First Look at Kuroko's Basketball
The sportiest anime of the spring season
By Joseph Luster
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Now that March Madness is over, and more than seven months stand between ourselves and more NCAA men's basketball, it might just be the perfect time for Kuroko's Basketball to start airing. Even those who couldn't care less about sports can find something to enjoy in sports anime and manga, and Kuroko's is no different. The first episode started streaming over at Crunchyroll this past weekend, offering a look at the season of sixth-man show stealing to come.
Kuroko's Basketball (Kuroko no Basuke) is based on the manga by Tadatoshi Fujimaki, which has been running in Shueisha's Weekly Shonen Jump magazine since 2008. The story follows Tetsuya Kuroko, formerly of the Teikou Middle School "Generation of Miracles," a team of players who utterly destroyed their competitors. However, the Kuroko we see signing up for the Seirin High basketball club couldn't be more unassuming. In fact, even those who spend time around him hardly notice he's there.
On the other end of the spectrum is Taiga Kagami, a monster of a player whose arrogance is only outmatched by his natural talent on the court. He immediately resents what he sees as a lack of raw talent in Kuroko, writing him off after handily shaming him in a quick one-on-one game. Even the coach, who has the ability to size up players just by looking at them, sees nothing more than a below average player with limited potential in Kuroko. It isn't until the team's practice match against the second years that they all begin to learn what it is that makes Kuroko the "sixth phantom member" of the Generation of Miracles.
Kuroko didn't burst onto the scene like some of the more conspicuously towering talent; he's practically invisible. For all intents and purposes, he comes off as a blank slate, but this belies his true skill, which is something more than your typical sureshot protagonist. Kuroko uses his lack of presence to up his game in the assist department. He may not be able to make shots, but he can divert the attention of his opponents away from himself and dish killer passes to his teammates, making him a crucial cog in the machine that's often overlooked in favor of pure, show-stopping star power.
This is more or less the ground covered in the first episode of the anime, directed by Shunsuke Tada (Sands of Destruction, Shoujo Fight) and produced by Production I.G. It's a solid introduction to the series, and, being completely unfamiliar with Fujimaki's manga, I'm interested to see where it's going from here. While I could easily see it veering down the path of a fairly rote shonen sports serial, the position they have Kuroko playing is much more intriguing than someone like the brash Kagami, who, were it not for his arrogant 'tude, would probably be a more likely protagonist in your average series. Kuroko plans to use his talent on the pass to shadow Kagami's shot-making skills in an effort to rocket him toward becoming Japan's greatest basketball player. Judging from what we've seen so far, it's looking like it might be a pretty enjoyable trip to the top.