Slam Dunk Vol. #05 (Mania.com)

By:Eduardo M. Chavez
Review Date: Thursday, August 05, 2004
Release Date: Thursday, April 01, 2004



Creative Talent
Writer/Artist:Inoue Takehiko
Translated by:n/a
Adapted by:

What They Say
Need a little excitement in your life? Then pick up a copy of Inoue Takehiko's classic masterpiece Slam Dunk. This isn't your average sports manga - the story unfolds to reveal the sweet and bitter lives of teenagers, the rite of passage we all experience.
So catch all the excitement courtside, and join our hero Sakuragi Hanamichi! He may be a rookie, but he is starting to look like a veteran superstar!

The Review
It's down to the final minutes in Sakuragi Hanamichi's first game as a basketball man and this game is a tight one. While the characters in this title count down the seconds, I'll be counting the days until Gutsoon! announces the next volume of Slam Dunk.

Packaging:
Once again Gutsoon! uses the original cover art for their GN. This cover features Rukawa as seen from a second deck bleacher prespective. As you see him from above most the court he is on takes up most of the image but as an action scene its an interesting look at the slow moments of a basketball game. Logo Check! The logo used by Gutsoon! is similar to the one used for Shueisha's Slam Dunk Perfect Collection (with different colors for the lettering.) Its not as stylish as the original but it works. This volume contains a character profile and ads for Bow Wow Wata and Guardian Angel Getten.

Artwork:
I have always found the character designs for Slam Dunk to be really interesting. They have an unique mix of Japanese yanki (teenage gang members similar to those in GTO) and NBA styles of the time. Practically every male character is pretty large. Done to scale very well you can see the length of their legs, the large wing-spans and the definition in muscles easily. While most of these characters are around 6ft tall (just above or a little below) you can see the difference when they are around other shorter classmates/teachers. Hair designs really show off that unique look. While you can tell that these characters are tough from their body structure, their hair-styles give you some more depth into their personality. And by having the supporting cast have similar looks (ie: Sakuragi's friends with their perms, facial hair and fuzz-cuts) you know what they are about without much need for character development. So you know that Okasu and Noma are punks and Gori is a hoops-freak just from their character designs (pretty easy, huh?! )

Backgrounds presented by Inoue are always detailed. In a series like this backgrounds are vital to the story as you must know location and positioning on a court. It's pretty hard to imagine but with Sakuragi's skills even the backgrounds help in making fun of him. With good backgrounds and nice character designs the layout is not quite as active. Yes the panel layout has picked up a lot now that the basketball has started. The variation in panel positioning and size has increased, and perspective is really great as the basketball action will dictate angles, point of view and distance.

Orientation/SFX:
This GN like all Gutsoon! titles is right to left. SFX are a mixed bag though. Some of them are subbed and some are just left alone. While I support keeping the original work there I really have to repeat... "they all need to be translated in some way or another." There are a lot of notes in this series and they are all translated in their original boxes. A few cultural notes have been put into the gutters when the issue comes up.

Text:
Overall the translation is pretty darn good. All of the Dr. T's notes are translated very well and honorifics like "-chan", "-san" and "-kun" are always left in. They don't come up often when the guys are being tough but you can count on a few "Haruko-chan's" every chapter.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
With the Ryonan lead cut down to three, Shohoku's recent moves appear to have completely turned the tide in this preseason match-up. Even with their captain, senior center Akagi Takenori, out of with an injury Shohoku's full court pressure and passing has brought them back from a double-digit deficit. Is that enough, though?

That might be for most teams but Ryonan has someone on a completely different level from anyone on this court today. Ryonan's starting point guard Sendo is easily a superstar, but in many ways he is the Ryonan team. Up to now he may have only been playing at around 70% of his abilities, but now with Shohoku cutting the lead two a two possession game it is time for him to turn on the switch. And as the lead eventually changes hands, Sendo is ready to take control. In some ways Sendo?s style of play is similar to that of 76ers star Allen Iverson. He can control the pace of the game with his passing and handling. At the same time, he can quickly score at will with excellent shooting and a quick step to the hoop. He is also much more of a leader than his senpai, Uozumi. His presence on the court is almost overwhelming and with skills to back it up this game with him playing at 100% is still out of reach for Shohoku. Someone will have to get him out of this match or else this match is over.

With Akagi getting treatment in the locker room, Shohoku does not have a single solution against Sendo?s talent. But maybe they can answer this with their tandem of big men available - a double team with Rukawa and Sakuragi. Anzo-sensei would rather keep any other of Ryonan's players open if he can shut down or just slow down Sendo. It is not a bad idea but the risks are still pretty high, as Ryonan is still a decent team without Sendou (let's not forget that Uozumi is a talent as well). And besides Sakuragi is still a basketball newbie, let alone a freshman.

But this is where this title turns around. As tough as it may be to believe, Sakuragi has been practicing very hard recently putting in extra hours trying to work on his game. He may not have all the tools to be a star, but one cannot deny the fact that he has made major strides from his horrendous initial experiences on the court. With the help from Kogure and the Akagi's he has learned the fundamentals and is becoming a fine defensive specialist. Add a hungry Akagi and this is a game again. Actually to some people in this gym this game was a war from the start. Now with only a seconds left in the match all of that practice, all of that determination, all of that presence and raw talent will take the ten athletes on the court into a dog-fight. It will likely go down to the last shot and with Rukawa making that three pointer off a fast-break that started from a Sakuragi blocked-shot, that shot will have to come from this last possession. The ball is Ryonan's possession they make it and its over.

Comments
So much has been done to get to this point, but we are finally here - when Sakuragi starts to show signs of skill. He will never be a true superstar in this series, but as we saw in this volume his practice pays off. As we know he is not the brightest bulb so it may take a little while for him to use the tools he picks up, but once he remembers he quickly puts those skills to use. This concept is often avoided in shonen sports manga. Instead, to keep up the pace and the action, other titles have their protagonists learn by luck, word of mouth or even osmosis. What's is worse those titles rarely have their characters lose, often making those characters seem hard to relate to. Shohoku has not lost this game yet, but right now even with a close game the odds are heavily against them. Inoue knows how tough pulling off a comeback like this can be so he goes through the motions - ball possession, 3-point shooting, rebounding, boxing out, defensive schemes and eventually transition play - to present a battle that can be believable and extremely entertaining.

This volume is one reason why Slam Dunk is one of the best sports manga of all time. Fast paced, filled with action and comedy there really is not a letdown at all. Inoue's writing and knowledge of the game keeps the story fresh and equally develops the characters along with the plot. His art gives readers a feel for the game from a spectators perspective and really does the sport justice. Some people might complain that a match may take a few volumes to complete (almost on the level of a Dragon Ball battle), during that time they get some drama, action, romance and comedy. What more can you ask for?

In some ways reading this volume tears me apart. I know this is what this story is about. A coming of age story told with an interest mix of personalities on a stage where there interactions so much for so many reasons.

On the other hand this may be the last volume of Slam Dunk we see in English for quite a while. This title deserves better. So for these characters and those readers who are following them I wish for good news soon from Gutsoon! because manga in North America will not be the same without this title.



Mania Grade: A-
Art Rating: A-
Packaging Rating: A-
Text/Translatin Rating: A-
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Released By: Gutsoon!
MSRP: 9.99
Pages: 184
ISBN: 1-932454-26-8
Size: Tall B6
Orientation: Right to Left