The games continues at a fairly good clip as the interscholastic preliminaries move forward.
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)
Episodes thirty-one through thirty-five are surprisingly good considering the trouble that the show could get into. With the way the practice game with Ryonan ran for several episodes, there’s the potential for the individual real games to run just as long, if not longer. To my surprise, the series touches upon three different games within the course of these five episodes and one of them only lasts for one episode in total. While I doubt we’ll see it breezing along at that pace consistently, it does make some of these early moments a lot more fun since it’s showcasing the sudden power of the team as they figure out how to work together.
The game against Miuradai is actually quite a lot of fun since they have the feeling of an edge over Shohoku because of how events play out at first as well as the general reputation of Shohoku. While Sakuragi is pretty much a non-issue for this game (and the rest of them as well so far), when events do change in favor of Shohoku it really shows how well the majority of the team has come together. When they start down by some twenty points and then end the game by a margin of over a hundred, it’s a significant difference in the ability of the two teams. What’s really fun is that we see the secret weapon that Miuradai has come out far earlier than planned in the season and it strikes some amount of fear at first. But his weakness is easily discovered and that shifts the balance of the game to the point where Miuradai never recovers. The cohesion of Shohoku really shines during this particular game and that carries over into the next two games as well.
Shohoku makes a lot of progress during these episodes, though the third game is still in play by the end of episode thirty-five. Where the focus revolves is on how the players are interacting and dealing with everything and that comes in a few areas. The first is that the ruffian side of the team is still abiding by their agreement to not fight anymore. That causes problems almost from the start as the guys that Mitsui used to be with are still intent on causing trouble for him and the others. Mitsui’s friend Tetsuo isn’t involved on that side of it but he’s finding himself being singled out for attack as well, which is conflicting for Mitsui since he wants to help his friend since it’s his fault he’s being targeted. Mitsui has really done his best to clean up his act since being given a new chance to be on the team and this really pushes him to his limits with how the thugs are trying to abuse him.
Sakuragi’s problems are pretty regular throughout here and it’s admittedly really amusing to see it. While he’s doing very good overall considering he’s only been playing for three months, he’s still got a major problem with real games in that he’s causing fouls. I’m a little unsure about this since I don’t think he had any during the practice game with Ryonan and that was certainly challenging. But his aggressive style of play is not flying well with the refs and he’s trying to figure out how to not cause so many problems. Akagi gives him a non-solution to try, “stare them down like you’re going to kill them,” and that has some hilarious results both in the game and off the court. His encounter with a yakuza member where he stares him down is absolutely priceless. Sakuragi is also making progress with Haruko as he’s creeping into her thoughts more and more and he actually gets to hold her hand briefly during a practice which sets him ablaze.
Unfortunately, Akagi is getting wind of Sakuragi’s interest in his little sister and that has him starting to get involved a bit more in pushing him away. Akagi’s a fun character to watch in general and we get a bit more of him at home and in training this time around that helps to soften him up a bit and allows us to connect a bit more with him. What I’ve really appreciated about Akagi during the last several episodes is that we’ve gotten more of his background in general from when he first came to Shohoku but also his relationship with others on the team. In particular, he and Kogure have really shaped up into proper “elder” seniors on the team and they’re both working for the same goal that they had when they first came to the school. There’s a more visible bond between the two of them now that really helps them both in different ways. Kogure becomes more respected in his role and his abilities while Akagi becomes more accessible and interesting.
Thirty five episodes in and it just keeps getting better and better. Though the cast is a little bit bigger now due to the inclusion of Ryota and Mitsui, they’re still spending time with the core cast of characters and the secondary ones. Sakuragi’s gang of friends in particular have some really good moments to shine here as they support their friend in his basketball journey. Haruko and her brother get a bit more fleshed out as time goes on and their relationship with Sakuragi changes and much the same can be said about the team in general. The team cohesion is starting to hit much better and they’re really just waiting for Sakuragi to get in synch with them by picking up more of the basics of the game and not fouling out so much. If there’s any disappointments here, it’s that Rukawa seems to be marginalized yet again with his only regular participation being calling Sakuragi a moron. At least he’s accurate…
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.