Image source: アニメ黒子のバスケ on Twitter
The TV anime series Kuroko’s Basketball was a series I was frustrated with. “It’s not a sport series, it’s an action series,” was my thought. It turns out I was completely wrong on both fronts. It’s far more than a sports or action series and the 2017 movie Kuroko’s Basketball The Last Game showed me why.
In Kuroko’s Basketball our heroes Taiga Kagami and Tetsuya Kuroko join their high school basketball team with one goal in mind: beat the five greatest high school basketball players called “The Generation of Miracles.” But this is no easy task, as the members of Generation of Miracles possess skills beyond belief and have abrasive personalities to boot. Through hard work, perseverance, and a little ingenuity, though, Taiga and Tetsuya are able to defeat all five of the Miracles.
Kuroko’s Basketball The Last Game is the sequel to the Kuroko’s Basketball anime series. An American street basketball team called the Jabberwocks is invited to an exhibition match in Japan. After thoroughly defeating the Japanese team, the captain of the Jabberwocks ridicules Japan’s level of play. Not having any of this Taiga and Tetsuya join forces with the Miracles to defeat the Jabberwocks.
But, why is it Taiga and Tetsuya are joining forces with their enemies in the movie? And why is it you want to root for these villains? They’re supposed to be at odds with the heroes. Yet, this isn’t the case. While part of this revolves around the insult made by the captain of the Jabberwocks, it actually falls into one trope seen in the shonen anime and manga series. The idea after a bad guy is defeated they turn into good guys.
The idea of the bad guys becoming good is prevalent in the TV anime series, particularly series adapted form Weekly Shonen Jump manga. These include series like Dragon Ball Z, Fist of the North Star, or Ruroni Kenshin. But, why is it bad guys turn good?
In some cases it’s literally the notion “The enemy of my enemy is my friend.” Take the characters Piccolo or Vegeta from Dragon Ball Z. The main reason why they join forces with the hero is because there are bigger fish to fry. And once that threat is defeated Piccolo and Vegeta just kind of stick around as good guys. However, there’s another reason why bad guys become good. It’s subtle and adds to a series as a whole. It’s the notion the bad guys are the villain of their story.
One of the best examples of characters being the villain in their story are the numerous villains of Fist of the North Star. While it’s true they do evil acts such as enslavement, these acts stem from a wholly different place than just wanting power. For instance, the villain named Thouzer builds a giant pyramid using child slaves. While you think it’s a monument to his greatness at first, in actuality it’s a shrine to his master whom Thouzer loved like a father. Yes, his actions are malicious. Yet, behind that cruelty is a deep love. Thus, Thouzer isn’t evil per se, but his love turns him into the villain his story. That’s why when Thouzer is defeated he turns into a good guy; he has redeeming qualities.
Image source: kurobasanime on YouTube
The same notion is true with Kuroko’s Basketball The Last Game. Much like the Miracles in the TV anime series, the Jabberwocks are arrogant, brash, and can be considered villainous. However, the members of the Jabberwocks follow a strict code: play fair until it becomes boring. So, it’s not the members of the Jabberwocks are villainous, they just want to have fun. But, their idea of fun is making a mockery of their opponents. It’s makes the characters despicable, but worthy of redemption. Thus, we want to see Taiga, Tetsuya, and the Miracles beat the Jabberwocks at their own game, teach them humility, and ultimately see the Jabberwocks become good guys.
Then it dawned on me. This series I had little patience for is exactly like this as well. Consider, in the anime series we not only see each member of the Miracles is skilled, but they also have personalities that make them appear villainous. However, this isn’t the case. Each member of the Miracles has their own baggage they need to overcome, namely enjoying the sport of basketball again. So, we actually see the members of the Miracles aren’t bad guys, but really just looking for an outlet for their frustration.
The best examples of characters searching for an outlet are the characters Daiki Aomine and Seijuro Akashi. Their frustration stems from how nobody can beat them in basketball, even if it’s five-on-one. Thus, they forgo team play, to a degree, resulting in them looking down on everybody—even their teammates. Yet, it’s only when Taiga and Tetsuya beat Daiki, Seijuro, and the other three Miracles realize perhaps they were wrong to believe in their superiority. That, maybe they should reconsider why it is they still play basketball.
Image source: kurobasanime on YouTube
When the Miracles come to that conclusion, then, there’s a distinct shift in their attitude. Despite being rivals of Taiga and Tetsuya, they Miracles are more than willing to give them advice. It’s so that Taiga and Tetsuya can keep up with them, so they’ll continue to have a challenge. But, the more the Miracles interact with Taiga and Tetsuya, the friendlier they become with each other. And of all things, that’s what we want out of the series. Not the thorough defeat of the Miracles, but their redemption.
Seeing the result of the bad guys turned good trope in Kuroko’s Basketball The Last Game really puts into perspective what the TV anime series is about. We’re not watching a story about sports or action. It’s a story about redemption. And understanding that turned a frustrating series for me into one I truly enjoy.