anime & manga consideration

[Review] Slam Dunk

Posted on | May 4, 2011 | No Comments

Slam Dunk is one of the most beloved of sports anime titles and the manga is often regarded as a main influence on the increased interest in basketball among the Japanese during the period of its release. Despite being billed as a sports anime, Slam Dunk‘s greatest strength lies not in its basketball action but in its characters, who bring a lot of emotional depth to the story and some hilarious elements to engage the audience.

Like a lot of shounen series, Slam Dunk doesn’t stray too far from the basic starting template of an underdog who gains significant growth in strength through the story. The main character Sakuragi Hanamichi is introduced as a brash, young teenager with a romantic failure of a record of having been rejected 50 times. He then falls for Akagi Haruko, who unfortunately has a crush on Rukawa Kaede, already a well-known ace in basketball despite being a freshman. With hopes of winning Haruko’s heart, Sakuragi joins the Shohoku basketball team, eventually develops a genuine interest in the sport and becomes one of the main players who will lead Shohoku to the Nationals.

As mentioned earlier, Slam Dunk has excellent focus on its characters despite sporting a relatively large cast. Many of the characters are fleshed out with explorations of their relationships (mostly friendships), motivations and attitudes towards basketball. Although they are basketball players, the universal nature of their struggles makes them very human and easy to empathize with. In a way, the sport and matches serve as a canvas for character development rather than be the centerpiece of the story itself. Sakuragi, in particular, is one character whose growth in ability parallels his maturation as a person and as a basketball player.

In terms of the technical aspects, the anime doesn’t quite live up to the quality of its narrative. The style is notably dated with a lot of panning across still frames and repeated shots. Attempts to stretch the story to fit the time-frame of an episode are also quite obvious sometimes with the over-usage of panning and repeated scenes. The choice of sound effects can be a bit jarring in some places but the songs themselves are well-utilized in the anime. That said, the technical flaws don’t critically affect the entertainment value of the anime, especially with the support of an excellent seiyuu cast, and the basketball matches are choreographed well enough that they remain pretty exciting.

Overall, Slam Dunk is one series to catch with its great combination of comedy, drama and action.

Final rating: 8.0/10

[Review] Slam Dunk – Zenkoku Seiha Da! Sakuragi Hanamichi

Posted on | May 1, 2011 | No Comments

The second Slam Dunk movie focuses on Shohoku’s match against Tsukubu during the 4th round of the Inter-High qualifying games. As Sakuragi struggles to think of a way to prevent himself from getting fouled out before the end of the next game, he comes across Rango Koichiro, who in similar in personality and has a crush on Akagi Haruko. To resolve their conflict over the girl, Rango decides to use the outcome of their upcoming match as a way to determine who gets to go out with Haruko. Elsewhere, Kogure and Akagi chance upon Godai, a former team mate who is now in the Tsukubu basketball team, and they promise to have a good game. To round off the connections between the two teams is Tsukubu’s coach, Kawasaki, who used to be under Anzai’s tutelage. All in all, this is an entertaining entry in the Slam Dunk series.

One thing that I really like about the movie is the greater focus on Sakuragi’s skills which is often overshadowed by complaints about Rukawa or his self-declarations of “genius” ability in the first 35 or so episodes of the main anime. While I get that Sakuragi’s idiotic behavior is one the main comedic elements of Slam Dunk, it does get old after a while, especially without much emphasis on Sakuragi’s potential to balance that humor. So it was a breath of fresh air to see some excellent rebounds and defensive moves from the character while still maintaining his funny side. That “hun-hun” blocking technique is still as hilarious as ever.

As for team Tsukubu, Rango reminds me a lot of Kainan’s Kiyota Nobunaga in that they’re the same kind of “troublemaker” as Sakuragi. There was quite a good look at Godai’s past efforts and his desperation to win. The impact of his foul out on the team served as a good lesson to Sakuragi about how his own blunders may affect Shohoku though he still couldn’t stop the inevitable 5th foul from happening.

Final rating: 7.5/10

[Review] Slam Dunk Movie 1

Posted on | April 30, 2011 | No Comments

Although produced as a movie, Slam Dunk (1994) feels more like an TV episode set after the practice match with Ryonan. This time the Shohoku company heads to Takezono High for another practice game with the local basketball team. There Sakuragi encounters Youko, the girl who rejected him in the first episode of the anime, and Oda, who is Youko’s romantic interest. The two basketball players have a hostile start to their acquaintance mainly because Oda feels that Sakuragi isn’t suited to the sport, both in terms of skill and spirit.

Besides having better animation than the anime series, the tone of the movie seems to be slightly more serious as well with minimal usage of chibi proportions for the comedic scenes, something which I appreciate. In turn, Sakuragi is less annoying than how he is in the first 20 episodes of the anime, showing a more matured approach to the game rather than obsessing about the need to show his “genius” skills or beat Rukawa. He also displays better enthusiasm for the game than Oda, overturning the latter’s words about being a disgrace to basketball.

Slam Dunk (1994) is a decent filler episode but would’ve been better if more focus was given to the main or supporting characters of the anime.

Final rating: 6.8/10

Hajime no Ippo 3

Posted on | April 30, 2011 | No Comments

Takamura continues to encourage Ippo and give the boy pointers on how to survive the practice match. From the first round where Ippo is instructed to maintain a defensive stance throughout, we see the very first and arguably the most important of Ippo’s strengths, that is his tenacity. Being able to take Miyata’s punches and his determination to keep standing surprises everyone in the gym, allowing him to make it through the first round. Ippo realizes that although he was easily hurt whenever he was bullied and couldn’t seem to stand up for himself, inside the ring he felt happy despite the physical pain because he was pursuing something of his interest. I think managing to survive one round against an elite boxer must have given Ippo some sense of accomplishment too.

In the second round, Ippo goes on the offensive. The power behind his punches combined with his tenacious spirit makes for a more challenging opponent than what one would expect for a newbie. But he surprises everyone again by unexpectedly breaking through Miyata’s guard with a powerful right and nearly lands a punch on his opponent. By the third round, Miyata is noticeably agitated that he can’t seem to easily knock down someone who has never been in the ring before until now. Ippo eventually goes down to a counterpunch thrown by Miyata but he has more than proven his worth as a potential boxer. To Kamogawa, it’s Ippo’s fighting spirit that captures him the most as it reminds him of the legendary figures of the Japanese boxing world. Miyata himself is also intrigued by Ippo’s strength as he observes the multiple bruises on his arms, a result of guarding his blows.

Officially accepted into the Kamogawa gym, Ippo has taken his first step towards boxing and finding the meaning of strength.

Hajime no Ippo 2

Posted on | April 27, 2011 | No Comments

Ippo strives relentlessly to achieve Takamura’s requirement of grasping 10 leaves before the week is done. As the deadline approaches, Ippo only manages to catch 5 leaves at the most and nearly gives up. Fortunately, he realizes a difference between his stance and Takamura’s, and works to rectify his technique. Ippo passes the test of 10 leaves much to Takamura’s surprise and the latter gives Ippo one month to tone his body before he takes him to the gym.

We see now that Takamura is affiliated with the Kamogawa gym, run by Kamogawa himself and the manager Yagi. Ippo’s polite demeanor pretty much throws everyone off, especially Kamogawa, who can’t detect any sort of fighting spirit in the boy. I find Ippo’s extremely courteous mannerisms rather funny actually; there are very few shounen leads I can think of that speak in the polite “-masu” form so often, even when angry or upset.

Kamogawa isn’t convinced of Ippo’s potential and takes up Takamura’s offer to test the boy in the ring. Ippo has to prove his worth in a sparring match against Miyata Ichiro, an out-boxer technician with skills comparable to a professional boxer despite being the same age as Ippo. Takamura serves as Ippo’s second in the practice match but Ippo looks to be completely overwhelmed by Miyata’s skill and experience.

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This blog hosts a collection of my thoughts on various anime and manga titles. The content of each post may vary from full series reviews to single-episode-based summaries to random discussions.