by Lauren Orsini,
Welcome back to the final game in the final arc of Kuroko's Basketball, where things just keep getting more intense. Though many spring anime shows are ending now, we've fortunately got quite a bit more Kuroko to go, and we're going to need it. This final game is packed with more twists and turns than all the previous games combined, and I hope you're as excited as I am to see how many episodes we can fit into covering its fourth quarter.
Episode 74 is titled “So It Was You,” and this episode took us through a visual journey conveying the many possibilities of who this “you” might refer to. As the episode progresses, “you” could be a lot of people.
It could be Akashi, who begins the episode by asking, “Who am I?” to the other half of his split personality. I'm sure I'm not the only one who likes this reborn Akashi a lot better. Kuroko's Basketball has a history of reforming its antagonists, but nowhere is that more overt than with Akashi, who literally sheds a twisted personality in order to reveal his true form beneath it. This Akashi treats his teammates with respect and even praise when they deserve it. This Akashi is ten times better with his positive outlook, and he's bringing his teammates up with him too. This is the first time I've been really nervous about the outcome of the game, since the entire lesson of Kuroko's Basketball is that teamwork is the best. Akashi is so devoted to teamwork now that he lifts his entire team into the Zone! “It's been a while, Kuroko,” Akashi says, meaning that it's been since middle school.
On the other hand, it could be Kagami. Kagami is reaching his physical limit and things are looking bad. It's a fantastic metaphor when Kagami sees the court as foggy and dim, with only the basketball illuminated. He's perceiving everything in near darkness as his strength starts to give out. If only he could open that door to the Zone below the Zone, right? When Seirin's ace is down for the count, so is everyone else. It's yet more of Fujimaki's usual sadism toward his golden team, making things awful for them before they get better.
Then again, it could be Ogiwara—Kuroko's childhood friend who suffered an emotional beating at the hands of Teiko back in middle school. We're led to believe Kuroko and Ogiwara haven't even talked since that fateful day, and now Ogiwara appears out of nowhere, cheering on his friend. Something about Ogiwara's voice echoing through the inexplicably silent arena sparks the rest of the audience's interest, too. We saw during the Kaijo game that the audience's cheers can have an extremely powerful effect on the mental states of the players. Now that the audience is cheering for Seirin and booing Rakuzan, it's going to put the momentum in Seirin's favor. Whether Akashi wants to admit it or not, the audience now perceives him as a villain. It was surprising to see even the Generation of Miracles cheer for Seirin to beat Akashi, given that Akashi is their former teammate and captain, but everyone loves an underdog.
In the end, the title wasn't referring to any of these people. It was referring to Kuroko. Kuroko is an enormous presence in the psyches of the ace basketball players around him, even playing the role of a mental gatekeeper who welcomes them into the true Zone. The true Zone is teamwork, as Aomine realizes, laughing with tears running down his cheeks. Aided by his team, Kagami is depicted in a Tron-like environment, with neon lasers and flames and outer-space nebulae shifting around him as he synchronizes perfectly with his team. The episode took some serious creative liberties with backdrops to visualize the otherworldliness of the characters' growth and staggering ability, and it's beautiful to look at.
As far as we've come, this game is not over yet. Everyone seems to have reached their full potential, and the score is still tied. Now, it's time to see if this game's ending will be as satisfying as its fourth-quarter buildup. Kuroko's Basketball has always been well-animated, but this episode in particular has put that strength to expert use.
Kuroko's Basketball is currently streaming on Daisuki.
Lauren writes about anime and journalism at Otaku Journalist.
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