On the tenth day of anime, an anime studio sent to me…
…ten starter players.
I’ve never been a sports fan. Any sports knowledge I might have is woefully miniscule and would put any bystander to shame. It wasn’t so long ago that I learned that a baseball game has nine innings, touchdowns happened in American football and were worth more than a point each, or that the minimum number of players for a basketball team is ten, with five starters and five bench players.
I’ve noticed a shift of the shonen protagonist archetype from hot-headed and immature to a more subdued and emotionally calm and introverted nature. Kuroko Tetsuya, the eponymous character of Kuroko no Basuke (translated as “The Basketball Kuroko Plays”), is one such shonen hero that epitomizes a new kind of shonen hero–the quiet, supportive type that holds the team together behind the scenes.
Kuroko’s unique set of skills declare the kind of basketball game he aspires to–one where teamwork rather than individual talent takes precedence. As the phantom sixth man on the monstrous basketball team dubbed as the Generation of Miracles, Kuroko’s all too familiar with how destructive and heady the power of winner’s arrogance is on the court–both for the opposing team and the team itself.
I am a supporting actor, a shadow. But a shadow will become darker if the light is stronger and it will make the white of the light stand out. As the shadow of the main actor, I will make you, the light, the number one in Japan.
Prince of Tennis was one of my favorite anime to watch while growing up (however long-winded and overly dramatic the matches were, the characters grew on me). I can’t help but agree with Froggy-kun at Fantastic Memes when he explains how Kuroko no Basket filled a much needed niche in the anime market:
Kuroko no Basuke is more of a new Prince of Tennis than the actual New Prince of Tennis. I’ve always liked the sheer audacity of Prince of Tennis, often in spite of itself, but Kuroko no Basuke took the essential formula that made PoT such a huge commercial hit and polished it in almost every possible aspect.
Besides slick and wonderfully animated basketball sequences, Kuroko pulls no punches with some fine characterization. Kuroko’s no powerhouse all-rounder like Echizen Ryoma, but his evasive passing tactics help bring the Seirin team and its already solid teamwork up to a whole new level. His playing style–along with his newly perfected Vanishing Drive–gives the extra push Seirin needs to level the playing field against the dirty game Kirisaki Dai Ichi brings in their Pre Winter Cup match.
While Kuroko is deeply critical of how the Generation of Miracles plays basketball, Hanamiya “Play until we break them” philosophy is possibly the worst match-up for Kuroko and Seirin. Above all, Kuroko values the fun and family camaraderie that the sport brings and seeing Hanamiya’s violent tactics at hand is what pushes him over the edge, showing us a dark side to him, exuding an aura not unlike that of the former teammates he condemns.
I love this moment in the match because it reminds us how it’s not just Kagami we should watch out for, but Kuroko himself. The show puts a lot of emphasis on Kagami’s potential as becoming an equal to the Generation of Miracles’ level of play (even to the point where he’s already metaphorically “knocking” on the door to their level) but that Kuroko is a terrifying trump card when pushed. Which totally works with the light-and-shadow metaphor they’ve got going on in the show. The brighter the light, the darker the shadow becomes. Though Kuroko seems to have a steadier head on his shoulders compared to the fiery Kagami, one can’t help wonder if Kuroko might unwillingly be pushed to empathize with the frustration and clinical cruelty of his former teammates if he develops his skills enough to the point where his style evolves from mere support to more domineering aggression. Teamwork so far for the Seirin team has been using one’s individual strengths to cover others’ weaknesses, but what happens once the weaknesses are overcome? What sort of team will Seirin become? It’s an interesting question that the series has yet to answer.