An up-and-coming power player, Taiga Kagami, is just back from America. When he comes to Seirin High School, he meets the super-ordinary boy, Tetsuya Kuroko. Kagami is shocked to find that Kuroko isn’t good at basketball, in fact, he’s bad! And he’s so plain that he’s impossible to see. But Kuroko’s plainness lets him pass the ball around without the other team noticing him, and he’s none other than the sixth member of the Miracle Generation.
– From AnimeLab
Okay, I know my title kind of gives it away but I am not in love with this series. Admittedly, I’m not bit on sport in the first place, so it had to happen sooner or later that I’d try a sport anime that didn’t really work for me and Kuroko just happened to be the one. Still, after Haikyuu, this is probably the one that was most recommended to me by people so I was kind of hopeful going in. And it isn’t that I found Kuroko’s Basketball to be bad, it just does a lot of things I’m not very interested in. But rather than rambling I’m going to try to get into this review.
Probably the main strength of Kuroko’s Basketball is that it is very watchable. By that, I mean you can just turn it on, let it go, and the next thing you know half a day will have disappeared. The episodes don’t drag, it never feels like time is passing (which is odd given how often they show us the clock in the games), and everything just kind of moves along. There are enough bright colours without it being a visual eye sore to look at to keep you focussed on the screen, and the music carries you into each episode and through most scenes. It just fundamentally works and while it isn’t doing anything particularly exceptional it would be very hard to argue that Kuroko’s Basketball was a broken show.
The second reason I found myself caught up watching the first season was Kuroko. I found him a highly relatable character (though not a particularly interesting one). So, particularly in the early half of the season, I was actually really enjoying the show but then something happens. We start to shift more and more to focus on Kagami and the other characters and by the final episodes of the season, even though Kagami and Kuroko are there it would be hard to explain to someone who sat down to watch the show at that point that Kise and Aomine aren’t actually the main characters. So with the character I most liked watching in the show fading out as the season continued, I found myself with a bit more time to focus on other aspects of the show and that was when I realised that while I found it quite watchable, there were very few things that later on I wanted to talk about in regard to the show.
Basically the plot is that Kuroko wants to beat his old team-mates playing with his new team to convince them that his vision of basketball is worthwhile, or maybe just that they are all egocentric jerks (I’m not really sure on what the ultimate motivation is and at times I wonder if he is). And while the motivation to play and win is really neither here nor there it is difficult to care whether they win or not. Aomine is the only person you actually want to see lose and it is quite clear that season 1 isn’t the time for that to happen. So in the absence of any driving plot what we have are the usual team getting together shenanigans, entering a tournament, pulling off some fairly impossible wins, before finally getting knocked out which at first depresses them and then inspires them to come back even stronger for the next tournament. Much the same as every sport story ever.
Where shows like Haikyuu and Days appealed to me more because of the overall cast of characters, their plots are almost identical with the exception that both of those shows had a relatively inexperienced player in the midst. So from a plot point of view Kuroko is pretty standard, though that isn’t a point against it, merely just another point that doesn’t really help it stand out and while it might be older than some of the other shows, I’m only watching this now so that is definitely going to change how I view. That said, if this had been my first entry into sport anime, I probably wouldn’t have watched another.
The cast is a bit of a mixed bag in Kuroko. Other than Kuroko himself, I didn’t really like or care for any of the cast. They all work in their roles and they are all fairly memorable in their own way, but they just didn’t appeal to me. That led to a fairly detached viewing experience and when a character faced a problem I was seldom concerned about the outcome. Whether they played or didn’t, won or didn’t, none of that ever really bothered me. Even the characters who are supposed to be more confrontational didn’t really do much for me. It was more like they were reading the script of high school jock with attitude rather than really conveying the tone and I get that it’s entirely subjective and some people will find these characters quite appealing and realistic, I mostly struggled to see them as anything other than placeholders for personalities and events that were needed to keep the ball rolling, or bouncing as the case may be.
I will point out that the character designs at time caused me some issues. Probably because I’ve watched an overabundance of CLAMP anime where characters are impossibly tall and skinny with heads slightly too large for their twig like bodies, but Kuroko’s Basketball gives us characters that at times, particularly when dressed in school uniforms, has their bodies seem far too thick and bulky and their heads just a fraction too small for the bulk below. It is weird and jarring, though Aomine is probably the character that suffers the most from this effect. When on the court, this effect seldom occurs, but it happened quite often in other scenes.
The games themselves are what they are. They play basketball. There’s back and forth play, there are fouls, injuries, sweat flying in all directions, and occasionally some neon lights around the characters to let you know they are about to do something really cool. I guess if you were more into the characters or more into basketball this might work (or maybe it would work less if you understood basketball) but for me it was more just another set piece for the characters. Basically, watching Haikyuu gave me about three minutes of time thinking I’d like to step onto a volleyball court (before common sense kicked in) whereas watching Kuroko didn’t make me consider anything about basketball other than the fact that I just spent a lot of time watching anime characters play basketball.
There are some great moments between characters and individual plays are occasionally note worthy on the court. As I said at the start of the review, the show’s greatest strength is that it is really watchable. Which means as a piece of entertainment it is definitely hitting the mark. However, in about a months time, when asked what anime I’ve watched recently, I probably won’t even remember I watched this. It was watched, enjoyed enough, and then forgotten in the instant. I may watch the next season of this eventually given I know I’ll probably enjoy the watching and if I’m coming home tired and stressed from work, this kind of viewing is actually exactly what I need because it doesn’t make me think or stress me too much, but it still won’t be something I’d sing the praises of.
Thanks for reading.
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