Many anime fall into obscurity soon after the last episode has aired. However, some shows withstand the test of time and are always worth a rewatch. And Slam Dunk is a show that fans continue to love and watch despite being nearly three decades old.
The Genius Sakuragi Hanamichi’s desire to win Haruko’s affections leads him on a glorious quest to achieve the elusive slam dunk. And along the way, he makes new friends and enemies and discovers the value of teamwork.
The show’s timeless appeal has led to the recent announcement of a Slam Dunk movie slated for release in 2022. This is an obvious sign that this series has lasting popularity, undoubtedly an extraordinary feat for any classic anime.
So in anticipation of the upcoming movie, it is worth looking back at what made this series so great.
Be warned, although major plot points are not discussed in this post, there may still be some minor spoilers!
Slam Dunk Manga
Takehiko Inoue kicked off Slam Dunk as a manga series in the popular Weekly Shonen Jump in 1990 and it ran until 1996.
Slam Dunk became one of the best-selling manga of all time and has 120 million copies in circulation. The manga is also credited with helping to popularize basketball in Japan. To that effect, Inoue has received special commendations from the Japan Basketball Association for his contributions to the sport.
After the success of the manga, it was adapted into an anime series by Toei Animation in 1993. The show spanned a total of 101 episodes, 4 movies, and several video games.
Sakuragi Hanamachi is a hot-headed teenage delinquent who is quite possibly the most fearsome brawler in his city. And though he may not be the brightest, he certainly is gifted when it comes to his physical prowess. However, his aggressive demeanor does not work in his favor when it comes to romanticizing the girl of his dreams.
After joining his new high school, Sakuragi decides to impress a girl by becoming part of the school’s basketball team. Although Sakuragi does not possess experience in basketball or sports in general, his natural athleticism and physical ability land him a spot on the Shohoku High School basketball team.
The coach and team captain firmly believe that Sakuragi could just become one of the greatest players to ever exist. This, of course, all depends on whether he gets his attitude in check.
The Appeal of Slam Dunk
In the modern anime era, shows like Haikyu and Kuroko’s Basketball have taken sports anime to new horizons. Because of this, the genre enjoys more recognition than ever.
However, in the 90s, sports anime were not that popular in the West. And Slam Dunk never formally aired in the United States as a result. In fact, it wasn’t until 2005 that Slam Dunk saw a DVD release stateside.
This means that although the series enjoys a classic anime appeal, nostalgia doesn’t necessarily factor into the equation. Which really makes the popularity of the show all the more noteworthy.
A lot of the show’s appeal can be attributed to how Sakurachi Hanamichi overcomes his many flaws. And during serious moments, you see Sakurachi grow as a character, and start to see the err of his ways.
This is demonstrated in some of the earlier episodes where Sakurachi swallows his pride and refrains from fighting to avoid being kicked off the team.
In the end, Slam Dunk can be described as a coming-of-age story about overcoming challenges. And this makes it easy to root for the protagonist, even though there may be feelings of frustration at times. Plus there are quite a few laughs to be had.
This is why you will often find Slam Dunk on any “top sports anime” list you happen across.
On a side note, try not getting pumped up by that OP…
Slam Dunk in Review
As an anime, Slam Dunk is the total package; it has action, thrills, romance, comedy, and some tragedy mixed in as well.
The cast is diverse in their motivations and backgrounds, and each character plays a significant role in advancing the story. While Sakuragi does steal the limelight, the show still provides a backstory to most of the supporting characters to give context.
The show does a good job of highlighting the bonding experience that the characters go through. And it’s endearing to see Sakuragi’s gang give him unwavering support despite their initial reservations about him joining the team.
The pacing of the anime steadily carries you through the highs and lows. And the show stays engaging every step of the way.
It’s easy to root for Sakuragi from the very beginning of the anime. Although he is hot-headed, you can tell he has a sense of justice and genuinely cares for those close to him.
And despite his seemingly perfect genetics for basketball, Sakuragi still has to struggle with the fundamentals. This makes Sakuragi’s journey endearing and relatable at the same time.
Visually, Slam Dunk slightly differs from Inoue’s manga art but does not stray too far from his style. The anime seamlessly transitions from realism to a more cartoonish design during its comedic moments.
The animation quality is excellent for the era and represents that lovely 90s aesthetic.
The anatomy of the players is also very accurate, portraying a physique that matches real-life players — lean, muscular, and tall.
The anime also does a great job at making it easy for non-basketball fans to understand the sport.
From its energetic opening theme to the final game of the series, Slam Dunk is a thrill to watch. That’s why it’s exciting that after all these years, a new movie is being made. And one can only hope that it covers the elusive Nationals Arc!