Shoyo’s ace, Fujima, drops himself into the lineup and quickly helps his team retake the lead from Shohoku, and despite struggling with fatigue, Mitsui stays on the floor as well. Realizing that they are the keys to winning the game, Coach Anzai focuses on both Mitsui’s scoring finesse and Hanamichi’s monstrous rebounding, but with only five minutes left on the game clock, Shohoku will need to deliver, and fast. Which player will ignite the spark that will carry Shohoku on to victory? And does Mitsui have enough stamina left to hit some crucial three-pointers?
I first read Slam Dunk during its short stint in Shonen Jump. While there was nothing wrong with the story, I just couldn’t really connect with the characters, and I don’t care about basketball, so I didn’t keep following it. Ten volumes later, I’ve picked it up again, and while I find the characters during play compelling, and all the basketball action entertaining, it’s not my cup of tea. Though I think I might have an idea who should.
After ten volumes, the Shohoku basketball team seems to have really come together. The addition of a couple of players, Ryota Miyaki and Hisahi Mitsui has helped to propel the team to the elite eight of the prefectural tournament. Their game against Shoyo will decide which of them will go to the final four. There is a lot of pressure on both teams, and the play gets to be just as psychological as it does strategic.
Takehiko takes the reader into the heads of the players, as Hagesawa of Shoyo tries to prove he’s better than Matsui, Matsui struggles to find his groove, and Hanamichi pulls back for fear of making any fouls. You can really see how the flow of the game can swing from one team to the other depending on the players mental condition. You really see this with Hanamichi, as his fear of fouling makes him pull back. Fortunately, his team mates know how to turn around Shoyo’s psyche outs into psyche ups. These moments were some of the best of the volume, especially when Matsui and Hanamichi find their resolve.
Most sports manga aren’t about the sports they feature, but you can’t really say that about Slam Dunk. You can tell Takehiko knows the game as he draws some great moments. The signature move that the series is named after gets some really dynamic shots. Every thing about the game is so real, you almost feel as out of breath as the players. This makes the series a title that sports fans should want to pick up. It’s an accurate depiction of the game. But by the same token, I don’t think real sports nuts want to read about their favorite sport. They want to be playing it or watching it. But that doesn’t mean you can get this series into a basketball fan’s house. The wives and girlfriends of basketball fans (like football fans) can feel left out during a season since they don’t get the game or the feeling behind it. Give them this manga to read, and I think they will start to understand their significant other’s passion. I don’t really care for basketball, but by the end of this volume, I could start to see some of the appeal.
I’m starting to see why Slam Dunk was such a hit in Asia. Takehiko has created some memorable characters in a dramatic story that is a compelling and enjoyable read. His attention to detail and realistic portrayal of the sport makes it more exciting than any of the fantastic “special moves” usually seen in shonen sports manga. If there was one sports title I was going to read, it would be this one.