It’s a month until the Nationals and that means it’s research and practice, practice, practice!
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)
With the District Finals now over and Shohoku set to move on to the Nationals in a months time, Slam Dunk is in an awkward state. So much focus for so long has been on the preliminaries and the finals that with some downtime in terms of official games, where can the series go? I continue to dread the idea of heavy character drama since we’ve avoided it for so long but it seems like some is inevitable. Thankfully, it’s generally kept out of real family issues and restricted to various aspects of the game and the players themselves so that helps it to feel less like a drama of the week. And, of course, there’s still a great deal of basketball to be played.
These five episodes of Slam Dunk focus on a variety of things, some more interesting than others. Rukawa gets a lot of focus here which is a positive since he’s been pushed down a bit as of late. His ambition is given the most coverage here as it turns out he’s ready to leave the team and move on to go to America to play against even tougher opponents. He’s still of few words but he makes a simple case to Coach Anzai who simply tells him it’s not his time yet. This turns into a very welcome background piece where Anzai’s wife, who we met during his hospital time, explains what happened some twelve years prior with a player in college who left to go to America and the disastrous results thereof. She intimates that she doesn’t think Anzai thinks the same will happen to him, but his reasons for wanting him to perfect his play in Japan first, to be the number one ranked player here, is what he needs before he can move to the home of basketball.
A lot of these episodes are made up of little moments that build the larger whole. Sakuragi gets caught up in a train trip where he’s out with a couple of the guys from Kainan as they go to see Aiwa play against Meihou in order to see who will be in the Nationals from that prefecture. There’s a good push as to the kind of challenges each team will face out there and Sakuragi has some alternating great comedic moments when dealing with “crazy monkey” and the serious moments when he sees who one of his rising start opponents will be. The Nationals is slowly getting fleshed out with a few key teams to keep an eye on out of the fifty-nine that will be participating. My favorite moments in this set of episodes revolves around Akagi though as we see the college level starting to pay attention and making their little nudges and nods to push players in the direction they want for future scouting. Akagi is the unsung hero of the core trio of players and the more I see him in this series, the more I find him to be the strongest character.
Slam Dunk has itself in that weird place where there’s a good bit of time before the Nationals and it almost feels like they’re on autopilot. There are lots of good little moments throughout this batch of episodes, but it’s lacking something rally cohesive. There’s a good bit of basketball played throughout here, but all of it lacks the real intensity that we had just experienced from the games against Kainan and Ryonan. When it’s done in abstract, without the connection to the players, it feels less real and more like passing the time until we get back to “our guys” out on the court and playing with all their hearts. This is a good growth period for the characters as they move forward and prepare, but it also has the feeling of a lull, particularly with only so many episodes left before the series itself draws to a close.
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.