It’s been SO LONG since I’ve watched such a great anime that I couldn’t possibly NOT talk about it. Even though it’s not strictly fantasy. Still, it brings up an interesting point that is fantasy relevant.
Kuroko no Basuke, aka. Kuroko’s Basketball, aka. The Basketball Which Kuroko Plays, is an anime about a team of prodigy basketball players at Teikō middle school, so revered that other/lesser teams call them the Generation of Miracles. After a winning streak at middle school level, the players go on to different high schools whose teams will compete against each other.
Kuroko, a less than average player with a pretty special skill, joins the fairly new team at Seirin high school instead of a school with a long-standing team. Even though Seirin basketball team has no success to speak of, they strive to become the best basketball team in Japan and go head to head with formidable teams, each including a Generation of Miracles player who enhances the team (or not, LOL) with their unique ability. Okay soo.
The following two paragraphs contains some major spoilers. You have been warned.
[SPOILER]KnB is like some CRAZYYY super intense superhero basketball. Even if you don’t have any particular interest in basketball, it’s as fun as heck to watch and you'll probably end up with the burning desire to watch a real basketball match, like every other person ever to watch this anime. HONESTLY. It uses the structure I enjoy in anime, even in manga and fantasy books – there’s a team of opponents who reveal themselves one by one, each one with an increasingly powerful ability, each one just a little bit harder to defeat.
I thought each GoM ability was great and extremely fun to watch. Kise has the ability to copy another player’s style or technique – the “level up” version of this is the Perfect Copy, which even allows him to copy the GoM. Midorima is able to score a basket from standing anywhere on the court (called Projectile Three), and never misses. Aomine possesses breakneck speed and a unique style of being able to shoot a basket from any angle (called Formless Shot) – but when facing a challenging opponent, The Zone is initiated (which is at such a deadly pace and strength that it’s often dangerous for other players to attempt to face him). Murasakibara’s incredible height grants him an impenetrable defence style – if he becomes agitated, he uses a special move called Thor’s Hammer when he's on the offense. The captain of the original Teikō team, Akashi, uses a technique called the Emperor’s Eye, which allows him to predict another player’s next move by analysing all of their possible moves – he then moves himself in a disarming way that makes the player lose their balance and fall off of their feet.[END OF SPOILER]
What did I tell you. This is Superhero Basketball.
Now I’ve finished watching all three seasons, what it made me think about was the ending and how the stakes kept raising when you thought they couldn’t go any higher.
[SPOILER]When Seirin faced Kise and Kaijō high school in the semi-finals of the tournament, I was surprised at first. He was the very first GoM that Seirin faced and somehow that gave an impression of him being the weakest, right?
Well, no. Even putting aside that Kise has continued to train and improve in speed and strength, his newfound ability to copy the special abilities of other GoM players makes him the perfect ‘sub-boss’, as it were – they have to draw together their knowledge of everything they’ve learned about the GoM thus far. Only then are they allowed to face the final boss – Akashi.
In The Legend of Zelda, you fight a ‘phantom ganon’ in the very first temple you complete, which is like a ‘fake’ Ganon and nowhere near as powerful as the real deal. Then you go through the remaining four temples – Fire, Water, Shadow and Spirit. When you have banished the ‘evil’ from all of them, you get Link over to the now-evil Hyrule Castle to face Ganon – but before you can face him, you have to bring down a force field by entering five chambers that correspond to each of the temples – then, finally, you can face the real Ganon.[END OF SPOILER]
The more I thought about it, the more I realise how common that setup is. You do a bunch of stuff, then right before the end you have to demonstrate all the stuff you learnt. There’s something quite satisfying about being able to tie together all loose ends in that way – and also feeling like all that work wasn’t for nothing. If you hadn’t done it, you wouldn’t be able to reach the end. Nothing was wasted.
Finally, that got me thinking about my fantasy novel (Karalan). The structure is completely warped, and I dunno how exactly I’m going to fix it, but thinking about KnB and LoZ I know that the games, anime and books I enjoy most have that anticipation of the next opponent or adventure. That's what compels you to keep watching, reading or playing. So I think that's a good place to start.
P.S. I went absolutely crazy over Aomine Daiki. There has never been a more perfect character in an anime. I dare you to prove me wrong. I DARE UUU ._.
P.P.S. Btw, Kuroko special abilities are among the best, but there just wasn’t enough time to go into it here... so go watch the anime!!