People who’ve read my Jan-loot post already knew that I’ve gotten my hands on the first 23 volumes of Slam Dunk. A couple of days ago amazon delivered the remaining ones, so yesterday I sat down and devoured them in one go.
I’m so happy I got VIZ’ translation of this. As I already mentioned, German releases went up to volume 8 until it was canceled. I have no explanation for why they did this or why no one has tried again publishing the whole series. We do have the complete Prince of Tennis series over here, so I’m not quite sure if the sports genre is really that unpopular to completely abandon the idea of a re-release.
The art-style… that Takehiko Inoue art-style is just downright gorgeous. The first couple of volumes are still drawn in his old style, but as I had only been familiar with Vagabond before, I found it quite interesting to get to see his starting point and how he improved from volume to volume.
The characters are extremly likeable across the board. From the few female characters, over the main cast to the supporting characters and rival teams. They’re all unique in their appearance with their own goals and motivation. Even if some of them were acting like complete douchebags, you’d get a believable explanation for why they were acting that way. Together with the rather realistic style Slam Dunk feels amazingly authentic.
I couldn’t even say who my favourite character is, which is quite a rare thing. Normally, I find it super easy to pick that one char I like most in a series, but I’m really not able to do so here. Shohoku is my favourite team, all right, but it won’t go any farther than this. Probably because it’s not just the individual characters that are enjoyable but the char-dynamic between the team members that’s cracking me up most of the time (Miyagi/Sakuragi facial signals in a match…omfg… :D ).
What also adds to the authenticity is the development of our main character, Sakuragi Hanamichi, and the overall plot of the story backing it up. Of course, everyone’s improving over the course of those 31 volumes but I particularly enjoyed the way Sakuragi was portrayed. Thinking about sports genre in general, most characters are already good to go right from the beginning: The Prince of Tennis, Kuroko no Basuke, One Outs etc. All the main characters were already familiar with the sport, the rules and had a particular set of skills starting with chapter one. Yes, they did improve, but their role in their respective sport had already been set up. Even in Eyeshield 21 (btw still my favourite manga of all time) Sena got his running back position right away due to his amazing speed. All he had to do was learn the rules and run with that ability he already had.
And that’s where Slam Dunk is taking a different approach. Sakuragi sucks… I mean.. he sucks… BAD… he starts out with absolutely NO idea of what basketball’s about. He doesn’t even know that you have to dribble in order to be allowed to move with the ball. Basic stuff like that. The development he goes through is way beyond anything I’ve ever seen or read in that genre and it’s just so much fun watching him improve step by step.
!!!From here on out it’s spoilers!!!
I also really like the ending of the manga. Instead of going down the happy-ending-we-win-the-nationals-and-everyhting’s-awesome-road they actually lose the 3rd round, thus dropping out of the nationals entirely, but the last game against Sannoh was done so well that you’re left completely satisfied. No regrets at all. That last game really closes the chapter for me with everyone overcoming their limits. Mitsui standing on his legs solely with willpower and Sakuragi and Rukawa finally passing to each other to get the final points to win the game. Those 3 were my personal heroes :D (Don’t get me wrong, everyone else was amazing, too, but those 3 were just epic).
End of spoilers :D
What else is there left to say. This manga has been around for quite some time, so if you haven’t checked it out yet, you should definitely catch up on it. Slam Dunk is exciting, funny and strangely heartwarming. It certainly left me with 4 new figures on my wishlist (I want the standard red jersey versions, but seriously…WHERE IS MY MITSUI??!!).
Funny trivia to wrap things up:
Am I the only one who’s completely stunned by the similarities of Slam Dunk’s Sakuragi and Kuroko no Basuke’s Taiga?! Tall center position red-head with red air-jordans and #10 jersey, much? Is the mangaka of KuroBasu a Slam Dunk fan? Was this mentioned somewhere? This leaves me completely puzzled….