Let me start off by first saying that this manga makes me want to go up to people on the street, grab their shoulders and yell, “READ SLAM DUNK, READ SLAM DUNK!” I had only ever heard good things about this manga but was reluctant to give it a shot for a long time due to a lack of basketball knowledge and also admittedly some unconscious bias against older, possibly “dated” manga. Let me tell you, Slam Dunk is not dated at all; in fact it’s timeless. It’s the kind of series you’ll always want to read again and again, even after having just read it. I picked this series up a little while after some friends got me into Kuroko no Basuke (which is also a good Jump-based basketball series) and I instantly fell in love. Anyway, enough with the fangirl ravings, let’s move on!
For those unfamiliar with the series, Slam Dunk is about fists-for-brains Hanamichi Sakuragi, a delinquent who joins the Basketball team at Shohoku high, not because he loves basketball or is any good at it, but to impress a girl. What’s great about Sakuragi as a main character is the fact that he’s not naturally talented at basketball. In fact, he makes a lot of mistakes and is pretty uncool throughout a good portion of the series. He actually has a pretty bad attitude, an inflated ego that is often inversely proportional to his talent, and generally completely selfish motives. Somehow these traits work charmingly in his favor, but what really makes him such a great shonen manga protagonist is his drive and unwillingness to give up. Ever. Together with the team’s ace and Sakuragi’s sworn rival, Rukawa, the giant gorilla-esque team captain, Akagi, and super-skilled teammates Mitsui and Miyagi, Sakuragi learns there’s a lot more to basketball than scoring chicks.
Volume 29 picks up seven minutes into the second half of their game against Sannoh, and Shohoku’s managed to contain their lead to ten points—but that still means they’re losing, and tensions are higher than ever. Sakuragi’s rebounds have been keeping Sannoh at bay so far, but it’s Rukawa whose unexpected dunk finally gets them down to a single digit lead (much to Sakuragi's annoyance). However, that only lasts for a moment. Looks like the only one with a bigger ego than Rukawa or Sakuragi is Sannoh’s star player Sawakita, who’s demolishing the court. Sannoh's ace is on a whole higher level, and as the Shohoku boys begin to lose stamina, it looks as though there may be no hope of retaking the lead.
Sawakita scores point after point, widening the lead again—even the amazing Rukawa can’t get past him! Rukawa begins to realize the harsh reality that alone he isn’t enough to beat Sawakita; however, recalling an old conversation after a one-on-one with Sendoh gives him the insight he needs to turn the game around. In order to take back the game, Rukawa does something really unexpected! But I won’t give it away, it’s definitely something you’ve got to see for yourself.
As always, Inoue’s artwork is impeccable, and the volume goes by super fast. Especially during the suspenseful struggle between Rukawa and Sawakita. I’m always amazed by the way Inoue is able to convey movement and carry the story on even through just a few blown up panels paired with little to no text. Despite that the action and suspense makes this manga a pretty quick read, I often found myself going back to gawk at the beautifully drawn panels and pages.
Volume 29 definitely puts the focus on Rukawa this time around which is a nice break from the usual Sakuragi-centric view (as much as I love Sakuragi, which is quite a bit). Rukawa definitely saves the game in this volume, and it’s really great to see some more of his growth for a change. But he’s not the only one who’s grown. Despite his beginner’s mistakes, Sakuragi’s come a long way, and even his friends and Haruko can see it. Rukawa may have turned the game around this time, but only together might these two freshmen players actually have what it takes to defeat Sawakita and win this game!
Slam Dunk volume 29 is available from VIZ.com!
by Melanie Westin