Slam Dunk is probably one of the most memorable animes from the 90’s and actually one of the best animes of all time. I was, however, introduced to it when I saw it in 2008 (MANY YEARS LATER I KNOW) when they aired it in Animax. Now most people know that most popular animes focus on martial arts, fantasy, comedy, blood, gore pretty boys, pretty girls, action and/or drama with a combination therewith — Slam Dunk did not really have those but did have them in another way. It packed tons of comedy, had some violence in the form of fighting, had drama and was able to install pretty boys and pretty girls without having the otaku (Japanese denotation) — its most unique feature is that it was primarily a sports anime and its main focus was basketball and how protagonist Hanamichi Sakuragi learns how to play it and becoming an athlete in his own way.
Hanamichi Sakuragi is one of the most memorable characters in anime — initially he is an academic failure, schoolyard “gangstar” and never romantically inclined (he has so many rejections that it makes many of us happy with ourselves) — enter Haruko Akagi, a very beautiful young highschool freshman like him and attends Shohoku High with him. Seeing his height and athletic build she asks him if he wants to play basketball — this begins the journey that is Slam Dunk.
What he starts out initially to impress his crush turns out to challenge him and make him stand out. The young Hanamichi is good at fighting but can he fight without fists? Can he dodge without letting others get to him? Can he defend without a foul? Can he master the slam dunk, three pointer and the rebound?
This anime is beautiful because it fuses a fantastic sport with the actual trials and tribulations of life — if you know nothing about basketball be prepared to learn with Hanamichi in an effective, non-boring manner that’ll stick.
Every character in this anime has such three dimensional substance that one cannot refuse to love them. We have Hanamichi Sakuragi the loveable lead but his “rival” and opposite Kaeda Rukawa — who is handsome, cool, attractive to girls (got a big fan club) and is the apple of his crush’s eye — unlike Hanamichi he seems so not reactive about things and is only emotional about basketball; the only thing he and Hanamchi share are bad grades.
The captain of the Shohoku High Basketball team, Haruko’s older brother, Takenori, is fierce and passionate of his team and basketball and he is not gonna let anyone mess it up. Though he is kind of shown as an unattractive character aesthetically I find him quite handsome and amazing as a personality. Then of course there is Ryota, a guy Hanamichi feels like his pal on the team and Mitsui the rebellious troublemaker, the judo captain who wants to recruit Hanamichi for his tea and Hanamichi’s gang who also attend Shohoku.
Aside from our main characters at Shohoku there are other teams that serve as rivals to it that increases both the intellectual and entertaining quality of this entire series. The main rival — compatibly — is Ryounan and its ace player Akira Sendoh (guy is hard to miss with his signature Guile-like hairstyle) who is more matched up with Kaeda but finds a rival in Hanamichi. Then of course there are the top players of Shoyo and Kainan (who are the undefeated champs) It takes Hanamichi a lot of practice and laughs along the way to hone his skills in the entire series. The series does not only focus on Hanamichi’s basketball development but focuses on how other characters grow too in their skills and learn to find their strengths in the court. It really does illustrate how athletes live, grow and learn.
It is also one of the longest series with reasonable sized episodes coming up at 101 episodes (it has memorable opening and ending themes as well)
Overall Slam Dunk will remain as one of my favourite animes of all time and one of the best animes to come hit the storyboard.