Slam Dunk Vol. #09 (Mania.com)
Review Date: Friday, September 24, 2010
Release Date: Tuesday, April 06, 2010
The team assembles. The tournament begins.
Writer/Artist: Takehiko Inoue
Translation: Joe Yamazaki
Adaptation: Kelly Sue DeConnick
What They Say
He tried to slam her with love, but she dunked his heart. As luck would have it, the basketball team narrowly avoids suspension over the all-out-brawl incident when Yohei and Mitsui's friends take responsibility. Now, with Mitsui back in the lineup for the first time in two years, Shohoku quickly resumes practice in preparation for their upcoming tournament. As punishment for the lack of discipline they displayed in the fight, though, Coach Anzai decides on a starting lineup for Shohoku's game without Hanamichi, Rukawa, Ryota and Mitsui. Can Anzai's squad hold their own when their best players (and perpetual problem children) ride the bench?
Is there anything Slam Dunk can't do? Sure, you can expect the basketball to be good in a basketball series. That much goes without saying. But Slam Dunk is good at so many other things besides basketball, and so generous at throwing them into the mix, that there's never been any danger of the series falling into a rut or playing the same beat twice. We've had healthy servings of school comedy, mild romantic entanglements, and personality clashes. We've just come off two volumes of wincingly physical eye-blackening, nose-bloodying fisticuffs in an overheated gym. And every chapter from first to last captivated me. Now Slam Dunk reverts to its essence. The boys of the Shohoku basketball squad have pulled - and pushed, prodded and beaten - their starting lineup together. It's time to get out and play.
And boy can they play. Inoue pulls something I didn't expect with the games in this volume. The Shohoku High team, now that they are at last a team, is at a whole new level. The early rounds of the newly begun prefectural tournament are like nothing to them. They burn through the opposition like they're not even there. It's not exactly high drama, but we don't need that yet. Save it for the big games. The point gets across: Shohoku is a force to be reckoned with. And Sakuragi is getting some badly needed experience.
Sakuragi has come a long way as a player, but he still has a ways to go before he has all the aspects of the game down. This truth is underlined in the book's best scene, where Sakuragi finds himself at the foul line and realizes, along with the rest of his team, that nobody ever explained free throws to him. So there he stands, toes to the line, contemplating the first free throw of his life in front of an expectant crowd in the middle of an important game. That's a sure-fire setup. You'd expect Inoue to get maximum laughs out of it by his expert cartooning, and he does; but gets something a little more out of it, too. In the middle of all the comedy Inoue somehow conveys exactly what it feels like to shoot a free throw in a live game. It's a high pressure situation. Everybody expects you to make the shot; there's no excuse for missing if you don't. (Well, there is in Sakuragi's case, but you couldn't expect the spectators to know that.) Everybody's attention is centered on you. It's a lonely moment in a game where loneliness is hardly ever an option. Inoue captures the eyes-boring-into-the-back-of-your-head sensation better than I would have thought possible, AND makes it funny on top of that. There was a scene earlier in the book, the one where Sakuragi was fantasizing about what a great performance he was going to turn in during the tournament, that was pretty funny. This scene is funny and real.
Every volume of Slam Dunk has been a fabulous read, and this one carries on the tradition. I'm starting to get the feeling that it's just about to get even better. I don't think Inoue has pulled all the stops out yet. When he does...well, I can't wait to see what kind of basketball the Shohoku High team is really capable of. If these boys are as good as the comic they're in, they'll be a national powerhouse.
This volume's overtime segment features a rundown on the Celtics' Kevin Garnett, and the basics of team defense.
Mania Grade: A
Art Rating: A+
Packaging Rating: A-
Text/Translation Rating: A+
Age Rating: 13 and Up
Released By: Viz Media
Orientation: Right to Left
Series: Slam Dunk