Slam Dunk 1 by Takehiko Inoue: B

Sakuragi has never been a hit with girls. In fact, in three years of junior high he amassed an impressive fifty rejections! Now in his first year of high school, he once again believes he’s met the girl of his dreams. Haruko loves athletes, and basketball in particular, so to win her affections, Sakuragi becomes determined to join the school team.

This aim is complicated by Sakuragi’s overwhelming, almost painful stupidity and violent outbursts of temper. He mouths off within earshot of the captain (who also happens to be Haruko’s older brother) and publicly humiliates him in a basketball contest. Though he manages to control himself long enough to get onto the team, he is quickly frustrated by fundamentals training and ends up storming off the court in a huff.

I know Slam Dunk is a classic of sports manga, a genre I really like, but I didn’t enjoy it quite as much as I thought I would. Most of that has to do with Sakuragi’s temperament, though, so I’m hopeful that as he’s forced to learn discipline and teamwork, the ignorant boasting and random karate chopping will gradually subside. The actual playing and practicing of basketball is great fun to read, another reason I assume my enjoyment will increase in future installments.

I was both impressed and a little confused by Inoue’s artwork. The style is by turns realistic and comedic, and though sometimes it borders on unattractive, there are definitely moments of greatness. A page and a half spread of the basketball court is a particular standout; the way the panel is framed does an excellent job in conveying the size and height of the room.

The confusion stems from several characters that appear to be of African descent. Their names are Japanese, though, and one of them is Haruko’s brother, so I am assuming they’re not supposed to be a different ethnicity than their peers. I was also struck by the resemblance of one of Sakuragi’s buddies to the late Robert Goulet. Consider the evidence:

A number of extras are included in this volume, all without deviating from the standard Shonen Jump price of $7.99. The first chapter is printed entirely in color, and a glossy color section in back includes a profile of a real-life NBA superstar and some tips on how to perform a slam dunk. And a sticker!

I liked this okay, and I’m confident I’ll like the rest more. It’ll be a long wait until volume two–due out in February–but Viz recently announced that a new series is due to replace Slam Dunk in the magazine come March, so the frequency of releases ought to increase in the near future.

Review copy provided by the publisher. Review originally published at Manga Recon.

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  1. […] co-host Michelle’s review of the first volume of Slam Dunk features some bonus Robert Goulet, and it is interesting to see how her opinion of the series […]

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