Slam Dunk 20

Takehiko Inoue – Viz – 2012 – 31 volumes

It’s the same game! But it’s still quite thrilling to read! I can’t believe that Inoue can keep the action going like this, but these volumes are meant to be completely torn through in one sitting.

Not much happens in this volume, but what does happen is EXTREME BASKETBALL ACTION. Shohoku rallies and overtakes Ryonan, and it comes down to the last quarter. As the minutes tick by, Ryonan loses momentum. Then their coach sticks one of their stars back in, who is in danger of fouling out. Ryonan gets their momentum back, and in the last minutes of the game, Shohoku is in danger of losing their lead. Two or three of their starters begin to hit the foul limit as well, so several players are in danger of fouling out, and all players are trying to draw fouls to themselves. Sakuragi is all fired up, of course, but he’s not so much a star this time, and becomes a liability once again as Ryonan begins to play off his ignorance of the rules and inexperience in games.

Again, Inoue’s art lends a lot to the exciting nature of what’s going on. It’s very dynamic, in a way that few action manga can pull off. He can really draw a basketball game, and you might as well be watching the thing on TV.

Still great stuff, and I love picking up a volume of this and flying through it. I’m also happy that this seems to sell well enough to warrant a continued bi-monthly release. It’s great for kids, and I’d like to think it’s finding its way into the right hands.

This was a review copy provided by Viz.


Slam Dunk 19

Takehiko Inoue – Viz – 2011 – 31 volumes

I need to catch myself up on the series I follow, this summer has wreaked havoc with my habit of reading a ton of manga. Slam Dunk is good, but admittedly not one of my priorities. I can’t deny the fact that I get sucked into every volume, though.

The Ryonan/Shohoku game enters the second half in this volume, and lots of stuff goes down. Actually, not a whole lot does go down, but the moments are stretched so masterfully that it feels like every volume is packed. One of the key characters on the Ryonan side of the equation nearly fouls out, so he is benched until later in the game. Meanwhile, Sohoku rallies and begins outscoring Ryonan in an unexpected turn. Ryonan is the better team, but Sohoku begins trouncing them. One of the key strategies is that Rukawa, one of their aces, saves his strength for the second half, so this volume is the start of his time to shine.

And… really, I’m not sure how much more there is to say. The appeal lies in just how exciting Inoue can make all that seem. There’s still a little humor mixed in, and it’s easy to like the characters as they struggle along with their game. It’s great for teens, since it is an excellent series and there’s nothing even remotely objectionable. But I love it too, and as I’ve said before, I have zero interest in basketball. That’s simply the skill of Takehiko Inoue. He can even make basketball an amazing ride.

This was a review copy provided by Viz.


Slam Dunk 18

Takehiko Inoue – Viz – 2011 – 31 volumes

My reviews of this series are always really short, because I really am at a loss as to what to say every time. There’s only so many times I can reiterate that this is exciting even though it’s a basketball manga. That I love it even though I have no interest in the sport. That the action is really gripping and the characters entertaining. That it’s easy to root for Sakuragi and Shohoku. It’s just a great read. Not for everyone, but fantastic all the same.

The game between Shohoku and Ryonan is on in this volume. I predicted this would last for quite some time, because there is only one more game after this in the tournament, and we have more than ten volumes left. This covered more ground than I thought, and ends at the first quarter break.

Two things happen here. One is that Gori is thrown off his game, and it takes him a minute to get his head back in things. Shohoku gives up a lot of points during this time, and the teamwork suffers. Inoue depicts this mental struggle well, and it was one of the best portrayals of random interrupting thoughts I’ve ever seen in a comic. It doesn’t sound like much, but it happens to all of us, and this is a great visual representation of it.

The second is that Sakuragi is at war with the man he is guarding. It becomes clear that Ryonan has pegged Sakuragi as a weakness, and all the points are being scored by that player breaking through Sakuragi’s guard and humiliating him. This struggle was the more interesting to me, especially in the case of a hothead like Sakuragi. He’s learned a lot of control, temper-wise, but it’s still hard work for him.

One last thing I liked about this volume was all the trash talk on court. It was perfect. Not quite as hilarious as The Bus Driver from an earlier volume, but it was still fairly spot-on as far as trash talking goes, and of course a bunch of manly guys like the players of Shohoku and Ryonan would engage in it relentlessly, and in each other’s faces.

This was a review copy provided by Viz.


Slam Dunk 17

Takehiko Inoue – Viz – 2011 – 31 volumes

Ahhh… again, I’m not sure why I love this series so much. Inoue certainly knows how to draw addictive action, because I love all three of the series that are currently running in the US, and I started all of them ready to hate them or completely uninterested. I don’t like basketball at all, but man, I really have to know if Shohoku can do it.

This volume contains the dreaded rival game, where we continue to watch Ryonan and Kainan play in order to see who will play Shohoku next. I hate when sports manga do this, because they usually make an effort to make me care about the characters and what they can do, and I just can’t bring myself to remember them or their skills, or who they’d be matched up against on the hero team. I know they will simply be beaten later. Eyeshield 21 is also majorly guilty of this, though the over-the-top characters in that series made it easier to remember that the cowboy was the quarterback, or whatever.

Having said that, the rival game was still pretty fun to read. I may not have cared about any of the characters, or bothered to commit their strengths to memory, but I did flip every page waiting to see if the basket would go in, whether the team would score before the time would run out, what happens after a technical foul, et cetera. That the game was a complete thrill really is a testament to how good Takehiko Inoue is.

After the game, there’s a rather serious plot involving Coach Anzai. I’ve wondered about him, since he’s clearly a respected figure, but he has so little input in the games themselves. What happens here also leads to a little flashback about Sakuragi, which was also much appreciated.

Afterwards, the Kainan/Takezato game is covered in a few pages, and then the Ryonan/Shohoku game gets under way. Surprisingly, there’s only two chapters of actual gameplay, and in those two chapters, I think only two baskets are scored. But they’re two important baskets. And it doesn’t feel like so little game was covered. The story does a good job of getting you seriously pumped, and I still can’t get enough of Sakuragi’s hilarious boasts. I suspect this game will go on for a few volumes at least. By necessity. The way the bracket is laid out, there’s only one more game to play after this for the championship, and I can’t imagine they play another bracket after that. So I suspect these two games will probably take up most of the rest of the 14 volumes, with serious breaks for training, and maybe one or two small games tucked in somewhere for good measure. So buckle up, because this game is going to be a wild ride.


Slam Dunk 16

Takehiko Inoue – Viz – 2011 – 31 volumes

On one hand, I breezed through this volume pretty quickly, since the majority of the content is a game between two schools that are not Shohoku. I was a little surprised that the story spent so much time setting up the skills and personalities for characters that we will meet in the “future,” as if I should memorize all the members of both teams right now, since I’m going to have to watch them play Shohoku later.

Amazingly, Shohoku does play a game, but it lasts only one chapter, and Sakuragi doesn’t play in it. The tournament is a four-team tournament. By the end of the volume, one team is 0-2, two teams are 1-1, and the fourth team is 2-0. I suspect the rest of the series will be two more games for Shohoku, and it blows my mind that this will probably take all 15 of the remaining volumes.

In addition to the brief Shohoku game and the game between Kainan and Ryonan, there are a few chapters at the beginning of the volume covering a Shohoku scrimmage between upper and underclassman, and some shooting drills Gori forces on Sakuragi. The shooting drills are neat, because Sakuragi has resisted all the special training forced on him up to now, but the shooting drills are a pleasure to him compared to the running practice and other fundamental drills.

By the end of the volume, there are also hints that Shohoku’s biggest weakness is that they don’t play as a team. It’s true that all of them are definitely unique personalities that don’t work well together, and I’m curious to see how this weakness will be overcome. I just can’t see Sakuragi and Rukawa playing nice together.

On one final note, I couldn’t stop laughing at the first chapter’s title page, which was an illustration of “Slam Dunk” shaved into the back of Sakuragi’s head. That’s so early 90s it’s almost not funny, and I’m willing to bet that it wasn’t a trend that appeared anywhere outside America. The rest of the volume had a Boyz II Men accompaniment running through my head after that.


Slam Dunk 15

Takehiko Inoue – Viz – 2011 – 31 volumes

Only in a shounen manga can one minute and thirty seconds of game time take 120 pages to play out. That’s almost one page for every second. This series is so good that I didn’t even notice the ridiculous stretch.

You know why?

SLAM DUNK.

It was magical.

It took 15 volumes to happen. When it did, it was special. I loved that Haruko consoled him with it later, too. That made for an adorable scene.

And for as long as it took to happen, I love that that wasn’t even the most exciting thing about that game. It certainly got a double-page spread devoted to it, but the story didn’t even linger on it for one page more.

So, the game ends, and I was a little sad. I couldn’t remember what they did in this series before they played basketball. After all, this game alone has lasted over five volumes, right?

Well, I guess they practice for their next game. I suspect there won’t be a lot of downtime between events. I do hope we’re not going to have to sit through the Kainan/Ryonan game, though.

I was also a big fan of the reactions to Hanamichi’s haircut. Now he’s even scarier than he was before! Fantastic.

Unfortunately, I don’t have a lot to offer in the way of commentary here. They do just play basketball. But they do so in the most exciting, edge-of-your-seat way imaginable. I hate basketball, but I love reading this series. I was very amused by the author commentary in the front of the volume where Inoue responds to criticisms about how he’s taking too much dramatic license with the basketball games in this series. He says that real basketball games are way more exciting than he could ever make it, and you should watch one so you can see for yourself.

I don’t know about that.


Slam Dunk 14

Takehiko Inoue – Viz – 2010 – 31 volumes

It’s Takehiko Inoue catch-up day here, and I am tragically behind in Slam Dunk. It doesn’t really deserve it either, it’s enthusiastically addictive.

The Shohoku and Kainan game is still going on. You know, at this point, I’m pretty sure that the whole series is just going to be this one tournament. That’s pretty amazing. What’s even more amazing is that Inoue can make reading these interminable games so much fun. I really don’t want him to rush through it, because there’s so much utterly awesome stuff going on here. It’s genuinely exciting to read. I mean, I’m a little embarrassed to admit that every free throw, every basket, every fast break, and every foul is super-exciting, but it is. Inoue really knows how to pace and draw the action, and it doesn’t get bogged down with a lot of character drama unrelated to the game. It mimics the experience of watching your friends play high school basketball perfectly.

To that effect, I don’t have much to say about this volume, really. Gori plays through some pain as he goes back out on his injured ankle, and as the spotlight shines on more members of the Kainan team, we learn that they specialize in just about everything you can do on a basketball court. Strategies come into play that can block them, and Coach Anzai plays to Hanamichi’s ego to get him fired up. The teams trade the lead again and again, free throws are missed… you know. Pretty much everything happens that you would expect in a really excellent, close basketball game. And this volume simply does that very well.

That’s exactly why it’s worth reading. Though I hope next time I’ll have a little more to talk about. It… should be the last volume for this game, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it ran into volume 16.


Slam Dunk 13

Takehiko Inoue – Viz – 2010 – 31 volumes

Though Hikaru no Go has ended, I still have Slam Dunk to give me my sports manga fix (if Go can be considered a sport… in manga, it’s the same idea). I don’t like this series as much as Hikaru no Go, or even Eyeshield 21, but it’s still an awful lot of fun to read.

There’s not much to say about this volume. They play basketball vigorously. Shohoku is still fending off Kainan tooth and nail, and this volume barely makes it through the first half of the game. While, of course, the boys still have to work together as a team, this volume is all about Rukawa and his showboating. And to Rukawa’s credit, he is spectacular, and not really trying to show off. He’s just trying to win, and doing whatever it takes to get him there.

What’s really great is that everyone, players and audience included, still has such an extreme reaction to a slam dunk. I love that it’s the name of the series, so that every time it happens, it’s like saying a special password that causes everything to stop and go haywire.

There’s not a whole lot to the success of this series, it’s just really, really entertaining to watch the characters play basketball, and the volume’s always over in a heartbeat. Like most of the best sports manga, you get drawn into the enthusiasm courtesy of a handful of great characters. Even though I don’t care about basketball, I still really want to see Sakuragi play. He wants to play so bad. He does play here, and it is both entertaining and genuinely awesome.

I think it’s interesting that the game’s only about half over at the end of this volume. I’m willing to bet that it won’t end until at least volume 15. And that’s the halfway point of the series, meaning that we will have gone 15 volumes and only seen… really, two major games, right? That blows my mind. It’s crazy, but it works really well for Slam Dunk. I don’t know that many modern sports manga could pull something like that off. What’s even more interesting is that the only hints we’ve been given about the next opponent are some smarmy comments from the peanut gallery that almost reminded me of Prince of Tennis opponents. You know. The kind that are completely full of themselves, and you really want to see their smug faces pounded into the tennis court. Most sports manga I’ve read are all about showing off the next opponent, or the next series of difficult opponents so that you know just how hard the coming games will be, but not Slam Dunk. The whole focus is on the current game.

But yes. Still good, I promise. At this point, you’re either reading or you’re not, so I doubt this review’s going to convince anyone, but just in case… still not boring! Still great! Not my favorite, but still quite good.


Slam Dunk 12

Takehiko Inoue – Viz – 2010 – 31 volumes

It’s been awhile, but I’m definitely ready for some basketball again.

This volume contains most of the game between Shohoku and Kainan. Kainan’s a tough opponent, and of course there are players from another school sneering from the sidelines about how Kainan’s no match for their legendary team in the playoffs, but for the time being… this is some pretty thrilling basketball.

The blocking and offensive strategies are looked at in some detail, and I promise that’s not nearly as boring as it sounds. Inoue, like the author/artist pair of Eyeshield 21, has a gift for making even the most mundane tactical aspects of his chosen sport absolutely fascinating in manga form. It’s unbelievable that manga about football and basketball can hold my interest so well, and even more amazing that this manga is remarkably fresh for being… 20 years old at this point. The only things that date it is some of the bancho stuff, which doesn’t translate into English anyway, so it makes me happy to think of kids picking up this series and getting sucked in as much as I have.

Of course, a big part of the fun is Sakuragi’s showboating, and he gets to do it in front of a particularly cocky opponent this time. It’s pretty humorous considering he still has no real idea how to play basketball, and that’s actually his downfall here as his showboating comes to a stop as soon as the opponent figures that out. Sakuragi’s second match-up in this game had me absolutely rolling, not only because it was such an unlikely pair, but also because that kid was legitimately great at basketball, too. I liked that character a lot.

On to the next volume! I think the releases for this series are starting to slow down, which is a shame since this is the type of manga that needs to be consumed at top speed. It’s great. I still prefer Eyeshield 21, but this is a pretty close second.


Slam Dunk 11

Takehiko Inoue – Viz – 2010 – 31 volumes

As far behind as I am on several series, I just can’t help myself when a new volume of this comes in. I know it’ll be fast and good, and I’ll want more when I’m done. I still can’t get over how much I like such a simple basketball manga, but it really does get everything right.

Much like how they don’t actually play a basketball game until… was it the fourth or sixth volume?… I loved that an actual slam dunk, made by the main character, didn’t really happen until the end of volume 11. And the wait was not wasted. It was spectacular. I could not get over how drawn out the character reactions were. Even Hanamichi’s reaction was unexpected. It was spectacular.

Much like all the best action manga, I couldn’t read this fast enough. The last ten minutes of the game against Shoyo wind down and Shohoku has to make up the ten or so points scored by the ace of the other team. Various tactics and strategies are tried out, but I think my favorite thing is that nobody suddenly developed special abilities that won the game. Granted, the dark horse that hadn’t really been doing anything did finally live up to all the hype we’d seen a couple volumes ago, and that may count, but that wasn’t the deciding factor. It really was just teamwork and a positive outlook that helped Shohoku pull through, which makes this even more fun to read. They aren’t superheroes. They’re just playing basketball.

It doesn’t leave off on a cliffhanger, which is very kind. Admittedly, it’s not really about the anticipation of finding out what happens next , but more that I know I’ll love the fast pace, the characters, and the fun they’ll have. I’m also glad that things haven’t gotten completely serious yet, and everyone’s still able to step back and look at their Very Serious basketball situation objectively. It’s probably still behind Eyeshield 21 and Hikaru no Go for my favorite Shounen Jump manga (and One Piece, but that’s transcendent), but it’s not very far behind, and I really don’t think either of those would be around without Slam Dunk.

This was a review copy provided by Viz.


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