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Slam Dunk Vol. 21 by Takehiko Inoue (a J!-ENT Manga Review)

March 16, 2012 by  



One of Japan’s top selling manga series of all time, “Slam Dunk” vol. 21 features the final two minutes between Shohoku and Ryonan High School.  Winner advances to the national tournament.  Who wins? Basketball and “Slam Dunk” fans will definitely enjoy this latest volume!

© 1999-2011 Takehiko Inoue and I.T. Planning, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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MANGA TITLE: Slam Dunk Vol. 21

STORY AND ART BY: Takehiko Inoue (井上 雄彦)

FIRST PUBLISHED IN JAPAN: SHUEISHA, Inc.

PUBLISHED IN USA BY: VIZ Media, LLC/Shonen Jump Manga

RATED: T for Older Teen

RELEASE DATE: April 3, 2012

 

It’s do or die for the Shohoku High School Basketball Team! If they want a spot in the Nationals, they need to win this game. As the second half winds down, Shohoku hangs on to a one-point lead over Ryonan despite Mitsui’s collapse. Ryonan keeps the pressure on with their best players, Uozumi, Fukuda and Sendoh, giving it all they’ve got. Sakuragi steps up defensively, and now he’s Shohoku’s last hope of staying alive in the tournament – but is he up to the challenge?

It all comes down to the final two minutes between Shohoku High School vs. Ryonan High School. Winner of this match gets an entry in the National tournament.  And what a nail-biter this volume turned out to be in vol. 21 of Takehiko Inoue’s “Slam Dunk”!

I can easily remember the popularity of “Slam Dunk” during the early ’90s. Despite being here in America, I would venture to the local Tower Records or travel to Japan Town and head to the Japanese bookstore to pick up the latest Shonen Jump magazine and watching the anime series.

Granted, I came into “Slam Dunk” several years late but I recognized how popular the manga and anime series was, especially the music and sure enough “Slam Dunk” was one of the first anime soundtracks (on cassette) that I had purchased. For me, it was quite intriguing because the sports that I have watched from Japan and manga and anime being based from those sports are typically baseball, soccer or tennis. You just don’t think about basketball but sure enough, “Slam Dunk” captured the essence of high school basketball and the excitement of team dynamics, offense/defense and squaring off against a rival team.

But this is what Takehiko Inoue is known for. A mangaka who is a basketball fan, his manga series is considered iconic in the fact that many kids in Japan played basketball and became interested in the sport because of “Slam Dunk”. In fact, the series was not just popular in Japan but also throughout Asia. The manga sold over 100 million copies in Japan between 1990-1996, earning a Shogakukan Manga Award in 2005 and in 2007, the series received the distinction as “Japan’s Favorite Manga”.

Inoue would eventually follow up with “Buzzer Beater” in 1997 (which he collaborated with ESPN) which was a more farfetched story about basketball ala intergalactic competition. Followed by a samurai manga story titled “Vagabond” in 1998 and back to a basketball manga with “Real” in 2001 (based on people with disabilities in wheelchairs who compete in basketball), so Inoue has a pretty strong following for his works.

And his hits series “Slam Dunk” has been released ala manga in America courtesy of Viz Media.

“Slam Dunk” revolves around a cocky and rough street punk named Hanamichi Sakuragi who is a first-year student at Shohoku High School. He has fallen for Haruko Akagi, the younger sister of Takenori Akagi, the captain of Shohoku High’s basketball team. But for Haruko, she likes Kaeda Rukawa, the first-year basketball star that all the female students love.

So, to prove his worth in front of Haruko, Hanamichi joins the Shohoku basketball team which includes Kiyota, Maki, Hisashi Mitsui, Ryota Miyagi and their team manager, Ayako.

In Volume 21 of “Slam Dunk”, it’s the final two minutes and Ryonan has cut the large lead of Shohoku down to one.

With Mitsui falling hard and taken out of the game for exhaustion, Shohoku’s bespectacled athlete Kogure comes into the game.  We learn how Kogure and Akagi joined the basketball team together and although Akagi is the one who is known for his basketball skills, both teenager had one dream and that was to make it to Nationals.  Now that they are seniors, this is the only chance they have to make it to Nationals.

Which leads us to the main game…who will win between Shohoku vs. Ryonan?

Also, we get to see members of other teams who made it into Nationals and players having to make difficult decisions, including Kaeda Rukawa.

As for the losers of this final match-up, this may be the final competitive basketball game for the senior students.  How difficult will it be to say goodbye to the sport you love?

If you love basketball, you will love “Slam Dunk”!

Volume 21 similar to the last eight volumes captures the thrill of competitive high school basketball through its pages with an attention of detail by Takehiko Inoue on basketball from player fatigue, foul’s, strategy, you name it… you will find it in this latest volume.

The last volume showed how a team can mount a comeback and the strategy that was needed to make that comeback.  Volume 21 shows us how the unknown players from the bench can easily disrupt the game by surprising players not familiar of them.  In this case, first-year student and Shohoku hothead (prone to making many mistakes) Hanamichi Sakuragi and the usually on the bench, Kiminobu Kogure.

This volume also shows us the agony of defeat as some of the players are seniors and what happens when it all comes to an end.  This final volume also begins to prep the readers to some of the other teams and their team members who advanced to the finals.

With that being said, reading this volume will go quickly because the illustration do take up a big part of the pages versus dialogue but if you appreciate basketball and Takehiko Inoue’s work, you know that this style works and the efficacy of competition of competitive high school basketball is captured amazingly well.

As for the manga series, Takehiko Inoue’s illustrations have always been a highlight for me and I was always amazed of how he captured movements, the offensive and defensive stances to how the players penetrate the perimeter and score. He also doesn’t step back when it comes to capturing the players during competition. He fully includes detail of profuse sweating and the fatigue a player goes through from start to finish.

Overall, “Slam Dunk” is an enjoyable manga series and if you are a basketball fan, “Slam Dunk” is definitely recommended!

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