「なりたいじゃねーよ」 (Naritai Janee yo)
“I Don’t Want To Be”
In life, the only way to go is forward. Time to put your money where your mouth is, Kuroko.
It’s finally time for Kuroko to take center stage and shine on his own rather than constantly forcing himself to be a reflection of those around him – at times it seems as if he takes his role as a “shadow” too literally, blending into the background to a point where it becomes difficult to discern who he is. This episode implies Kuroko lost sight of that himself, after being so used to relying on others to put him to use. Just as Kiyoshi says, while Kuroko’s basketball helps bridge his teammates together, that also becomes a major hindrance if said teammates are ever unable to receive his passes or just stop passing, period. It’s a difficult issue to dissect, since even though the style is so inherently Kuroko, there’s actually very little of “Kuroko” present in it – it fluctuates too much depending on who his partner is, and this episode emphasizes the fact a partnership has to be a two-way street; just as Kagami is working to become stronger, Kuroko needs to do the same. Not only is it not fair to expect Kagami to carry all the burden, but Kuroko needed to have a solid desire of his own to improve. Without it, he would just be playing aimlessly, and eventually, the past would have undoubtedly repeated itself. I think this particular shot better encapsulates everything about Kuroko than I can attempt to convey in words. It’s not just that no one notices he’s there, but also that he’s just not integrated into the thick of the team. The isolation is partly self-imposed, but that doesn’t change the fact there’s no sense of true inclusion when it comes to Kuroko. There’s no real sense of who he is because Kuroko himself is stuck in limbo – mired in self-doubt and vascillating between what was, and what is.
This episode, however, finally pushed him in one direction. He’s leaving all of it behind by acknowledging he wanted to be recognized by his old teammates, a significant event since it’s the first time he has expressed a desire of his own. Consciously or not, he’s followed a pattern by choosing Kagami and continuing to play with his style, but he’s finally breaking that here. The conversation between he and Kagami was hands-down my favorite scene of the episode since it showcased a deeper level of understanding between them that wasn’t there before. Kagami in particular surprised me in terms of how much thought he put into the situation, already knowing there was an alternate reason behind Kuroko choosing him as his partner. It’s definitely a new layer of maturity he’s displaying, and it’s a testament to how strong their friendship is. They’ve come a full circle now, with Kagami snapping Kuroko out of his funk like a true bro.
Kuroko has always been an enigma, but after the match with Touou, his aloof demeanor has been slowly crumbling as he finally faced a wall he couldn’t immediately climb over. For the first time since joining Seirin, he was forced to entertain the fact that perhaps his style couldn’t beat his old teammates after all. This played more tricks on his psyche than was first evident – admitting his limits not only means he needs to improve, it also means that there was some merit in his ex-teammates all losing their trust in him. In essence, the title of the “phantom sixth man” is more important to Kuroko than he first realizes. Otherwise, why would it matter if the Generation of Miracles acknowledges his style or not? If he didn’t feel any residual bitterness or disappointment, why bother going to all those lengths to specifically prove to them his playing is worthwhile? Bitterness is probably too strong a word – I imagine Kuroko’s feelings range from frustration to bitterness, but it doesn’t quite reach or linger at the latter extreme. Perhaps “wounded” is a better word to describe his feelings. Distrust is a powerful force that can make or break a team – while the Generation of Miracles was able to stay a “team” because they placed victory above all else, for someone like Kuroko, who relies solely on teamwork and needs the cohesive environment it provides, the lack of faith in him is lethal. His MiraGen teammates probably didn’t intend the mistrust, as the desire to win is as natural as eating and breathing. But intended or not, it happened, and it’s an offense that doesn’t disappear easily; so it’s not surprising to finally hear Kuroko admit with his own words that his fixation with proving his own self-worth was what was driving his actions. I find his character development particularly well-done because all these hints were there – while not outright addressed, there have been many instances in previous episodes where Kuroko’s “true” motives were hinted at. This moment was a long time coming, and the best thing about it is that this is more about Kuroko trusting Kagami enough to admit these things rather than finally knowing why he decided to partner with Kagami. Because the signs were all there, the viewers can piece together the story themselves. But sometimes, it’s not about knowing the outcome – it’s about seeing how the characters get there, seeing how they choose to interpret each other’s actions and how they choose to solve the conflict at hand.
KuroBasu is really hitting a new high each time they put a character through the wringer; Kuroko just shone this week, along with Kiyoshi. The Seirin ace is really something, subtly pulling the strings to set things in motion. In that vein, I feel Hyuuga got to shine in his own way, exercising some of those captain muscles that have been getting a little soft as of late. On the court, he’s capable and has the ability to command his team. But that does not a good captain make. A truly good captain can lead his teammates outside of the court, to encourage them and set them straight when they go astray – he does that here, and his scene with Kuroko is probably a close second in my favorites of the episode. It feels right that he’s the one to send Kuroko on his way, and it was a short but sweet display of Hyuuga’s capabilities as a leader and a senior.
- Now it’s Midorima’s turn to be relevant.
- SPOT THE MISSING BODY PART.
- D’aww, Kise… no matter how hard you try, you’ll never be able to beat the battleship that is AoKuro or KagaKuro.
- On a really, really random note, the convention I went to on Friday was a disappointment in many ways, but I did manage to score some decent loot! But seriously… come on Madoka; you aired what, four or five seasons ago? Get out of cons already.
- I’d like to take this section to thank the commenters – you guys have been absolutely wonderful at keeping the spoilers under the tags. Thanks a lot! 😀
ED2: 「カタルリズム」 (Kataru Rizumu) by OLDCODEX