[MAD ABOUT CARTOONS] Ro-Kyu-Bu and the shitty first impression

I love anime, but sometimes I get MAD ABOUT CARTOONS. This post series is for me to address what I hate about anime, but I’ll try to write about it in an interesting way (as always).


I’d like to think that most anime I watch have a good story. Postmodern, deconstruction, one could throw these big words around but I believe that everyone watches anime because they want to experience good stories. And one undeniable thing about a good story is that you’re burning to know what happens next.

Ro-Kyu-Bu is a good story, but this fact is buried underneath a terrible, terrible first impression.

Let’s check the ANN summary of it:

Subaru Hasegawa is a high school freshman, he joins the basketball team but soon finds out the team is inactive because the captain is being suspected as a lolicon. He miraculously is entangled with the job of being the coach of an elementary school’s basketball team. With these girls and their love for basketball Subaru can only take them so far.

Umm, okay? What about the Wikipedia page?

High school freshman Subaru Hasegawa is forced to stop playing basketball at his school for a while when the team captain gets himself involved in a scandal for being suspected of being a pedophile and the club is disbanded for a year. His aunt, Mihoshi Takamura, then assigns him to be an elementary school girl’s basketball team coach. Initially, he accepts to train the girls just for three days, but after learning of their circumstances, he decided to keep coaching them. Thanks to the girls, Subaru’s passion for basketball is reignited as his efforts to improve their skills come to fruition and he becomes close friends with them.


What about the actual first episode? Don’t knock it until you try it, they say!

Our proper introduction of the girls is this:


Followed by a routine skirt-flipping (they’re wearing shorts underneath, so it’s okay!) and an extended shower scene. I came close to giving up by the first half when an RX-7 FC showed out of nowhere.


Then the rest of the episode turned out to be okay fare. In the end, I kept watching the show and it became progressively better, but how many times did I think about dropping the show in that first episode? Man.

I knew about RKB already when the first season came out, but I didn’t want to touch it with a 10-foot pole. I figured it would be one of those vapid lolicon harem shows with a weak male protagonist and color-coded personality blobs to tick off some checklist. This isn’t actually the case, but it’s what the plot summary and the promotional material tells you.

After being finally convinced to go give it a try, RKB turns out to be a character-driven story about elementary-school girls and what basketball means to them. To the main girl Tomoka, it’s redemption for someone who used to only care about winning to the detriment of her teammates’. That she can now play basketball as a team, with friends who aren’t shied away by her immense talent and genuinely want to play with her because y’know, friends love doing things together. To Subaru, it’s rehabilitation for someone who can’t play basketball competitively, seeing how a different perspective can bring a deeper approach to the sport. He may not be able to play in a tournament, but he could help some girls further their love of the game.

I dug this. The first match, the game between the boys’ and girls’ team, was a classic sports conflict between the team that wins tournaments and the team that just has fun playing. Should we give bigger support and praise to the former? Is the perspective of the latter inferior? Who loves basketball more? Who should win?

It absolutely works me up when stories do this. One of the few pieces of fiction writing advice that stuck with me is to “make the best first impression you could”. The reader can and will give up reading even at the very first sentence because their attention isn’t grabbed and they don’t feel continuing on. Nothing annoys me more if I drop a book or show and another person tells me, “you shouldn’t have dropped it, it gets better by chapter 10!” Um, excuse me, but I have no desire to read chapters 2-9, and even then I still may not like it anyway, so I’ll just do something else!

Worse, if the impression you give off is way off the mark, then you fail to hook your potential readers with the absolute core of your story. And that’s bad, because they might turn away altogether thinking it’s something else. Getting people to drop your show because of its shortcomings is bad enough, but due to wrong expectations? Ouch.

RKB is just one example. I think this is endemic for light novel anime. Oreimo sounds terrible on paper. Hell, the actual content is pretty terrible. But there’s a lot more nuance going for it than any summary would tell you. And that Papakiki show, I’m told it’s really a good heartwarming story about family and raising kids but the title conveys a more lurid interpretation. So why would these titles seemingly undermine themselves? Is it a cool otaku thing to do? (“You think this is just about screwing the hot little sister, but it’s really a profound take on how repressing your self leads to stunted growth and maturity!”)

Are there any shows you like but have miscommunicated what they really are in the first episode?

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6 Responses to [MAD ABOUT CARTOONS] Ro-Kyu-Bu and the shitty first impression

  1. omo says:

    1. It totally is a “cool otaku thing” to do. A lot of light novels have lurid or suspect titles because that’s just how it goes, and may have little to nothing to do with the story.
    2. I disagree about the page-turning nature of good stories. Safe to say, what makes a good story good can vary greatly from person to person. I don’t think I was every in a “page turner” mood with Nadesico as I did with, say, Simoun or Initial D. But I think all three are great stories in different ways. Sure, i want to know what happens next, but it’s a very different desire for some stories than others, and maybe it’s regardless with how good the story is.
    3. The first impression thing is just a redux of judging book by covers. I hate this not so much in the context of the icky otaku trap marketing deal, but in the “hey quit watching SAO if you’re going to hate on it every week” sense.

    In 69Bu’s case, it’s kind of funny because the icky otaku marketing/intro is a great filter to narrow the discourse about the show to only people who don’t mind the trashy introduction, the people who are not hung up on the loliball aspect. Or that they like the concept. Once the story gets going, it’s really just a simple story and it doesn’t really cross any lines, so maybe it’s even disappoint for real lolicons (but who might otherwise sated by the simple and background issue with that there be lolis playing with balls the whole time).

    • schneider says:

      1. This was my sneaking suspicion but… okay, fine.
      2. Let me rephrase. The mark of a good story is that you’re interested in what happens next. It doesn’t need to be a “MUST TURN PAGE” thing but at least you should be invested in how the plot involves. There could be different reasons for this (you’re invested in the characters, or the story, or the setting), but I believe that all stories function this way… Good catch though.

      I am notoriously capable of tuning out of the unsavory elements of a show and zeroing on the ones I like. I’ve used this ability to withstand anime that normal people wouldn’t. But I’m just concerned–maybe these stories could have gained a larger audience if they weren’t willing to cull their viewers?

  2. Son Gohan says:

    You make a good point but I have to ask: are there more people interested in loli fanservice or are there more people interested in a heartwarming sports story? I fear that the former group trumps the latter. So, from the production committee’s point of view, they made the right choice of showing more lolicon-pandering elements in the first episode.

    I myself skipped the anime when it first aired because I thought it was just lolicon bait. I recently marathoned it when the second season started and it was better than I expected.

    • schneider says:

      You’re probably right. The contact I have with the RKB fanbase is overwhelmingly focused on the girls’ anatomy or clothing, which heightens the “oh-god-I-don’t-want-to-watch-this-show” feeling, but I care more about the sports, and the sports parts are good enough, so!

      Still not decided whether I should follow the second season. We’ll see.

  3. froggykun says:

    I agree. Ro-Kyu-Bu! wins all the awards for the shittiest first impression ever. I ended up liking it for being a simple and warm-hearted show, but I would say it was only ever okay and not particularly great. Still miles apart from what I first thought of it, though.

    As for bad first impressions in general… I don’t mind them – at least, not as much as others seem to. I have a lot more patience for this sort of stuff. Most of my favourite anime are slow burners. I think I just enjoy that feeling of something slowly creeping up into my heart without expectations. A lot of the anime that I think have great starts end up fizzling out for me, which is disappointing. I’ve learned not to judge purely by first impression since they’re often (although not always) contrary to how I feel in the end.

    • schneider says:

      I used to love slow burners. But then I don’t have much time for anime as I used to, so I’m more picky with what I watch. I would love nothing more than to marathon the old mecha classics like Ideon, Daitarn 3, Dougram, etc, but I simply don’t have the time…

      I think it’s acceptable for anime to start out strong and peter out. If at some point you don’t feel like watching anymore, drop it. Then you could imagine how it could have ended, and it would probably be better than what the show could actually throw out.

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