The preliminaries draw to a close as the game against Shoyo proves intense – and highly surprising.
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)
Slam Dunk certainly has its predictable moments as it plays out simply because it does adhere to a fair amount of traditional sports series motifs. That’s not a real criticism because they do handle it well by providing us with engaging characters that make such situations fun. What got me with this set of episodes, and episode forty six in particular, is that they can still really surprise the viewer. You become so comfortable with the characters after awhile and how they operate that when they do rise above the occasion, you find yourself surprised and not really believing it. Much like the characters themselves. Watching these young men excel – on all the teams – is inspirational and that’s a rare feeling.
The game against Shoyo, the last of the preliminaries, has definitely been intense. Shoyo was the number two team the year prior against Kainan so they definitely have a reputation to uphold and the power on it to do so. Shohoku has their thing to prove as well which we’ve seen in the last few games where they’ve had such huge leads, upwards of a hundred points in one of the games if I recall. With Fujima in the game, Shoyo is definitely getting very serious but they’re finding themselves up against some highly surprising competition. The rookies on the team are ones that Akagi, or more specifically Anzai, have been able to use to good effect. Mitsui has risen to the occasion and has fought past the pain and Ryota is doing everything he can to realize his potential. All that remains is Sakuragi.
And really, I didn’t expect Sakuragi to shine just yet. He’s been fouling out less and less and nowhere near as quickly, but he’s done amazingly well against Shoyo. It’s close to the end and he hasn’t fouled out. He’s gotten an amazing number of rebounds and is certainly earning a reputation as someone to watch with this, especially as you see the reactions of the audience that’s in the know. But as the game powers forward towards its conclusion, Sakuragi steps out of his norm and really does what he’s been dying to do since the very beginning. And because you expect him to screw up, it’s such a shock when he actually does it that you want to see it again and again. Sadly, they don’t replay it and focus more on his reaction and that of everyone else. It’s not exactly a game changer in a way, but it’s a huge event for Sakuragi regardless of how it plays out that it alters the way he moves forward.
The series shifts focus pretty well after this as the finals are coming up and the intensity is only going to be ratcheted up several points. Before the final four teams make it to those competitions though, one more team has to be selected to see if they’ll be involved. This takes up a few episodes as we find that the Takezono Academy has someone on it that Sakuragi went to school with in middle school and the two have something of a rivalry of sorts since the other player, Oda, ended up with the fiftieth girl that Sakuragi asked out and got shot down by. The couple of episodes that deals with this is fun since it takes them outside of the court for a bit and pushes Sakuragi into observer mode a bit. It’s also good to see some other characters with their focus on making it to the Nationals and the trials they’re going through.
Everything is ready to change overall though as the Finals are indeed coming up as we reach the halfway point with this set of episodes. The finals brings in four teams to play against each other and only two of them will move on to the next level. The competition is certainly fierce and with all that we’ve seen so far, they’re setting it up just right to provide some upsets and tension. While you don’t expect Shohoku to get shut out, there are ways of doing it that can still propel the series forward. But honestly, this set of episodes is fantastic if only just for watching the growth that Sakuragi goes through. Being cheered – heavily – and being the center of attention for what he pulls off and the impressiveness of it is not lost on him. And seeing him realize that shows us a very different side of him, one that I hope we get to see more of as he grows and changes.
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.