Ah, basketball. The sport of kings, where towering athletes come to test their skills on the court. What happens if you crank all this up to the max, add in some shonen manga magic and a quirky cast? You get Kuroko's Basketball, that’s what! With its third volume just released in the States, this manga is a wild romp with battles aplenty. Yet despite its epic scale, Kuroko himself proves that to win big, you sometimes need to stay small!
One year prior to where the manga starts, a six-genius band of basketball prodigies from the Teiko Middle School established a new standard for excellence across Japan. Dubbed the Miracle Generation, these guys dominated Japan’s national competition during their tenure as a team. Even so, they all went their separate ways upon graduation. Each was determined to lead his own High School's team to the top and prove himself the best.
Yet while most of them took the obvious path to prestige via Japan's top sports schools, the last one chose the path less traveled. Enter the Tetsuya Kuroko (a.k.a. the Miracle Generation's “phantom sixth member”) who has set his sights on Seirin High School. And as luck would have it, he's not the only special talent to grace their court. Another student, Taiga Kagami, has also signed up for the team. He’s just returned from the U.S., and he’s brought both a big attitude and some mad skills. To Kagami, the Miracle Generation's exactly the sort of challenge he's after, and beating them would be a perfect way to establish a brand new rep back on his native soil.
On the surface, Kagami and Kuroko share little more than an obsession with basketball and a Y-Chromosome. Kagami's got the hot-blooded passion, raw power, spiky hair and poor GPA of your classic shonen hero. He wears his heart on his sleeve, loves picking fights and never gives up. Kuroko, meanwhile, is quiet, down-to-earth, physically weaker and more than a little eccentric. Yet his lack of physical presence is his greatest strength—while all-but-unnoticeable even during his time off, Kuroko can vanish from his opponents’ attention and slip past their defenses, which is exactly what Mr. Raw Power Kagami needs to get the ball into the basket.
Yet despite this up-and-coming duo’s excellent teamwork, the other five members of the Miracle Generation are still out there, each even stronger than before and each ready to claim the champion’s throne with their own elite team. If Kagami and Kuroko want to become the best basketball players in Japan, they’ll have to face all five of these powerhouses first!
As a shonen manga, Kuroko’s Basketball doesn’t always bother with silly things like the laws of physics. Take, for instance, how each Miracle Generation member is packing straight-up superpowers under their jerseys. (Yes, folks, that includes Kuroko’s own nigh-invisibility.) The "weakest" one is Ryota Kise who moonlights as a fashion model and can effortlessly copy his opponents’ moves seconds after they make them. (What does this guy have, a Sharingan?) Then there’s Shintaro Midorima, whose fixation with astrology and fortunetelling belies his ability to shoot with 100% accuracy.
And aside from the Miracle Generation, there are plenty of other interesting characters in the manga, like Riko Aida, Seirin's sporty tomboy coach (and my favorite character) who has tons of fun invoking all kinds of shonen tropes. Whenever she's not slave-driving on the court or instigating wacky motivational exercises, she somehow measures up both her team with stat readouts that she can generate at a glance. (Riko learned this from her father, a professional athletic trainer. Guess if you supervise long enough, you get super vision...)
In volume 3, the action takes a comedic turn as coach Aida drops a bombshell on the team—they have to pass their tests if they want to play ball! That means it's time to hit the books! While they may be geniuses on the court, class is a different story. The second half of the book focuses on the star player of the Miracle Generation, Aomine. He's got a bad attitude, but all the talent in the world. A classic basketball prima donna! While the bad boy in a sports manga isn't a new concept, the way mangaka Fujimaki Sensei handles it makes it feel fresh. He's not just a jerk. He's got problems of his own and much of it stems from the fact that's he's so good that the game's becoming boring. And the fact that he's played with Kuroko brings a new dynamic to the showdown that makes it even more riveting.
Volume three of Kuroko's Basketball proves again this is not your run-of-the-mill sports manga. There's something special here that makes each volume more compelling than the last. And these double volumes are a great deal! They give you two volumes for a slightly discounted price.
Kuroko's Basketball Volume 3 by Tadatoshi Fujimaki is available here!
by Chris Turner
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