It’s basketball camp time, but that’s only if some of them can pass their regular exams!
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 into the early nineties with its episode count, it’s certainly quite obvious that the series won’t actually play to the Nationals itself, though I had held out hope that with its length it could have at one point. But that’s what the movies are for, hopefully. With this set of five episodes, the series deals in more character drama, but it’s still generally centered around the characters themselves and not their home lives or other outside influences. The school side does pick up a bit more here but it’s something that you have had to wonder about in the last three months since Sakuragi got into the team. Just how well has he been doing with his classes that still lets him play?
The answer is not well at all, and he’s not alone. Several members of the team – and a certain judo member – are all failing their exams to one level or another with Sakuragi being the worst offender of them all. Their chances at the Nationals are now (mildly) in doubt because of it. It’s a cute side story really that helps flesh things out a bit, but what works wonders is the study camp at Akagi’s house since he and Kogure are pretty smart and can motivate the team. For Sakuragi, it’s a chance to be close to Haruko when she’s at home and that’s something very appealing to him. It’s amusing that in these episodes we do see a bit more of Haruko in street clothes and a kimono and even Ayako manages to look damn fine during the summer. The show has been so centered, much as Sakuragi has been, on basketball, that when we do get these kinds of breaks it really does show just how much is unexplored, and probably for the better since it’d take away from the game time.
The basketball camp aspect of this block of episodes does dominate overall though, but not without some challenges. Sakuragi’s lack of funds is dealt with in an amusing way since it’s about 40,000 yen to go for the week to Shizuoka for it. Circumstances change though and Sakuragi is kept at the school where he’s given a week to improve by Coach Anzai when it comes to his shooting. Sakuragi doesn’t quite realize just how lucky he is to get a week of dedicated training from him – along with Sakuragi’s friends – even if he doesn’t get to have the fun of the camp trip. For those guys though, they find themselves being put up against one of the top eight teams from last years Nationals and that gives them a serious look at what to expect. In a brilliant move of motivation, Akagi gets them all fired up by telling them they can’t lose because if they tell that to Sakuragi, his ego will explode as he can lord it over them that they need him. It’s the little moments like that which makes so much of this series priceless.
The uptick in basketball activities here is quite welcome, though the game against Shizuoka representative Jousei isn’t exactly an all star game in how its portrayed since it is just a scrimmage. The personal side of the show is a lot of fun even if it is dominating a bit more than I’d like. An episode revolving around Sakuragi’s gang is probably very overdue so I was glad to see them getting some extra time. The relationship between them all has been nicely handled throughout the series and seeing it broadened a bit more as they get involved in his training during this run was great to see. There’s a whole lot to like here even if it does spend time in school, at festivals and at the beach, because these characters are so much fun to watch. Slam Dunk may be winding down its TV series run, but it’s only warming us up even more to the characters.
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.