The battle for the second slot in the Nationals only gets more intense as the second half gets into gear.
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)
As Slam Dunk moves closer and closer to deciding who is going to the Nationals, it does run into the obvious problem of viewer expectations. While they have finally handed to us a Shohoku loss against Kainan, it’s generally inconceivable at this point in the game, with another thirty-one episodes left, that they’d actually lose at this point and not make it. If it were to happen, it’d be one of those for the books kind of stories that you rarely see happening. What we do get from this block of episodes is the exhilaration of seeing two teams that sparred against each other in a practice match some three months prior going at it with all they’ve learned. Ryonan has gotten strong to be sure, especially with the addition of Fuku, but Shohoku has added in Riyota and Mitsui on top of a vastly improved Sakuragi.
This set of five episodes, taking us up through episode seventy-five, is a lot of fun but it is ultimately very light on actual meat. The first half of the game gets wrapped up after Akagi gets his head back in the game, though he won’t admit that part of it comes from Sakuragi headbutting him, and through some real effort and desire the manage to bring the gap down to a couple of points before the end of the half. The psychological value of a drive towards closing the gap has been borne into our minds for many of the games now so seeing Shohoku work at it without as much explanation this time was really welcome since we knew what to expect or need as viewers for the players. The first half has certainly been difficult and watching a re-energized Shohoku is a very fun thing, especially now that Akagi has taken his mind off of his troubles and is finally focusing.
The second half of the game plays much like the first in a lot of ways, though it hasn’t finished with this set of episodes either. The two teams are so closely matched in a lot of ways and with so much at stake, they’re all playing as hard as they can now. The intensity is there and they’re often just trading baskets back and forth once the gap is closed. It’s an intensely frustrating thing since neither is able to pull ahead of the other enough at this point and several of them are moving beyond a high school level with their ability to play. What fascinated the most was the way Rukawa changed his style of play for this game after what he learned against Kainan, but didn’t have to use against Takezato. He continues to be a player that will excel far beyond what he is now with the right hands on guidance after someone like Coach Anzai lets him explore for himself.
This batch of episodes is kind of awkward because the focus is more on other players than Sakuragi, who is now amusingly wounded and almost playing against his own team because of how much he wants to see Rukawa fail. There’s a lot of action here but the clock is ticking away slowly, drawing it all out a bit more than it may need to be. But there is such a special aspect to this match because of where it all started this season that you can’t help but to savor it and how it’s all come down to this. Even more fun is watching all the other team, victors and defeated alike, now watching in the stands as Shohoku and Ryonan fight it out for the second slot in the Nationals. If only every sport had this kind of intensity and fun to keep everyone wanting to see more of it.
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.