For me, Takehiko Inoue is something like a Manga-god. I really love his works and I think he’s easily one of the best (if not the best) active Manga-ka right now.
It all began with Slam Dunk: it’s the manga that made Takehiko Inoue famous all over the world and that made me fall in love with his works. Until now, I’ve read four of his Manga and Slam Dunk was the first. Actually I never intended to do so, but someone recommended it to me. I’ve read it – 276 chapters in 2 days and I’m currently buying the english volumes, because I just have to own this, but here in Germany the Manga didn’t sell well at all, so it was dropped. What a shame.
Today my copy of Slam Dunk Volume 14 finally arrived after I preordered it 2 1/2 month ago and it’s always the same when a fresh volume appears in my greedy hands: my love for this manga gets revived again and again.
If we’re talking about the typical Sportsmanga with the classic plot, I’d totally recommend you two Manga: Hajime no Ippo and Slam Dunk and if you actually want to read a manga that does not has more than 900 chapter, go read Slam Dunk. Yeah, unlike Hajime no Ippo it’s at least finished and not insanely long.
So, what’s this manga, that was drawn between 1990 and 1996, about? It’s about a delinquent who doesn’t really seems to be bad, just… well, he seems to have a short temper, but that’s pretty much it, he’s not evil, but he loves to headbutt everyone who stands in his way. He’s selfish, has a huge ego, is cheeky and very loud. Meet our main protagonist: Sakuragi Hanamichi, who doesn’t know the slightest tiny bit of basketball. And yes, he’s the redhead on the cover you see above. Although he looks mean, he’s kind of naive and he’s never really gotten into something and has never worked hard for something with all his strength. Although this sounds pretty negative, he’s actually a funny guy and I just love to see him getting all pumped up for basketball.
It all begins with Sakuragis bad luck with girls. He falls in love with Akagi Haruko, who loves basketball. So Sakuragi joins the basketball club in order to win her over, of course. Too bad the scary gorilla-like Captain is Harukos elder brother Akagi Takenori. He’s not really a genius, but an incredible awesome player due to hard work. Actually, I think he’s less of a genius then all the other regular players the team gains over the time, but still probably the best player and easily the one who loves basketball the most.
Sakuragi is really tall, but the reader (as well as the protagonist), has to learn really fast you’re not a good player just because you’re tall. Later on someone joins who’s pretty short in comparison to all the tall guys, but still belongs to the best players, showing that height clearly is helpful, but not absolutely necessary. It’s all about skill and hard work, that’s what the manga shows you on a constant basis. Talent alone, doesn’t make you win a game, you have to train your ass off. Although Sakuragi actually really is the genius he wants to be, he starts off as a complete noob and has to start at the rock bottom slowly working himself up. I really like the fact that he has to take a long time, until he gets really good. Most of the time, he’s only able to show what he’s got here and there more or less by accident, because he has little to no experience and training. Most of the really strong guys see his talent and they notice they have to be cautious, but they also know Sakuragi can’t play as good as he could, if he started to play basketball earlier.
I really enjoy seeing someone who makes mistakes all the time and who doesn’t jump from zero to hero in no time. He has to climp a seriously tall mountain here, but he begins to love basketball on his way up and for the first time in his life, he’s really getting into something and the game grows much more important to him than his original goal to play basketball in order to impress Haruko.
Besides Sakuragi I really like the supporting characters as well. They’re all a wild bunch of idiots who give it their all as soon as they begin playing basketball. They’re clearly underdogs and not the kind of guys you’d expecet to beat the strongest and most prestigious schools around who get themselves the best players from the Middleschools by giving them scolarships and everything. I like it how the underdogs are biting the stars in their famous asses, but they don’t always win. They also loose and they often win really close.
Let’s talk about the basketball matches, because that is what the manga is all about. Sometimes it’s volume after volume just one match, but the matches are always exiting, the players are always giving it their their best and fight until the very end. On top of that, I think it’s really well drawn. It seems fast and dynamic. The players have to run a lot, it’s a really fast sport, so you can’t win an apple with stiff drawings. Takehiko Inoue did a really good job in making this manga feel like a real basketball match.
All in all Slam Dunk deserves its place as one of the best Sportsmanga of all time and it deserves every bit of praise and popularity it has, it’s just that good. You just have to keep in mind: it’s one of the best Sprotsmanga, I’d even like to say: one of the best typical Sportsmanga. You know, the story with the hardworking genius. This is something you can find everywhere in this genre and Slam Dunk is doing a really good job, but if we’re beginning to talk about not so typical Sportsmanga, I’d say there’s one manga that beats them all – not just other Sportsmanga, but also every other manga I’ve read so far. It’s my personal favorite and also drawn by Takehiko Inoue. You can expect me to write an ass-long review of this manga and you might think it’s going to be crappy, because I’ll praise it to Venus and back, but it’s a true gem, it really deserves to be praied that much. I’m clearly not someone who’s rating every second manga with a 10/10. I’m usually pretty strict and altough I really love Slam Dunk, I “only” give it a 8/10, because being a Sportsmanga with this typical story, it just lacks certain things.
My favorite Manga, the one I rate 10/10 without a second tought, is the masterpiece called “REAL” and you can be sure I’m going to tell you why. I can’t review it now, but I can tell you this much: characters at the rock bottom of society, a social drama and wheelchair basketball.