Keijo and Kuroko no Basket are my two favorite sports anime to date. That’s not quite as impressive as it sounds because I rarely watch sports shows, but at the same time it says a lot about me and what I’m looking for in a sports anime. Put bluntly the vast majority of sports shows don’t interest me at all. I have enough high school shows on my plate without adding a bunch more to cover sports. I also just don’t watch much in the way of sports period, I basically stick to football because it’s so ubiquitous in America that it’s almost harder to not watch football than it is to watch football. Why then did I enjoy these two shows? There will be spoilers ahead.
What makes Keijo and Kuroko no Basket interesting to me is how far they deviate from reality. I’d much rather watch super-power basketball than regular basketball, let alone basketball featuring a bunch of teens learning their talents instead of watching pros. A lot of sports anime focus on kids who are coming into their talents or otherwise develop talents over the course of the show, complete with valuable senpai who help the team or main characters grow along the way. That bores me. Don’t me wrong in a lot of other cases I think watching kids with potential can be more interesting than watching talented adults, take Naruto for instance, the most interesting point in the story was the Chunin Exam because that was when everybody was still growing and they were on fairly equal footing, as opposed to the Fourth Ninja War where everyone’s powers were mostly set in stone and fell into the categories of OP as fuck or useless. But sports is an exception, I have enough trouble watching pro sports, high school sports bore me to tears. In Kuroko no Basket most of the main players are basically playing at a pro or better level already despite their age. They’re young enough to develop some new skills, but it takes a long time because most of the time none of the main characters actually need to get any better to win, they’re already crushing most of the competition. The main team needs to grow a lot as a team to get to the final round of the main tournament, but individually there’s very little growth going on. And that’s ok because these kids are talented already and they generally have their own “power,” which can range from simple physical abilities, like super high jumps to basically magic, like copying any move you see or never missing a shot so long as your shooting form is right.
This is actually cool, this is basketball that’s been enhanced by the addition of crazy abilities to make the strategies of each team more interesting. For example the main team is largely centered around Kuroko’s ninja-like ability to hide his presence and surprise the opposing team, and they in turn have to deal with teams who are centered around crazy good players who make you trip over yourself and bypass you without challenge. The introduction of crazy plays or shots, made possible only by the various “powers” in play, are especially good for the tension and drama. Watching someone bust out a nigh game-breaking move to shift the tide of battle or watching the other team overcome the game-breaking move to win the game is a huge thrill and it definitely kept me on the edge of my seat as I marathoned all three seasons of Kuroko no Basket. Basically what I’m trying to say is that Kuroko no Basket is really really good and you should watch it if you haven’t. The only thing I wasn’t too big a fan of was “The Zone.” That said I much prefer Keijo to even Kuroko no Basket.
Now I know what you’re all thinking, of course I like Keijo better, it’s full of girls in swimsuits, some of which rip, fighting with their tits and asses, what man couldn’t like Keijo? And you know what you’re absolutely right, all hail swimsuit buttfights. However that’s not all there is to my love of Keijo, Keijo is quite possibly the best sports anything ever conceived. Setting aside the actual combat and the fanservice, I love the idea of how Keijo operates. This isn’t made clear in the anime, but Keijo is such a ludicrously lucrative sport that professional and Olympic athletes regularly quit their sports to compete in Keijo, there’s just that much money involved. This is pure genius because it gives a concrete reason for everyone competing in the sport to be crazy good, almost everyone involved has at least competed nationally in their prior sport so of course they’re fucking good. This is a step up from Kuroko no Basket where the baseline of where everyone’s at is basically set by the author for narrative reasons, most high school basketball teams are nowhere near as good as the teams in Kuroko no Basket. By comparison, if Keijo as it’s described was a real thing it would mostly play out the same way in our world because it’s a natural extension of the world, super talented people from all kinds of sports backgrounds go to Keijo specifically to compete because of the pay. Another bonus is that Keijo is for adults only, this plays no role in the anime because everyone acts like high school kids anyway, but everyone in Keijo is done with high school and are competing because that’s their career of choice. To me this is big even if the anime doesn’t really do anything with it, because college characters are generally more interesting than their high school counterparts and it even makes sure the nudity is now legal because no one’s underage.
The other huge advantage Keijo has over Kuroko no Basket is flexibility. In Kuroko no Basket, as in many sports shows, everybody is given their one power and that’s all they have to work with. The powers can be applied multiple ways, like how all of Kuroko’s moves are passed on his lack of presence and crazy passing, or have varying strengths, like how there’s two guys who can visualize the court from a bird’s eye view but one has better range, but the players are still more limited. This isn’t a bad thing per se, exploiting and circumventing a player’s a limits is big part of strategy in Kuroko no Basket and limits can be great for the dramatic tension. That said I think Keijo’s more natural variation is more interesting. In Keijo players generally fall into of three classes, Infighter, Outfighter and Counter, and these classes have a Rock-Paper-Scissors sort of relationship. However there’s a huge amount variety within each class, which affects the Rock-Paper-Scissors balance. For example Miyata is a small, fast girl and therefore an Outfighter, however she’s got a lot more power than most Outfighters because her background is in judo so she has more muscle. Meanwhile Rin, another Outfighter, has higher speed, stamina and lung capacity because her background appears to be in long distance running. In addition to the variety there are also techniques that anyone with the right body type can learn to counter various classes, the Hip Bullet aka Butt Flash is an Infighter move that relies on a butt’s weight and mass to generate a fast but solid jab attack, and it allows Infighters to manage the quicker movements of Outfighters when used correctly. Then there’s the techniques they get from their previous sport, like Kawai’s huge step-in, which she learned from her softball days, she uses to close the gap and launch deadly Infighter techniques. All of this is to say that Keijo has a lot more variety in terms of skill sets and by extension potential strategies and I personally find that to be a big bonus. And the best part, many major characters still have ridiculous powers like the cast of Kuroko no Basket in addition to their other, widely varied skills, so the fights lose none of their tension or insane flavor.
With all of that it’s time to face inevitable question, what’s better the Keijo anime or the Keijo manga? Most people are already saying the manga’s better and while I think it’s hard to argue against them I’m not totally sold yet. The way I see it, it depends on whether you think the ending or the beginning is more important. The Keijo manga has a lot of important details early on which explore the game a bit more and add a lot of character development, which is why most people argue that the manga is better. On the other hand my biggest complaint with the manga is that the ending felt anti-climactic and abrupt, and the anime dedicates almost half of the final episode to an epilogue that sees everyone come together after the East-West War and our main duo signing up for their first professional match, which I thought was superb addition to the story, because something the manga neglects is that the characters are basically in Keijo bootcamp (which we could rename bootycamp or boobcamp in this case) for a year before going pro. The way the manga ends is like Kuroko no Basket, the main tea has won the big tournament, and that’s it. By comparison the anime gives us a tiny peek at the future, and some of the girls shown in that peek looked like they could awesome rivals later down the road and I for one was excited when the anime should us something on the horizon. And as someone who very much values a good ending, I think the anime finale was especially good. That said there is a an awful lot that we miss out on from the manga so it’s hard to say for sure which I like more.
Part of the problem is that despite all the goodness that’s only in the manga, the manga has some problems that aren’t really being discussed so far as I know. The main issues is that the manga doesn’t seem to know where it wants to go. That may be a problem from the artistic side or the business side butting in and causing problems, but either way the manga made a bunch of odd decisions and has a bunch of loose threads lying around. The best examples are Naka and Ooshima but I want to get into them in more detail so a quick example are the Keijo engineers. The anime mentions them once but they’re never shown, meaning Kotone has to look at clouds that vaguely resemble men embracing each other to get her yaoi fix (personally I thought was funnier than her looking at the actual engineers even if it was more a stretch). In the manga though there’s a pair of male engineers we see a few times and it looks like one was setup to be a potential romantic interest (read male tsundere) for Kaminashi, keeping in mind that Kaminashi’s childhood friend wanted to fuck her big time, meaning we might have had a potential love triangle going (thank god that never happened), but it never goes anywhere. This problem is minor when applied to the engineers and the childhood friend but it gets worse when you consider Ooshima and Naka. The exam arc, especially the second round, spends a lot of time on Naka and Ooshima but more or less resigns them from relevance by the point the anime started at. I feel that this was a huge mistake.
Keijo’s cast is pretty huge and given how relatively short it is, it hasn’t got time to flesh all that many people out. So why cut some of the people you actually spent some time developing? Instead of cutting Ooshima from relevance wouldn’t it make more sense for her to take Vajrass aka Ass of Vajra girl from the Elite Ten’s place? They’re both big, muscular girls who have more or less the same skill set, and it’s not like Vajrass girl’s all that important or remarkable. Vajrass girl is mostly a joke anyway the same as Ooshima was treated, why not put Ooshima on the Elite Ten roster and have her fight in the East-West War in place of Vajrass girl? You could even give her the Vajrass ability because she basically had a weaker version of that already. That minor change would be a big benefit to the characters, rather than flooding the story with a ton of girls why not keep the cast smaller and give us more time with them. Ooshima was mostly goofy but at least she had a prior connection to the main duo and could share more strongly in their victories later in the series, and her character design was better than Vajrass girl’s anyway. Seriously what is the downside to including her and cutting Vajrass girl? The same goes for Naka but twice as hard.
Naka had the opportunity to be the single most interesting character in the manga and the show. She was a full-on adult, a mom with a young kid, and a former bike gang leader, she was the only one of her age bracket (late 20s early 30s, it’s not exactly clear when) trying to compete at the same time as the main duo. The closest girl was Kusaki who was 20 but she doesn’t act any different from a dominant yuri high school girl. Think about that for a second. How interesting would it be to follow the story of new but older player who has her family burdens to deal with, a son to impress in her matches and a violent enough past to seriously kick ass or dig in when the going got tough? I mean for fuck’s sake one of the Elite Ten girls doesn’t even get to do anything in the East-West War and we never see her abilities, why not replace her with Naka? Or the boob-iaijutsu girl? Hell you could even keep boob-iaijutsu girl and put her on a Suruga team and make her a tough opponent while keeping Naka on Seitouchi’s Elite Ten. Hell make them fight, boob-iaijutsu girl vs Naka, i.e. the woman with the biggest boobs in the series, that fight practically writes itself and you have to know how many dudes would be totally on board watching that. And like Ooshima, Naka has a longer history with the main duo and could share in their collective triumphs more deeply. And again she was the most interesting character conceptually by a mile, but she was cut for reasons unknown. Long story short, while the manga has a lot more character development and a ton of good moments in the exam arcs, it also made what I consider some pretty huge mistakes and included random tangents that never coalesced into anything substantial.
Whatever the manga’s faults though it does have some major advantages in terms of character. Miyata’s story has a bit more depth, though I think the anime was able to get the gist of her story across. The one who really got screwed was Kaminashi. In the anime Kaminashi is a loud idiot with rare flashes of inspiration, like a shounen hero. In the manga Kaminashi can be a loud idiot but on the whole she’s a lot more perceptive and intelligent than she lets on, often catching onto things that her roommates miss. In the anime she’s the one missing the things and Kawai who explains in Kaminashi’s stead. This was mistake to me because part of what makes Kaminashi so interesting is how creative and intelligent, even arrogant in some cases, she is with regards to Keijo. Hell one of my favorite scenes in the manga is during the exam when uses she overcomes the hardest test, the butt figure eights, by using the lights so she can watch her shadow so she can make accurate figure eights faster than anyone else. Also the anime doesn’t get across how poor she is, because her family is completely broke, it just lets us know she’s in this for the money as well as how she enjoys the sport.
Getting back to manga problems the ending needs more attention. The biggest flaw to me about the ending of the manga is not just how abrupt it is, it’s how Houkouin was a better last boss than Maya/Kaya. In the manga Kaya/Maya made less of an impression, maybe because the split-personality thing was Akashi’s thing in Kuroko no Basket, than Houkouin. Houkouin was a more stylish and interesting enemy by far and her battle felt more climactic than Kaminashi vs Maya/Kaya. The anime doesn’t suffer from this problem, Maya/Kaya is still less stylish, but now at least because the hair color changes when the personalities swap Kaya makes more impact than she used. The sound though was what really did it. Kaya’s style is very rough and aggressive in comparison to Maya’s defensive style, and having sound to help communicate how heavy and violent her attacks were was major boon to the final battle. And again having an epilogue to ease the story into a nice finish that hinted at potential future work was so much better than cutting off right after Seitouchi celebrated after they won. Minor details include some of the fight scenes and attack translations, the anime made some savvy edits to the manga to fit their shorter story like making Kaminashi wear the UTM all the time during her training period (the manga had her out of it frequently) but also screwed up some stuff, the final attack of the Kotone vs Kaminashi battle looked terrible in the anime and didn’t communicate what was actually happening visually at all. Some of the attack translations where better in the manga, like Vajrass as opposed to Ass of Vajra, while the anime did some that were better as well like Gate of Bootylon (fun fact the “gate” animation in Keijo was better than the Gate of Babylon used in the new Unlimited Blade Works which is ironic as fuck) instead of Hip of Babylon or Butt on Titan instead of Ass Wall.
Ultimately my advice is this, watch Keijo and read the manga too, pick whichever one you like to start with, (for me it was manga then anime) and decide for yourself which is better. Because personally I think there’s a strong case to be made for both the anime and the manga being the better version and which is your favorite will ultimately boil down to your individual tastes. Also watch Kuroko no Basket, but do the Keijo stuff first because it’s better. Yes I seriously mean that. I think Keijo incorporates more elements of realism and is just more conceptually interesting on the whole than Kuroko no Basket, while still retaining the insane superpowers and crazy techniques Kuroko no Basket employs to great effect. Also it’s full of hot girls who are frequently half-naked and occasionally full naked, and despite it’s clear fanservice nature, Keijo is surprisingly good at keeping hings sexy but mostly classy, none of the fanservice ever feels insulting or ever takes you out of the experience by feeling forced. All in all a great time. Thanks for reading, I hope you enjoyed it, and I’ll see you in the next one.