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branchandroot: oak against sky (Default)
Well, I guess now we definitely know how Fujimaki feels about writing an omake of the often-called-for Teikou reunion game.

The Vorpal Swords

*falls over, howling with laughter*

So, tracking back up the tree, this is a reference from the nonsense poem, "Jabberwocky", out of the book Through the Looking Glass, the sequel to Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll. The poem, in-story, is in mirror writing and Alice, after deciphering it, observes that "Somehow it seems to fill my head with ideas--only I don't exactly know what they are! However, somebody killed something: that's clear, at any rate" (65).

Whereby, I infer that Fujimaki also kind of likes the idea of a team reunion, but really didn't have any firm ideas about how to arrange it. We are forthwith warned to expect nonsense and dream-like demi-coherence as he trumps up a suitably "manxome foe" to be defeated by his "beamish boy[s]". Somebody will kill something, that's clear at any rate.

Coming on top of naming the opponents "Jabberwock", this is one of the least subtle "the editors are making me do this, and you asked for it" flags I have ever encountered. Congratulations, Fujimaki-sensei, on your nomination for this year's Anno Award.
branchandroot: bare foot reflected in water (dancer's foot)
You know what I'm liking about this arc of Kuroko no Basuke? The emphasis on how much difference physical endurance makes. The MiraGen have amazing skills right from the get-go, but they're still twelve/thirteen years old and just plain aren't physically developed enough to play through two games in a day. So, one, I like the realism of that.

What I like even more, though, is the perspective this gives to Kuroko's "weakness". Akashi says flat out that Kuroko's skills and reactions are good; it's his endurance that's seriously sub-par, below that of even his age-mates.

Kuroko's endurance is improving, though. We've had this marked really viscerally twice already: at the start of his third-string training, that level is enough to have him throwing up. (Brief aside: that's usually what happens when you over-do an aerobic activity, not a purely muscular activity, and actually it can happen really fast.) He keeps working and improves his endurance, though, and by the time of his test he can keep up with third-string, and implicitly with second-string, just fine. When he moves to first, though, he's throwing up again. We know, though, that he gets past that eventually, so first-string isn't his ultimate limit either.

Now, by the start of canon year, he can only sustain the concentration required for misdirection on top of the physical effort required to keep up with the MiraGen for about fourteen minutes. (Anyone else think about what that fourteen minute figure means? What it means that both Kuroko and Kise know it so well and assume it's a hard limit? It can only have been the limit of Kuroko's endurance in combination with the MiraGen's level of play, and neither of them seem to make that connection. The MiraGen have become Kuroko's measure for standard play, the level he assumes in the back of his head that everyone will have, the measure that he has to meet and surpass to be satisfied. Kuroko never accepts his limitations, or anyone else's, as a weakness, which is both a blind spot for him and kind of awe-inspiring.) At any rate, we know that he's still having trouble with endurance at the start of canon year, still having to build it slowly, far more slowly than most of the other players, including the ones with considerably less actual skill.

And yet...

And yet, what the current arc really emphasizes, when you think about it, is that Kuroko has been building it. He can play for longer, now, than he could at the start of the year. He's still moving forward.

Kuroko has not yet hit the wall in his development as a player. (Possibly because his response to what most people would consider the wall is to start climbing.) This arc is showing us his rate of progress, and by that measure we can see pretty clearly: Kuroko is still getting stronger.
branchandroot: butterfly on a rose (butterfly rose)
So, Fujimaki kind of fell down on explaining a lot of what Kise did in the semi-final match; this, of course, means that I needed to poke at it and try to come up with a rationale. It's actually surprisingly easy, and over and above that it also suggests some interesting things about the shape of Kise's real talent and why it hasn't manifested completely yet.

The very short version is that Kise simply doesn't have enough experience; his story is the one that has the most need to keep going into next year to develop. It's actually kind of ruthlessly realistic of Fujimaki, considering.

First, though, let's back up and think about what it is he actually does.

spoilers obviously )
branchandroot: oak against sky (Default)
So, let's think about Aomine and the issue of violence.

We have two instances of overt physical violence, from him, in canon. They fall one on each side of his loss to Seirin, and serve to highlight how much of a difference that loss makes to his actions and outlook.

Spoilers, obviously )

Of course, the other thing that interests me is Aomine's apparent familiarity with the mechanics of violence. And Kuroko's, also.

More spoilers, but mostly speculation )
branchandroot: stack of books by arm chair (book love)
So, the collective title given to KnB's five players who were very good but still over shadowed by the Miracle Generation is 無冠 の 五将. This is variously translated as the "Uncrowned Kings" or "Uncrowned Generals". Three of them show up on Akashi's team, and this is significant.

五将 is actually two words: go (five) and shou (commander/leader/general). That shou is also the character used for several kinds of pieces in shougi, the ruling or jeweled general, often called the king in English, the gold generals, and the silver generals. There are five of these pieces to a side. I may have sparkled with helplessly delighted geekery when I realized this.

無冠 is one word, which really does translate pretty directly to "un-crowned", specifically indicating someone who did not receive an award or title despite being nominated or in the qualifying pool.

Now I desperately want the names of the shougi pieces to show up in reference to these guys in some meaningful way.
branchandroot: two hands drawing each other (drawing each other)
In some ways, I see these two characters as two sides of the same coin, that coin being strategy.

Akashi's particular strengths are associated, in the story, with shougi, a complex strategy game which includes the possibility of captured pieces being deployed against one and the promotion to new mobility of almost all the pieces upon penetrating the opponent's territory. We have yet to see exactly how this plays out in a game, but it suggests a strong ability to think ahead, to model branching possibilities with unpredictable variables, and to correctly perceive the strengths and weaknesses of the "pieces", the players, in question.

Kuroko's ability to pass with the speed and accuracy he does suggests that he can track the flow of the game with a similar kind of perception. He must know where all the players are, where they are moving, and where their attention is, in order to perform his misdirection while getting the ball into the hands of a player open to move or score. More than once, we see him passing to where a moving player is going to be, or passing behind himself to a player he cannot see at that particular moment.

There is another possible coin here, though, which is less clearly shown as yet. I might call this coin leadership or guidance or direction.

In Akashi's case, it's clear he possesses this quality; it's just not clear yet why or how it operates. We know he was captain at Teikou for at least two and possibly all three years. We know he is now, as a first year, captain of the Rakuzan team, and that all the older players, who are powerful and well known in their own rights, show no objection to or resentment of this fact. Perhaps it's as simple as Akashi's strategic ability being obvious and overwhelming. Perhaps he will be shown to have a great deal of charisma, though I personally doubt this; his affect is very quiet and understated so far, and his old team doesn't respond to him in ways that suggest charisma, to me. My money is on overwhelming talent and perception, with a touch of megalomania on the side.

Kuroko, with an even more understated and quiet affect, is a little subtler. But I find it notable that every time he suggests a strategy to his teammates, it's adopted. Even Kagami, who argues volubly with their senpai, listens to Kuroko. Indeed, Kuroko is often the one who steps in to end Kagami's arguments with the coach and captain. To be sure, he often does this by punching/jabbing/facepalming Kagami one, but this is indeed what works with Kagami. Hyuuga is the captain, Izuki the play-maker, Aida the coach; Kuroko defers to all of them and none of these are authorities are compromised. But there are also repeated comments on how taking Kuroko off the court makes the team less cohesive. Ironically enough for a shadow-player, if there's anyone who has charisma, here, I think it's Kuroko. What he doesn't show any sign of is Akashi's raw talent and drive, or perhaps obsession.

I have to wonder whether it will turn out that only Akashi and Kuroko put together constitute the kind of leader we're used to seeing in this genre, and that part of the plot tension and complexity is produced precisely by separating that archetype of powerful-and-charismatic into two characters who appear to have different and competing visions of what a team should be.
branchandroot: butterfly on a desk with a world in a bottle (butterfly glass desk)
One of the things that fascinates me about Kuroko no Basuke is the way it messes with its own genre.

Shounen sports manga or anime generally center around an underdog or unknown team who, by determination and effort, by the talents of a few older players and the heretofore unrevealed talents of one or two younger players, struggle through the gauntlet of local tournaments to play at the national tournament for their age group. It's a genre that focuses on the value of teamwork and grit and entices the audience with the figure of the often unprepossessing and average young hero who discovers his special talent and value thanks to entering this sport. He even finds himself supplied with a new set of intense personal relationships, usually in the person of his rival(s) but sometimes also in his team. For a relatively recent and very well executed, example of the genre, I recommend Eyeshield 21 (at least up until the end of Nationals, at which point the way the authors play with cliche dives over the shark into disturbing national stereotypes).

The thing is, the focus is on the hero's growth. He starts out inexperienced or undisciplined and has to strengthen himself to meet every new level as the team claws its way up the charts. This is where the plot tension comes from. The team almost invariably suffers a loss somewhere in the first half of the story, one that sets them back but does not completely wash them out, and which spurs them to new heights of determination and growth. In the end, the team, and the hero, realize their true strength and overcome.

Kuroko no Basuke starts where most series end.

Read more... )

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