Hanamichi Sakuragi, infamous for this temper, massive height, and fire-red hair, enrolls in Shohoku High, hoping to finally get a girlfriend and break his record of being rejected 50 consecutive times in middle school. His notoriety precedes him, however, leading to him being avoided by most students. Soon, after certain events, Hanamichi is left with two unwavering thoughts: "I hate basketball," and "I desperately need a girlfriend." One day, a girl named Haruko Akagi approaches him without any knowledge of his troublemaking and asks him if he likes basketball. Hanamichi immediately falls head over heels in love with her, blurting out a fervent affirmative. She then leads him to the gymnasium, where she asks him if he can do a slam dunk. In an attempt to impress Haruko, he makes the leap, but overshoots, instead slamming his head straight into the blackboard. When Haruko informs the basketball team's captain of Hanamichi's near-inhuman physical capabilities, he slowly finds himself drawn into the camaraderie and competition of the sport he had previously held resentment for. [Written by MAL Rewrite]
Slam Dunk is one of those classics of sports anime. You always hear about it and wonder if it actually is the best thing since sliced bread. Well, it isn’t. But it is funny and entertaining and worthwhile if you have the patience for it.
Imagine GTO in high school and determined to learn how to play basketball to get closer to the girl he has a crush on — tah-dah, Slam Dunk! The story has the expected sort of “learn a skill, show a skill” repetitive story line common to a lot of sports and shounen animes, but it’s punched up by a little delinquency, a little reformation, and a tiny bit of one-sided romance. The one real downside to the story is the occasional trips into a DBZ/Naruto-esque timefreeze: sometimes one basketball game takes, like, 3 episodes and you wonder how it’s possible that only 2 minutes anime-time have gone by in the last 20 real-time. 😉
The art is a little rough sometimes, kind of typical for the time period. There’s a lot of panning across stills and repetitive looks at the same image. It can be a little annoying, but I kept on reminding myself when it was made (1993-1996!) and I got over it. The one thing that I noticed the most was probably the fact that the key on their court looks different from a real key in a NBA or Olympic court, but I decided to stop thinking about it a few episodes in.
The character of the main character is what makes the whole thing entertaining, I think. He is brash, tactless, rough and stupid — and, for some odd reason, really funny. Even when he gets on my nerves, he does something random and ridiculous and retarded, and it just ends up cracking me up. He’s always calling himself a genius (when he doesn’t know how to do anything) and laughing in this obnoxious, cocky manner and making awful mistakes, but he’s somehow loveable anyway and you end up rooting for him because he’s just that charismatic. The thing that’s really nice about him is just how flawed he is… he’s got natural athleticism, but he’s far from being a natural on the basketball court and he’s loyal, strong, and dedicated, but he’s also impatient and hot-tempered and loud. And he’s really nicely backed up by a team of interesting, diverse guys who each (eventually) get their time in the limelight and each have their own personal struggles to overcome while striving to work together as a team.
Overall, I enjoyed watching Slam Dunk — despite the really slow pacing of some of the actual games. It’s funny in that rough, delinquent way that will be familiar to people who’ve seen Hajime no Ippo and Great Teacher Onizuka. If you’re an American basketball-purist, you might have some issues with the show, but if you’re just looking for a fun, classic shounen about some rough-and-tumble guys… you’ve found what you’re looking for.