve as you perfect your now-monstrous talent for basketball, but worse to see the rest of the world isn't keeping up. On Kuroko's Basketball this week, we saw the coming-of-age for the Generation of Miracles in an especially unsettling light as they grew up, grew apart, and changed in a horrific metaphor for puberty. With gripping tension and chilling evolutions, it's a dark but brilliant turn for the show.
From the very first scene, it's clear that the honeymoon phase is over. Getting a chance to play in the final game of a tournament to compete for the trophy would inspire more players, and prompt a montage of emotions at modern-day Seirin. However, Teiko is over it. “I can't help it, power just wells out,” Murasakibara says at practice. It's worse than being cocky. They're categorically better than everyone else, and there's nobody to prove them wrong.
This hits Aomine especially hard, in a continuation of last week's disillusionment. Overnight, his powers increased so far beyond his peers' that basketball isn't fun anymore. He's waiting so desperately for somebody who can catch up. A storm is literally brewing inside of Aomine, as we see him below cloudy skies while the coach tries to reason with him, and under the pouring rain as he breaks Kuroko's heart with a seemingly innocuous phrase: “I've already forgotten how to receive your passes.” Aomine's left eye twitches with emotion in a shattering bit of attention to detail as Kuroko watches, anguished and speechless.
The Generation of Miracles' talents are shining so brightly that everything else seems drab by comparison, from the suits in their office determining the boys should get special permission to skip practice, to the faces and jerseys of the opponents they crush, to the entire atmosphere around them. Kuroko's Basketball has always glorified the idea of shadow, where Kuroko, whose name references the color black, serves as the “shadow” for his “light,” Aomine and then Kagami. But perhaps Kuroko, who watches the destruction around him and continues to practice his shooting with unwavering concentration, is the last faint light that keeps the Teiko spirit alive.
Like last week, this episode's story is told in increasingly erratic, choppy scenes that each convey a darker mood than the last. If Aomine's impassioned outburst wrenched my emotions, Akashi's moment in the spotlight gave me chills. From the loveless exchange with his father in a darkened dining room, it's clear that he's under a lot of pressure. Akashi dissociates, letting his other self take over while ominous chanting replaces the background music. In one inverted image, he overpowers Murasakibara, his terrifying pupils slitted like a cat's or a demon's. I love the scene shortly afterward where Akashi gives the coach his decision to let the Generation of Miracles do as they please, with his terrible face in shadow, while the coach, who is at least trying his best, becomes illuminated by the light of the window behind him.
“There were two of me to begin with,” Akashi tells Kuroko. “I changed because the team has changed.” Indeed, puberty can be horrifying when you watch your friends transform into people you barely recognize, one by one.
The tragedy of the Teiko Arc truly came to fruition this week on Kuroko's Basketball. Through a series of short, choppy scenes, Kuroko witnessed disappointment, betrayal, dissociation, and loss tear his beloved middle school basketball team apart. The charming ending sequence and end card were far from a sufficient chaser for what we saw during the episode. It's an unexpected mood for a show that ordinarily champions teamwork and determination, but I'd rather have surprising and unsettling than predictable any day.
Kuroko's Basketball is currently streaming on Daisuki.
Lauren writes about anime and journalism at Otaku Journalist.
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