The game against Kainan moves through its first half with a number of tense and engaging moments where it’s really anybody’s game.
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)
There are times when I absolutely hate sports shows simply because I want to get to the conclusion to see what happens. And like any good real life sports event, when injuries occur you wince right along with the player. The other thing that can drag at times is when a game takes so much time to cover in the show, such as this one providing another five episodes that move us through the end of the first half. In a way, it does feel like it’s dragging it out but it also is used to ratchet up the tension. I’ll be the first to admit that I hate it when fighting/action series do it, but something about sports shows has me letting them get away with it without it really pushing me over the edge. The tension is just so different.
Slam Dunk moves into the second half of the series itself really well with this set of episodes. The game against Kainan is certainly one that has a lot to offer since Kainan has won the past sixteen finals and gone to the Nationals so there’s a huge amount of expectation and inevitability to their playing. At the same time, Shohoku has been doing very well but they are only just starting to come together as a team and so much of it continues to be focused on just one or two players. And with Ryonan and Takezono playing elsewhere, we get a really interesting comparison of the games. Ryonan has been strong from the start but they crush Takezono surprisingly easily but it just points to the way they’ve focused and come together as an overall contender that works every aspect of the team.
That’s not to say Shohoku hasn’t done the same, but there are differences just in the same way some other teams have operated. They put so much into one player that it becomes their focus, such as with Sakuragi’s rival from middle school and the way that Akagi is the main pillar of Shohoku. What’s really engaging about this run of episodes is that Sakuragi really starts stepping up to the plate. He’s given the opportunity to really shine and put forward as a member of the team if he can get past his rivalry with Rukawa that Rukawa doesn’t even see. Of course, he gets thrown for a loop when Kainan puts in a completely meek player that showcases Sakuragi’s weakness in a most amusing way and causes him to be taken out of the game for fear of losing it. While Akagi is the pillar, Sakuragi has such a strong personality that he can dictate the mood of the game and really affect things.
There is a lot going on for the amount of time covered in the game here and it’s all exciting material. An injury forces Sakuragi to really look at why he’s playing the game and to take on the dreams of another in order to make them a reality. Sakuragi really grows up during this game and starts putting others ahead of himself, and that’s even with Rukawa essentially controlling the game as it goes on by showing that he’s almost beyond the high school level with it. The various combinations of the Shohoku team have been a real delight to watch, whether it’s Sakuragi’s intensity and unpredictability that throws everyone or the pure grace that Misui brings to it. Add in Ryota and hopefully more of Kogure as time goes on and every facet of the team is a lot of fun to watch.
I love Slam Dunk and this run of episodes just proves it all the more. There are shows that drag things out like this all over the place, but few do it in a way that keeps you completely engaging and interested in it and on the edge of your seat. Everything in this first half has been exciting – more exciting than any of the other games so far which says a lot – and it’s upping the ante for how the second half of the series will play out overall as Shohoku works towards the Nationals. I love this cast of characters, their energy, enthusiasm and the way they have conflicts and more with each other yet still manage to play such exciting games. After every batch of five episodes, I can’t wait to start in on another set. Few shows really muster that kind of enthusiasm after fifteen years of watching a ton of anime. Slam Dunk is one of the few.
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.