Continuing World

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

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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.

Wow.

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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