The preliminaries are coming up but everything is at risk with what Mitsui has started in the gym.
What They Say:
Hanamichi Sakuragi, an entering Shohoku high school freshman holds a record for being rejected by 50 girls during middle school. His nearly 2 meters height and bright red hair causes most students to write him off as a delinquent. One day, a girl named Haruko Akagi approaches Hanamichi without any fear. When she asks Hanamichi: "do you like basketball?" Hanamichi falls head over heels for the girl of his dreams. Without missing a beat, Hanamichi tells her he loves basketball, and the two head to the gymnasium where Hanamichi learns about the slam dunk. He also learns of Rukawa, one of the country’s top basketball prospects, also a freshman at Shohoku.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Slam Dunk, like many sports shows, is one that benefits immensely from being watched in chunks rather than weekly episodes. I can’t imagine watching this during its original airing and being able to really maintain a lengthy interest in it without inertia at work. And I say that as a big fan of the show as it’s one that I think sets a benchmark for what every sports show should be like in a lot of ways. This set of episodes finally starts the series into the direction it needs to be in with the interschool preliminaries about to begin and the need for the team cohesion to start sinking in. With only one practice game with Ryonan under their belts and a fair number of new people, it’s an awkward team but one with a lot of potential.
The five episodes that we watched here work through a couple of issues that definitely needed some clearing up, but it also feels a bit rush in some ways. With Mitsui’s arrival in coming after Ryota, we get an idea of his past and how it’s got him going after Ryota because of the way he reminds him of who he used to be. The fight in the gym certainly doesn’t have any punches being pulled as Mitsui’s group of bullies goes after the team easily, particularly the weaker members, but it’s also different in that there are several on the team that won’t back down. Sakuragi and Rukawa are the obvious ones, but it was refreshing to see Kogure really lay into Mitsui both with his physical presence but also with his emotions and knowledge of Mitsui by recalling when they were together years ago.
The background material with Mitsui is interesting enough as he has that fallen hero angle going on, but one where he was so overconfident about himself that it’s hard to feel too sympathetic. You do to some extent because of the pressure put on him with everyone at Shohoku originally just calling him MVP instead of his name, but his attitude with it didn’t help him either. There is a good bit of fun watching early Akagi moments here as he’s clearly nowhere near as good as he is now, but that just makes you want to see more of his evolution. Of course, the visual of him just being a gorilla eating a banana is basic and obvious, but I’ll be damned if they didn’t make the moment funny during his first in-game appearance with how Sakuragi sees everything. Sakuragi-vision is either tunnel vision or just mind numbingly amusing.
The shape of the team is really changing as the series moves along and it’s amusing that Shohoku seems to keep picking up the ruffian types. Akagi isn’t exactly that but he is intimidating. When Sakuragi arrived on the team, he was unique in the way he comes across but Rukawa exudes a certain kind of similar nature that’s just more controlled. When you add in Ryota and Mitsui to the mix, it’s certainly making the team look very aggressive and ready to take down anything that gets in their way. Which is why they’re so much fun to watch when they take the court when the prelims start up and they play against Miuradai for the first time. It’s a classic approach with the almost angry serious expressions on their faces, which is then tempered by the fact that anyone involved in the fight ends up sitting out when it starts. The prelims are going to take up a good chunk of time, much like the practice game, but we start to see the way everyone is coming together. If only Sakuragi knew more of the game…
Slam Dunk just makes me smile and laugh a lot while also keeping me entertained in watching the matches play out. This set of episodes plays up the character drama in the first half with the fight in the gym and the sort of camaraderie that has evolved over time while the second half gets the game going while showing some of the consequences of their actions. Much of this is still in the realm of setup, but I’ll be damned if it’s not good fun that isn’t all squeaky clean. There’s a certain coarseness to the approach which may seem like it goes a bit too far at times but still retains that air of realism. We’re close to a third of the way through the series and it’s just as much fun now as it was during the first few episodes. Great characters, solid action and wonderful interactions. Very recommended.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English Subtitles
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.