Kuroko’s Basketball has been pretty exciting lately. We finally get to watch the Generation of Miracles go toe-to-toe with each other and with Seirin, and it is awesome. Egos inflate and deflate. Kise and Kagami greet each other with slam dunks before their much-anticipated rematch. Fans cheer, squeal, and gasp both on the bleachers and behind their screens while ships continue to sail. Sometimes, I forget why I’m so excited. And then I remember what sets this show apart: the basketball which Kuroko plays.
In season one, we learn that Kuroko isn’t happy with how the Teiko Middle School team turned out. Everyone else sees the Generation of Miracles, an unbeatable team of allstars. But Kuroko sees athletes who prize their individual abilities above teamwork, winning above friendship, or personal challenge above what’s best for the team. They are immensely talented, but they’ve lost their perspective. Kuroko seeks a team that loves basketball and works together, that knows winning isn’t everything—but will try their darndest to win, because they love the game. This is the kind of team he can support.
Maybe Kuroko can keep his perspective because of his own skill set. Unlike the rest of the Generation of Miracles and Kagami, Kuroko can’t score on his own. He doesn’t even learn to shoot until partway through his first year of high school. Instead, he specializes in passing. When his teammates pass a ball, he briefly touches it, sending the pass in a different direction than their opponents expect. Through middle school and the first part of the anime, he rarely, if ever, holds or dribbles the ball for more than a second—and that is part of the “Misdirection” foundational to his play. He already has almost no presence on the court. He appears too weak and small compared even to average players, so opponents naturally focus on the more “significant” members of the team. Add to that his calculated contact with the ball and the tricks with his eyes, and he can easily direct attention away from himself, becoming essentially invisible. By disappearing, he enhances both the individual skills and group coordination of his team. He plays as a shadow, but that only works if he can team with others.
Kuroko and Kagami join Seirin’s basketball club at the same time. Kagami is a tall, imposing athlete who has just come back to Japan after living and playing in America for several years. At first, he doesn’t understand why the pathetically-weak-looking Kuroko plays basketball. Kuroko, on the other hand, immediately recognizes Kagami’s strength and chooses to become a shadow to his light. In other words, while Kuroko does work with the entire team, he focuses on providing Kagami opportunities to shine even brighter than he could on his own.
Meanwhile, when people eventually notice Kuroko, they ask each other, “Wait a second… was number 11 on the court the entire time?”
In order to made Kagami shine and contribute to the team’s victories, Kuroko must forgo his own glory. Opponents forget he’s on the court, but they’re not the only ones. Journalists forget to interview him when they talk to the team. Fans of the Generation of Miracles forget about him… if they ever knew about him in the first place. Only people who have shared the court with him acknowledge his strength, and he’s okay with that.
Now, Kuroko’s gameplay has evolved a bit. He finally learned to shoot, and it’s a pretty incredible, unique shot, one that even Murasakibara couldn’t block. His Vanishing Drive starts to draw attention, too… and I haven’t forgotten Misdirection Overflow, in which he purposefully draws all attention to himself, away from his teammates. Kuroko isn’t just a shadow anymore. He’s spunky and competitive and not afraid to show it… If it’s also in the best interests of the team. In fact, in some matches—like the current one against Kise—it would be pointless to start with his normal disappearing act. Kise and the rest of Kaijo would see right through it. Thankfully, Kuroko’s new skills allow him to play on equal ground with the rest of the team, even when he’s not running his Misdirection. He’s still well aware of his limitations—he’s not dunking anytime soon!—and even when he gets competitive as an individual, it’s more a matter of personal challenge than attention seeking.
Kuroko’s humble approach to basketball has me thinking about my approach to writing and school. I like my abilities to be recognized. Read the rest of this entry
Shonen heroes usually get a lot of flack, and perhaps rightfully so, for being one-dimensional, rough around the edges, and often annoying. Eren Jaeger, the primary lead of Attack on Titan (Shingeki no Kyojin), fits the bill perfectly. He’s frustratingly childish in his worldview, but moves ahead and becomes heroic because of sheer determination (that and his ability to TURN INTO A TITAN).
Unlike Armin or Erwin or even Levi, Eren has not a shred of eloquence in his speech. He’s not particularly bright, and his lack of speaking ability matches his age – he is only a teenager after all. And yet, smooth words and even leadership skills don’t matter much when it comes to Eren. What matters most about him is literally what’s inside.
In this way, Eren reminds me of Moses, the great prophet who brought the Israelites out of Egyptian bondage. Do you remember that when God commands him to go free His people, Moses replies that he can’t because of his poor speaking skills? God even assigns Moses’ brother, Aaron, to him as a spokesperson. And yet, it’s through Moses, despite all the mumbles he must’ve uttered, that the millions of Israelites became free. God used a most imperfect man to do a miracle (dozens of miracles, actually).
It’s here – the end is nigh! A wonderful, amazing, long-running manga has finally come to a close.
At the end of September, and after a 13-year-run, Claymore finally concluded. So obviously, it took me almost two weeks to finally get around to reading the last chapter. But I must say, though the last entire half of Claymore hasn’t nearly lived up to the first half, the final few chapters were very, very good.
But maybe I’m just saying that because I feel they reflect something even greater than the manga itself.
If you’ve been reading the last few months, you’ll notice that Teresa of the Faint Smile, whose shocking death brought notoriety to Claymore many years ago, has returned. Clare has transformed into her mentor, and Teresa, the strongest claymore to have ever lived, is the only one powerful enough to finally destroy Priscilla.
But is it really Teresa who is victorious? Well, it is and it isn’t. In an internal dialogue, Teresa explains that she appeared because Clare’s wishes for and about her, and because of all that Clare had done – improving herself and building community with those around her. Because of all this, Teresa was able to reappear. And though Teresa’s physical embodiment will now disappear completely, she’ll remain with Clare in spirit, continuing to be with her. And as Clare embraces her mentor – indeed, her mother figure – she knows this to be true – Teresa will always be with her.
I’m not a terribly big fan of Free! I really don’t remember season one too well, and two has been meh for me as well. But beginning with the last episode, the series has really picked up, and in episode ten, it does something really unexpected – it takes all the build up from this season and a lot from the last and makes it pay off in a way that doesn’t feel pushy or unnatural. In that way, episode ten felt, well, kinda free.
In this week’s episode, the focus lands squarely upon Sousuke, as he finally gets a chance to shine. As the emphasis of the lesser subplot this season, Sousuke doesn’t get a super thorough back story, but the few minutes spent on it in this episode were enough. We view Rin through Sousuke’s eyes, and see how Rin’s actions and thoughts through the years impacted him and ultimately helped turn him into a better person, one who once approached swimming selfishly, but now did it purely for friendship, even through physical pain.
But note this – Sousuke doesn’t take that final step toward making change in his life until he sees Rin compete in the relay with Makoto, Nagisa, and Haru. In that moment, the climax of season one, Rin became a “true believer.” And in that moment, Rin and the Iwatoba team served as witnesses to Sousuke, who would eventually transform as well.
Notice the way the personal transformation in this series works. Through demonstrating love toward Rin, the Iwatoba boys help push Rin toward change. By demonstrating a loving coaching style toward his team, his teammates do the same. And by showing love for one another, Sousuke is pushed toward change. All this transformation is almost infectious.
When you last had to make such a moral choice, did you do what was right or what was convenient? In episode two of Blue Spring Ride (Ao Haru Ride), Futuba makes that decision spurred on by the words of Kou from the previous episode, when he said that she was merely “playing at friendship” with her two close friends from class. And with her mind all a flutter after speaking with Yuri, and realizing their similarities run deeper than she imagined, Futuba scornfully rejects the faux friendship she had developed.
This climax, though, happens about midway through the episode. What’s interesting, then, is that the rest of the show focuses on the fallout and on Futuba embracing her decision. She blurted out what she did almost involuntarily, and even apologizes for it, which hardly shows a determination to make change. It’s only through accepting that it was a good decision as days (weeks?) pass by that Futuba accepts what she did as right and is able to move forward.
This tension that Futuba deals with isn’t much different from that we might face in our everyday lives. We’re sometimes confronted with choosing between doing what we know is right and what we’d rather do. And if there isn’t some anchor that holds us steady, it becomes way too easy to choose, well, the easy way.
In Blue Spring Ride, Kou functions as Futuba’s anchor in her decision. He whispers truth to Futuba, and Futuba responds as she does, taking the hard road.
July 15th marks the 8th anniversary of the release of The Girl Who Leapt Through Time. Marvelously weaving science fiction, romance, and comedy into a story that’s charming and sometimes heart-breaking, TGWLTT is one of my favorite films, and stands with and above most of the great anime movies of the last 15 years, including anything Studio Ghibli has released. It remains Mamoru Hosoda’s (Summer Wars, Wolf Children) best film.
One of the best parts of TGWLTT is how about midway through the movie, it flips it’s tone. There are charming bits about how Makoto, who has gained the ability to time leap, uses her new power to do all sorts of trivial things, from looping a karaoke session over and over to dumbfounding friends with her sudden surge in test scores. But when she realizes how her ability is leading to unexpected and painful consequences, Makoto seeks to make things right (and much of the drama in the film involves whether or not her decisions can prevent some personally catastrophic events).
We’re not so different from Makoto, as it’s not unusual for people to make sudden changes in their choices as well when faced by undeniable reality. Sudden illness, loss of a relationship, failed job opportunities – these are the kinds of events that kick start something within us, driving us to make changes we’ve long known we should. We may suddenly make big shifts in our lives, including perhaps how we approach health, relationships, religion, etc.
But these are bigger changes – what of the little changes in our lives, those that demonstrate love for others? Note that when Makoto changes the way she approaches her time leaps, she does a total 180 – her choices now are entirely for others, and not for herself. She realizes her priorities – those that she most loves.
Lady Saika discusses Haiyore! Nyarko-san in her examination of the elder God, Cthulu. [Lady Geek Girl and Friends]
Tsunderin and MadameAce point out the Jesus allusion in a very critical review of Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind. [Lady Geek Girl and Friends]
Guardian Enzo mentions a number of religious connects in episode four of Red Data Girl. [Lost in America]
The Medieval Otaku, frequently featured in this column, celebrated both his 100th post and one year blogging anniversarythis past week. Congratulations! [Medieval Otaku]
There were a number of reviews posted this week that contained ratings and other information directed at Christian viewers:
- Samurai Champloo [Lobster Quadrille]
- Gaiking-Legend of the Daikyu-Maru [Cacao, put down the shovel!]
- Demonbane [Cacao, put down the shovel!]
Also, a little something more to something more – I missed a couple of articles (and maybe a lot more) the last few weeks as I’ve started to learn the ins and outs of Feedly versus Google Reader. Here are a couple good ones I missed out on:
Our own Zeroe4 comments on his personal experience, specifically discussing how his own relationship with the Holy Spirit relates to his viewing of AnoHana and Jintan’s experiences. [Zeroe4]
Kokoro Hane tells how God motivated her through Bakuman to work on storyboards. [Kokoro no Uta]
As part of the Something More series of posts, each week Beneath the Tangles links to writings about anime and manga that involve religion and spirituality. If you’ve written such a piece or know of one, please email TWWK if you’d like it included.
I adore the characters in Princess Jellyfish, particularly the protagonist, Tsukimi. Their awkward tendencies and feelings of wanting to often hide from the world are very relatable.
The show centers around five hermit-like, NEET otaku that live together in an old apartment complex in Tokyo and refer to themselves as the Amars or “nuns.” Their otaku interests range from trains to Three Kingdoms to traditional clothing and dolls to “gracefully aging” men. Tsukimi is the newest member and fits right in, which is a rare thing to happen for her as we learn, with her obsessive affinity for jellyfish. Although Tsukimi enjoys her life and the people she lives with, she admits from episode one realizing she doesn’t think she is what she was meant to be.
“Mom, I know I was supposed to turn into a princess, but somehow I became a freak.”
On the surface, she is referring to the way she looks, but on a deeper level I think she feels more should be happening in her life, that she should have become something greater. She is not sure what that thing is, she just knows. Read the rest of this entry
Kathleen Kern is a part of Christian Peacemaker Teams, an organization which seeks to transform areas under occupation or war through non-violent methods. She is also an anime fan, and brought this interest together with a passion for her work in Because the Angels, a novel featuring a protagonist who is Blood+ obsessed. She was gracious enough to answer a few questions for us.
TWWK: Kathleen, your main character is a woman who is obsessed with anime, particularly Blood+. What compelled you to create such a character and to use anime as such an important part of the novel?
Kathleen: I had insomnia one night and was looking through the channels. The name “Samurai Champloo” just struck me as funny for reason, and when I tuned in–somewhere in the middle of the series, I thought it was funny and liked the fluid drawing. I liked the way that Mugen and Jin kind of looked semi-realistic, but Fuu looked like big-eyed anime characters. I’ve always been a sucker for stories that mix humor with pathos (I pretty much learned to read, by reading Heidi over and over again), which Samurai Champloo does. I think Blood+ was playing after Samurai Champloo, which has more pathos than humor, but the story line and the music drew me in. In hindsight, I realize that I started on shows with a more artistic bent than most anime series. If I had started on Inuyasha, for example, I don’t think I would have gotten sucked in (but I actually ended up watching the whole Inuyasha series, as well as some other “lessers.”) Read the rest of this entry