What They Say:
When his high school’s basketball team is suspended for the season, Subaru Hasegawa refuses to just sit and warm the bench. Blocked by this bad luck, Subaru thinks he has found his opening when he is offered the coaching position of an elementary school girls’ club. However, it looks like Subaru’s slam-dunk is just a brick when he finds that these pint-sized players hog more than just the ball- they get all of the attention! Can a superstar wannabe find true satisfaction while playing sixth man to a team of five girls?
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
Hasegawa Subaru is a young man who seemed to have the world by the tail. He has just entered high school on a basketball scholarship and with the addition of this talented young man it looks like the new basketball season holds a world of promise for his future hoop dreams. Trouble blooms though when the team captain completely fouls up off the court with rumors swirling he was involved with a faculty advisor but the real buzz has him involved with the advisor’s young daughter. Now because of the Captain’s actions the entire team suffers the administrative wrath of being suspended for the whole season as well as the audible whispers that they are all interested in younger girls (lolicon) as they pass through the hallways of the school.
With the season now lost to him Subaru appears to be despondent after having lost his passion in life. His ability to wallow in his misery alone is limited though as his aunt Mihoshi Takamura blackmails him into helping her with a problem she has. She is a teacher at an elementary school and has been assigned as the faculty advisor to the girls’ basketball team, though she knows nothing about the sport. To cover for this she flaw she has decided to solve her problem by dragging her nephew in to teach in her place-and he has no idea what he is about to get into.
He arrives to a welcome that is unlike anything he could have (or should have) imagined. He finds that the young girls have been eagerly awaiting his arrival and have prepared a very special reception for him. To say that this introduction shocks him would be understating things but he agrees to help the girls (after they change) as much as he can in the three days he agreed to. The thing is that in the five girls he discovers a decent amount of desire to play but all but one possess a only beginners’ level of skill and don’t even know the basic terminology of the game. Thing is that that the fifth member, Tomoka Minato, is spectacular in her game and she has an almost perfect shooting form which Subaru is instantly enamored with.
While the task of vastly improving the team in such a short time frame seems impossible Subaru is determined to be true to his word. When he discovers that the girls have gambled their practice time based on their upcoming game with the boys’ team, their fighting spirit may help reach the competitive fuse that still lies within him. When he discovers the reason why Tomoko and her friends are so dedicated his drive is reignited and those around him start to notice-including the one who put the current events into motion for him to be around his beloved game again. There is still a game to win however which even Subaru believes is beyond the girls’ current ability-but he will use some creative planning, intensive training and the girls’ own will to climb all walls to propel the team to do their best in their challenge, though that stubborn will and refusal to lose may effect Subaru’s free time in the aftermath.
The episodes here bring in a good touch of heart and passion to the characters as well as the game of basketball itself. In the course of these first episodes the five girls’ personalities are set up strongly as well as the backgrounds for their determinations to band together while also showing off some of their weaknesses which helps to humanizing them. The character of Subaru is also nicely established and even a good number of the side characters get a moment or two for the most part to establish themselves in the course of these early episodes. As many fans of sports anime of any type will recognize the characters are part of the equation to the show but the sport itself is also going to need to carry at least a portion of the load or the show will hit a wall fast. Luckily the people behind Ro-Byu-Ku have an understanding of the game of basketball and know how to present it in such a way that the games strengths and characters personalities can be highlighted so as to help the final product continue to flow without getting mired in events that aren’t realistic to the game or getting too technical and causing the pace to falter.
Pretty much the only part of the series that gave me pause was the fanservice aspects. The girls showing up as maids is clearly pandering it can be written off as a simple misunderstanding by those too young or innocent to know the implications, but the shower and bath scenes are a bit too much. I’m usually not leader of the prude brigade but the scenes with the typical nudity covers of steam or auspicious items just seems so very wrong when one is factoring these are a group of sixth graders. The scenes make it feel like the creators didn’t trust their writing to carry the story by itself and so they added an element that may help attract a certain segment of the fan crowd but it acts as a turn off to me and slams the breaks on the momentum of the show for me when it appears. I just start thinking how wrong the situation seems to be given the ages involved and how little the show itself needs-or even benefits from-the fanservice segments.
Ro-Byu-Ku is a more soft toned sports show that still presents the ambitions and determinations of its members as the more intense sports dramas aim for but the show wraps the product in a sweeter and cuter package. The show’s writers clearly love the game of basketball and it shows in the care taken in the game parts as well as the gentle sculpting of the characters that will be playing the game to help draw the viewer into the drama that comes with the action of the sport. There are a few fanservice moments I could easily live without but these first four episodes provide what could become a very solid beginning to a series that is aiming for a slam dunk on its viewer’s hearts.
Simulcast By: The Anime Network