Sakuragi Hanamichi is one of the greatest failures of love that has ever existed. He has managed to get rejected by fifty girls in a row. But one day, after an especially painfull rejection, he is approached by a mysterious girl who after a quick appraisal determines him to be a fine athlete and wonders if he would like to play basket.
Sakuragi falls for the girl within seconds and his fate is sealed.
What starts as a gag manga with a love for basket, soon develops into a very engaging and passionate story. Sakuragi will have to face his past, his pretentions and accept his weaknesses if he is to become a valuable player.
We follow many unique and interesting characters, but most prominent are the rivals Sakuragi and Rukawa and their constant bickering. As they get to know each others they also get to know themselves. Inoue (the mangaka) spends a great deal of time on developing the characters' backstories, motivations and ambitions, and he manages to bring forth in them an almost tangible passion.
But even when the stakes are high and everything seems lost, there is a pervading sense of optimism and the the comedy often finds its mark.
I've rated the art at nine, but if you look at the first chapter you might consider me a mad fool, not to mention blind. The truth of the matter is that I would have rated it ten, if it wasn't for the time it takes until the mangaka's true potential bloom. The beginning looks like an old school gag manga, but the art improves for every chapter and soon som amazing art appears. The final chapters have som of the most amazingly drawn scenes I've ever read.
In a way, the quality of art is a reflection of the development of the main character, as he matures, the art also does. As the teams skill improves, so does the depictions of their accomplishments.
A great manga which excels both at comedy and character development, but more than that it has some amazing artwork and gives us the opportunity to see some radical imrovement over time. Oh, and some rad dunks!