by Lauren Orsini,
Kuroko's Basketball is a textbook sports show, but boy does it ever have emotional range. The two latest episodes, “A Day With Blue Skies” and “...Sorry” exercise the extent of the story's moods and tones, starting with an uplifting arc about Kuroko's potential, followed by a half hour of dark vignettes that indicate trouble brewing at Teiko.
Now at the midway point of season three, we witness an extended flashback from the Generation of Miracles' middle school days. Theoretically, Kuroko is relaying the tale to the Seirin basketball team seated around Kagami's living room in the present, but not everything takes place from Kuroko's point of view. Framed by the cherry blossoms of a new school year, “A Day With Blue Skies” is full of promise—new starts, developing friendships, and the overwhelming promise of Kuroko's determination and eventual skill.
It's charming how this episode depicts facts about characters we've previously only heard about secondhand. Akashi and Midorima become fast friends, providing further evidence of the long friendship behind their pre-showdown Shogi game. Kuroko does indeed fall down and get a nosebleed in the middle of his first game, just like he told Furihata in episode 8. When the coach is getting ready to drop Kuroko, Aomine defends him, saying “he's going to be our savior someday,” and we as the audience know that to be true. Watching the past from a present point-of-view is satisfying because it lends consistency and honesty to all the little details characters have dropped up until this point.
However, Kuroko's success story is almost too typical. You could find it in any sports movie. He practices harder than anyone else, but is still in danger of getting cut from the team when suddenly, Akashi notices something in him that nobody else does, not even Kuroko himself. Kuroko picks up a book on magic tricks (seriously), finds his trademark misdirection, and here we are. Still, it was a nice touch to show the same sequence of basketball passes from two views: one with Kuroko slightly out of frame, and another with him front and center. For viewers who haven't been watching since the beginning, and even those who have, it's a great depiction of what makes Kuroko's talent special. As a complement to this straight-and-narrow plot, there's far more humor than usual—Kuroko is refreshingly deadpan as we have learned to expect from him in the present.
The mood changes entirely in “...Sorry,” which brings Kise onto the scene and tells the story of the Generation of Miracles in an increasingly fragmented series of scenes that depict rifts in the group's friendships, Aomine's basketball crisis, and Akashi's rise to absolute power. It was apparent in the previous episode that when Akashi maintains a neutral expression, he and Kuroko could be twins with different hair and eye coloration. But in one of this episode's earliest scenes, with an eerie blue glow over his confident demeanor, Akashi could never be mistaken for the harmless, presence-lacking Kuroko. “At times,” Midorima thinks of Akashi later, “His eyes are so cold he looks like someone else.”
There are other warning signs in this episode, which becomes more fractured as it continues until cuts between scenes barely piece together a coherent timeline. From Akashi's increasingly despotic control over the team, to Aomine's downward spiral from promising ace to disillusioned burnout, to Kuroko's inability to keep a promise to his childhood friend, to Midorima and Murasakibara's mutual dislike, to Aomine and Kise's mutual dislike—even a silly scene of them scuffling while Kuroko vomits sparkles isn't enough to bring it back from the brink. It's painful to watch, but predictable. If everything had turned out sunshine and rainbows, we wouldn't have the plot of Kuroko's Basketball in the first place.
This flashback started out full of promise, with Kuroko making a childhood pledge to a friend to play basketball, and a group of talented middle schoolers creating the ultimate team through friendship and determination. But by the second episode, it's all fallen apart. For a show that often gets stuck in an episode-long rut of anxiety or anger, it's an extremely welcome depiction of the series' range. Fans have raved about the Teiko flashback arc of the manga, and the anime is shaping out to be just as much as an emotional rollercoaster as its predecessor.
Kuroko's Basketball is currently streaming on Daisuki.
Lauren writes about anime and journalism at Otaku Journalist.
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