Each side finds its rhythm and faults as the last ten minutes of the game plays out.
What They Say:
Hanamichi Sakuragi, an entering Shohoku high school freshman holds a record for being rejected by 50 girls during middle school. His nearly 2 meters height and bright red hair causes most students to write him off as a delinquent. One day, a girl named Haruko Akagi approaches Hanamichi without any fear. When she asks Hanamichi: “do you like basketball?” Hanamichi falls head over heels for the girl of his dreams. Without missing a beat, Hanamichi tells her he loves basketball, and the two head to the gymnasium where Hanamichi learns about the slam dunk. He also learns of Rukawa, one of the country’s top basketball prospects, also a freshman at Shohoku.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
At this point in Slam Dunk’s storyline, I have to say that I would normally really hate how this is being “drawn out” as the game runs for another five episodes without completion. I usually rail against shows that operate like this, but damnit, something about Slam Dunk just makes it alright because it does play against the clock in a way that is so bloody exhilarating. Where every second counts, every play could change the balance of things, it’s very easy to get caught up in how it plays out and the intensity of the players.
The second half of the game really got underway with Akagi getting his head back in things and Rukawa’s surprise plan to save up his energy for it. The team has done incredibly well and finally began to pull away when it comes to scoring. What’s been most impressive though is that they’re really functioning in synch with each other and performing as a cohesive team. Even Sakuragi, which is just fun to watch because he’s taken to really being a solid support player. His rivalry with Ruakwa does have him railing against his own team at times, but it’s his misguided way of trying to be the best himself since he wants to take down Sendo and he wants Sendo to humiliate Rukawa, thereby providing a double humiliation. Sakuragi does get called on it a few times by Akagi, but it’s sometimes not always clear how much is externalized by him and how much is internalized.
The intensity of this round of episodes is fantastic, from the early moments where Uozomi gets fouled out for awhile and the game rests on Sendo playing both ends of the stick. This happens at the time that Shohoku is really getting it together and playing powerfully. But as the Ryonan coach knows, there are some inherent weaknesses in the Shohoku team that are very easily exploited at the right time. And especially at this time when Coach Anzai isn’t there to use it to his advantage. Poor Kogure does his best but gets so caught up in the decision that he spins himself around too much. From the start though, Shohoku has had problems with a strong first string and a nearly non-existent second string, even to the point of reducing Kogure’s usefulness in comparison to early on. With a lengthy game and the ability to push fouls upon Shohoku, Ryonan has an option to try and push ahead as the final minutes of the game arrive and the force of personalities are fully at play.
While it can be considered to be dragged out too far, Slam Dunk really plays out a series of great episodes here as each team gets its rhythm and confidence back and plays hard. These kids, many playing above a high school level now, are pretty gifted in a lot of ways. Seeing them push themselves and each other to reach further is exciting and engaging even if an entire episode only moves the clock forward a couple of minutes at best. This is the culmination of a long standoff between the two teams from the start of the season with huge stakes attached to it. The emotions run high and the excitement mirrors it beautifully. You want to see how it ends, but you want to savor every minute as well.
Streamed By: FUNimation
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70″ LCoS 1080P HDTV, Dell 10.1 Netbook via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.