Kuroko no Basuke is a series that has two major plot threads; Seirin’s journey to becoming the number one high school basketball team in Japan and Kuroko’s reconciliation with his former middle school teammates.
However, there are a couple of matches in the series that give you a glimpse of what’s to come for Japan’s high school basketball prodigies.
Reconciliation is such a strong theme throughout the entire series, so much so that it results in characters being villain stand-ins for many of the matches that take place.
This is the major difference between Kuroko no Basuke and, another sports series, Haikyuu!!. There aren’t, as far as I know, any Hanamiya’s that are dead-set on injuring players, no players that are as antagonistic as the Generation of Miracles are towards Kuroko and Seirin.
Haikyuu!! on the other hand gives you a great, endearing insight into the opposing team and humanises them to the point that you’re not 100% sure who you should be cheering for. It does a great job of reminding you that these are just high school kids playing the sport that they love, something that is perhaps a bit lost amongst all the crazy moves and power-ups of Kuroko no Basuke…
In Kuroko no Basuke, many of the characters develop as a result of their matches against Seirin, rather than the matches showing the culmination of their development. Loss, against Kuroko in particular, is the catalyst for their development, rather than the desire to win.
The issue here is that we never see the culmination of this development on the court for many of the characters. Although Midorima’s development culminates during the other Winter Cup semi final between Shutoku and Rakuzan, the only other player (besides Kise) that shows their development in-game is Akashi in the final moments of the Winter Cup Final.
It might be more accurate to say that loss gives many of the characters the desire to win once again, however we never get to see that desire in matches for characters such as Aomine and Murasakibara. It’s instantly noticeable when Oreshi returns in the last moments of the final that you’re more encouraged to cheer for and empathise with Rakuzan. Moments like this brings the series more in line, tonally, with Haikyuu!!.
However, one match in Kuroko no Basuke that exemplifies this change in tone is the Winter Cup semi final between Seirin and Kaijo. Although not the first time that Kuroko plays one of his old teammates for the second time, this match serves as the official round two of the very first match in the series.
I really love the pretense to this match and the idea that Kuroko sees Kise as his rival. This might be the first time in the series that you actually see Kuroko place himself on the same level as the Generation of Miracles.
The teacher against the prodigal student, if you will.
For the first time, both Miracles have such determined fire in their eyes and yet nothing underlying to prove to each other. Both want to win for their team and neither want to lose.
This is what makes this match so pure; it’s not Kuroko trying to make Kise acknowledge his style of basketball, nor does he need to reconcile with him. It’s beautifully simplistic. This match has no real underlying purpose besides determining which team is stronger.
Kuroko doesn’t have to worry about, ‘what if I never get my friend back?’, ‘what if he doesn’t love basketball anymore?’ because, as much as he downplays their closeness, Kise is Kuroko’s friend, student and rival. Their mutual respect for each other is quite special, in respect to their student – tutor relationship and the fact that their talents and playstyles are completely different.
There’s this great, almost meta, moment just before the match starts where Izuki states that this feels different to almost all of their previous matches:
He’s exactly right. There’s no animosity, no feelings of sadness or insignificance to deal with. Everything from the past has been left behind, the two teams need only focus on the match that lies in front of them.
Even the OP that accompanies this arc is one of the most light-hearted in the series, perhaps a reflection of this match’s genuine competitive spirit:
In many ways, this match is the least melodramatic match in the whole series, one more grounded in reality, like many of the matches in Haikyuu!!.
Although Kise experiences loss for the first time against Kuroko & Seirin, and it admittedly still hits him hard, his character development comes as a resulting of finding his place at Kaijo High School.
As I’ve written before in a previous article about Kuroko no Basuke, Kise’s character development, as a result of Kaijo rather than just Kuroko, is foreshadowed quite early on in the series:
It’s also worth noting that Kise seems to be the Teiko regular who holds the least amount of ill-feelings towards Kuroko in the first place. Losing was a shock to his system, but he never doubted Kuroko’s basketball.
On the contrary, his development is shown much more in relation to his teammates at Kaijo because that’s what he was searching for all along: a team he could call home.
This development also results in one of my favourite panels in the entire series:
Kise’s outward expression of love towards his new team is one of my favourite moments of character development in the whole series. I’m absolutely not the first person to draw comparisons between Kise & Kasamatsu and Oikawa & Iwazumi from Haikyuu!!, but the similar relationships and respect the other half demands from the other is greatly needed for both Kise and Oikawa to keep them grounded.
Despite being the most talented player on his team by far, he’s treated like a first year just like the others. It’s this sense of not being special, despite his overwhelming talent, that eventually makes Kise feel so at home at Kaijo.
To draw another similarity with Haikyuu!!, this match is also similar to Karasuno’s second tournament match against Aoba Johsai. This is because both matches are much more about the entire teams, rather than individual miracle match-ups. We even see some of the other Seirin first years on-court for the very first time!
This isn’t just Kuroko and Kagami vs Kise, it’s Seirin vs Kaijo. This rivalry is the strongest between any two teams in the whole series and this match is a culmination of every player’s desire to win
This is emphasised by Kise and Kuroko both being off the court at roughly the same time, letting the rest of their teams shine before they both return for the climax.
The result of this is a complete match that rushes towards you at a blistering pace, breaking your ankles and leaving you behind before you even know what’s happened. Both teams go all out from the get-go, making sure there are no regrets when the final whistle blows.
There’s no frustration in the small defeats during the match, only appreciation for the other’s ability to adapt and raise the quality of basketball being played. This is a direct contrast to Seirin’s opening Winter Cup match against Aomine and Touou academy, where Kuroko’s frustration at his ineffectiveness literally lead him to tears.
The crowd in this match is a direct reflection of the response that it elicits from the audience watching/reading. There is a real push and pull between support for Seirin and Kaijo which really emphasises the tone shift, that this is not a match between heroes and villains but two teams who have fought, tooth and nail, to get this far.
Who deserves to win is up to the audience to decide, as Fujimaki finally presents a match in a way that shows that both teams ‘deserve’ to win. However, that’s the beauty of sports; two teams pour their heart, sweat and blood into the match, but only one can walk away the winner.
Of course, there are other parts of the series that show glimpses of this tone shift. The final minutes of the Winter Cup final between Seirin and Rakuzan, for example, once Akashi returns to his original state is a great example of the two teams being able to play without any underlying feelings or restraints.
As a whole, I love both Kuroko no Basuke and Haikyuu!!, for both their similarities and their differences. I also find the tone shift of the Seirin – Kaijo match really interesting in the context of the series, as you watch their rivalry build up from the very beginning.
During the match Aomine, who is not yet in attendance, ponders the idea that Kagami meeting Kuroko, and all of them being in the same school year, was an act of fate. This directly coincides with the match that is happening at the same time:
Kagami is Kuroko’s true light and a miracle in his own right. If this meeting between all seven of them was fate, this match is setting the example of what their basketball against each other should be like.
Kuroko and Kagami are the only ones able to help the GoM bury the past and rejuvenate their love for basketball. It’s because of Seirin’s ascension that they are all able to move forward with their new teams.
At the end of the Winter Cup final Kuroko remarks that, with all feelings of the past done and dusted, the Generation of Miracles are free to play the basketball they love against each other for the next two years and possibly beyond. This match is a glimpse of their future, even if we’ll never get to see it ourselves…