Slam Dunk Vol. #02 - Mania.com



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Mania Grade: B+

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Info:

  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: C+
  • Packaging Rating: C+
  • Menus Rating: C+
  • Extras Rating: N/A
  • Age Rating: 13 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: Toei Animation Co., Ltd
  • MSRP: 24.98
  • Running time: 125
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Slam Dunk

Slam Dunk Vol. #02

By Chris Beveridge     April 22, 2005
Release Date: March 15, 2005


Slam Dunk Vol. #02
© Toei Animation Co., Ltd


What They Say
Talented yet undisciplined, Hanamichi is frustrated when he's forced to repeat the most basic of drills during basketball practice. Through the repetition of practice, Hanamichi begins to hone his skills to become a standout ball handler and is soon noticed by basketball coach Anzai. Hanamichi officially becomes a member of the basketball team.

However, the Judo coach also has his eye on Hanamichi and has his own plans for recruitment. The final choice will be Hanamichi's alone....

The Review!
Sakuragi gets closer to really being a bastketball man as he's able to finally get on the court and try to prove himself.

Audio:
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. I had seen the promo episode in English before and didn't care for how many expletives were added to it since the original script wasn't quite so coarse. The mix for this track is pretty standard and definitely of its time since it's a stereo mix but it doesn't feel all that wide or filling in the space its given. A lot of the dialogue is center channel based though they do manage to make it feel like there is something to the forward soundstage here when everyone is on the courts and the sneakers are squeaking. .

Video:
Originally airing back in 1993, the transfer for this series is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio. With this being a long series and twelve years old as of this writing, it's definitely a product of its time and a show that kept its animation budget for when it was really necessary, which is often when the characters are on court and in action. With it being a traditionally animated piece and taking place largely in gymnasiums with the dark green coloring and other natural colors, the grain in the transfer stands out a bit more and you can see other film element issues such as scratches and other print damage. Based on their other releases, I'd gamble that this is probably as good as the show can look now with the materials available but it's certainly not going to win over today's generation of fans.

Packaging:
One area where Toei's not making it easy on themselves in selling the show is the cover art. While we do get some decent looking images of some of the main players of Shohoku here in their uniforms, the overall look and style of it isn't something that I think is really going to get someone to snap it up off the shelf. It just looks like, at least with Rukawa, a cut and paste job of designs and minimalist backgrounds with character designs that aren't going to appeal at all. Looking at the Japanese re-release in single form, they're basically doing the single character per cover idea and the artwork of Rukawa is what's used there as well, but it's against a straight white background. I like that we're getting the same logo, but the Japanese release just looks so much cleaner and eye-catching than this murky piece. The back cover has a fairly similar background as the front cover and it provides a section of episode listings and numbers with a shot from each episode. The summary covers the basics and the production credits fill out the bottom along with the technical information. The insert has the same artwork as the front cover and opens up to a two page spread that has an outline of the main players and a listing of each episode and a summary for it. The back of the insert is just advertisements for their other launch titles.

Menu:
The menu layout shows the minimal effort being put into these releases as it uses the same background that Air Master and Interlude has with the numbers in blue going off into the distance while the left side has the artwork from the front cover and the right side has the individual episode selections as well as the language setup. No music is used with this so there isn't a loop but instead the one static screen. Access times are nice and fast and the layout easy to navigate. The disc also correctly read our players' language presets and played accordingly.

Extras:
None.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
In looking at the two releases of this series, I have to say at least for me that the content manages to outshine the discs problems. It doesn't minimize them or make them any less glaring or that I'm comfortable with them, but the show is just so enjoyable to watch that I'll deal with it while watching it but will complain mightily afterwards. Slam Dunk goes for another five episodes here that really brings us to some more neat points in the show and sets up more of the larger picture of the game and the relations.

A couple of key areas are really hit on these five episodes and in looking back at it you realize just how much ground they've covered. With the practices being hard and constant, Sakuragi has been kept to doing the basics and just messing around there with things that he needs to get hand on first. One thing that potentially works in his favor, though not at first, is the arrival of the teams actual coach, an old rotund gentleman who used to be one of the greats in his day with the game but has become mostly just a really great coach. His style is amusing since he lets Akagi basically handle things and watches from the side before making his judgments on how to proceed.

With a practice game going on, Sakuragi gets to be really jealous since it's freshmen versus the seniors and he's not able to participate and instead has to watch as Rukawa really shows his stuff and practically outdoes Akagi at every turn. Everyone's starting to get the idea that a couple of these rookies, Sakuragi included, could be real powerhouses if they can get into the right mindset and team mentality. Watching Rukawa play and then Sakuragi getting into things after the coach approves it, you can see the raw talent in one and the refined in the other and exactly how they're going to play off of each other. Sakuragi is such a child at times with this but it's just damn funny watching him be like that with everyone at one time or another.

Another change that comes into play with these episodes is a new rivalry. A long time rivalry that Akagi barely recognizes, Aota of the Judo club has decided that he can acquire Sakuragi for his club and take their club to the nationals as the first one from the school. Aota and Akagi have a rivalry that goes back many years from when they'd compete on things like height and the like. Akagi's sort of ignored him for the most part but any time he starts talking about taking the team to the nationals, Aota shows up and proclaims that he's going to do it. And now that he has his eye on Sakuragi, he's intent on stealing him from Akagi. Amusingly, Akagi doesn't seem to mind the idea but you can't be sure if it's because he knows Sakuragi won't go or that he's hoping Aota will get him off the team. Akagi doesn't reveal his feelings there at all.

Aota's attempts at getting Sakuragi are priceless on their own, especially after he realizes that Sakuragi is interested in Haruko. Even better, Aota and Haruko are pretty friendly with each other and even use some endearing names and honorifics with each other, something that completely sets Sakuragi off and gives him the motivation to meet with Aota in the judo room. Sakuragi has zero intention of joining the club but Aota has an ace up his sleeve in the form of several pictures of Haruko over the years from her younger cute self to how she is now. With Akagi and others watching from the window, this is a great laugh out loud sequence as two immobile forces collide but still want what the other has.

Technical Recap:
This section is identical to what we wrote about the first volume and it all applies here and is worth repeating again for those who may have missed it.

With this being one of Toei's launch titles, it's got a number of technical flaws that don't fit easily into the other categories. One area is the subtitles, which almost seem sane after watching Interlude. They don't approach the same level of incompetence as that release but it's still an incompetent piece of work here. With subtitles that stretch across the entire screen, include ADR related pieces such as "grunts with effort" and the such, numerous mis-spellings and far too many three-line sections on at once, the subtitle job is just terrible here. It only felt tolerable to me since we had just experienced the worst subtitling job I had ever seen the night before with Interlude.

The release suffers in a couple of other ways; when each episode ends it goes back to the menu instead of carrying on. Each episode is also one chapter which means you can't skip openings or endings or jump to the middle of the episode at the eye-catch. This is still done on some of the more low-end TV releases from major Hollywood studios but it's not something that anime studios have skimped on in the past and shows what's been a theme of Toei's first releases: least effort possible. While this is a plus in that we get essentially a region 2 quality release in terms of audio and video, it comes across as basic incompetence and apparently no market research as to what is expected here. Things as simple as properly working menus, a proper level of subtitling and the inclusion of chapter marks are some serious strikes against this release.

One area that really makes me call into question the people working on the release is something that required some knowledge from others. When Haruko is showing off herself with Sakuragi a bit, she calls out the names of Jordan and Carter while running down the court. Now it may just be me, but I don't think I heard those names in the Japanese track but it was there in the subtitles (and the dub). From what I recall, I don't think these names were altogether accurate for the original time of this (93 if you go by anime, 89 if by manga) and certainly not for a schoolgirl in Japan. Since basketball was just getting national attention at this time there were a number of rising stars there that I think she'd have called out more easily and I'm disappointed that Toei went with a localization of this instead of a translation..

In Summary:
There's still a lot of ground to cover in this series but the first ten episodes are quite good and this volume in particular does a great job of expanding what Sakuragi is actually capable of both in the game and in his regular life. The cast expands nicely and we're starting to know more of the team itself which will help flesh things out nicely. Rukawa gets a chance to shine but takes a back seat after that to allow for the judo club to try and stake its claim and to show just where Sakuragi really stands. If not for the technical problems, the fans of this show and the manga would be extolling it from the hilltops and encouraging everyone to check it out.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Zenith DVB-318 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player via DVI with upconversion set to 720p, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

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