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Slam Dunk Vol. 22 by Takehiko Inoue (a J!-ENT Manga Review)

June 12, 2012 by  



A “breather” volume of “Slam Dunk” as members of Shohoku High School deal with a few things in their personal lives before competing in the National Tournament.   From training, college scouting,trying to get a passing grade in a class in order to be eligible to play basketball to a player wanting to move to America for the challenge.  If you love basketball and love manga, you will love “Slam Dunk”!

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

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MANGA TITLE: Slam Dunk Vol. 22

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: June 5, 2012

 

For the Shohoku High players, the past echoes in the present as Rukawa learns something about Coach Anzai that leaves him determined to be the best high school player in Japan. With ten days remaining until the start of the national tournament, Coach Anzai sends the Shohoku High team to Shizuoka for a week of practice with another local team. But Sakuragi stays behind for a special practice session that will push him to the limit and improve his individual skills for the crucial games ahead.

With the Shohoku High School players celebrating their win at the Prefectural Tournament and now advancing to the National Tournament, with so many talented teams preparing to compete, Shohoku knows that in order to win the tournament, they will need to get better not only as a team, but each player will need to be better than before.

And for Kaeda Rukawa, Hanamichi Sakuragi and Takenori Akagi, the National Tournament is the biggest stage and many people dream just to get in the tournament, but to win it…that would be the ultimate dream come true for these young basketball players.

And with volume 22 of “Slam Dunk”, we get to see how these players deal with the pressure as they near tournament time!

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 22 of “Slam Dunk”, as the players near competition for the National Tournament, Kaede Rukawa is considering of going to America to play basketball, but Coach Anzai feels he is not ready and tries to find a way to get him to stay.  Meanwhile, Haruko Akagi likes Kaede, but she knows in her heart that basketball is more of a priority than getting into a relationship.  How will she deal with her feelings towards him?

Meanwhile, one of the top universities meets with Takenori Akagi for him to play basketball for their team and as for Hanamichi Sakuragi, we know he can dunk, he can play defense but he is not good at his jumper.  So, Coach Anzai develops a program for him to be an outside threat.  But is he up to the challenge?

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

For volume 22, Takehiko Inoue has created is a “breather” volume after the long Prefectural Tournament, focusing on characters and team dynamics outside of competition.  As volume 23 will begin the National Tournament, for this volume, Inoue concentrates on the primary characters, Hanamichi, Takenori and Kaede.  Three talented basketball players but they are going to need to get better or push themselves to be better than their competition and with the National Tournament, many teams have fought their way to get into the tournament and these teams are the best in the country.

For Kaede’s story, it was an interesting story of players who think they are very good in their country, that they need to move to the United States to be even better.  But Coach Anzai knows that Japan and America are in different leagues and to play in America, is difficult.  He experienced it once with another player of his and through this story, we learn the tragic tale of a dream to make it in America that doesn’t go all that well.

While Takenori Akagi’s story is straight-forward, as he is being scouted by a university, in previous volumes, we already know his mind is only on the National Tournament for now.

Which leaves us to Hanamichi, the darkhorse of the team because no one knows what to expect from him.  While he is known for running his mouth and being cocky, Hanamichi has one advantage and that is his will-power but most importantly, what takes others months to learn, Hanamichi subjects himself to intense training, to the point that he learns very quickly.  And in this case, his latest challenge is to learn how to shoot far from the net.  No dunking, just shooting and learning about his form and practicing.

There is also another storyline which many Western readers will understand and that is for athletes to keep up their GPA and in this case, what happens when a few of the basketball players of Shohoku are not doing so well and fail a class?

So, with “Slam Dunk”, this one will be a fascinating volume.  Plus a much longer read as this latest volume is focused more on story rather than competition.  So no pages of just graphics and a single word bubble, there are several storylines featured in vol. 22.

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 of basketball.  With this volume, much more exploration of characters shopping, studying or training in basketball.  Character designs are well-done and it’s great to see the female characters featured in this volume as well.

Overall, “Slam Dunk” is an enjoyable manga series and if you are a basketball fan, “Slam Dunk” is a no-brainer… Definitely recommended!

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