[Throwback Thursday] Slam Dunk Review & Characters


Slam Dunk  wallpaper

ORE WA TENSAI!!!

  • Episodes : 101
  • Genre : Sports, Slice of Life, Shounen
  • Airing Date : October 1993-March 1996
  • Producers : Toei Animation

Slam Dunk Preview/Plot (no spoilers)

Sakuragi Hanamichi is just your typical apathetic teenager but he makes up for his lack of brains, with his great size and his heart. He's the charismatic leader of a gang of delinquents and is the most legendary teenage brawler to ever live. Unfortunately, that turns off the typical innocent school girls he tries to chase after.

After entering high school, he joins the basketball team to impress a girl he just meets but he doesn't know the difference between dribbling a basketball and a soccer ball. Due to his natural endless stamina, strength, speed, height, athleticism, and new found passion, the captain and coach of Shohoku High School’s basketball team feel they can bring out his hidden potential.

Slam Dunk  wallpaper (2)

Who does Slam Dunk cater to?

For starters, if you're a fan of the NBA, both in the present and of the 1990s when the style felt more extreme, this may be the anime you're looking for. However, in context outside of its surface qualities, Slam Dunk was one of the first series to have a rivalry between a rambunctious main character and a quiet genius, which would later be repeated in Naruto.

If you have seen newer basketball anime like Kuroko no Basuke and want something more realistic and technical, this works too. This anime goes over the basics and how the physics of certain techniques work. Essentially, if fans want something that feels real like what Hajime no Ippo sort of does with boxing, this is the anime for basketball fans. Even if you're not a basketball fan, if you want to see a story about friendship and youth, you can get that, too.

What is appealing about this work?

I know a good number of people are not fond of sports anime, but there is a reason why it has appeal, at least in Japan. Joining a sports club while still a student is really a big deal while it really isn’t too much of a big deal in America where us Americans tend to feel that sports are for jocks. Japanese schools, especially at the jr high level, encourage the benefits more openly because they feel it prepares people for society such as learning about team work, understanding senpai/kouhai relations, having a goal and working for it, and having fun.

To Japanese people by seeing that, they can relate to their own youth or what is going on in their lives if they are still students. To American fans, by having this information in mind, it can give them a great point of view of Japanese student culture.

Slam Dunk-Opening Japanese

Slam Dunk Character List

Sakuragi Hanamichi

sakuragi Slam Dunk

Voice Actor :Kusao Takeshi

Upon entering Shohoku High School, Sakuragi Hanamichi was the biggest bad boy on the Japanese teenage delinquent scene. He was unstoppable in street fights but had no luck with the ladies despite his gifted genetics. Prior to entering high school, the previous girl who rejected Sakuragi says she had a boyfriend from the basketball team and the rejection initially makes him hate basketball. After enrolling in high school, Sakuragi meets Akagi Haruko, his new crush.

Due to her acknowledgement of his potential in basketball, he decides to try out for the team to impress her. After many struggles in learning the basics, Sakuragi comes to love the sport and becomes a valuable asset as a power forward but sharing many bad boy qualities of other power forwards such as Dennis “The Worm” Rodman and Sir Charles Barkley.

Rukawa Kaede

rukawa Slam Dunk

Voice Actor :Midorikawa Hikaru

A fellow 10th grader at Shohoku and its star shooter. With his good looks, he is popular with the ladies including Haruko, but he exhibits no interest in dating women. He has the same genetic qualities as Sakuragi but has the skills of a prime Michael Jordan in both dunking and shooting. Unlike Sakuragi who likes to boast, Rukawa is rather quiet and is always sleeping in class and even riding on his bicycle.

Though his passion isn't as verbal as Sakuragi’s, he prefers to do his talking on the court. Though he initially thinks of Sakuragi as a buffoon, as the series progresses, he begins to acknowledge Sakuragi’s use to the team and his unlimited potential.

Akagi Haruko

haruko Slam Dunk

Voice Actor :Hiramatsu Akiko

Haruko is a fellow 10th grader at Shohoku High School and the kid sister of Shohoku’s basketball team. During her junior high days, she was on the girl’s basketball team but refrains from joining the high school team due to her lack of confidence in her skills, and that she also just prefers watching from the sidelines. She is also Sakuragi’s crush but she has a crush on Rukawa.

Her open affections for Rukawa motivates Sakuragi (along with her belief in his unlimited potential) to become a better player so he can impress her. Despite her unrequited crush for Rukawa and not returning Sakuragi’s feelings, she is always there to support the team and even teaches Sakuragi some sweet and important skills such as lay ups.


Contains Spoilers

Slam Dunk Review [Spoilers]

This anime has almost everything. Action, comedy, tragedy, romantic tensions, manly moments, etc. The cast progressively expands and when possible, each character or group gets their chance to shine. A great percentage of the characters each contribute something to the advancement of the story and/or get their moment in the sun. It doesn’t have to be Sakuragi, or the rest of the Shohoku team. Even Sakuragi’s gang gets their chance to do something every now and then.

What really touches me about this story is how strong the relationships develop. Especially the loyalty of Sakuragi’s gang and how far they go in their support that he gets to be part of the basketball team. Even though Sakuragi and his friends may not have the best brains, they make up for it with their hearts and this anime has a big amount of it. The story moves at a very moderate pace and I found the characters to be very relatable and realistically portrays the culture of high school sports in Japan.

Even though Sakuragi starts basketball to impress a girl, it is fun to see how he progresses and you really start to cheer for him like he was your friend that started something new and wants to do something g great with their life that will ultimately benefit them. Even though he was gifted with the perfect DNA for the sport, he still has to learn from the beginning and some of his struggles are just juvenile to those that at least know the basics of basketball, but you really feel his passion at the right moments and hope that he lives up to his fullest potential.

Then you get to see the other characters not just from Shohoku, but on the other teams as well and how they also have their dreams and work just as hard to make them come true. There are no bad guys and everybody is relatable in their own way and each have something to prove.

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Earlier I mentioned the realistic aspects of Japanese school sports culture. In Japan, many high schools are known for their sports team and some kids are recruited to a school based on their athletic ability. This is most especially true in baseball where the Koushien (the high school world series), is a very big deal in Japan. I liked how they touched this aspect from the point of view of the coach of Ryonan High School. It is true that some students join a school to join a team that is coached by this particular instructor and I really like how they touch that. This will be explained in more detail with the three events.

I really like the character designs in this. Though it is a little difficult to transition from how Inoue-sensei draws in the original manga with his shadowing and shading, the anime works in its own way that it just has this artistic distinction that still carries on today. I found the design to be very diverse and expresses many atmospheres within the story and between the characters. It can be very realistic looking, or very cartoony to express drama and/or comedy. Some characters have the generic anime design like Haruko, or look more realistic like her brother.

In a way, Sendo’s design in the anime kind of bothered me. He didn’t really look like a high school student by making his eyes more rectangular. In the original manga, his eyes were more circular and I thought the design there makes him appropriately look more like a teenager and I will sort of address this issue of coming across as older as he looks a bit later. However, the anime addresses at times about characters who look older than they look through Maki of Kainan High School, and at times Akagi.

I really like how the anatomy of the players accurately reflect what a basketball player’s physique looks like by being a slim-muscular like build meant for intense speed and demanding cardio. The art and animation a,so beautifully demonstrates that the biggest players play the center position and very early, it shows that a certain percentage of centers and taller players like Shaq, Dwight Howard, and Wilt Chamberlain aren’t the best at free throws.

The basketball games may bring the intensity of, let’s say a 1990s NBA game, but it is pretty fun to watch and in certain moments, the anime will explain the fundamentals of basketball for people who have no familiarity with the sport. At least the games are not anything like the games in Prince of Tennis where their abilities equate to killing the dinosaurs. So don’t expect any silly shenanigans like that. Inoue-sensei referenced a lot of NBA pictures from magazines and the form that the characters show in their lay ups and slam dunks is just at that high level. If I were to compare the characters to real life players, Rukawa feels like Michael Jordan, Sakuragi is Rodman, and Miyagi is Muggsy Bogues.

But I heard that some time ago, Inoue-sensei got in trouble for referencing very specific pictures and was in some copyright dispute over which I think is stupid. Anybody who does art knows that artists reference all the time.

The resolution and contrast will look a little grainy and rough, but I don’t mind it. I think it suits the delinquent and manliness of this series very well as opposed to viewing it as outdated. The animation makes some audiences appreciate the traditional hand drawn and cel shading style.

slam dunk wallpaper

The first opening theme alone, Kimi Ga Suki Da To Sakebitai just qualifies for a 10/10 in the sound department. It just brings this energy and intensity that accurately reflects the nature of the series about wanting to impress a girl and also doing one’s best. You can feel you’re one with the flow with the drum beats and the guitar licks. It’s a song we can all relate to. Whenever you watch a high school basketball game in Japan, you are most likely to hear this song in the opening ceremony. Most times I have went to one, I would always hear this song and it shows how much Slam Dunk has had an impact on basketball in Japan.

Another reason for my 10/10 is just for Midorikawa Hikaru alone as the voice of Rukawa. He’s one of the best seiyuus of all time for crying out loud. He is very good at playing all kinds of characters from the enthusiastic Michael from Marmalade Boy, the romantic Tamahome from Fushigi Yuugi, and the mission driven Heero Yuy from Gundam Wing. He can play just about anybody. Sakuragi is played by another top name from the 90s, Kusao Takashi, the voice of Trunks from Dragon Ball Z. His voice in this anime is really more rough and scratchy. Even though as Future Trunks he sounded aggressive, he still had something of a soft voice. Along with the rough and scratchiness, at times it is appropriately comedic. In a way, it works in a well-rounded sense when necessary.

Another seiyuu I happened to enjoy was the voice of Tanaka Hideyuki as Kogure, or Megane-kun to Sakuragi. In case you don’t know, he’s the Japanese voice of Otacon and Huey from Metal Gear Solid. The design of the character has a physicality and look just like them, and I thought the voice just fit perfectly and I feel it was this performance that paved the way for his most legendary role.

As previously stated, I sort of had an issue with Sendo coming across feeling older than a teenager, I feel that also had to do with Ohtsuka Hochuu, most famous as the voice of Jiraiya from Naruto as his seiyuu. His voice is really easy to recognize if you are familiar with that particular role. Sendo does have a sense of humor and I feel in some ways, his voice does reflect that. Then again, it doesn’t go into the extremes like in his performance as Chibodee in G Gundam where he calls Domon “Japanese.” The cast and music just go on and on and I feel for music lovers and seiyuu buffs, that alone makes Slam Dunk worth watching.

1. Shohoku and Team Sakuragi vs Mitsui and Hotta

Highlight(1) Slam Dunk

In Shonan’s first test of their unity, Mitsui, a senior student and former shooter for Shonan turned delinquent comes back to school after a school/medical suspension for both a knee injury and for fighting. Mitsui comes back to destroy the team and has brought a gang of outsiders to help him. With Sakuragi and his gang’s strength in brawling, they manage to win the fight and the return of Coach Anzai re-inspires Mitsui to return to basketball.

In order to save the basketball team from being disqualified and to help Sakuragi fulfill his potential as a basketball player, Sakuragi’s gang voluntarily faces disciplinary action for the fight.

2. “If you give up, the that's the end of the game”

Highlight(2) Slam Dunk

While Mitsui was playing ball as a junior high student, he had an accident and tripped on some chairs and tables. Anzai-sensei came to his aide and told him “if he gives up , the that’s the end of the game”. Inspired, Mitsui resumes the game and upon junior high graduation, decides to enter Shohoku so he can be coached by Anzai-sensei. In the original Japanese, it is “あきらめたらそこで試合終了ですよ” or “akirametara soko de shiai shuuryo desu yo”. This quote has resonated with its domestic audiences and serves as an inspiration to others. Hell, you can go to some stores in Japan and buy t-shirts of this inspirational quote. If there was a more American way of putting it, as Rocky Balboa would say back in the seventies, “It ain't over till it's over”.

3. Shohoku vs Kainan

HIghlight(3) Slam Dunk

In the finals of the Kanagawa prefectural tournament, Shohoku faces their toughest challenge through the reigning and defending champion, Kainan High School. Shohoku puts up a valiant effort but an unfortunate heat of the moment mistake by Sakuragi by accidentally passing the ball to a Kainan player who he mistakes for Akagi in the final seconds of the game costs them their victory. Despite Sakuragi’s initial mistakes in his earlier matches where he was always criticized, the team extends their support to him after this match and the loss only makes Shohoku stronger than ever.


The biggest issue for hardcore fans is that it ends where Shohoku goes onto the nationals and their games are not animated. It is as big as a travesty as the jinchu arc from Rurouni Kenshin not being animated. But the anime ending works in a way where you see Sakuragi grow individually but the manga ending shows how Sakuragi develops to the point on why he is valuable to the team. I say after watching the anime, read the remaining stories in the manga. Japanese sites have made trolling news that the Nationals would be animated for years but no news has come up.

Justin

Writer

Author: Justin "ParaParaJMo" Moriarty

Hello, I am originally from the states and have lived in Japan since 2009. Though I watched Robotech and Voltron as a child, I officially became an anime fan in 1994 through Dragon Ball Z during a trip to the Philippines. In addition to anime, I also love tokusatsu, video games, music, and martial arts. よろしくお願いします

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