Hanamichi continues to work on his fundamentals - he's gotten as far as layups - while the team's first real game draws near.
Writer/Artist: Takehiko Inoue
Translation: Joe Yamazaki
Adaptation: Kelly Sue DeConnick
What They Say
He may be a pain in the butt, but Hanamichi's athletic prowess and monstrous strength have not gone unnoticed by the captain of Shohoku's judo team. Hoping to take his troupe to a national title, the judo captain is willing to go to great lengths to lure Hanamichi away from the court and get him on the sparring mat. Will out-and-out bribery convince Hanamichi that judo's the way to go, or will he stay a basketball man to the very end?
The little glimpses we catch of basketball action in these early volumes of Slam Dunk are so good, it makes you wonder what a full game is going to look like. The ending of this volume lets us know we won't have to wait long to find out; but until then we have another terrific volume of preliminaries. It's good in a way I didn't expect Slam Dunk to be when I first started reading it. The real suprise for me hasn't been the basketball: that could hardly help being great considering who's drawing it. The thing that continues to amaze me is just how funny the series is - and how many different ways it finds to be funny.
A perfect example of what I mean is the practice session that takes up the first two chapters of the book. Where a typical sports manga would have the main character buckling down, working hard, developing the skills he needs to never lose to anyone, ever, Inoue builds an elaborate, multi-level situation that plays up the personalities of his characters. Then he just puts them in motion and just lets them bounce off of each other. We watch Hanamichi learn the layup, the easiest shot in basketball. But we're not the only ones watching. All of the other characters are watching him, and each has his own individual take on the situation, whether it's Haruko, the other basketball players, the coach, the frenzied Rukawa groupies, or Sakuragi's gang buddies. Inoue works the scene so that he gets a lot of comedy mileage out of the contrast of the reactions, in addition to what's actually going on during practice. Considering that what's going on is mainly Sakuragi muffing layups, getting clobbered, antagonizing his teammates, and acting like a loon, this is pretty funny, too. But what makes it all work so well is the way Inoue can move effortlessly between differing points of view, going through Sakuragi missing a shot, getting laughed at, retaliating, getting a whack from the team captain, winning Haruko's sympathy, squandering it by picking a fight, angering the Rukawa groupies, abusing team equipment - all while the coach gazes on with a saintly tranquility. You don't see many artists that can move through this many perspectives with so much freedom.
But Slam Dunk has its softer side as well, and we get a chance to see that come out as Sakuragi tries to master the intricacies of the layup, which in his case means trying to keep the ball from bouncing off the bottom of the backboard to smack him in the face. Sakuragi's persistence eventually wins him a private coaching session with his beloved Haruko that gives the two of them a little face to face time and develops that relationship just a little bit more. Knowing that the series can do charm in addition to the gut-busting comedy and high-octane basketball action adds something to the experience.
Speaking of high-octane basketball action, that's exactly what's promised for the next volume. Even the little glimpses and teases we've had so far have been impressive. The thought of the first real game against a rival team, no holds barred...now that sends chills up my spine. The last couple of chapters in this volume set the stage - anybody who's played a competitive sport will understand just how good the pre-game scenes are. We're ready for the good stuff, and we're about to get it.
The "overtime" segment in this volume brings us a profile of point guard Chris Paul, and appropriately, a pretty complete guide to the layup.