Kuroko's Basketball
Episode 9

by Lauren Orsini,

In Kuroko's Basketball, players are athletes second and teammates first. Their astounding skills are impressive, but always executed in support of the team. (Almost always. I'm looking at you, Aomine.) Therefore, when things don't work out, the show's most talented players feel doubly pressured, by both their own expectations and those of the team.

In this episode, both Kise and Kuroko experienced setbacks. The plot centered not on their feelings personally, but on how these unexpected events made their key teammates feel. With so many different players in Kuroko's Basketball, I often find my attention and emotional capacity stretching thin. I can't keep track of everyone, but thanks to the way this episode humanized Kaijo's captain, Kasamatsu, I'll have to add another one to the list.

First, there's the matter of Kuroko's Phantom Shot. Kuroko has only recently become a competent shooter in the story. Before he figured out how to make a basket, he was entirely a support player, using his misdirection to transfer the ball to those who could shoot. The constraints of the plot make his magician-like basketball only able to fool teams through a temporary illusion, but now the secret is out entirely with Kaijo. Of course it's Kasamatsu that figures out the trick—he's the most important character of this entire episode, with starring roles in both Kuroko's and Kise's dramas.

Everyone on the Seirin team has something to say about how inadequate this must make Kuroko feel. Only Kagami has something helpful to say, which makes Kuroko light up and calm down immediately: “Leave it to me.” I thought it was a suspenseful bit of storytelling that the episode first showed us only Kuroko's instant reaction to something Kagami said inaudibly, before revealing his actual words a few minutes later. Kuroko may feel like he's let down the team, but Kagami's words mean Kuroko's setback won't lose the game. Kagami's forceful resolve afterward is symbolic of the pressure he's transferred onto his own shoulders, allowing Kuroko to relax.

Meanwhile, the Kaijo team has its own problems. After losing to him in a practice match, Kise desperately wants to beat Kagami, but his foot injury is acting up. In Kise's willful and nearly uncooperative outburst here, we see his pain at feeling capable to do something for his team and not being able to deliver. Kasamatsu gives him a stern talking-to, and we go right to a flashback of Kise being an arrogant jerk and his senpai putting him in his place. During the high pressure atmosphere of the game, the flashback serves to deliver Kuroko's Basketball's typical mix of comedy and drama. Kise's delivery of some sick burns and Kasamatsu's resulting beatdown lighten the mood a bit. This is why Kise listens to Kasamatsu now, despite every bone in his body telling him to do the opposite.

On each team, there's usually about one player we care about with four others in their orbit due to the simple fact that basketball is a team sport. This episode's portrayal of Kasamatsu, both as Seirin's competent opponent and as Kise's compassionate senpai, made me care about just one more. Then again, this game will be over in an episode or two, and then it's on to the Sisyphean task of making the audience care about yet another opponent.

Rating: B+

Kuroko's Basketball is currently streaming on Daisuki.

Lauren writes about anime and journalism at Otaku Journalist.

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