by Lauren Orsini,
“It's always darkest before the dawn” might be Kuroko's Basketball author Tadatoshi Fujimaki's favorite saying. He loves to make the Seirin team suffer as much as possible before awarding them their inevitable win. Episode 69, “A Miracle Will Not Happen,” is as pessimistic as its title implies, making things look bad indeed for our underdog team. The result is a frustrating series of events that could have you down in the dumps yourself.
Much of this episode is devoted to building up the Rakuzan players, the better to bring the Seirin players down. Viewers have already have had it hammered home that Akashi is God's gift to basketball, but believe it or not, the rest of his team isn't so bad either. Mayuzumi takes the spotlight with his ability to do the opposite of that, fading into the shadows as a better, even less noticeable version of Kuroko. In a flashback, Akashi catches Mayuzumi reading a light novel, one of Kuroko's favorite activities, and instantly draws a parallel between them. It's surprising that not only has Mayuzumi heard of the inconspicuous Kuroko, but he's not interested in becoming like him. Kuroko would have done anything to be on the team; not so with Mayuzumi. "I love myself. If I don't feel good, there's no meaning in playing basketball,” he pronounces. During the game in the present, Mayuzumi seems to feel a need to differentiate himself from Kuroko. "See that? I'm of a totally different caliber than you," he thinks in Kuroko's direction. I agree that they're different—you only need to compare Mayuzumi's dead, gray gaze with Kuroko's observant, passionate one.
Things get personal between two other Rakuzan players and the Seirin team too. It turns out that Mibuchi and Hyuuga knew each other in middle school, and not only that, but it seems that the former shooting guard taught the latter how to make a basket. Mibuchi notes that Hyuuga's form now only barely resembles his own, which is both a compliment to Hyuuga and a taunt that he'll never be on Mibuchi's level. Mibuchi's own repertoire of shots is practically spiritual, taking its inspiration from the concepts of heaven, earth, and the void (usually known as hell in the West). Meanwhile, Seirin's center, Kiyoshi, is also experiencing a blast from the past in the form of Rakuzan's Nebuya. Also one of the Uncrowned Kings, Nebuya is extremely muscular, and it's revealed that he was inspired to build up his body after losing to Kiyoshi in middle school. Both Hyuuga and Kiyoshi have their hands full trying to face their former friends, at the rest of the team's expense.
With Kuroko too noticeable to play, Riko is resigned to putting in one frightened freshman after another to face off against Akashi. Furihata, shaking with fear, is described as a “chihuahua standing in front of a lion.” The freshmen are hopelessly ineffective and easily exhausted by the pressure Akashi puts on them, but Riko doesn't seem to know what else to do. We see her at her most vulnerable ever, tearful even, as the members of the Seirin team are incapacitated one by one. “Kagami and Kuroko are powerful rookies, but they didn't win all the way up here with just them,” Touou's Imayoshi notes from the sidelines. We barely see Kagami this episode, and Kuroko's on the bench, while ominous chanting music grows in intensity as Akashi looms over Seirin.
This is the final match of the entire Kuroko's Basketball story, and while it is bound to end happily, it's just hard to imagine how after watching this frankly depressing one-sided match.
Kuroko's Basketball is currently streaming on Daisuki.
Lauren writes about anime and journalism at Otaku Journalist.
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