by Lauren Orsini,
With his petrifying cat-eyed stare and otherworldly basketball talents, Akashi Seijuro continues to be the most compelling antagonist in Kuroko's Basketball to date. As befitting a player nicknamed the Emperor, both the game and the episode bowed to his will for an unsettling, exciting half-hour.
Of course, it isn't unusual for a Generation of Miracles antagonist to be portrayed as a terrifying genius. So what is it about this episode that makes him so much more intimidating than anyone who has come before? Is it his egotistic confidence, or his deceptively modest build and height? These help, but what makes Akashi seem more like a boss than a mid-boss is our knowledge that he was once captain of the Generation of Miracles, or as Akashi puts it, made the Generation of Miracles “subservient” to him. He's somebody who can make wild Aomine and moody Murasakibara bow down. All of the toughest players we've seen so far were once his inferiors.
Akashi's status as alpha dog was shown repeatedly this episode. He's got some kind of Napoleon complex where he doesn't let people look down on him, as we see when he forces Kagami to the floor—and not by brute force either. “I don't allow anyone acting against me to look down on me,” Akashi says. “Lower your head.” This is the second time that Akashi has dominated Kagami. Remember when he came at him with a pair of scissors? (In any other show, Akashi would eventually be revealed as a murderer.)
Indeed, players can't seem to keep their footing around the Emperor, falling to the ground in droves without Akashi so much as touching them. It could be the power of persuasion. Akashi's invulnerability is a significant enough game-changer to alter the mood of the entire episode. His speeches, and even when he is silently forcing others to submit to his will, are aided by ominous Latin chanting in the background. Striking black-on-red silhouettes sear his most shocking moves into the viewer's mind. Kuroko's Basketball is usually a lighthearted show, but the music and cinematography alterations prove that Akashi's presence changes everything.
Akashi may have stolen the show, but the arc of this episode was really intended to be about perseverance, and not giving up even when faced with the Emperor. Midorima is a first-year with preternatural abilities, but even he has to respect his upperclassmen who got to where they are not by innate genius but constant, backbreaking practice. It's something Midorima, who trusts only his luck, has never understood before facing Akashi and his team.
As usual, Kuroko serves as the moral center of the show. If something is coming out of Kuroko's mouth, it's safe to take it as divine truth. Akashi seems unbreakable, but if Kuroko says the game's not over, it's not. Logically, I know that Seirin will face Akashi eventually so it'd make sense for the plot for him to win here, but I suspect it isn't yet decided for sure. This episode went all-out, both visually and audibly, to portray a very unique opponent, but the tension remains as taut as ever.
Kuroko's Basketball is currently streaming on Daisuki.
Lauren writes about anime and journalism at Otaku Journalist.
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