Friday, October 17, 2008

Slam Dunk, vol. 1

Story and Art by Takehiko Inoue
Released in the US by Viz Shonen Jump

Slugline: There has to be easier ways of impressing girls.

This is a motivation I can understand, getting involved in a sport because the girl you like likes it in turn. Hanamichi is desperate enough to do or try anything to attract the attention of a desirable girl. Trust me, he didn't have to suffer through 50 rejections first in order to be in the proper frame of mind to try anything to keep a girl's attention. Fortunately, his attitude toward basketball doesn't change overnight, and Hanamichi focus is more on his two main rivals within the team for Haruko's attention, her brother Takenori that Hanamichi battles for respect and acceptance, and Kaede who is a more traditional romantic rival. Though Kaede at the moment does not seem to be doing much other than being a far-off target for Haruko's sighs. Hanamichi manages to get on the team after demonstrating a slam dunk in a competition with Takenori, but then is forced to do fundamental drills. Of course, Hanamichi wants to impress Haruko, which involves actually being in the game and that causes the conflict that the volume ends on. Never mind that it would be normal for drills to be switched up to help keep the the attention on the drill rather than letting the mind wander after prolonged periods.

Why bother reviewing a 100 million manga selling title? It's not like this review is going to cause people to discover an otherwise overlooked gem or that people will learn that Slam Dunk is the basketball manga that they were looking for. But I think I can share with readers a reason why I think it was successful as compared to other sports/fighting shonen manga, which I think comes from Hanamichi himself, especially his motivations. Normally in these manga the main character's has already begun his quest to be the best, to excel. Here, Hanamichi has the potential to be great but at the same time he does not see basketball as an end in itself or a way to express himself, but a way to achieve a selfish goal, to get the girl. Undoubtedly, that will change over the series, but that makes it an interesting progression to watch out for. Sure there is the unavoidable silliness that seems to be part and parcel of all shonen manga, but I find that redeemed by the interesting characters work with Hanamichi.

Slam Dunk, vol. 1 is also available from Right Stuf, Intl., an online retailer specializing in anime and manga.

- Ferdinand

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