Sunday, February 14, 2021

REVIEW: Kuroko's Basketball, Season 1 (anime TV series)

Kuroko's Basketball is a sports anime. I watched it on Netflix.


Every young basketball player knows about them: the Generation of Miracles. They were five basketball prodigies on the same middle school team. However, although they got the most attention and glory, there was a quiet sixth member of their team who they all respected and acknowledged: Tetsuya Kuroko.

Kuroko is now in high school, and his new team is initially excited to have him. If he was on that team, he must be good, right? Except that he seems to be pretty terrible. His athletic ability is average at best, and he can't score. He has almost no presence, to the point where people often don't even realize he's there...and that turns out to be his secret weapon. He's a shadow - he helps the team as a whole, particularly its strongest player, score by slipping in unnoticed and passing the ball at crucial moments. In this new team, the light to Kuroko's shadow is Kagami, a talented player who spent his middle school years in the US.

In this first season, Kuroko and his new team face off against three different members of the Generation of Miracles: Kise (a handsome player who learns quickly and can copy any technique he sees as long as he's physically capable of it), Midorima (a stern player whose life is ruled by horoscopes and who believes that perfect shots are everything), and Aomine (the ace of the Generation of Miracles, a player whose style is quick, instinctive, and agile). The final episodes of the season pit Kise against Aomine.

I'm pretty sure I read some of the manga this was based on, but I think it was only a few chapters, not even a full volume, because almost nothing that happened in this first season was familiar to me.

I had a lot of fun with this anime, even though I didn't for a moment believe that the Generation of Miracles characters were the ages they were supposed to be, particularly in the middle school flashbacks. At one point it was mentioned that Kise wouldn't be able to copy NBA players because their physical level was beyond his, but the way the games were presented, it was difficult to believe that there was anyone the Generation of Miracles players couldn't beat, NBA players included.

I love series in which seemingly weak characters actually turn out to be really powerful when they find the one thing they're really good at and figure out how to make use of it. Kuroko was one of those characters - useless on his own, but brilliant at passing to players who had a better chance of scoring than he did (which was pretty much everyone - I don't think he ever managed to score, even during practice). Even better, he was the kind of character who preferred to assist others from the shadows - another one of my favorite character types. He wasn't depicted as the brilliant strategist sort (see Log Horizon's Shiroe), but he could definitely think on his feet and figure out the best way for his very specific skillset to benefit his team.

Some sports series take you through the rules of the game and spend a large amount of time on the team's first practice game before moving on to games with higher stakes. Kuroko's Basketball jumped right into a practice game and then immediately moved on to the Interhigh preliminaries (or whatever it was called - I didn't keep track) before slowing down a bit and spending some time on a training retreat episode or two. I have zero interest in real-life sports, but even I know the basics of basketball, so the lack of introductory info wasn't a problem. I enjoyed the series' energy, even as I shook my head a bit at aspects of the setup. In addition to the Generation of Miracles guys not being at all believable as high schoolers, I had to laugh when I realized that this show barely had any adults. Most of the teams had adults as coaches, but not Kuroko's new team - they had a high school student whose father was a basketball coach (somehow this gave her the magical ability to see and quantify a person's physical skills just by looking at their body).

So far, one of the series' appeals is finding out what each of the Generation of Miracles players' quirks and particular skills are. Of course, they're all ridiculously good, and there's still a couple more players I haven't gotten to see in action much: Murasakibara (who surely must have abilities beyond "being very tall") and Akashi (who I gather was the Generation of Miracles' brilliant strategist, possibly the male version of Satsuki Momoi). After that, it'll be interesting to see whether the series can keep my interest.

Of course, that's assuming I ever get to see more of this series. Netflix only has the first season so far, and I checked, Right Stuf doesn't have any of the seasons available for purchase. I suppose I could watch more seasons on Crunchyroll, but it's more likely that I'll wait for Netflix to pick up more or for there to be a DVD/Blu-ray release. And yeah, I'd be willing to buy. I don't think this will be a favorite, but it's a lot of fun, and there's nothing about it that irks me (I'm thinking of Haikyu!! and the way it initially turned me off with its antagonistic pair of main characters - Kagami is dismissive of Kuroko at first but learns his value quickly, and Kuroko isn't the sort to pout or whine about anything).

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