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by MrAJCosplay,

Slam Dunk

Anime Episodes 61-101

Slam Dunk Anime Episodes 61-101
Now filled with determination and a newfound desire to improve, Sakuragi begins a new training regime to bring out the best in his abilities. The Shohoku basketball team has their hearts set on the National Championship, but it won't be easy. First, they have to see who will win between Kainan University Affiliated High School and Ryonan High School, as both teams have unique players with their own baggage. Can our boys dig deep and find the resolve to win what could be their last year playing together as a team?

This is the largest batch of Slam Dunk episodes that I've reviewed thus far. Originally, I wanted to review the show in more even seasons, but given its overall pacing and release, it wasn't easy to find a moment where it felt right to stop and start again. However, as we approached the final third of Slam Dunk's original run, not only was it challenging to find a place to stop, but I couldn't stop even if I wanted to. As Slam Dunk reached its final stretch, I can see why this series is considered the sports classic that it is today.

From where we left off, Sakuragi had just gone through one of his more significant character arcs, and the Shohoku team was training to reach the National Championships. There's more focus on training, like going over technical drills and improving individual attributes so that the whole team is better. During these next dozen or so episodes, I will admit that I missed some of the more over-the-top cheesy charm found at the beginning, which is ironic since that element originally caught me off guard. The first half sometimes felt like two different shows: A high school delinquents series and a more traditional sports anime. The show's second half does a better job of melding the two tones together.

We get a bit more into the technical aspect of the game without anything getting too complicated. However, my interest does dip a bit when the story focuses exclusively on basketball games that don't directly involve the main cast. Matches with the Kainan and Ryonan schools are played much more straight, with little moments of levity in their stories. It's not bad, and I like the dynamic between characters like Akira and Kicchou, but they're not nearly as charming as Sakuragi or Akagi at this point in the story. It doesn't help that the show still has a pacing problem, dragging games, flashbacks, and recaps longer than needed. It takes a while for the show to get to something engaging.

It would be one thing if the seriousness of some of the other rivalries were meant to act as a juxtaposition, but I don't think that's the case. At this point, Sakuragi and the rest of the main cast have already struck a perfect balance between goofy and dramatic beats. They can be silly, existential, or cartoonishly stubborn all within the same episode, and I can enjoy it without breaking my immersion. I enjoy the final quarter of the series so much because this is where the show truly perfects the heart of Slam Dunk. As the story ramps up for the final game, I am invested, gripping the edge of my seat and waiting for the titular basketball move. The stakes have less to do with the winner of the game itself and more about what the game means to each character on a personal level. Rukawa feels like an actual character with a goal worth striving for and a rivalry that doesn't feel like comedy relief. There's Kogure and how he struggles with deciding if he wants to keep playing basketball, and there's even coach Anzai, who always shows how much he cares about his students. At this point, I fell in love with these goofballs through the literal blood, sweat, and tears that come with practicing hundreds of thousands of practice basketball shots.

There's nothing overtly flashy in this show regarding action on the court, especially if you compare it to a lot of modern sports anime. I think that's why the series still has a place even today. Ironically, things feel more grounded during the game, whereas the more cartoony exaggeration happens between matches. The soundtrack is filled with the same triumphant cheese of its time, but what sells the game is its sound design. Whether it's the slamming of the basketball on the floor or the squeaking of the sneakers on the sweat-drenched court, a sharpness tickles the back of my brain. The kind of audible stimuli makes your eyes dart across the screen to keep up with the fast movements, even if the animation can't always portray exactly what you think the show is trying to. Yes, we have to remember that this is a show from almost thirty years ago and ran for one hundred and one episodes. Corners are cut in some aspects of the presentation, but I think the sound design makes up for that. When we get to those iconic shots, the resonance becomes much stronger.

When I first watched Slam Dunk, I wasn't entirely on board with what I thought it was trying to do. I went into it with a very specific expectation as someone who enjoys watching a lot of modern-day sports anime. When something is praised as a classic decades later, a part of me is at least slightly skeptical about how well it holds up. While I still think it's a bit rough around the edges and maybe doesn't need to be as long as it is, I walked away as a fan by the end. Slam Dunk has many attributes that I feel a lot of modern sports anime haven't been able to re-harness. It's cheesy and silly, but the more grounded approach to the sport juxtaposes these moments and gives Slam Dunk a unique identity. The cast is lovable, and their journeys on using a basketball as an outlet warms my heart. If you have the time to sit through its many episodes, I don't think there's anything wrong with spending a few evenings enjoying the fun with team Shohoku.

Overall : A
Story : B+
Animation : B
Art : A
Music : A

+ Show strikes a great balance between the grounded sport and the cartoony silliness, lovable characters, sharp sound design
Other basketball teams aren't as engaging as main cast, animation and story pacing can still drag

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Production Info:
Chief Director: Nobutaka Nishizawa
Nobuaki Kishima
Yoshiyuki Suga
Masayuki Akehi
Toshihiko Arisako
Hiroyuki Kakudō
Hiromichi Matano
Tetsuji Nakamura
Nobutaka Nishizawa
Junji Shimizu
Kazuhisa Takenouchi
Takao Yoshizawa
Episode Director:
Masayuki Akehi
Toshihiko Arisako
Hiroyuki Kakudō
Hiromichi Matano
Tetsuji Nakamura
Nobutaka Nishizawa
Junji Shimizu
Kazuhisa Takenouchi
Takao Yoshizawa
Takanobu Masuda
Original Manga: Takehiko Inoue
Character Design: Masaki Satō
Art Director: Nobuto Sakamoto
Teiichi Akashi
Masami Hagiwara
Mika Harada
Misa Kitahara
Makiko Konagi
Takahiro Muto
Kyōko Nakayama
Nobuto Sakamoto
Kunihiro Shinoda
Kōichi Tanaka
Motoyuki Tanaka
Mitsuo Yoshino
Animation Director:
Akemi Hayashi
Satoshi Horisawa
Ichirō Itano
Takahiro Kagami
Shigetaka Kiyoyama
Toshimitsu Kobayashi
Yūji Kondō
Kazuya Miura
Masahiro Naoi
Yōichi Ōnishi
Masami Suda
Kazufumi Takano
Ken Ueno
Kenji Yokoyama
Art design: Nobuto Sakamoto
Yoshifumi Hatano
Taro Iwamoto
Shigeki Nakamura
Nobutaka Nishizawa
Kiminobu Satō
Licensed by: Toei Animation

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