The game against Kainan draws to a close, surprisingly quickly all told, and sets the team up for the next stage of their fight for the Nationals.
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)
When you have a long running sports series like Slam Dunk, just like a shonen action series, you invariably set up the problem of having your team becoming too good. They face their challenges but they overcome them with blood, sweat and tears. In the shonen series, the characters train harder, fight harder and overcome their enemies. But in a sports series like this, when you lose, you lose. That can build the kind of character you can’t get from an action series. Slam Dunk has straddled the line a few times now with its various matches against much better opponents and have had luck and Sakuragi’s quirkiness on their side.
The game against Kainan has certainly been intense, but in a way it’s felt less intense than some of the others, such as the Shoyo game and even the first practice match against Ryonan. This match has had a bit more quirkiness to it, particularly with one Kainan player sent in to throw Sakuragi off his game, but mostly there is a lack of intensity to it that really drives it as a match. On the flip side, there is a great deal of personal intensity to it that makes it very exciting to watch. The first half of the game worked through a few different issues in how Shohoku approached playing against Kainan, but they ended up losing one of their pillars as Akagi was taken down. Still, it’s impressive that so many of the team really came together and kept it as a tie right up to the end of the first half. This group hasn’t really been playing together that long, especially with the additions along the way, but with a force of will by Rukawa, they really became something strong.
Which is why the way the second half plays out made me very happy. The challenges that they faced aren’t insurmountable, but it’s going to require more than they have right now. With Akagi back in the game, he’s working through his pain to achieve his dream. And his dream, defeating Kainan and going to the Nationals, is something that has surprisingly inspired Sakuragi to become even more than he has been. Sakuragi has been very self-focused with his play in the games and what wants, notably to impress Haruko and to humiliate Rukawa. But after Akagi was injured, he really ended up listening to what was being said and a true emotional connection was forged on his end with Akagi’s dreams. It’s truly inspiring to watch Sakuragi during all of this, particularly at the end of the game with how intense his emotions were over it. I’ve really liked Sakuragi a lot from the start, but with each new emotional wall he overcomes, he’s becoming one of the best anime characters ever.
This set of episodes gave me everything I wanted from Slam Dunk at this point. The drama is high but not overly so. The game is fun and it has its moments as the finals are underway and there are some very welcome changes to the dynamic here. In the end though, it’s the character drama that makes it so intense here as the team is truly becoming a team, leaning on each other when needed and the personal rivalries are starting to fall to the wayside, instead becoming true athletic competitions based on skill and talent and not personality. At this stage of the game, with another forty-one episodes to go, there’s a whole lot more to deal with and I’m excited to see what happens. Where they’ve put the team at this point is exciting as it’s giving them their greatest challenge in a way, particularly for Sakuragi. This is great stuff, very highly recommended.
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.