Hi everyone. I’m Mokugyo, your manga and anime writer from MANGA.TOKYO. I like watching movies in a cinema because movies become more enjoyable as you join the audiences’ reaction. I find that laughter from the audience around me makes comedy movies seem much funnier. Japanese people are generally quiet and you are definitely expected to be quiet in a cinema. In recent years, however, a new style of screenings has emerged. It’s often called ‘ouen jouei’ or ‘cheer screenings’ and you are allowed to cheer on your heroes and even wave your glow sticks in the air.
I went to a cheer screening of Kuroko’s Basketball LAST GAME, and I’m going to tell you everything that happened in the cinema in this article. Mind you, it contains a few spoilers from the TV anime series.
Kuroko’s Basketball (Kuroko no Basuke) is a sports anime about basketball and revolves around the modest high schooler, Tetsuya Kuroko. He was referred to as the phantom 6th member of the so-called Generation of Miracles when he was in middle school. He utilized his unassuming character for his invisible passes and led his team to victory. He enters Seirin High School, and with his new team mate, Kagami, the two take on rival teams to which other members of the Generation of Miracles belong. The TV anime series depicts their fights up to when Seirin High School won the Winter Cup.
Kuroko’s Basketball LAST GAME can be said to be the culmination of the anime series. In the movie, all six members of the Generation of Miracles gather as a team in order to fight against an American street basketball team. The story is based on a sequel of the manga series, Kuroko’s Basketball EXTRA GAME, which consisted of two volumes.
In the movie, Kuroko and Kagami join the other five members of the Generation of Miracles, Akashi, Midorima, Aomine, Kise, and Murasakibara to become a team. It’s the first time we can watch them play as a team. They are certainly the dream team of the anime. Fans of Kuroko’s Basketball can’t miss this movie.
What are Cheer Screenings?
Cheer screenings are a new style of watching movies in Japan. Movie etiquette in Japan means that you have to stay silent while the movie is playing, save for the occasional laugh during comical moments. In the past few years, however, a more interactive viewing style is on the rise. Some live streams of music concerts and sing-along movies allow audiences to sing along or clap during the screenings. Disney anime movie Frozen was screened in a sing-along style, and Shin Godzilla had a successful screening that allowed audiences to cheer.
The special screening of Kuroko’s Basketball for fans is similar. During the screening, fans are free to sing, clap, cheer and wave their glow sticks in the air as long as they sit in their seats. This waving of glow sticks might be unique to Japan.
Idol groups have been all the rage in Japan, especially since the late 2000s. Each idol has his or her own signature color within the group. Fans wear color-coded merch of their favorite idol and wave a glow stick (can be chemical sticks, but these days they are usually LED) in that particular color. The trend has found its way to anime events where fans are waving sticks in various colors. At anime events for Kuroko’s Basketball, penlights are often on sale. Each character of Kuroko’s Basketball has a name associated with a color as well as matching hair color, therefore fans have no difficulty in finding the color of their favorite character.
The manga Kuroko’s Basketball is popular among both males and females, though it gained a large number of female fans after its anime adaptation. I knew it was popular among ladies beforehand, but I was surprised to find that the attendees of the special screening were almost all female, as there were only a few male fans, including myself, in the cinema when I arrived. In total, I think more than 80% of audience were female fans. I guess there were more devoted female fans of Kuroko’s Basketball who made the effort to visit the special screening. If it had been a screening for an anime with cute girl characters, the audience would have been all male fans.
A Hyper Audience Even Before the Movie Started!
The fans at the venue seemed so excited and started cheering at the trailers before the actual movie began. When the trailer of the movie Free! started, fans erupted in cheers. It made me realized that the fans of Free!, which shows good-looking guys in a swimming team, and the fans of Kuroko’s Basketball, in which good-looking guys play basketball, overlap for obvious reasons.
The fans even cheered at the logo mark of Shueisha, the publisher of the original manga series. I clearly remember when one fan shouted ‘Projection I.G’ instead of ‘Production I.G.’ The anime also appeals to people who may not have had much interest in anime before, since Production I.Gis one of the most renowned anime studios in Japan and conventional anime fans must have known the name. She might just have made a little mistake when reading the name, though.
The Audience Cheers and Talks to Characters!
The movie starts with Kagami’s recollection scenes of his middle school days. At the beginning, a fan asked to the screen, ‘Where did you come from?’ and he said his line, ‘I’m Taiga Kagami from America’ as if he were replying to her question. Some fans who attended the special screening must have watched the movie several times already and knew all about the story and lines, so that she knew exactly when and what to ask. The fans cheered Kagami when he made a slam dunk and waved their red penlights. The special screening went on like this all the way.
Every time the members of the Generation of Miracles appeared on screen, the cinema was filled with cheers from the fans. When Kagetora Aida, the father of Riko, appeared on screen, the fans called out ‘Papa!’ When one of the rival characters made a grumpy face, they shouted ‘smile!’ Whenever one of the Generation of Miracles members scored a point, they cheered and clapped as if they were watching a real match. When the rival team scored, they reassured their team by yelling ‘never mind!’ It was fun to hear someone shout, ‘he is so hot!’ at Murasakibara when he only sighed. Just before the recollection scene, someone gave a cue as, ‘let’s do the recollection bits!’ When one of characters calls ‘defense,’ everyone in the cinema call back ‘defense.’
The cheers and calls from the fans never stopped during the screening. Since there are many scenes of the match, it was interesting to observe the fans’ mood change depending on the progress of the match.
Cheer with a Glow Stick in Your Favorite Character’s Color!
Most of the fans had prepared their glow sticks in the color of their favorite character. What exceeded my expectations was that the color of their glow sticks changed along with the progress of the story. I didn’t know there were glow sticks (also known as ‘pen lights’) that could change their colors. For instance, when the scene of Aomine and Kise played the most active role, blue and yellow glow sticks were waved. I honestly wondered if they had practiced the timing before the screening. I also noticed that many of them had two penlights respectively, and when Akagi did a good job, they crossed their two glow sticks and waved their red cross to the music. I was fascinated by their use of penlights in accordance to the story.
Of course, you can just sit through the cheer screening without doing anything if you prefer. There was a person near me who was just sitting all the way until the end with no cheering nor clapping. I suppose she just likes the atmosphere of cheer screenings. I did clap sometimes and took notes for this article under the light of the fans’ glow sticks of when and what cheers were made. It’s good that you aren’t obliged to do anything. These screenings are supposed to be fun for everyone!
I thought Kuroko’s Basketball was suited best to cheer screenings and glow sticks because it’s about sports matches and each character has their own color!
The Path Kuroko’s Basketball Followed
Every fan in the cinema directed their thanks to the screen after the movie. I wanted to thank them instead, as they are the ones who keep Kuroko’s Basketball going. At the start of its serialization the manga wasn’t so popular because the drawing wasn’t as good as it is now. Its serialization might have been halted if Midorima’s appearance had been delayed a bit. It was so close to the borderline at that time.
After the adaptation into an anime, Kuroko’s Basketball became hugely popular, so much so that it became a target of jealousy. In 2012, threatening letters were sent to the places related to Kuroko’s Basketball and many events were cancelled. The incidents hit the headlines in Japan. The suspect was arrested later in 2013 and the crime was solved.
Kuroko’s Basketball suffered from hard times in the past, therefore I was just happy for it to have the cheer screening which everyone enjoyed peacefully. In my opinion, there will be more screenings with viewer participation and more interactive styles in the coming years. It’s fine to watch movies while sitting down quietly, but it’s much more fun to watch with fellow fans while cheering and clapping. I hope cheer screenings can bring more people to cinemas and make the movie industry in Japan flourish again.