Slam Dunk Vol. #04 - 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: 24.95
  • Running time: 125
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Slam Dunk

Slam Dunk Vol. #04

By Chris Beveridge     June 27, 2005
Release Date: June 14, 2005


Slam Dunk Vol. #04
© Toei Animation Co., Ltd


What They Say
Sakuragi Hanamichi is a junior high student used to getting into fights and being rejected by girls. But upon entering high school he meets the girl of his dreams " Haruko Akagi! He will do anything in order to win her heart, including joining the school basketball team that is aiming to conquer the nation lead by Haruko's brother. The problem is that Sakuragi has never played basketball before, and a freshman sensation is stealing the spotlight and Haruko's affection from him!

The Review!
The last five minutes of their first practice game against an opponent is the most critical yet.

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. Looking at the Japanese re-release in single form, they're basically doing the single character per cover idea, 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 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.

Extras:
None.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Getting all the way up to episode twenty already, the series has given us a lot of episodes but is still moving through their first game. While this will frustrate some, to other's it's great to see the snap decision making process slowed down while giving people new to the sport a chance to understand exactly what's going on. The first four episodes here cover roughly the last five minutes of the game and they show just how much can change within that time as a team can go from fortune to fool or quite the reverse.

Comparisons are going to be easily made to certain popular fighting series and I'll be the first to admit that there are some in how this is extended out across so many episodes, the difference being that we're seeing regular people here playing a sport and giving it their all. The game has changed dramatically since it started at the Ryonan folks aren't exactly running scared but they're being forced to actually work for it as opposed to the cake walk they believed it would be. With Akagi still out from his injury, part of the huge morale and motivation of the team is weakened but surprisingly, not only has the co-captain managed to keep the spirits up but people are really falling in behind Sakuragi and Rukawa. The two freshman are really showing off their stuff and for the Shohoku people who've watching him from the start, they realize just how much he's grown and learned in the short time since he started. While he's still screwing up on plenty of the basics such as forgetting to screen or not quite remembering what to do with rebounds, but his time with Akagi is brought back to mind and he really gives it his all.

Though the team is playing well, there are areas where they're not exactly playing as a full on team but they are learning from each other. This is the place where I really enjoy the show because it has so many different people coming together for a common cause and forced to work together. The obvious area is the rivalry between Sakuragi and Rukawa but even they work well together when they're forced to and it shows just how much more each of them can be. In addition, we get to see how this team forces the Ryonan folks to actually exert themselves and be more than they expected they had to be for this match. Sendo in particular gets to really shine here as he's finally given a challenge that gets him to exert his full power. There are plenty of similarities to numerous samurai dramas and the like in how all of this is laid out, but therein lies the appeal of these shows in Japan as they're given to be the modern form of something much older and closer to them. So many of these one on one sequences are close to fighting matches, which is why Sakuragi is able to do so well since he's used to making snap decisions on the spot.

This volume does a great job with the end of the match and how everyone deals with it. The reactions are nicely honest and there's an amusing revelation as people get to see just how crappy Sakuragi's shoes were as they practically fall apart afterwards. This leads into a very good comical follow-up episode where Haruko takes him shoe shopping which he interprets as a date. Watching him go through picking out the shoes and then just having things go as they do is quite amusing, but the episode also sets up things for what is presumed to be the next big player to join the team since we see him get into a fight with a few of Sakuragi's friends but he's also headlining this volume's cover wearing a uniform. You have to love it when the cover gives away a spoiler for something that doesn't even happen in this volume.

Technical Recap:
This section covers the changes from the first two volumes which had some serious technical flaws and a third volume that fixed several of them.

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. 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 first two releases 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 has continued to not be fixed 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:
Slam Dunk continues to be a really enjoyable show even with the problems. Those problems have decreased considerably since the first volume and there are things that still require fixing but the show does manage to get beyond that for the most part and it provides us with two hours of really enjoyable sports anime featuring fun characters, lots of dramatic twists and turns and the kind of comedy that is particular to this kind of show. I'm enjoying the hell out of it and just wish that it'd get those few more fixes so that they'd be up to the basic standards every release should adhere to.

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, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

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