Kuroko no Basuke – 23
「大人じゃねーよ！」 (Otona Janei yo!)
“I’m Not Mature!”
Wow. This episode. Aided by some stellar animation and a great soundtrack, the intensity of the epic match between Kise and Aomine brings is simply, off the charts. And that cliffhanger. These producers know how to draw in their audience hook, line, and sinker. It’s pretty obvious what’s coming, but the sheer anticipation and excitement the knowledge incites in the viewers is just something else entirely. That determination on Kise’s face was amazing, and props to Kimura Ryohei for the fantastic performance this episode – it was simply incredible how he portrayed Kise’s dejected boredom, then the fiery revival of his youth when he finally finds something to chase. Production I.G. obviously put their top animation team on the job since not only were the complicated movements of the match depicted with such fluidity, the close-ups were just stellar. You can see the change in Kise towards the end, and shots like these drive the emotions across the screen. For such an expressive and dynamic character like Kise, not only does it require the seiyuu to give an impressive performance, but it also requires a hefty effort from the animation team to give life to his thoughts and emotions to maximize the impact he has on the viewers. I don’t know what kind of effect the corresponding chapters has on manga readers, but let me just say: the directing of this episode is just. So. Perfect.
I’m a huge fan of smooth transitions, and although I haven’t really mentioned it before, I’ll do so now since the way Kuroko no Basuke handles some of their scene transitions is simple, yet effective. It’s a technique that is used fairly often, but not often enough – take for example, the first flashback. The shift from the past to the present; the frames are very similar, but that’s just the beauty of it. There’s a similarity between the two time frames that connect the scenes together and it’s one of the best ways to portray a time change. I think they did a similar thing a while back with Aomine, which I really liked. This is a minute detail to be sure, but it’s attention to little things like these that really show the audience the care the producers take in ensuring the utmost quality to flow and presentation of an episode.
Now that technical accolades are out of the way, let’s get to the real star of this week: Kise Ryouta. Kise, Kise, Kise. Even amongst such a great cast of characters, he would hands down be my favorite of them all, and this episode just forever cemented a place for him – and the series as a whole – a place in my all-time favorites. There’s something so straightforward yet complicated about him, and his earnest actions can only be compared to a dog given a bone to chew on. Kise approaches the match with all the ferocity of an enthusiastic puppy, because that’s the way his mind runs; he has his one desire and goal, and that’s all he sees. He’s not mature enough to play the match with a bigger goal in mind – some might even consider it selfish and even foolish that he’s playing with such a self-centric goal. But passion isn’t dictated by reason and Kise is the type to wear his heart on his sleeve. He can’t govern his emotions, which leads to completely instinctual actions – this is Kise’s basketball: dedicated and one hundred percent youthful passion. Something he can devote himself to. Something that drives him to do his best. Basketball, for Kise, is as much a method for self-discovery as it is something that brings him one step closer to those he admires. The way he plays is what defines him, and his actions on the court, whether he realizes it or not, are giving clearer outlines to who he is. But I think that’s a discussion best saved for next episode, as it looks like the definitive moment for Kise establishing his identity on his own is coming then. It’ll be a glorious moment, and I can’t wait to see it since I feel it’ll tie everything about his character together in the satisfactory way only KuroBasu can manage.
What this episode truly highlights however, is the difference between Kise and Aomine. Compared to the heartfelt way Kise plays, Aomine almost seems like the villain playing so nonchalantly without much care. So convinced of his own strength, it’s almost heartbreaking to watch how aloof Aomine is because it’s utterly clear how much Kise idolizes him. I’m sure there are a thousand ways to spin a romantic implication out of their interactions, but to me, Kuroko no Basuke has always been a study on friendship and self-discovery. What’s important to take account with them is not what Kise feels towards Aomine, but what Aomine represents. To Kise, Aomine symbolizes his youth – the afterimage of something amazing, the halcyon days of passion and fun and challenge he couldn’t find his own. The Aomine Kise saw on that fateful day was someone who enjoyed life, who seemed completely free and at ease as he dribbled a ball around and dunked a basket. It’s a kind of all-consuming enthusiasm the Kaijou player has never seen before, and the effect it has on him is quite profound. Of course, the reason this episode is so heartbreaking is because the Aomine Kise admired is no longer there. The person Kise looked up to was someone who loved basketball and played it with ardor. But he just isn’t there anymore, which lends a somewhat tragic air to Kise’s motivations. What he longed for was a chance to prove himself to the Aominecchi that inspired him to play basketball; the opponent he’s playing against now is just a shadow of his idol.
I suppose this episode wouldn’t really be complete without giving Imayoshi and Kasamatsu a mention – Imayoshi, in particular. He probably ranks somewhere within my top five because attractive character designs aside, there’s a dual quality to his personality that’s quite intriguing. I wouldn’t call him duplicitous, but he exudes a steely sort of confidence underneath that friendly smile that makes for some interesting characterization. It’s hard to call him an asshole because he’s so polite, but the straightforward way he explains his superiority is no doubt infuriating. That is what gives him authority as a captain though – Imayoshi might not seem like it, but he’s pretty convinced of his own capabilities; it’s this self-assuredness that keeps his team in line. No one can argue against a captain who is that confident. This sort of indirect oppression runs directly counter to Kasamatsu’s captainship. Whereas Imayoshi occupies a level all to his own in the Touou team hierarchy, in Kaijou, Kasamatsu is very much a presence felt by everyone on the team – his style is a direct approach, utilizing his unwavering motivation to become a leader for them rather than simply claiming the spot. What it all comes down to is how the two players view themselves and their team: Imayoshi very much sees himself as a captain and victor, but he also considers himself in a utilitarian manner, and this applies to his team as well. To him, his team – while being tools to achieving victory – is an extension of himself, which is how he can place so much confidence in them. In the end, it’s not that he believes in them specifically, but more that he believes in his own abilities to steer them. On the other hand, Kasamatsu doesn’t consider himself a captain; he’s a player, first and foremost. To him, the label of a captain is just that – a label. It doesn’t change the way he approaches the matches, and it doesn’t alter the seriousness with which he plays. The most important thing to Kasamatsu is taking his team to the championships; he doesn’t necessarily have to be the captain, but he steps into that role because it’s what his team needs.
Phew. That was quite the essay! But with such an impressive episode, it’d be unfair to do any less. Now all that’s left is the long wait until next Saturday – it’s going to be a long six days…
- Lol. This shot. It just… I don’t even – lol Production I.G. Trying to boost sales?
- This is no doubt a happy episode for fangirls all around.
- I don’t know what the logic for this match-up is, but it sure is funny.
- Unlimited Capping Works 2.Whatever: Ahomine Is An Asshole Edition. I lost count of how many full-lengths he ruined with his three heads and four arms.
ED2: 「カタルリズム」 (Kataru Rizumu) by OLDCODEX