Kuroko's Basketball
Episode 21

by Lauren Orsini,

As you are probably already aware, Kuroko's Basketball is an anime adaptation of a manga of the same name. Most of the time, the transition from paper to screen creates a complete half hour story arc, but then there are episodes like this one, which pick up odds and ends in a series of haphazardly connected vignettes. I have previously praised this construction during the Teiko Arc, where it conveys a mood as erratic as the scenes it cuts between. Today, however, the subject is simple: let's give all the lesser-seen side characters their moment in the sun before the curtain falls. The focus is on punny Izuki and happy-go-lucky Koganei for a lighter than usual episode that feels like a respite between acts of a play.

Like most long-running shounen anime, Kuroko's Basketball has acquired an enormous cast of characters. Every time somebody from Aomine's team or Kise's team or Murasakibara's team comments on the Rakuzan game from the sidelines, I have to look up their name in the wiki. In a show where supernatural basketball ability is the prime currency, it's easier for me to engrave the Generation of Miracles members and Kagami into my memory than anyone else in the show. Still, basketball isn't one on one, it's five on five. While Kagami goes into beast mode, Akashi calculates, and Kuroko acts as the soul of the show, there are seven other players on the court who aren't just standing there. Izuki's Eagle Eye (and Koganei's questionable Wild) aren't the flashiest powers, but this episode shows us that it's not just Kagami and Kuroko who can stand up to Rakuzan.

Izuki knows how to set the mood of the show. His Eagle Eye ability, which surveys the entire court, gives the viewer a bird's eye view of the action and emphasizes the intensity of the game. Meanwhile, his puns do the opposite. One of the episode's funniest moments comes when one of Izuki's usually unwelcome puns makes Hayama laugh in the middle of a one-on-one. Hayama himself is the closest Rakuzan has to a jester, so it makes sense that these two characters would face one another, personality-wise. Mibuchi vs. Koganei forms the Odd Couple by comparison. Pretty Mibuchi sees Koganei as below his notice, and yet his Heaven, Earth, and Void shots don't seem to faze him. But before the mood can get too tense, Koganei's sister goes into a flashback of her little brother's earlier decision to start playing basketball. Once again, even in the middle of a battle, there are lots of jokes.

While we're focusing on side characters, nothing overly serious is going to happen. Indeed, the score stayed relatively steady during this entire episode. As interesting—and often silly—as Izuki and Koganei's antics can be, the episode gives us every indication that nothing these side characters do is going to heavily impact the game. Instead, we are given slight glimpses of what's to come. Kagami especially is shown evolving this episode through elemental references: a ring of fire, a vast ocean, lightning sparks in his eyes. Kuroko, who has seriously gotten his groove back as he covers a beaten Mayuzumi, has sweat droplets falling in place of tears. Akashi seriously means business now, still retaining the ability to terrify and subdue Hayama and Mibuchi, who were otherwise very lighthearted this episode.

Today's action was interesting and well executed as always, but the focus on side characters and the feeling that we're receiving a hodgepodge of throwaway manga panels kept the stakes too low to be meaningful. I am far more excited for what's to come: the inevitable showdown between Akashi, Kagami, and Kuroko.

Rating: B-

Kuroko's Basketball is currently streaming on Daisuki.

Lauren writes about anime and journalism at Otaku Journalist.

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