The focus shifts off of Shohoku for a bit, which is welcome, as other times fight for their place in 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)
Moving into the range of episodes sixty one through sixty five, Slam Dunk changes things up a fair bit in a very welcome way. After the devastating results of the previous match against Kainan, there has been some really good material as every copes with it in different ways. Of course, Sakuragi takes it the hardest which really makes him more endearing, but it also shifts his personality to one that is forward looking again and he does the whole hair cut thing. It really makes him look even more frightening but it’s the kind of radical change in a character design you don’t often see, so I found it to be quite welcome. It signals a change in him and it makes it apparent to everyone else, though some may laugh…
With the way the district finals are set up, there are two more games that need to be won for the two qualifying teams to make it into the Nationals. There’s a lot of effort put into figuring out what needs to be done to make it through those matches and Sakuragi is getting a lot of attention from Akagi to do what’s needed. He’s come so far in just a few months that nobody can deny it any longer and they’re spending more time focusing on getting him into a better place. Some of it is very clear and upfront, such as the excessive shot practice sessions. Other ideas aren’t as you have Mitsui playing against him in a scrimmage and really setting things up so that it’s a teaching game to get Sakuragi to realize his potential. The skill and raw talent that he has is really setting him up to be a powerful center if he can just manage the ego better and really get his skills sharpened. And there is something, well, powerful about seeing someone go through this kind of transformation.
What made me really happy with this round of Slam Dunk is that they do change things up in presentation. A good bit of time is spent early on with practice and getting everyone back in sync after the Kainan game. The next game is dealt with very quickly, mostly in a series of stills that show Shohoku blasting past Takezono with ease. This is as it should be considering how close they came to beating out Kainan, it’d be hard to really see them struggle against a weaker team. Shohoku has really spent so much time becoming a powerhouse in their own right that they needed to show it in short form like this. With that game over quickly and the focus on practice beforehand, the remaining episodes in this block focus on the game between Ryonan and Kainan. This is really well done since both teams are exciting and there are new things to learn about them from how they play against each other. And it’s a rare time that we see the Shohoku team watching from the side and playing commentary. Watching their reactions is just as enlightening.
Slam Dunk continues to fascinate me as well as keep me entertained with its sports aspects. What other series featuring kids like this in such intense situations so completely ignores the off the field aspects of their lives? Other than seeing the Akagi residence a couple of times, you don’t have a clue as to what the family life of any of them is like. And those are routinely factors at play in shows of this nature. Instead we have a show that’s almost completely focused on the sports side of it that it’s very surprising. But they’ve made it work well and keep it all on the team itself, their aspirations as a team and how they function as individual parts within the team. The series really continues to have immense energy as it plays along even at this stage and it has me glued to the screen. I can’t help but to love Slam Dunk.
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.