Episodes: Season 3, 4-6 (overall 54-56)
The last member of the Generation of Miracles is finally ready to take the court. Seijuro Akashi, the team captain of Rakuzan, hasn’t even played in a game during the tournament to this point. As Hyuga tells the rest of the Seirin team, Rakuzan was incredibly strong before Akashi joined. The school has won every major title and is regarded as one of the strongest in Japan. That means that their other players are strong as well. In fact, 3 of the 5 Uncrowned Kings play for Rakuzan. There is the shooting guard, Reo Mabuchi. At small forward is Kotaro Hayama, who uses a high speed and high powered lightning dribble. Finally, there is Eikichi Nebuya; a center who prides himself on his muscle power. The three are excited about the prospect of playing against a strong team and Akashi guarantees them that they’ll get that from Shutoku and Shintaro Midorima. Shutoku is ready to give them the challenge they want. Midorima and Akashi had often played chess against each other when they were teammates at Teiko, and Akashi always won. Midorima is determined that basketball will play out differently than chess and comes out using his long range threes right from the start of the game. Rakuzan’s other players are surprised by the tactic, but they have their own abilities which allow them to take control of the game. Still, Midorima manages to sink a clutch three and the first quarter ends in a tie.
In the 2nd quarter, some of the Uncrowned Kings pick up the pressure and focus their attacks on Midorima’s weaker teammates. They start to goad him by saying that the rest of the team is holding him back, but Midorima responds by saying that everyone on this team has done everything they can. Using Midorima as the catalyst, Shutoku is able to use their teamwork to keep them afloat and the game is still tied at half. However, Akashi has done very little during the first half of the game. He’s not playing badly, but the other Shutoku players don’t see him as the monster that they expected. Midorima also talks to Akashi about not being able to win if he holds back but Akashi guarantees him that things are going according to his plan.
At halftime, Kaijo and Seirin come out to warm up for their game. As the teams pass each other, Kise talks with Midorima about Akashi not using his eyes yet. Meanwhile, Akashi talks to Kuroko and Kagami. When Kagami gets in his face, Akashi takes a moment to demonstrate his abilities on Kagami. Akashi tells him that only those who serve him are allowed to look him in the eye when they speak and that Kagami should “lower his head”. As he’s saying this, Akashi unbalances Kagami and causes him to fall to the floor without using any actual force.
In the 2nd half, Akashi makes his move. He begins guarding Midorima and unleashes his special ability: the Emperor Eye. The other Teiko players explain that it gives him the ability to predict his opponent’s movements. Kuroko points out that none of the Teiko players were allowed to play at their full strength while they were there. That means that, even though they were teammates, it’s the first time that Midorima is actually experiencing the Emperor Eye. Akashi completely neutralizes Midorima and takes over the game on offense as well. His Emperor Eye allows him to execute an “ankle break” dribble that makes anyone guarding him fall to the ground, the way that Kagami did during halftime. On top of that, he’s able to make some ridiculous passes that allow his teammates to score easily. Shutoku begins to get crushed and the point differential grows to 20pts in the 4th. As a last ditch effort, Midorima tries to take on Akashi, but he falls victim to the ankle break as well.
There’s a moment after Akashi puts him on the ground, that Midorima looks like he might lose heart, but the Shutoku upper classmen urge them on which inspires Midorima and Takao. Reinvigorated, the two first years unleash a new, risky strategy. Because Akashi is completely smothering him, Midorima can’t get a shot off with the ball in his hands. So, Midorima preemptively goes into a shooting motion and Takao passes the ball directly into his hands once he’s in the air. This creates a shot that the shorter Akashi can’t block or steal. The gamble pays off and Shutoku is able to cut the lead to 8. Midorima also starts playing more tenacious defense. Fueled by his desire to win, he manages to recover from the ankle break and challenge Akashi in the air.
As Rakuzan is starting to lose the momentum of the game, Akashi pulls an incredibly confusing move. He deliberately shoots the ball into the Shutoku own basket. Akashi tells his team that they let their guard down after establishing a large lead. So, he helped closed the lead to get them to regain their focus. He also says that, if they lose, he’ll gouge his eyes out and give them to them as penance. When his teammates are horrified by such a proposition, he tells them not to worry because he’s certain that they will win. The Shutoku players wonder if Akashi would actually go so far as to gouge out his own eyes, but the reaction of his teammates make them think he might actually do it. Either way, the theatrics work, and Rakuzan gets back into a flow.
Akashi puts the final nail in Shutoku when he breaks Takao and Midorima’s unblockable shot. Based on Midorima’s shooting form, Akashi was able to predict the path of the pass and step right in front of it. Takao had been using Hawk Eye to make sure that Akashi wasn’t in a spot where he could intercept the pass. However, Akashi had slowed himself down slightly during the first half so that his speed couldn’t be correctly predicted at this point in the game. Midorima never noticed until it was too late. The full scope of Akashi’s plan sinks in on Shutoku as they realized that he’s planned everything out with this much taken. As that realization sinks in, Akashi sinks another shot while reminding Midorima of his infallibility with the phrase, ” I am absolute.” With their shot taken away and the Uncrowned Kings firing on all cylinders, Shutoku can’t win. However, they don’t give up fighting, leading Akashi to offer them his respect as he sinks the final shot.
I do really enjoy these games when we get to see the former Teiko starters face off against each other. One of the best things about them is that they cram so much into a short time frame. Midorima and Akashi had an epic showdown that only lasted three episodes while still feeling satisfying. It also really helped to show the growth of Midorima and Takao. The nice thing is that we got to see them grow without it being against the show’s protagonists, so it was easier to feel good about watching them grow and reveal a new tactic. That new shot was really a spectacular idea too. It highlighted the place where Midorima and Shutoku have really grown: teamwork. It also highlighted Takao’s skills which hadn’t been done as much after the first time they played Seirin.
The one part that I didn’t really need was when they tried to go back and fill in a little of the background of the other Shutoku players. I get that it was necessary to fill in the details about the players so that we could better understand Midorima and Takao’s motivation. Still, it’s not like those characters are really that important and I would’ve rather seen that time dedicated to more of what was happening on the court. There’s also the new players that we haven’t even met yet. If the other Shutoku characters weren’t important enough to get more detailed backgrounds in the first two seasons, then they’re probably not that important. However, these new guys are gonna be a big part of at least the last part of the season. It seems like there should be more information about them than just being told that they’re Uncrowned Kings. We didn’t even get the names of the other player who was starting in the game, or the guy who was playing in Akashi’s place all this time. Maybe they’re saving that for the next game, but they could also just end up never being fleshed out.
Even without that information, there was a lot happening on the court. We already knew that Akashi was a kind of scary guy, but I wasn’t expecting him to play the way he did. The ankle breaking dribbling, passing the ball off of his own elbow; these are the kind of “And1′ style plays that I only really expected to see from Akashi. Then again, like they say, there had to be reason that the other players followed him. On top of that, being able to pull off such a complicated plan was just as impressive. Especially when you consider that he admitted that Midorima and Shutoku surprised him. That means that he was able to modify his plans on the fly and still hold enough back having such an in depth game plan. Adding all of that on top of a personality that seems borderline psychotic, gives you a guy that’s definitely pretty hard to beat.
It’s also kind of interesting that Akashi has been the most dramatic character to show up on a pretty dramatic show. One thing that KuroBasu does it make things really tense and dramatic, which is actually pretty over the top considering that it’s just a high school basketball game. If you weren’t following the series and you just heard the voices and music, you’d probably think something much more serious was going on. However, when Akashi threatened to gouge out his own eyes, it actually made another character go “this is just high school sports”. He’s a character that’s so over-the-top, he gives pause to characters in an already over-the-top show. What better final boss could there be than that.