Hanamichi's first scrimmage, the introduction of the basketball coach, competition from the judo team and good old-fashioned brawling - all of this adds up to a fine second volume of Slam Dunk.
Writer/Artist: Takehiko Inoue
Translation: Joe Yamazaki
Adaptation: Kelly Sue DeConnick
What They Say
He may be a pain in the butt, but Hanamichi's athletic prowess and monstrous strength have not gone unnoticed by the captain of Shohoku's judo team. Hoping to take his troupe to a national title, the judo captain is willing to go to great lengths to lure Hanamichi away from the court and get him on the sparring mat. Will out-and-out bribery convince Hanamichi that judo's the way to go, or will he stay a basketball man to the very end?
Hanamichi storming off the court determined to quit the team made for a nice cliffhanging finish to the first volume; but if he really meant it, this would be a pretty short series, so this installment is taken up with getting him back into basketball. At first he just drifts back to his old friends and lets himself get egged into the same old fights he used to get into. Pretty early on he tangles with a group of toughs looking for trouble. Hanamichi is only too glad to help them find it, and watching him do exactly that assured me that this volume of Slam Dunk was going to be just as much fun as the first.
In fact, it turns out to be just as much fun but even funnier. Inoue opens up the series a little by letting us see how Hanamichi's actions affect the other characters. We get a lot of different points of view throughout the chapters: the team captain's, the manager's, Haruko's, the other team members', and (a new addition) the coach's. Inoue gets a lot of mileage out of the different perspectives by just letting them bounce off of each other. At the same time, he hides Hanamichi's for the most part, and we're left to guess with the others which direction he's going to take.
The stakes are raised when Hanamichi gets an offer from one of the other athletic clubs and the basketball team shadows him to see how he'll handle the situation. A barrage of threats, coaxing and outright bribery ensues. Inoue shows that he understands an important rule of comedy that a lot of other artists haven't figured out yet: it's not all that funny to watch a character behave like an idiot - what's funny is watching somebody else watch a character behave like an idiot. In his hands this situation becomes hysterically funny and winds up being the high point of the book.
Hanamichi's feelings about basketball after just a week of conditioning and dribbling exercises, and the choice he's going to have to make based on those feelings, occupy the first and last sections of the book. The middle of the volume concentrates on the game itself. The focal point is a scrimmage game that shows Hanamichi how good the other players really are and how far he's going to have to come if he decides to stick with basketball. It also reminds the audience just how good Inoue is at drawing this kind of action. The scrimmage is so much fun that I can't wait for a real game to come along.
The extras for this volume are out of the ordinary and pretty nice to have. Like the first volume, the end of the book contains a full colour "Overtime" segment, this time covering NBA point guard Steve Nash and the mechanics of shooting free throws. The surprise extra is a collection of rejection songs for Hanamichi done as short comics. A big hand to the translators for making these work so well.