…not that you needed to know that because I already mentioned it in the Megane Day post in October, but for someone like me who isn’t into basketball, that means a lot.
In my early days of being a blogger, I had prejudices against certain kinds of works I perceived to be “too popular”. Some of them I still have (such as the one against Shingeki no Kyojin), but the one I got rid of this year, through the manga and the collabs with Mel, is the one about Kuroko no Basuke.
Note, though, that I was never good at any sports and so sports manga aren’t my ideal genre. Also, I had friends who shipped certain characters – I don’t remember any specific pairings, but I think one shipped Midorima and Akashi together – which is where this particular strain of prejudice might have stemmed from.
So what was it about the manga that won me over?
It’s easy to lose yourself in each game, even if you don’t know much of how it works. Notably, there are little technical notes in the Viz Media translation of the manga which allow for explanations of more tricky parts. People’s reactions and strategies are just as vital to the story as basketball jargon, training and technique is, which makes characters feel fleshed out and each game feel worth it for some team or other. It also has the added effect of a reader being able to interpret whether a game is going south just from facial expressions, even if you pay zero attention to the scores, although you do sometimes have to pay attention to the characters’ names – basketball teams have 11 players, so whenever a new team is introduced, it’s a bit of an introduction barrage.
Furthermore, it’s more about the quirks of the characters and seeing those characters succeed at what they want to do, rather than the sport itself. Kuroko no Basuke is part of a subset of sports manga that focus on characters at the top of their game, rather than talented rookies, and although it gets to heights where high schoolers do feats even professionals can’t do because they have some ability which is tailor-made for basketball, these are factored into the aforementioned strategies. (Not to mention this is a shonen manga, so ridiculous powers come with the territory.) There is an extremely overt focus on the Miracle Generation and Taiga though…since basketball is a team sport, it gets a bit worrying when they start talking about someone who’s part of Seirin or not part of the Miracle Generation and I just go “Huh?” because I barely remember this character’s name, let alone their abilities. Sure, there are some with abilities that are named (I’m thinking of Izuki’s Eagle Eye here, but there’s probably another example or few out there) so they seem like main characters, but the focus is always on the Miracle Generation and how they’re being beaten using Seirin’s players, so that doesn’t allow me to grasp these minor characters as well as the major ones.
Furthermore, it isn’t just a sport manga – it weaves other elements into itself as well. Mangaka Tadatoshi Fujimaki remembers to slide in the occasional comedy part, like how Izuki has his bad jokes or how Takao peddles Midorima around on his rickshaw. Although the “blooper” section at the end of each chapter tends to fall flat in a comedic sense (because that’s the point of highly orchestrated bloopers, in my head), sports manga normally tend to do a lot of drama and, of course, Kuroko no Basuke is no different. Also, the part around the time Aomine is introduced shows the reader Fujimaki hasn’t forgotten he’s doing a school manga as well (through a chapter about overcoming tests, interwoven with the introduction of Momoi to add potential romantic conflict).
Furthermore, how the matches are structured and relayed – with their team names being the names of schools and with words like “Inter-high” – reminds people these are high schoolers playing basketball, not NBA players. Around the time of Aomine’s introduction (specifically at the okonomiyaki restaurant), it’s mentioned Kuroko and Taiga only play for the fun of the game, not because they “think too hard about…junk” like Midorima.
These are probably not the only reasons Kuroko no Basuke’s manga has risen in popularity in the past few years, but even though I haven’t become a rabid shipper like my friends were through reading it, I kind of get how they can be so fanatical over it. More importantly, this proves something can be done about my unjustified biases.
So what are your thoughts on the rise of sports manga and anime? Have they even been on the rise at all?