Sakuragi has hit an all-time low. During his last year of junior high school, fifty different girls rejected him, the last one choosing a basketball player instead. Thus it’s no surprise that in high school, Sakuragi beats up anyone who dares utter the name of the sport. However, it’s not long until he meets Haruko, a beautiful basketball enthusiast, and is determined to make her fall in love with him – even signing up for the school team to accomplish his goal. However, winning Haruko’s heart won’t be easy, as her brother is the strict and protective captain of the basketball team and Haruko’s eyes are focused on Sakuragi’s rival, the talented Rukawa. Can Sakuragi give up his delinquent ways to help get the team to Nationals, or will his temper get him kicked out before he can learn to dribble the ball?
Why would I ever watch sports anime when I can just watch sports in real life? Immediatedly after learning that sports animes exist, this is probably a newcomer's most common reaction. Indeed, the argument is a sound one - why waste time on unrealistic, cheesy, and above all lengthy animes when the actual sports that they mimic are often so dreadfully boring? The answer, of course, is that what makes sports animes so good is not their mimicry of reality, but their enhancement of it. For one, the characters of a sports anime show are always much more likeable than the fluid injecting, pill pushing athletes of modern day society. Secondly, boring, one-sided games can take up as little air time as possible, while the exciting, awesomely close matches can be drawn out for as long as the suspense will hold. Finally, the players' skills at the sport can exceed well beyond the realm of what is humanly possible. As a result of all of these factors, at its best sports anime can easily surpass anything that the original sport has to offer. Unfortunately, the genre also suffers from a good deal of weaknesses. Most importantly, unlike in real life, the story can never be truly random. Oftentimes it is possible to "outsmart" the anime and be able to predict how a match will eventually turn out. The moment this happens, practically all suspense is lost. Also, oftentimes the pacing of the show is slowed down well beyond what is enjoyable. In some sports animes, episodes upon episodes cover only a tiny part of the overarching storyline. As a result of these two potential pitfalls, sports anime almost always walks a thin line between unsurpassed excitement and absolute tedium. Slam Dunk is the quintessential example of a sports anime in the way that it clearly reflects both the incredible strengths and the overwhelming weaknesses of the genre. On one side, you have likeable characters engaged in what is frequently a terrifically captivating storyline. However, on the other hand, the show is oftentimes critically damaged by its painfully lethargic pacing and its extremely formulaic nature. Figuring out that every single game is decided in the last 30 seconds doesn't take very long, and once this realization occurs a lot of the fun is taken out of the beginnings of the game; after all, none of what happens in the first 35 minutes will ever end up mattering anyway. Also, unlike some of the newer sports animes out there, the show is certainly not helped by its animation or sound; both aspects are noticably outdated. Animation-wise, the unique character designs are pretty much the only positive quality; everything else is decidedly mediocre. The sound suffers terribly from the obnoxious voice acting of Sakuragi and the impressively awful music. Is this anime worth watching? That's a difficult question to answer. While at its best the anime is riveting, at its worst the storyline becomes far too prosaic to be enjoyable. The anime is certainly not good enough to convert any new fans; however, as someone who was already fairly fond of the sports genre, I enjoyed the show enough to watch through the entire 101 episode series. Essentially, if you haven't yet been acquainted to sports anime, you should first check out Hajime no Ippo, which is undeniably the best the genre has to offer. However, if you've already blazed through animes like Hikaru no Go, Initial D, and Prince of Tennis, you'll probably enjoy this one as well; just don't expect anything spectacular.
Story So some hoodlum decides to play basketball pretty much out of spite and because of his gigantic ego. However, this guy actually has a bunch of hidden talent waiting to be molded into something amazing. This story is epic. It produced a whole bunch of feels in me and had me jumping in joy whenever something awesome happened. A little quirk I loved about it is that they were pretty knowledgeable about NBA trivia. Animation I kind of have a thing against basketball anime. They dribble for like 30 seconds going as fast as possible and only travel like 10-15ft. I mean, I play basketball and going all the way down the entire court should take less than 10 seconds and that's pretty generous. It has what you expect from an older anime from the 90's. With the limitations of the time they still produced some great animations and sequences. Sound The most notable thing for me in the sound department is the amazing openings of the show. They're really addictive to listen too. It gets me in a great energetic mood and gets hypes me up to get the show going. Love the little sounds too. The sound of dunks and sneakers squeaking is something that I just can't get enough of. Characters A show can have a great story and great animations but if there aren't about people that're interesting then there's no point. That's not the case here. Every character is great. Each have their moments to shine and give you a reason to cheer them on. The main character, Sakuragi Hanamichi, is a great character and is developed well. I just couldn't get enough of him and his antics. However, he wouldn't be as entertaining if he had boring people to interact with. All the side characters were developed amazingly as well. There's Akagi to be his mentor. There's Rukawa to be his rival. There's Ryota to be his best buddy. Each produce great, epic, and hilarious moments that keep you wanting more. Overall You can't talk about this anime and NOT compare it to something like Kuroko no Basuke. The one thing that this anime has over KnB is that it's obviously more realistic. It's definitely more relatable which helps you connect with the show and its characters. Pacing is really slow but it Rome wasn't built in a day. Only thing keeping me from giving it a 10 is that it wasn't fully complete. I read the remainder of the manga and it was just as, if not even more, epic. Justice needs to be served and the show must be completed.
This anime has almost everything. Action, comedy, tragedy, romantic tensions, manly moments, etc. The cast is pretty huge and when possible, each character or group gets their chance to shine. A great percentage of the characters each contribute something to the advancement of the story and/or get their moment in the sun so. It doesn’t have to be Sakuragi, or the rest of the Shohoku team. Even Sakuragi’s gang gets their chance to do something every now and then. But what really touches me about this story is how strong the relationships develop. Especially the loyalty of Sakuragi’s gang and how far they go in their support that he gets to be part of the basketball team. Even though Sakuragi and his friends may not have the best brains, they make up for it with their hearts and this anime has a big amount of it. I know a lot of people are put off by the concept of sports anime, but I think people need to give this one a chance. The story moves at a very moderate pace and I found the characters to be very relatable and realistically portrays the culture of high school sports in Japan.Even though Sakuragi starts basketball to impress a girl, it is fun to see how he progresses and you really start to cheer for him like he was your friend that started something. Even though he was gifted with the perfect genetics for the sport, he still has to learn from the beginning and some of his struggles are just juvenile to those that at least know the basics of basketball, but you really feel his passion at the right moments and hope that he lives up to his fullest potential.Then you get to see the other characters not just on Shokou, but on the other team as well and how they also have their dreams and work just as hard to make them come true. There are no bad guys and everybody is relatable in their own way and each have something to prove. Earlier I mentioned the realistic aspects of Japanese school sports culture. In Japan, many high schools are known for their sports team and some kids are recruited to a school based on their athletic ability. This is most especially true in baseball where the Koushien, the high school world series, is a very big deal in Japan. I liked how they touched this from the coach of Ryonan High School. It is true that some students join a school to join a team that is coached by this particular person and I really like how they touch that. I really like the character design in this. Though it is a little difficult to transition from how Inoue-sensei did it in the manga, the anime works in its own that it just has this artistic distinction that still carries on today. I found the design to be very diverse and expresses many atmospheres within the story and between the characters. It can be very realistic looking, or very cartoony. Some characters have the generic anime design like Haruko, or look more realistic like her brother, nick named Gori, Gorilla for short. In a way, Sendo’s design in the anime kind of bothered me. He didn’t really look like a high school student by making his eyes more rectangular. In the original manga, his eyes were more circular and I thought the design there he looked more appropriately like a teenager and I will sort of address this issue coming across as older as he looks a bit later. However, the anime addresses at times about characters who look older than they look at times like Maki and at times Akagi. I really like how the anatomy of the players accurately reflect what a basketball player looks like. A slim-muscular like build meant for speed and high cardio. Of course naturally bigger players play center and very early, it shows that a certain percentage of centers and taller players like Shaq, Dwight Howard, and Wilt Chamberlain aren’t the best at free throws.The basketball games may bring the intensity of lets say a 1990s NBA game, but it is pretty fun to watch and in certain moments, the anime will explain the fundamentals of basketball for people who have no familiarity with the sport. At least the games are not anything like the games in Prince of Tennis where their abilities equate to killing the dinosaurs. So don’t expect any silly shit like that. Inoue-sensei referenced a lot of NBA pictures from magazines and the form that the characters show in their lay ups and slam dunks is just at that high level. Rukawa feels like Michael Jordan to me while Sakuragi is a lot like Rodman and Miyagi is like Mogsuy Bouggues. But I heard that some time ago, Inoue-sensei got in trouble for referencing very specific pictures and was in some copyright dispute over that which I think is stupid. Anybody who does art knows that artists reference al the time.The resolution and contrast will look a little grainy and rough, but I don’t mind it. I think it suits the delinquent and manliness of this series very well as opposed to looking it as outdated.The first opening theme alone, Kimi Ga Suki Da To Sakebitai just qualifies for a 10/10 in the sound department. It just brings this energy and intensity that accurately reflects the nature of the series about wanting to impress a girl and also doing your best. You can feel you’re one with the flow with the drum beats and the guitar licks. It’s a song we can all relate to. I feel if people make a list of top anime songs and does not list Kimi Ga Suki da to Sakebitai, they are not a true anime fan (and the only other songs I can say this for are Pegasus Fantasy from Saint Seiya and Heart of the Sword from Rurouni Kenshin). It is just so wonderful to listen to. Whenever you watch a high school basketball game in Japan, you are most likely to hear this song in the opening ceremony. Most times I have went to one, I would always hear this song and it shows how much Slam Dunk has had on basketball in Japan. The other theme songs also bring the same qualities that reflect the nature of the series.Another reason for my 10/10 is just for Midorikawa Hikaru alone as the voice of Rukawa. He’s one of the best seiyuus of all time for crying out loud. He is very good at playing all kinds of characters from the enthusiastic Michael from Marmalade Boy, the romantic Tamahome from Fushigi Yuugi, the dark killer of Heero Yuy from Gundam Wing, and this time the anti-social Rukawa. He can play just about anybody. Sakuragi is played by another top name from the 90s, Kusao Takashi, the voice of Trunks from Dragon Ball Z. His voice is really more rough and scratchy. Even though as Future Trunks he sounded aggressive, he still had something of a soft voice. Along with the rough and scratchniess, at times it is appropriately comedic. In a way, it works in a well-rounded sense when necessary. Another seiyuu I happened to enjoy was the voice of Tanaka Hideyuki as Kogure, or Megane-kun to Sakuragi. In case you don’t know, he’s the Japanese voice of Otacon and Huey from Metal Gear Solid. The design of the character has a physicality and look just like the Emmerich’s and I thought the voice just fit perfectly and I feel it was this performance paved the way for such a legendary role. As previously stated, I sort of had an issue with Sendo coming across feeling older than a teenager, I feel that also had to do with Ohtsuka Hochuu, the voice of Jiraiya from Naruto as his seiyuu. His voice is really easy to recognize if you are familiar with that particular role, but I guess his jokey and relaxed nature does bring a youthfulness to it in some ways. Sendo does have a sense of humor and I feel in some ways, his voice does reflect that. Then again, it doesn’t go into the extremes like in his performance as Chibodee in G Gundam where he calls Domon Japanese and Saisaishi Chinese and I just like the way he pronunciates it. The cast and music just go on and on and I feel for music lovers and seiyuu buffs, that alone makes Slam Dunk worth watching. Well, I know a good number of people on the internet are not fond of sports anime, but there is a reason why it has appeal, at least in Japan. Joining a sports club while still a student is really a big deal while it really isn’t too much of a big deal in America where us American tend to feel that sports if for douche bag jocks or whatever. Japanese schools, especially at the jr high level, encourage it more often because they feel it prepares people for society in some ways such as learning about team work, understanding senpai/kouhai relations, having a goal and working for it, having fun and hard work. To Japanese people, seeing that, they can relate to their own youth or what is going on in their lives if they are still students. To me, the opening song was just enough and it brought me back to the days of the 90s and how I loved the players of that era. But when watching, you will see Sakuragi grow. At times you will laugh at his stupidity and at times you will feel sorry for him. The series shows every aspect of what he goes through and you will see him grow. You will also see how his relationships with his teammates grow. He may be full of himself, but when the going gets tough, he will work hard and pull through. It’s an anime that shows that everybody has the potential at something. Some may be natural, some may need to work harder than others, but when you put your mind to it, all things are possible. Anyway, my big issue was that it ends where it only had 2 games left from the manga. The anime already introduced characters and yet it ends without solving those issues. It is as big as a travesty as the jinchu arc from Rurouni Kenshin not being animated. But the anime ending works in a way where you see Sakuragi grow individually but the manga shows how Sakuragi develops to the point on why the team needs him. I say after watching the anime, read the remaining manga.
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