The last five minutes of their first practice game against an opponent is the most critical yet.
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)
Getting all the way up to episode twenty already, the series has given us a lot of episodes but is still moving through their first game. While this will frustrate some, to other's it's great to see the snap decision making process slowed down while giving people new to the sport a chance to understand exactly what's going on. The first four episodes here cover roughly the last five minutes of the game and they show just how much can change within that time as a team can go from fortune to fool or quite the reverse.
Comparisons are going to be easily made to certain popular fighting series and I'll be the first to admit that there are some in how this is extended out across so many episodes, the difference being that we're seeing regular people here playing a sport and giving it their all. The game has changed dramatically since it started at the Ryonan folks aren't exactly running scared but they're being forced to actually work for it as opposed to the cake walk they believed it would be. With Akagi still out from his injury, part of the huge morale and motivation of the team is weakened but surprisingly, not only has the co-captain managed to keep the spirits up but people are really falling in behind Sakuragi and Rukawa. The two freshman are really showing off their stuff and for the Shohoku people who've watching him from the start, they realize just how much he's grown and learned in the short time since he started. While he's still screwing up on plenty of the basics such as forgetting to screen or not quite remembering what to do with rebounds, but his time with Akagi is brought back to mind and he really gives it his all.
Though the team is playing well, there are areas where they're not exactly playing as a full on team but they are learning from each other. This is the place where I really enjoy the show because it has so many different people coming together for a common cause and forced to work together. The obvious area is the rivalry between Sakuragi and Rukawa but even they work well together when they're forced to and it shows just how much more each of them can be. In addition, we get to see how this team forces the Ryonan folks to actually exert themselves and be more than they expected they had to be for this match. Sendo in particular gets to really shine here as he's finally given a challenge that gets him to exert his full power. There are plenty of similarities to numerous samurai dramas and the like in how all of this is laid out, but therein lies the appeal of these shows in Japan as they're given to be the modern form of something much older and closer to them. So many of these one on one sequences are close to fighting matches, which is why Sakuragi is able to do so well since he's used to making snap decisions on the spot.
This set does a great job with the end of the match and how everyone deals with it. The reactions are nicely honest and there's an amusing revelation as people get to see just how crappy Sakuragi's shoes were as they practically fall apart afterwards. This leads into a very good comical follow-up episode where Haruko takes him shoe shopping which he interprets as a date. Watching him go through picking out the shoes and then just having things go as they do is quite amusing, but the episode also sets up things for what is presumed to be the next big player to join the team since we see him get into a fight with a few of Sakuragi's friends.
Slam Dunk continues to be a really enjoyable show. It provides us with two hours of really enjoyable sports anime featuring fun characters, lots of dramatic twists and turns and the kind of comedy that is particular to this kind of show. I'm enjoying the hell out of it and just wish that it'd get a proper DVD release for easier marathoning and the ability to just have that big collection on the shelf with all the episodes easily at hand, especially on the days when the Internet goes out.
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.