The last chances to practice come around before the practice match with Ryonan High takes place.
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)
Sports series tend to be far more addictive than regular shows since they can cover only so much of an event at a time, and even though it may feel stretched out they do it in such a way, if done right, that the tension of it all keeps you on the edge as it all plays out and it even seems like it goes by far too fast. Slam Dunk definitely feels like it goes by way too fast as this volume bears out.
Before the big practice match against the team that's bound to be their rivals in going to the nationals, a lot of time is spent getting in time training the team and working them over. Hanamichi in particular has such a strong desire to play that's fueled by Haruko's influence that he puts in a lot of time after everyone else trying and trying again. A lot of his inspiration comes from an initial early morning training session Haruko has with him as she teaches him how to do a lay up. It takes some time for him to figure out the trick but with Haruko watching he picks it up fast and it inspires more confidence in himself. Confidence which he does get overbearing with as he swaggers about but that's all part of his character, especially coming from a "street tough" background where sometimes it's the noise you make and not what you do in a fight.
While he's still not the best player out there by any stretch, his marked improvements have finally got Akagi acknowledging privately that he could really be something. He works him hard during the regular sessions but he's also intent making sure he learns a few more basics and keeps him afterwards. Watching the two of them work together is amusing but it shows some really good growth time as Akagi teaches him how to do things like deal with rebounds. Akagi knows exactly how to manipulate Hanamichi and he does it well. Hanamichi slowly but surely is becoming the basketball genius he claims he is but he's still so woefully ignorant of the bulk of the rules, but that provides a chance for others to fill in the audience along the way which is part of the fun for people new to the game.
When the practice match arrives and everyone heads off to Ryonan High, we really get into the fun part of the show. Hanamichi's first game is a huge learning experience for him but he's still very much the loose cannon he's always been, from butt-jabbing the other coach to making ludicrous statements to the best players of the other team. His wild nature really goes against what a lot of the players find basketball to be all about, the honor and dignity of the sport and all that, so he's easily ruffling feathers and just causing trouble in a very general sense. What's really good about this match is that it's the first time we really get to see some full on basketball being played and it's actually done in a very exciting way. A lot of the fun is watching the way the ace players are taunting each other and the psychological aspects of it but also the way Hanamichi rails against things and just the action in general. The Ryonan club looks to be just as varied and interesting as Shohoku's which makes it all the more fun.
The show continues to be a really fun experience as Hanamichi isn't like a lot of the other leads in series like this and his rough and tumble nature frequently gets the better of him. At the same time, you can see already how much he's changing and just easily influenced he is by outside forces, from Haruko and Akagi to the Ryonan team themselves. The five episodes here really go by quite fast and they leave things in a place where you desperately want the next volume as quickly as possible. Slam Dunk is certainly living up to its reputation that it's gained over the years as being a great show to watch and I can't wait to see more.
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.