Kuroko’s Basketball is a property that I heard a lot about when I started getting back into manga and anime. Mostly because of the crazy real world stuff that has sadly become attached to the series, but that is neither here nor there. This one also my first attempt at reading a sports-themed manga. I have enjoyed plenty of animes that take on sports: Hiakyuu, Ping Pong, Prince of Tennis, and Baby Steps to name a few. Yes, a lot of those were tennis related, but those were the first that came to mind. As a manga, this works okay because creator Tadatoshi Fujimaki understands that he cannot rely on showing a lot of actual Basketball being played. The problem with that is that the story is then forced to rely on long-winded conversations and exposition dumps.
Even with that said, you can see why so many people became attached to this story. It paired the shonen style to the sports genre perfectly. There’s a miracle generation of middle schoolers that have all gone their separate ways after being a powerhouse middle school team. Now on different teams, they want to see who’s the best. There're rumors of a sixth man, and he shares a name with the title of the book… because it is his book.
What’s strange about Kuroko the character is that he does not feel like the main character. Instead, Taiga Kagami tends to stand out as more of the main character. Perhaps this is intentional since Kuroko’s “super” power is to be unnoticed which becomes a running joke early on in the story and never lets up. The duo makes a great pair, but I have a problem with Kuroko’s motivation of making Taiga the best basketball player in Japan. Hopefully that will be amended in future issues to be the best basketball team, but otherwise, it is a terrible motivation to give a character.
The collection I read contained volume 1 and 2, which was a good thing. Sure it is a lot longer than an average manga, but I do not think I would have returned to this series if I did not have the second volume. A lot of time is spent setting up the team, but not on the court. There’s just a lot of wasted time getting to know things about the school, about the coach and it exposition after exposition because there’s not a good way to explain to the character and the audience that the coach can see your physical stats just by looking.
The art is decent. It was my least favorite thing since all the line work, and designs were light. It is not as light as something you would find on the Shojo Beat side of Viz, but definitely a lot softer in look and design than a lot of other books I have read. The designs are pretty dull as everyone looks like a character you have probably seen before or was inspired by this.
I can appreciate Kuroko’s Basketball for doing something new and different with the genre. I have already seen copies of it applied to other sports (that I like a lot more). While I can appreciate it, I do not particularly have the desire to read more. It is not that I would not recommend you to read it if you are looking for a sports manga or something specific to basketball, but the third volume would have to be pretty incredible for me to continue after that. I know that sounds cruel, but my problem is that I can read the books inspired by Kuroko’s Basketball and see them fix the problems that this story has. At the end of the day, it is inspired a lot of great work that I would rather read, but I am grateful this blazed the trail first.
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Kuroko’s Basketball vol. 1 & 2 Creator: Tadatoshi Fujimaki Publisher: Viz Media Price: $16.99 Format: Ongoing; Print/Digital