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Slam Dunk Vol. 31 by Takehiko Inoue (a J!-ENT Manga Review)

November 29, 2013 by  



“Slam Dunk” has been one of the most delightful, most exciting manga that I have read.  It was a six year journey from vol. 1 to vol. 31 but it was all worth it!  For those who love sports and basketball, “Slam Dunk” Vol. 31 and the entire series is highly recommended!

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

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MANGA TITLE: Slam Dunk Vol. 31

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: December 3, 2013

With only a minute left in the game, the players of Shohoku High have closed the gap on the scoreboard with a supreme effort that has the crowd on its feet. Sannoh, the reigning champions, are still in the lead, but the game now hangs in the balance, and it isn’t over until the last whistle blows. Both teams know this is it – time to lay everything on the line and no holding back, because only one team will leave the court victorious!

The final volume of “Slam Dunk” is here and the National Tournament (the summer championships) continues as the underdogs, Shohoku High School has managed to keep the game close Sannoh Kogyo and Sakuragi making an important move but getting badly injured at the same time.  But with one minute left in the clock, which team will emerge as victorious?

The volume leading to the explosive final volume, find out what happens in volume 31 of Takehiko Inoue’s “Slam Dunk”!

What is “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 had to be a tough kid growing up. Often teased for his red hair, Hanamichi and his friends would be part of a gang that grouped together to fight other gangs and to show that they are not afraid of no one. And for the tall Sakuragi, he has shown his power in defeating other people in fights.

But there is another side of Hanamichi Sakuragi and that is the fact that he has been rejected by 50 girls in junior high school and now that he’s in high school, #50 tells him that her heart is for Oda who plays for the basketball team.

One day he meets Haruko Akagi, also a first-year student and is the sister of Takenori Akagi, a third-year student and the team captain of Shohoku High School’s basketball team. She also happens to have a crush on star athlete, Kaeda Rukawa, a basketball player that many girls at the high school have fallen for. And because of that, a rivalry between he and Rukawa is instantly created and Hanamichi always feels he must one-up Rukawa (despite Rukawa being a phenom high school basketball player in Japan).

And now Hanamichi Sakuragi wants to prove that he can also be a very good basketball player. And while he doesn’t know the fundamentals of the game, he shows his aptitude of learning quickly.

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. And through various matches, the Shohoku High School team have evolved, as have Sakuragi’s gameplay, which he continues to shock people with his quick adaptability of the fundamentals of the game.

What is happening so far?

Shohoku High School made themselves known to the championship team, Sannoh Kogyo that they had what it takes to go against them and win. And with the first quarter looking like Shohoku High had the potential to be the better team, Sannoh uses the defensive press (double teaming the ball carrier) and now Shohoku is unable to shoot or get inside the paint. Rukawa can’t even make one point with Sawakita on him, Akagi can’t even get a basket off with Kawata guarding him and the speed of Ryota Miyagi is proving to be ineffective.

Sannoh Kogyo figures out Shohoku High School and dominantly comes up ahead by 19 points. But now it’s the 4th quarter and Shohoku High School has managed to prevent Sannoh Kogyo from scoring and trimmed their lead down to 10 points.

But now Sannoh’s star player, Eiji Sawakita and the team intends to end this game and beat Shohoku. Sawakita challenges Rukawa but each time Rukawa tries, he is unable to figure Sawakita out.

Fortunately, Hisashi Mitsui’s three pointers have brought Shohoku back to the game and Rukawa found a way to make a difference as a team player, while Ryota Miyagi and Captain Akagi find ways to bring a new offensive and defensive style to halt Sannoh Kogyo.

And as for Hanamichi Sakuragi feeling the team getting closer and catching up to Sannoh Kogyo, during a rush for the ball, the competitiveness of Sakuragi and his desire for his team to win leads him to being injured.

But now with a final minute left, Sakuragi playing injured and Shohoku still behind, is there any chance this team can win this matchup?

Having read “Slam Dunk” since the first volume, it has been a reading journey of six years.

While “Slam Dunk” was one of the first manga I have tried (or tried to in Japanese) back in the early ’90s via “Shonen Jump” and having watched the anime series in Japanese back then, my first time reading the graphic novel was back in 2008 with the very first volume.

And here we are now in 2013 with the final 31st volume of “Slam Dunk” as Takehiko Inoue’s popular manga series has now come to an end.

The journey of one troublemaker who joined the Shohoku High School basketball team just to impress a girl but instead, became one of their most fast-learning, dedicated players in the team.

The team has suffered their fair share of ups and downs, injuries and other unfortunate situations but they have bounced back.  And now with this final volume, the final minute against Sannoh Kogyo, a team that has won the championships for consecutive years, Shohoku has managed to bring the score close with awesome defense and three-point shots.

And now, they will be able to have the opportunity to win the game and knock out the champs.

The series began with Hanamichi Sakuragi but it ended in a complete team effort (how it should be!) and I loved how this overall manga series progressed.  It was an awesome experience reading this entire series from beginning to end, seeing Takehiko Inoue’s artwork show the agony of defeat, the joy of winning and the blood, sweat and tears captured in each page!

For the most part, the conclusion to the series is satisfying and while many hoped to hear or see of these players again, Takehiko Inoue has moved on to creating another basketball series titled “Real” and his artwork has changed even better as one can see in the non-sports manga of his titled “Vagabond”.

But since “Slam Dunk”, there have been other Japanese manga and anime about basketball, but “Slam Dunk” will forever be one Japan’s most popular manga series on the sport.  It was a series that was inspiring, full of hope, preached perseverance and team work and a more!

Overall, “Slam Dunk” has been one of the most delightful, most exciting manga that I have read.  It was a six year journey from vol. 1 to vol. 31 but it was all worth it!

For those who love sports and basketball, “Slam Dunk” Vol. 31 and the entire series is highly recommended!

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