Slam Dunk Vol. #03 -

Anime/Manga Reviews

Mania Grade: B+

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  • 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: 24.95
  • Running time: 125
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Slam Dunk

Slam Dunk Vol. #03

By Chris Beveridge     May 09, 2005
Release Date: May 10, 2005

Slam Dunk Vol. #03
© Toei Animation Co., Ltd

What They Say
Featuring action packed Baketball, "Slam Dunk" has grown in popularity to become one of Japans all time leading anime series. The brainchild of legendary manga creator Takehiko Inoue, who continues to set high sales records with "Vagabond" and "Real." to date, Slam Dunk comics have sold more than 100 million copies! Slam Dunk was awarded the prestigious Shonen Burmon (Youth Category) Award at the 40th annual Shogakukan Manga Awards competition and continues to gain popularity worldwide among anime fans.

The Review!
The last chances to practice come around before the practice match with Ryonan High takes place.

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. .

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.

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 Akagi, 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 Akagi 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.

The menu layout shows the minimal effort being put into these releases as it uses the same background as previous volumes 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.


Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
With the third installment of the series which brings us up through episode fifteen, the technical issues lessen quite a bit as the show only gets better and better. Sports series tend to be far more addictive than regular shows since they can cover only so much of an event at a time, and even though it may feel stretched out they do it in such a way, if done right, that the tension of it all keeps you on the edge as it all plays out and it even seems like it goes by far too fast. Slam Dunk definitely feels like it goes by way too fast as this volume bears out.

Before the big practice match against the team that's bound to be their rivals in going to the nationals, a lot of time is spent getting in time training the team and working them over. Hanamichi in particular has such a strong desire to play that's fueled by Haruko's influence that he puts in a lot of time after everyone else trying and trying again. A lot of his inspiration comes from an initial early morning training session Haruko has with him as she teaches him how to do a lay up. It takes some time for him to figure out the trick but with Haruko watching he picks it up fast and it inspires more confidence in himself. Confidence which he does get overbearing with as he swaggers about but that's all part of his character, especially coming from a "street tough" background where sometimes it's the noise you make and not what you do in a fight.

While he's still not the best player out there by any stretch, his marked improvements have finally got Akagi acknowledging privately that he could really be something. He works him hard during the regular sessions but he's also intent making sure he learns a few more basics and keeps him afterwards. Watching the two of them work together is amusing but it shows some really good growth time as Akagi teaches him how to do things like deal with rebounds. Akagi knows exactly how to manipulate Hanamichi and he does it well. Hanamichi slowly but surely is becoming the basketball genius he claims he is but he's still so woefully ignorant of the bulk of the rules, but that provides a chance for others to fill in the audience along the way which is part of the fun for people new to the game.

When the practice match arrives and everyone heads off to Ryonan High, we really get into the fun part of the show. Hanamichi's first game is a huge learning experience for him but he's still very much the loose cannon he's always been, from butt-jabbing the other coach to making ludicrous statements to the best players of the other team. His wild nature really goes against what a lot of the players find basketball to be all about, the honor and dignity of the sport and all that, so he's easily ruffling feathers and just causing trouble in a very general sense. What's really good about this match is that it's the first time we really get to see some full on basketball being played and it's actually done in a very exciting way. A lot of the fun is watching the way the ace players are taunting each other and the psychological aspects of it but also the way Hanamichi rails against things and just the action in general. The Ryonan club looks to be just as varied and interesting as Shohoku's which makes it all the more fun.

Technical Recap:
This section covers the changes from the first two volumes which had some serious technical flaws.

With regards to the subtitles, they've been cleaned up a bit but still have a good ways to go. The first part that helped ease the problems down with this release is that all that ADR information (the screams, the panting, etc) has all been removed. All we get this time is just the actual dialogue. Well, for the most part. There are a few areas where it's still not up to what I think of as basic region one standards as they include things like "etc", the spacing is off between some punctuations pieces and a few areas where letters are inappropriately extended when it should be using punctuation instead, such as "UPPP" instead of "UP!". A couple of three-line sentences made their way in which with the small subtitle font isn't terribly bad but it's still more than most shows do and actively try to avoid doing.

The previous release suffered in a couple of other ways as well. The lack of chapter stops made it so that you had to skim the entire episode to get somewhere. That has thankfully been resolved with the inclusion of five stops per episode (opening/part a/part b,closing/translated credits). This helps quite a lot in making it feel like a normal release. One thing that was not fixed that I'm hoping will be corrected in the next volume is that when each episode ends it goes back to the menu instead of carrying on.

In terms of the quality of the subtitles, it's still pretty much a dubtitle but there seemed to be far less problems with this one in terms of localization. A lot of it is just that it felt like it flowed much better without the inclusion of the ADR effects. But my knowledge of Japanese is pretty minimal so I'll leave it to those who know more and have seen previous scripts of the series to comment fully on that area. Unlike the first release, there didn't seem to be any references that would seem out of place for the time and it felt a lot more self-contained.

In Summary:
With a lot of small fixes, this release is starting to feel a lot better but it certainly has a ways to go to get to normalcy. The show itself continues to be a really fun experience as Hanamichi isn't like a lot of the other leads in series like this and his rough and tumble nature frequently gets the better of him. At the same time, you can see already how much he's changing and just easily influenced he is by outside forces, from Haruko and Akagi to the Ryonan team themselves. The five episodes here really go by quite fast and they leave things in a place where you desperately want the next volume as quickly as possible. Slam Dunk is certainly living up to its reputation that it's gained over the years as being a great show to watch and I can't wait to get more and only continue to hope that Toei continues to fix what's needed.

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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