by Lauren Orsini,
Despite the incredible moves that make the protagonists of Kuroko's Basketball so striking, basketball is not a one-on-one sport. For the past three episodes, the anime has focused on Midorima and Akashi as they kindle their former friendship into a supercharged rivalry. In this episode, at least for the first half, the show directs our gaze to other relationships. By taking a wide gaze to the players' lives, the events of the game are imbued with deeper meaning.
We've been aware of Midorima and Takao's friendship, in which Takao seemingly is the one who's always making the effort to get Midorima's attention, not the other way around. Remember when the pair was introduced around the tenth episode, with Takao chauffeuring Midorima around in a bicycle-drawn cart? It's always been clear who holds the power here, but at long last a flashback reveals why. In a reverse of Midorima and Akashi's relationship, which has gone from teammates to rivals, Midorima and Takao are former rivals, and now best friends. It's a testament to the influence of basketball in these characters' lives that it holds sway over their interpersonal relationships, too.
This episode's highlight on Takao is a continuation of last episode's subplot, focusing on how hard the rest of the Shutoku team has worked. Nobody's as good as Midorima—and this matters not only as public opinion, but from Midorima's perspective. It makes sense that if you have the ability to land a three-pointer from anywhere on the court, you're bound to get an inflated sense of self-importance. But it seems like it's slowly dawning on Midorima just how integral his teammates are to success, especially against a tough opponent like Akashi, who Midorima now realizes he is no match for one-on-one. Midorima has always been able to trust his horoscopes and the stars, but trusting his teammates has been beyond him. If he could do that, he might unlock even more potential than he's already shown.
Just not under Akashi's watch. Akashi's presence can change the game—and the mood of the entire episode—in an instant. He does and says some truly shocking things in order to pull all eyes toward him. He's a drama queen, and his reign of terror is illustrated with flashes of red on the screen, stark manga panels, and truly creepy expressions. At the same time, although Akashi is certainly the shortest player taking part in the game, the camera never looks down on him, only level or looking up at his face from below. Akashi's unbelievable abilities and imperious personality make him larger than life.
Since the introduction of his ability last episode—to literally see and alter the future—it hasn't been a question of “who will win?” but “when and how will Akashi dominate?” Foreshadowing and Akashi's own stark dialogue keep the tension high, promising that even when the game ends, the crazy will not.
Kuroko's Basketball is currently streaming on Daisuki.
Lauren writes about anime and journalism at Otaku Journalist.
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