Kuroko’s Basketball (Kuroko no Basket), the basketball manga by Tadatoshi Fujimaki was published in Shueisha’s Weekly Shonen Jump from 2008 – 2014 and has received 3 TV anime series and two theatrical movies.
The title has so many strong points; it’s a typical shonen manga story with laughter and tears, colorful characters, demonstration of athletic spirit, with lines that touch our hearts, and so many more. I’m sure that you have your own soft spot for it. In this article, I’m going to tell you about one of my favorite parts; the game between Shutoku and Rakuzen depicted in Volumes 20 and 21 of the manga. In the TV anime series, the fierce game was featured over 3 episodes in the first half of the third season. However, I’ll focus on the 55th episode, ‘Ore wa Shiranai’ (I Know None of That).
This article has spoilers for the third season of the anime and up to volume 21 of the manga.
The Mismatch in Heights
The match enters the third quarter with a tied score, and a one-on-one between Midorima and Akashi is finally materialized. In the manga, Takao says to himself, ‘But … are they serious?! What’s with this mismatch (in their heights)?!’ When he watches Akashi intercepts Midorima’s sudden three-pointer without any feints, Himuro utters, ‘He’s battling with his height!! The timing was perfect too!!’ The anime does not feature any lines referring to their height.
Officially, Midorima is 195 cm tall while Akashi is just 173 cm tall. When they stand side by side, the difference in their height is apparent and Akashi has to look up to Midorima. This difference in height is the main reason why they hadn’t faced-off before, even though they both belonged to The Generation of Miracles, of which each member has an exceptional talent in basketball. When Midorima, who boasts great height, jumps and stretches his long arms, and then shoots his incredibly fast and strong shot, no one, including Akashi, could stop it.
It’s uncommon to match up the shortest member in the team against a much taller and physically strong opponent, as physical ability is considered the most important in basketball, even though Akashi has a special ability which almost seems like cheating to others. In usual circumstances, the shortest one would be defeated by the physical advantage of the opponent, in both offense and defense. However, Akashi puts himself into this situation of his own accord. People who didn’t know him well were surprised by his actions.
The lines in the manga, which are not included in the anime, explain that, usually, such a situation wouldn’t happen. Although their difference in height is apparent, we often forget it because both belong to The Generation of Miracles. I don’t know the reason why the lines were not included and I only guess it happened because of the time limitation. In my opinion, they should have been included in the anime.
There was another deletion of lines. In the original manga, Murasakibara explains Akashi’s Emperor Eye: ‘Aka-chin’s eyes can detect even the slightest of moments. Breathing, heartbeat, sweat, muscle contraction … everything.’ Whereas in the anime, the line is changed to, ‘Aka-chin’s eyes nullify everything, offense and defense…’ The first half of the line is shortened and the latter is omitted completely. To be honest, I think the line in the manga explains his ability better, therefore it should’ve been included as it is in the anime. I have to admit, however, that the scene in the anime beautifully supplements the explanation about his eyes with the animation.
I’ll explain what I mean: take the ankle break scene in the anime for example. Akashi demonstrates the technique when he retrieves the ball from Midorima and forces himself past Takao, who is helping.
Between Akashi’s lines of ‘get by? No need for that’ and ‘you’re going to move aside’, the anime depicts his vision through the Emperor Eye. It clearly depicts the movement of Takao’s legs and him shifting his balance in slow-motion, which explains what ‘detect everything’ actually means. The animation was able to explain and highlight Akashi’s special ability without words. It used dramatic animation that was easy to understand.
Akashi and Midorima
While at Teiko Junior High, Akashi and Midorima were the captain and the vice-captain respectively. They are both intelligent and composed. They had a friendly camaraderie, as they had spent more time together than other members of Generation of Miracles.
During the match between Shutoku and Rakuzan, after Midorima scored, Miyaji taps Midorima’s shoulder saying, ‘nice pass.’ In the anime, the scene is further accentuated by him smiling a little, an anime original. While watching the two, Murasakibara showed his complex facial expression. Although he has a detached personality, he must have felt something about his change as he knew Midorima from their junior high school days. I wonder what Akashi felt about witnessing such a scene on the same court.
Akashi communicates with his teammates smoothly and talks to them more than Murasakibara. However, he does that because they obey his orders. For him, his teammates are not his fifty-fifty friends nor someone he can rely on. Like the other four members of The Generation of Miracles, Akashi is fundamentally not a team-player.
Akashi must have realized that Midorima, who used to have the same personality as him, has changed during his time with his new teammates. It’s only Akashi himself that knows if he considers Midorima’s change as development or degeneration. However, he must have been surprised at Midorima’s change, because he’s the very person who understands Midorima the most.
A match against a former teammate is so exciting and thrilling. The match between Shutoku and Rakuzan makes us feel excited and it also makes us forget that the titular protagonist doesn’t even appear in this episode. I think this demonstrates why Kuroko’s Basketball is a brilliant sports story.