Manga of the Month: Kuroko’s Basketball

Kuroko’s Basketball (黒子のバスケ) by Tadatoshi Fujimaki

narutaki_icon_4040_round Kuroko’s vision of basketball is pretty simple: create ultimate teamwork to defeat teams reliant on star players. Kuroko experienced the later during his middle school years as he played the mysterious 6th man on his team nicknamed The Generation of Miracles. Kuroko observed the crumbling of his former team before each of them moved on to rival high schools.

Now Kuroko has joined Seirin’s still fledgling basketball club with some talented 2nd years and a unique coach. There he meets the returned from America Taiga whose potential is palpable spurning Kuroko to make him a bold promise to “make you the best in Japan.” They vow to confront the Generation of Miracles as they make their way to nationals.

Tadatoshi Fujimaki’s version of basketball sometimes borders on magic, much like the escalation of shonen battle manga. And that is also reflected in the detailed artwork of the sports scenes. His character Kuroko adds a very unique take on sport as well.

At first, I didn’t know what to expect of a quiet, mild character like Kuroko. He is a fare-cry from the stoic or hot-blooded character you’d imagine in the lead role. On the basketball court, he plays a nearly invisible player whose strength lies in passing the ball. Still Kuroko is a genius-type, but he is such a genius that many times only the other geniuses can tell how good he is. That being said, at the beginning of the story he can barely make a layup or any other play beyond passing or stealing the ball.

Kuroko’s desire to create a team that works in perfect unison means he puts a lot of focus on the improvement of others, which mirrors his ability on the court to divert attention from himself. In most instances, he doesn’t seem concerned about himself at all which is shocking. But there is no doubt as the series goes on that this beautiful ideal of Kuroko’s makes him shine brightly.

The rapport between the Seirin members is exactly what Kuroko is looking for in a team and exactly what I want as a reader. I’ve never found myself more interested in basketball!

~ kate

Case Closed Reviews: Spring 2015

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First impressions are great but what about our thoughts after we’ve watched an entire series week to week? We figured our listeners might want to hear our final impressions as well so we’ve created the Case Closed Review podcast. Just like the S.W.A.T. Reviews, these will be mini-podcasts and completely off the cuff.

Here are the shows we finished which ended this spring:

Listen – Final impressions of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders S2 from David Productions. It is streaming on Crunchyroll.

Listen – Final impressions of Kuroko’s Basketball S3 from Productions I.G. It is streaming on Crunchyroll and Daisuki.

Listen – Final impressions of Sound! Euphonium from Kyoto Animation. It is streaming on Crunchyroll.

Listen – Final impressions of Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches from Liden Films. It is streaming on Crunchyroll.

The New Faces of Shonen Sports Anime

hisui_icon_4040 In the past I have talked about my theory of the two major categories of shonen fighting protagonists. I call them the Shonen Hero and the Seinen Hero. The Shonen Hero is what you very stereotypically think of with the genre. They are passionate and ambitious but have almost no experience. Therefore everything must be explained to them but they have an endless pool of potential to draw from and so they learn powerful techniques almost instantly. In contrast the Seinen Hero while still in a shonen magazine feels like a character taken from a series for older men. These character usually have years of training under their belt and tend to be more stoic and coldly driven. They are not perfect but they are 80% of the way to maximum. Usually their journey is about perfecting their skills, adding to their already powerful repertoire, or learning to work with a team. Not every shonen fighting protagonists falls into these two categories. There are some notable exceptions or combinations of the two but nine times out of ten your hero will fall into one of these categories. Naruto and Simon are your stereotypical Shonen Heroes while Luffy and Kenshiro are your stereotypical Seinen Hero.

Until recently I would have told you that sports anime pretty much follows that same formula to the T. The main character who joins the team is either the fresh young buck with no skills but an insane potential and a killer move or a cold ace with the crazy skills but with a major flaw. Like the shonen fighting protagonist there is the very rare exception to this rule but overall they are just as easy to divide into the two camps. The thing is the last few shows we have been watching have added a third archetype that I have never really seen be this predominant until now. They are the Super Support Protagonist.

The thing is this character is a mixture of the Shonen Hero and the Seinen Hero but with some added elements that make them more than just a blend of the other two. Usually the protagonist is the star of the team. They are the character who scores the most points, gets all the important points, and draws all the attention, love, and hate to themselves.  The Super Support Protagonist might do that on occasion but most of the time they are there so all the other characters can shine or work together better. They usually have some technique or place in the team that helps everyone around them. If the Shonen Hero is the fighter, and the Seinen Hero is the wizard, then the Super Support Protagonist in the bard. In years past they would have usually been secondary or tertiary character on a team. Someone who might get an episode of two in the spotlight but no more than that. But apparently this Super Support Protagonist is appearing more and more as the lead in modern sports shows.

narutaki_icon_4040 Kuroko’s Basketball, Yowamushi Pedal, and Haikyu!! have enjoyed immense popularity recently. It may come as no surprise then that they do share some similar qualities.

No longer the stoic genius or the hotblooded ace; more recent heroes of sports anime are the guys who would have been side characters in the past. And it isn’t just their personalities that mark them as previous side characters, but their roles on their teams, too.

Kuroko’s central role is passing the ball. Hinata is the decoy of the court. Onoda pulls the other members along so they can conserve their strength. All of these characters act in the best interest for the rest of the team. Each of them is integral to the team succeeding despite them not necessarily having the role that gets the most outside attention or glory. So intentionally or not, all of these titles end up emphasizing how important a cohesive team is maybe more so than when the central figure is the ace.

Kuroko, Onoda, and Hinata all feel like they occupy the same spot in the team: the soul.

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