Danielle Leigh's Reading Diary -- Slam Dunk vol 2, 3, & 4

For a girl who has no interest in either playing or watching organized sports, I really enjoy Takehiko Inoue's Slam Dunk.

What makes Slam Dunk so awesome how its red-pompadoured high school student, aka Hanamichi, is a complete and total spaz.  Yes, his body may have been designed for athletics of all kinds but his sudden obsession with basketball -- thanks to his high school crush's love of the game -- is random and ridiculous.  Hanamichi doesn't really want to play the *game* basketball, he just wants to look really cool doing the shiniest of hot shot moves, i.e. the slam dunk.  Once he discovers that basketball allows for such glorifying acrobatics he's like a dog with a bone.  There is nothing else for him in basketball but the slam dunk and, therefore, he is probably the worst team player on the planet.

In spite of Hanamichi's slam dunk single-mindedness, team captain Akagi -- who just happens to be the brother of the girl he likes -- won't let Hanamichi anywhere near the court officially until he bothers to learn the so-called fundamentals of the game.  When Akagi insists he learn how to rebound, Hanamichi shoves his hands in his shorts (his signature expression of bratty refusal), claiming that it is "boring" having to actually do something so pedestrian as to go *pick* up the ball.  In case you haven't figured it out, Hanamichi is an idiot.

Luckily, Hanamichi is an incredibly amusing idiot who is also easily manipulated by Akagi into actually learning how to play the game.  His child-like desire to look cool playing the sport is actually kind of charming in its own immature way.  Even his constant attempts to one-up talented -- sometimes genius -- players fails to inspire a little humility in him, which only points to his boundless energy and instinctual love of the game.  Of course, Akagi keeps Hanamichi around, in spite of his massive personality deficits, thanks to Hanamichi's obvious "natural" aptitude for the sport.  If he actually listened to the people trying to teach him how to play the game, he might become a total and complete monster on the court.  And that, of course, is the promise of Slam Dunk.  What would happen if he learned how to rely on his teammates, instead of goading them?  Meanwhile, we get to see Hanamichi's ass getting kicked up and down the court by his self-designated rival on the team, the cool and conventionally handsome Rukawa.  What would happen if these two amazing talents actually worked together and Hanamichi wrestled his damn ego into submission and learned how to be part of a team?

Volumes 2 and 3 focus on Hanamichi being tricked into learning certain fundamentals of the game by team captain Akagi -- with a hysterically funny digression in which the captain of the judo team literally tries to beat Hanamichi into joining *his team* -- while volume 4 kicks off the first exhibition game of the season.  Hanamichi's out on the bench until the end of volume and the last few minutes of the hard-fought game, and one has to wonder if there will even be such a thing as "basketball" left after Hanamichi schemes and pleads his way onto the court for his first real game.

Slam Dunk volume 4 provided by Viz for review purposes.

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