The pressure is on as Shohoku finally goes up against a seeded team and discovers what a real challenge is like.
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 takes an interesting approach here as the interscholastic preliminaries march on as they’ve been shortening the length of the games as it goes forward. With the practice game with Ryonan lasting awhile, you could imagine future games taking just as long if not longer, which would account for the series length. Surprisingly, the first game against Miuradai wasn’t all that long and the other games moved fairly quickly as well. What’s all the more surprising is that the fourth match of the preliminaries is done as a series of stills for the most part during the beginning of episode thirty six as they push past everything quickly in order to get to the really big deciding round of who will advance forward into the next section.
That leaves the majority of this set of five episodes to dealing with that game and even then it only barely covers the first half of that game. Shohoku has certainly faced some good opponents and they had a very strong practice match with Ryonan that put them in the right frame of mind for what they must conquer. And you know Ryonan is at least a little nervous about them considering their coach and Hikoichi seem to have the time to attend each game and record and comment upon it. But even as they moved onto other teams, they really found their pacing at times and discovered what worked as Ryota and Mitsui came on board to help fundamentally alter their capabilities. They’re not exactly playing as a fully functional team that’s in synch yet, but they’re starting to come together at the right time in order to stave off the various challenges of each new team. It’s admittedly pure predictable sports anime material, but it’s engaging and fun.
With the fifth game against Shoyo, the Shohoku team is really having to face something that they haven’t seen before as just about every player is taller than everyone on the Shohoku team outside of Akagi. In fact, it makes the Shohoku team in general look pretty average in high in comparison. With the first half of the game taking up about four episode worth of play, Slam Dunk takes some time to really get moving because it’s spending a lot of its time on the buildup. Shohoku isn’t exactly quivering in their boots, but there’s an underlying uncertainty about their situation. The lineup gets set a little differently because of the height which means Kogure is out as a starter and Sakuragi is in as one. That surprises just about everyone, especially since they expect Sakuragi to foul out and disqualify himself within the first few minutes. The show takes on a lot of back and forth as each side tests the other out and we see the capabilities of Shoyo, which in turn will bring out the best in Shohoku. Hopefully.
Slam Dunk sections like this are somewhat difficult to talk about because it’s mostly setting up the angst and drama for the big moments to come. With the fifth game against Shoyo being as long as it is, over four episodes really that just barely takes us to the halfway point of the game itself, it covers a lot of ground but it’s all very much small moments and bits of strategy and understanding of one’s opponents. It’s an engaging show and watching the team work together is a lot of fun, even if Sakuragi should be performing somewhat better now and not quite so self centered. Shoyo is very different from what the team has faced before and they’re raising the bar for the challenges Shohoku must face. It’s predictable to be sure, but there’s plenty of tension throughout as each team puts its all into winning.
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.