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!
Attention: english is no my first language
You know, I have a love-hate relationship with sports manga. I love the passion and emotion shown in these mangas, but unfortunately, they always end up repeating the same escalation problem, which manifests itself in two main ways;
A) Superficial drama. A complete storm in a teapot, which could be resolved with a simple dialogue.
What usually happens is that these mangas have going on for a long time and all the dramas have already been resolved very early on; a clearly miscalculation. So the author always tries to invent new problems out of thin air, instead of developing something he could have established at the beginning. And these new problems are almost always silly or too over the top, as the author is always trying to escalate the drama, make them more serious or urgent, resulting in the mentioned storm in a teapot.
B) breaking of previously established suspension of disbelief. Characters start doing inhuman things when it's already been established that this wasn't a fantasy work.
Wanting to create new exciting moments, but being faced with the fact that there is an exact amount of what can happen within a game, with many of them the author having already reproduced in his work, many authors choose to just repeat what they have done before, but in a more exaggerated way to the point of defying the laws of the established reality (you don't have to follow the rules of real life, but you do have to follow the rules of the reality YOU created).
I have no problem mixing fantasy and real sport, but be consistent. Inazuma eleven, the anime/manga where the fate of the world is decided by football, is much more faithful and consistent within the rules and tone previously established. And tone is also something very important, because, in my opinion, those reallity breaks are made using such silly ideas, but taken so seriously, that it just look ridiculous, sometimes to the point of being cringe. It's like they copied an idea from Inazuma eleven and translated it into a more serious tone, which doesn't erase the sillines of the idea, but create a weird discrepancy of tone.
But I am happy to inform you that this does not happen here at Slam dunk. Firstly, because the personal drama is not the main focus of the work or are they resolved early on. Takehito Inoue, the author, managed to develop and have their climax only at the end without dragin to much, somethings not that amazing, but somehow uncommon in Manga. And also: superficial drama is not something you will find here.
And for the performance escalation issue, takehito not only demonstrates his basketball knowledge, but also his ability to implement them in the games.
Accidental, Purposeful AND Technical Fouls
30 second shot clock violation
3 point shot
Wrong Pass(to the enemy)
And obviously, the slam dunk
All that can happen in a game, takehito uses to create exciting games; The Last game is simply the best game in any sports manga I've ever seen. Again, the amount of combinations that can occur in a game and keep making them interesting is definitely limited, but not low. Unlike other authors, takehito shows that his knowledge is not something superficial that even an amateur would know. You not only have fun, but also learn.
Another thing that slam dunk doesn't do is create players who are just one trick wonder. When talking about basketball Mangas that have this escalation problem, it's always common to have some characters with extraordinary skill, whether it's making 3 points or jumping high, who end up not doing much more than that during the course of the work, with the only difference being the increasingly exaggerated execution(the escalation).
To me, these characters don't look like professional players, but like these showmen who make videos that go viral on the internet but hardly can put their skill into real games. And in slum dunk, although there are characters with certain strengths, they are not limited to just that, in fact, the author even makes us get used to these strengths in order to then make the character accomplish something outside his specialization in a fantastic way and decisive for the game, which again, in my opinion, is better than doing the same old thing in an over the top way. And I also think it gives a real sensation that they're real basketball players and not just Showman.
Another strong point of the manga is its art in the final stage of the manga. Here, you can slowly see inoue's journey into becoming one of the greatest manga artists.
I also think I couldn't not talk about the influence of this manga. Slam dunk is a manga that was so copied that probably a lot of new readers will think this is just another generic sport manga in the beginning. Seriously, the influence of slam dunk is something that should be more debated. Even if a today sport manga author wasn't inspired by slam dunk, he probably was inspired by another one who was. The impact of slam dunk even transpast manga and made a cultural change in japan. Takehito Inoue even received a commendation from the Japanese Basketball Association, for his services to the sport, in 2010.
The only negative points I can point out without giving away any spoilers are:
1) By the end, the manga will give you a feeling of an abrupt ending and that more could be told. It'sa realistic ending considering what happens, but not very well delivered;
2) Sakuragi, the main character, is used as comic relief in excess, which ends up erasing a little of his evolution as a player and as person;
3) Misused characters like haruko and ayako. This could also be partly to blame for the abrupt ending, which robbed them of their chance to be used more, but only partly, as they could play a more decisive role during the run, not just at the beginning, like in Haruko's case. In ayako's case, she is ALMOST useless from start to finish.
One of the gods of sports manga.
I remember watching Slam Dunk’s anime back in 2019 and was throughly enjoyed it. Of course others down the years talking about the series, literally spoiled the rest for me to read it all. At least I managed to read it all in one go this time than “Vagabond” which was one I never read before by Inoue-sensei. As a non basketball fan, you still would root for the character Hanamichi to win every basketball game he partakes and woo the girl of his dreams. Character development was good like Rukawa was a interesting sort for being a cold oddball but attractive guy that you want to get to know more! However although it seems like a simple story, he has come far so much from being a delinquent to a talented basketball player.
This is definitely considered one of the most decent sports manga series out there for any sports or even non-sports fan out there like yours truly, to binge read. It’s long and old skool but it really captures the way how basketball works in general!
Arguably one of the best manga I've ever read. Not much of cliche romance and comedies, everything was balanced and every match will make you sit in the edge of your seats. A must read.