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Keith Tse


  • Writer's pictureKeith Tse

Change in perspective

When I was a child, I used to read a lot of comics and watch a lot of animations, both Japanese and American, as these were (still are) the two biggest, most popular brands in the world. In particular, I liked many Japanese comics and re-made animations about sport, one such was Slam Dunk, which is about high school basketball. Slam Dunk is an absolute classic, and the characters in it are all so rich and full of life. The story follows the adolescence of a first year high school student named Sakuragi Hanamichi (櫻木花道), a red-haired teenager who happens to have a towering presence as well as an innate athleticism. He has a crush on a beautiful girl called Akagi Haruko (赤木晴子), who introduces him to the high school basketball team whose captain, Akagi Takenori (赤木剛憲), is her big brother. There Hanamichi meets all the members of the basketball team, namely vice-captain Kogure (木暮公延), point guard Miyagi (宮城良田), former MVP superstar Mitsui (三井壽) and, of course, Hanamichi’s rival, Rukawa (流川楓). This team of formidable young players form a bond on the basketball court and conquer their way through the qualifying rounds as they defeat team after team, including some very strong ones in the praefecture, namely Shoyo, the second best team in the region led by the immensely talented Fujima (藤真健司) and Hanagata (花形透), Kainan, traditionally and historically the best team with the best players in the praefecture like Maki (牧绅一), and Ryonan, Shohoku’s nemesis, which has some amazing players like Uozumi (魚住純), Fukuda (福田吉兆) and the hugely talented and charismatic Sendo (仙道彰). The anime ends with the praefectual qualifiers in which Shohoku obtain qualification to participate in the national competition, the most prestigious high school competition in Japan, while the comic goes further into Shohoku’s performance at the national competition and contains another unforgettable and epic match with Sannoh (山王工業), the best team in the country by a mile, from which Shohoku emerge as victors in a truly epic fashion.

Slam Dunk is one of my favourite animes. I recently watched it again as a form of procrastination (!), and watching it now as an adult gave me a somewhat different perspective. I remember being in awe of all of these characters and their respective sporting adventures when I watched this for the first time. They all seemed so big and mature to me, and what they were doing (namely playing advanced level basketball) seemed so amazing to me. I also found them to be mentally very tough, as they were all fighting in a very competitive environment, something which I greatly applaud. watching it now, however, has made me realise that these are merely high school students taking part in an inter-school competition. In fact, they look very much like kids to me now, not only in terms of their status since they are indeed high school pre-adults but also in their speech and behaviour, like the way Hanamichi’s friends would take the mick out of him whenever he did something stupid, how all the girls fell in love with Rukawa and cheered him on whenever he did something heroic, Mitsui’s re-discovered passion for basketball, the cheerleading for all the school teams involved etc, all of which strikes me as being a bit immature. With no disrespect to them, and indeed the level of baskeetball displayed in the series is very high (some of which seem almost humanly impossible, which is clearly due to comic/dramatic exaggeration), these kids are just competing in a school sporting event, something which I myself did when I was at school many years ago. Many of the things I see on Slam Dunk remind me of my days at school, which is very refreshing, but at the same time it all seems a bit juvenile to me now, since I have long since moved on. What seemed so heroic and romantic to me when I was a child suddenly looks somewhat outdated, as I am so far past that stage of my life. It is funny how one’s perspectives on the same things can change and evolve in accordance with one’s experience in life, as I have commented before on Tetris twice. Nonetheless, watching this animation again did make me feel young again, since it reminded me of my childhood days of watching animation as well as my schooldays of representing my school in competitions and pursuing my goals as a student. So nice re-visiting old things.

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