Kuroko's Basketball
Episodes 1-2

by Lauren Orsini,

A guy who can shoot three-pointers from the opposite net with 100% accuracy. A guy who can jump higher than you even could on a trampoline. A guy who can make the basketball disappear and then reappear in a different spot. These are characters that can—and have—appeared in the last two seasons of Kuroko's Basketball.

If you're interested in getting into Kuroko's Basketball, your major question might be, “Is it comparable to Slam Dunk?” After all, both manga-turned-anime feature basketball players and are extremely popular in Japan—Slam Dunk has sold more than 120 million copies since 1990, while Kuroko is catching up with 27 million copies since 2008.

However, basketball and popularity are where their similarities end. Slam Dunk was focused on realistic basketball, while Kuroko is clearly not. It may be likely that Slam Dunk is what allowed Kuroko to become popular and introduce a new generation of manga and anime fans to basketball now that the Slam Dunk animation is showing its age. Kuroko's Basketball is a beautiful show, but real basketball it is not.

Now, season three is primed to double down on the series' already astounding transgressions of the laws of physics. The first episode began with a recap that didn't feel at all stale, highlighting the most ridiculous moves of the previous seasons. At this point, Kuroko and his teammates at Seirin High have faced off against every other member of the Generation of Miracles, a group of basketball prodigies with unnatural abilities.

You might notice that apart from differences in expression, hair and height, Kuroko characters have generally the same build. This seems to serve as a shortcut for animators to deliver consistently fluid movement for a variety of characters. The movements look real, even when the moves aren't. Even when you're certain nobody could jump this high or dribble this quickly, the clean animation can trick your eye.

Take our villain for the past two episodes: Haizaki. Originally teammates with the Generation of Miracles, he has the ability to steal other players' moves by slightly altering their rhythm. From tipoff to halftime, Haizaki's copycat moves are expertly rendered to illustrate his off-kilter movement. It's obviously not something you'd ever see in a real basketball game, but it is a fascinating piece of attention to detail. Haizaki's moves would be impressive if it weren't for his terrible personality, which might possibly be inspired by the NBA's Latrell Sprewell. After all, he's just as fond of chokeholds.

I can see why jumping into season three might be tough if you haven't seen the first two. Kuroko, the show's very namesake, appears as a mere spectator to the drama auxiliary characters are dealing with, which could be confusing. Fortunately, we're starting with a brand new game in the ongoing Winter Cup, and watching the “good guys” play will give you as good a feel for their standard shounen personality types as either of the previous two seasons could. Kuroko protagonists all share a love of basketball, but beyond that they're pretty typical archetypes that any sports anime fan will quickly recognize.

However, the team dynamics go far deeper than a game or two can convey, (speaking to the excellence of the show's characterization during these past 50 episodes.) Kuroko's Basketball is bound to shock and offend serious basketball players (and some physicists). Still, its character relationships, on and off the court, are what make for some rewarding comedy and drama. Usually that's what keeps the show afloat, but not so far with the Haizaki arc.

Season three is off to a violent beginning as the players battle Haizaki in basketball and in life. From flashbacks that indicate his unpleasantness (the guy steals people's food even when he isn't hungry) to a hostile encounter before the game that starts in episode two, Haizaki's bad attitude is the focus of the season so far. It's a new level for Kuroko's Basketball, which has always been careful to indicate the endearing qualities of previous adversaries. Haizaki is the first to be a wholly bad apple, and this makes him less complex and more caricature than any other character in the show. There is potential for other characters to grow when faced with this unapologetically evil force, but it hasn't happened yet.

Review: C

Kuroko's Basketball is currently streaming on Daisuki.

Lauren writes about anime and journalism at Otaku Journalist.


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