Hey hey hey Owlets!! It’s Archi-Anime’s turn to wrap up the OWLS October blog tour. OWLS: Otaku Warriors for Liberty and Self-Respect, is a group that hopes to spread the important message of respect and kindness to every human being. Our monthly blog tours reflect this message of tolerance and self-acceptance, through various analysis of the anime medium; although it is not limited to anime.
October’s theme is “Dreamers”:
What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
Like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore–
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over–
like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?”
Due to recent events that happened in September, this month’s OWLS topic will be on “Dreamers.” Every individual has a goal or ambition that they devote their whole life to with passion and courage—whether it’s landing your dream job, traveling, or finding the love of your life. However, there are those who spent their whole life working towards a dream but it was cut short due to an unexpected occurrence. Those people are left only to dream and wonder about the possibility.
This month’s topic will be dedicated to these characters in pop culture entertainment. We are not going to focus on the individuals that achieved their aspirations but instead, we will focus on characters that weren’t able to. We will explore what happens to characters who had their wings forcefully cut off as well as those who gave up before they even started their journey. We will also discuss what it means for “a dream to be deferred.”
More often than not we gravitate to the underdog of a story. We’re inspired by them; the ones that work tirelessly in order to get just one step closer to their dreams. We root for them, we celebrate their victories and we cry with them during their losses. In the case of Kuroko no Basket we followed the main character, Kuroko, and his struggle to becoming the best in Japan. What often gets overlooked is that Kuroko wasn’t the only one with dreams of being the best.
Enter one of our main rival’s of the series, Aomine Daiki. Aomine serves as one of the biggest catalyst’s for the series; especially with Kuroko and Seirin’s growth. His poor attitude, rough personality and general lack of regard for the team and those around him easily gets him labeled as the bad guy. Aomine’s story is one of the more compelling storylines of the series and is also a prime example of what it means to have a dream deferred.
Ever-victorious – The Rise
Aomine grew up loving basketball and due to his natural talent it wasn’t a surprise for him to have ended up on Teiko’s first string. His overwhelming talent blossomed because of his absolute love and passion for the game. He didn’t have to struggle as hard as Kuroko because it came so naturally, and he only got better because he was so obsessed with it. He thrived on the court, battling against strong teams. At this point in time, Teiko’s team was still growing together a team that still relied on one another and worked well together. With the addition of Kuroko’s techniques, Teiko pretty much became invincible. They became the embodiment of their school motto: “Ever-victorious”.
What is Victory? – The Fall
Unfortunately, Aomine is the first of the first string whose talents start to blossom at an overwhelming rate, which led to the team to be labeled as the “Generation of Miracles”. His love and passion for basketball starts to dwindle as he starts to realize that it’s becoming hard for his opponents to keep up with him. He is equated to a “monster” on the court as his abilities are just too much for a middle schoolers to compete with.
He starts to adapt a poor attitude as his talents began to surpass those around him resulting in a growing boredom for the sport that he loves. His frustration in not finding strong opponents starts to grow and he starts to walk out on practices. After all, what was the point of practicing when you’re so good that no one can hold a light next to you?
“There’s nothing more boring, then playing against an opponent who has given up”
– Aomine, Daiki
The most talented of the Generation of Miracles had his talents blossom so quickly that he was left alone at the top with no one to call his equal, or rival, in which he coins his signature quote:
“The only one who can beat me is me.”
– Aomine, Daiki
Instead of being reprimanded for running out on practice, and bringing him back to the gym like he should have. The interim coach approaches him and tells him that it’s okay for him to skip practices as long as he shows up to games and keeps winning. This completely shatters whatever hope he had left in the concept of “team” and what was left of his passion for it. This interaction flips a switch in Aomine, as arrogance starts to fill him instead of the sorrow that he feels. Not only does he start to forsake his love of basketball at, he no longer plays for fun, and winning for the sake of winning. This is the point in time which Aomine abandons his best friend and partner Kuroko and tells him that he can no longer receive his passes.
Due to Aomine’s excused absences from practice, the team starts to unravel. They question whether it’s right for Aomine to be in games if he doesn’t practice, while others who realize their potential as individual players want to follow in Aomine’s footsteps. This allows for distrust and discord to fall upon the team which also triggers their captain Akashi Seijuro, to also undergo a switch. Akashi’s drive to win allows all players to pursue their individual styles. This includes a competition as to who can score the most points within their team rather than being concerned with their opponent. Due to these personal pursuits, they’ve completely abandoned team play and what it means to be on a team further fueling each Generation of Miracle with arrogance. With all of them bent on solely winning and crushing their opponents, they’re faced with the question posed by Kuroko, “What is victory?”.
As Aomine embraces his isolation as he abandons team play, he learns that when you’re completely immersed in basketball and it becomes your soul focus, you enter “The Zone”. Within the “zone,” each player taps into their maximum potential and is able to play at an incredibly high skill level that often leaves normal players in the dust.
The triggers to enter the zone are fairly simple and yet vary from person to person. One of the most basic principles of the zone, is that a player must have an absolute love and passion for the game. The second criteria is that you must have the talent to back it up or at the very least be a prodigy. They also have to have something else that drives them, a drive for competition or the an absolute need to win.
In Aomine’s case, his zone is triggered whenever he meets an opponent that is worthy to call a rival that can keep up with him. It is fact that when he’s in the zone, he becomes unstoppable. However, another key note about Aomine’s zone is that he is known to have force his way into the zone.
Aomine has often described the zone as sinking into water, and once you reach the bottom, there is another door that is proteceted by a “gate-keeper”. In order to get through this door you must make it past the gate-keeper, but Aomine has never once been able to pass this threshold no matter how much he tries to force his way through.
Forever a Dreamer
After middle school, and being recruited to play for Touou, Aomine’s arrogance has only increased to new levels. He never attends practice and often shows up only for the last half of the game in which he leads the team to victory. He still abides by his personal mantra. “the only one who can beat me is me” until he meets his match in Kagami Taiga who triggers Aomine’s zone in several matches. As zones start to appear in several matches, Aomine is reminded of the other “zone” in which he has yet to reach.
In the Winter Cup Finals, Aomine watches Kuroko and Kagami’s team, Seirin, play against the former Generation of Miracles captain Akashi. Aomine mentions that if Kagami can just get past the gatekeeper of the second zone, then it would be possible for their team to win. However, as someone who has never reached that zone, he can not fathom what it would take to get to that level, since he could never break through. When Seirin is about to hit their limit in the final minutes of the game, they make a sudden realization in their team play that triggers Aomine in the stands. He realizes that Kuroko and Kagami have passed through to the “zone beyond the zone”.
In that moment, Aomine laughs maniacally as he realizes that there was no “gate keeper” as he had imagined when he reached that door and tried to force it open. But rather, it was Kuroko standing there who was the key to the “zone beyond the zone”. The nature of “the zone” wasn’t just about an individual’s strength, but rather the strength of a team. As a team in the true zone, they sync perfectly with one another with simple eye contact, and move perfect coordinated at a high speed. For Aomine, this was a door that would never open.
Upon this realization, Aomine starts to cry; this was why he had never reached the true potential of the zone. Due to being the Ace of the Generation of Miracles and instructed to play as an individual he had already forgotten what it meant to be part of a team. He had already turned his back on Kuroko, the key to his dream of seeing what was beyond the door, the key to realizing his true potential, and the key to what he felt was missing and most important, the key to what he had forgotten.
This isn’t to say that Aomine is completely at fault. There were several factors that led to Aomine abandoning any chances of him getting to the true zone. First, he was a product of his environment. Unfortunately when he was losing his way, the one mentor that could steer him the right way left due to deteriorating health conditions. The interim coach was the one that led him astray, as he was afraid Aomine would quit the team if he were to reprimand him. Due to the coddling that he was given from this interim coach, he was not taught to play as a team but rather, as long as he won games and made himself present for said games, then that’s all that matters. These negative enforcers were what drove Aomine’s arrogance to fester, and eventually turned Aomine away from his passion as he no longer felt the drive and competitive nature that he so longed for.
When he realized he was led astray, it was a little too late as he was already too self-absorbed to care for anyone else. After witnessing what the true zone allowed a team to do, he reluctantly admitted to his teammates that maybe, just maybe, he couldn’t win alone.
Although, this is one step in the right direction, the years of isolation is not just simple damage control. The opportunity for Aomine to enter the true zone will probably take years for him to reach as he has to rebuild trust and rebuild relationships with both past and present teammates. We’ll never know if this is something Aomine will come to accomplish, as we’ll never hear if his story will come to fruition. So while we celebrate Kuroko and Team Seirin’s win as champions, Aomine will stand on the sidelines for the first time, no longer the light as the shadow of a dream deferred looms over him.
That just about wraps up this month’s tour here at Archi-Anime. Thoughts? Comments? Questions? Feel free to leave any in the comments!
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