So a while back I did something fairly monumental. I upgraded my score for Kuroko no Basuke on MyAnimeList from a 9 to a 10. Why, you ask? Well that's what I'm about to tell you. Warning: hyperbole may be employed.
First of all though, there are probably some people out there who don't know what Kuroko no Basuke (or 'The Basketball Which Kuroko Plays') is. I did in fact touch on it briefly in my summary of the spring season when it started airing, but I can tell you that that barely scratched the surface and, looking back on it now, I can't quite understand my mindset at the time. I mean come on, "The plot is literally 'They play basketball'."? Now I know that basketball is, for a fact, the coolest thing ever.
So the premise for the story is that there is this middle school that is insanely good at basketball, and one year they managed to recruit a squad of unbelievably talented players - the so-called "Generation of Miracles". These prodigies each had their own unique basketball talent, ranging from 'being able to copy any play that they see' to 'just being really, really tall', and naturally they became an unstoppable force in the world of middle school basketball - a world which is surprisingly well publicised in the universe of this series. The kicker is that there was another player in this squad, a "phantom sixth man" if you will, who excelled at passing and teamplay rather than cultivating insane individual talent like the others. This was, of course, Kuroko. So the story kicks off in the year after the Generation of Miracles graduated from middle school and they've each gone off to play for different high schools, and we follow Kuroko who's joined a new and relatively unknown team. He and his new teammate, recently returned from America, Kagami begin their quest to defeat the Generation of Miracles and become the best damned high school basketball players in Japan!
Needless to say there are a whole load of twists and turns along the way which I don't want to spoil, but now you have the essential premise. So what makes the series so good? To be honest that's a question I'm still wrestling with, even now long after the first season of the anime finished airing (a second season has just been announced - huzzah!) and 195 chapters into the manga. I think there are definitely multiple facets to the answer though, so I'll take a swing at it. One of the first things to pop into my head when I ask myself that question is "the adrenaline rush", and it is certainly a major factor. When I was watching the anime (and subsequently when I was reading the manga or rewatching the show at least another 8 or so times) every single week's portion of Kuroko no Basuke felt like a dose of some sort of basketball drug - I couldn't get enough; I wanted more. The thrill of seeing each new episode uploaded was greater than that given by any other series in recent times, and each episode left me pining in eager anticipation for the speedy release of the next one, mainly due to the extraordinary amount of adrenaline flowing through my bloodstream. "They just play basketball" held no meaning for me anymore - basketball is now what gets me pumped up!
How does Kuroko no Basuke manage to get so intense? Well put simply it's because it's purely and unashamedly shounen - it delivers the thrills and spills that a battle manga gives from fights that progress far beyond the boundaries of logic, people leveling-up at every turn due to the unstoppable power of friendship, shocking twists and impossibly outrageous abilities! In other words it gives you that hit of senseless violence - or in this case I suppose 'senseless basketball' - which the mind needs to keep ticking over. The basketball court in essence becomes a battlefield; that is why basketball is suddenly exciting to watch. This comparison becomes even more prominent in the manga where, not too far past where the anime got to, players start naming their basketball moves and we're treated to gorgeous two-page spreads full of SFX and toner. By no means does the anime slouch in comparison however and all the features of the medium, especially music (which in this case is a phenomenal blend of overdrive guitar, synth and pseudo-dubstep), are used to exceptional effect when it comes to building tension and accentuating the key moments. So I guess my first reason as to why Kuroko no Basuke is so good comes down to "It's a series which makes it hard to sit still." I've even had urges to go out and play basketball because of this show. As in, actually play sport. Naturally I didn't, but you get the point right?
What's the next facet to delve into then? At this point I'm tempted to say it's the characters. Now I wouldn't go so far as saying that I've never found the characters in generic shounen appealing or entertaining, but I like to think myself not easily charmed by half-baked character design or the like, and in fact a series' cast of characters is often what heavily influences my judging of its quality, but Kuroko no Basuke has a wealth of absolutely fantastic characters - I find it incredibly hard not to root for everyone! It starts out with a relatively small group of actually developed characters in the form of the Generation of Miracles and, to an extent, the members of Kuroko's team, but I believe at some point it must have twigged in the mangaka's mind that the massive selection of side-characters that comes from having so many teams of at least five people leaves a lot of room to up the quality - in terms of lovable familiar faces and more in-depth character interactions - because as the series progresses all of these previously minor characters become fleshed out and we even delve into their motivations. Of course a lot of characters are still left with very one-dimensional personalities, but this usually then just goes to serve some of the fantastic comedy which is often amiss in sports series. There are so many unique, and even completely contrasting, characters that I somehow find myself loving equally, which is highly unprecedented. As a matter of fact I'm so taken that, in the wake of this new obsession of mine, I found myself following a good number of Kuroko no Basuke fan pages which ended up making my newsfeed look like some fangirl's BL/yaoi treasure trove with all their posts, and yet for some reason I don't care!
The last facet I'm going to talk about is what amounts to "lasting appeal" I suppose. A little while back there were a couple of polls published where anime fans were asked which shows that were currently popular they thought would still be remembered in 5, 10, 20 years time. Well I was rather surprised by the results of this, specifically that Kuroko no Basuke placed 2nd in the "Which series do you think will be forgotten soon?" category (it also placed somewhere reasonably high up in the "Which series do you think will not be forgotten?" category, but that's not the point >.<). I'm surprised because the series has already had a pretty significant effect on my life, and I don't see that stopping any time soon. Now of course I'm not saying Kuroko no Basuke has changed who I am or has led me to better life choices or anything like that, but it's always been lingering in my mind ever since the anime finished airing back in summer. Anyone who knows me will be no doubt aware of this new obsession I've acquired, and I think the amount of people I've recommended it to or forced to watch it over the last few months exceeds even my cumulative Angel Beats badgering over the last couple of years!
This sort of lasting effect has surfaced in a number of ways, but I'll take a couple of specific examples. The first and easiest one would be this post in itself - Kuroko no Basuke has FINALLY brought me back on here to make a post which I haven't managed to do in quite some time, and it's even taken me over a month to complete the post from initiating the process. Not to mention I've far exceeded what I'd call my 'optimal length' for posts on here, and I'm severely abridging myself. But I think the real telling point is the moment in this last term where I realised that I was spending literally (and this isn't hyperbole for once) a majority of my waking hours thinking about, watching, pondering, reading, contemplating and most of all discussing the series and how AWESOME it is, along with those to whom I'd introduced it. It's that sort of level of "lasting appeal" that I'm talking about, and I think that when it gets to that point it's impossible to deny that we're talking about an exceptional series here - to consume me to such a degree - even if one can't pinpoint what it is in fact that makes it so great! It looks like I've given you lucky people a real look into my psyche here, and it's probably pretty worrying...
Also to all you people who ship Kise and Aomine I have to say you're just wrong. Kise is far too cool for Aomine, and anyway Aomine clearly already has Kuroko. These are objective facts.
Oh God, what have I become? I'm starting to scare myself. I'm going to stop now.