Events take a disastrous turn for the team at the worst time, but that’s when the potential for greatness is at its highest.
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)
It doesn’t surprise me that the minute I actually write something in the review for the previous block of episodes of Slam Dunk about the lack of character stories that this set introduces some of them. I had actually really liked that it avoided this since it meant the focus was on the core team building and the sport itself and it mirrored more how life really is. I certainly don’t remember knowing much about my teammates back in the day, but it wasn’t at a high school level either. Thankfully, the moment here is relatively small but it’s certainly very insightful as it plays a big role in just how quickly Sakuragi reacts to Coach Anzai collapsing. The minute that Anzai stepped into the gym, you just knew something bad was going to happen to him…
The character drama that kicks off this set of episodes is really nicely done as Anzai is humanized a bit more and Sakuragi really comes across in a very positive way, enough so that it shocks his teammates a fair bit. The small introductions that are made and the impact of Anzai being hospitalized certainly is felt amongst the entire team, but there’s some real reticence to make all too much of it considering their game against Ryonan is the next day and it’s crucial that they win so they can move on to the Nationals. There’s so much bad luck associated with this that it’s obviously comical, such as one of them coming across a crow on their way to practice and Rukawa having a black cat cross his path. They make light of it in just the right way to make you smile even while knowing something very bad for the team has just happened.
When it comes to the match itself against Ryonan, something is most definitely off kilter with the Shohoku team. The obvious loss of Anzai is having an impact, but there is a larger fracture occurring within the team that is truly surprising. Considering what has come before and what Akagi has put himself through in the last game against Kainan, to see him really straining with his thoughts on how to get through this game with the pressure on him and the pressure on his foot just doesn’t feel right. Knowing the importance of the game and the fact that this is the first team they played this season in practice, Akagi knows exactly what’s at stake. But he second guesses himself like a complete rookie, or even worse, and everything starts to fall apart. It’s almost tragic in watching it happen because they’ve all worked so hard and have done so much. The structure of the team is most difficult to deal with here since without Anzai, there isn’t any real leadership outside of Akagi and he’s acting the least like a leader. When Sakuragi stands out as the strongest in the role, you know you’re saying a lot.
While there have been challenges for the team before, Slam Dunk takes it in a further and more personal direction than ever before. What’s most surprising is that it’s all stemming from Akagi, who has been continually portrayed as the strong central pillar of the team. When he hits a weak moment, it fractures things in general as the older and younger players split on what needs to be done and Sakuragi almost tries to set the course himself. They’ve fought so long for this chance and to see Akagi break like this is crushing, especially without the guidance of Coach Anzai to help. Episodes like these really make you realize the kind of connection you have with the team in general and how much their ups and downs impact you as well, which is exactly what’s needed for a show like this. Slam Dunk continues to be exhilarating!
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.