As a kid growing up in Hong Kong, I was thrown into the world of anime and manga through Akira Toriyama’s Dragon Ball Z. The characters, the plotlines, the worlds that the characters travelled were all so enthralling to me. The landscape was grand, the battles were so epic in scope, this was not an escape. It was how the real world should be.
I used to spend hours at the malls at the Bandai Card machines — like this one — wondering when my mom would stop indulging me in wasting all her change into finding that next shiny card.
This eventually transformed into staying up late into the evening on weekends so I could watch uncut episodes of Saint Seiya on TV. All of this was thrilling, and I suppose because I’m recounting it, very memorable.
It was later on that I attached myself to Slam Dunk by Takehiko Inoue, having come across a collection of it at one of my cousin’s house. This was really my introduction to basketball before I came over to Canada at age seven (or eight, or nine, no time to fact check now).
Shohoku High School — the fictional home to all the main characters in the series — was how I imagined real life high school would be. Full of these characters full of life with a common joy for basketball.
The main character Hanamichi Sakuragi imposed himself on the game of basketball for the simplest of reasons: to impress a girl. Problem was that girl’s older brother was the captain of the game and took everything on the court very seriously.
Slam Dunk was the gateway into the world of wonderfully illustrated, well scripted sports manga.
It was a fulfilling read as a child at the time, but revisiting the series a few years ago, it highlighted the depth of the storytelling, how these great characters started as archetypes and grew to be fully formed basketball players and human beings in the transitional phase of their lives.
The manga was not without humor — if anything that is the central appeal of Slam Dunk — but beneath that was also a rich story, parts coming of age, parts basketball euphoria.
Of course, every childhood story has to come with some regrets. For me, this came way later. A few years ago, I finally made a trip to Japan and my girlfriend helped me win a Shohoku warm up jacket after we overspent at one of those money grabbing Japanese arcades. A few days later, I stumbled upon a huge comic store in Tokyo, and saw two items: this poster commemorating all of the Slam Dunk characters, and a DVD copy of “10 Days After”, an epilogue project that Inoue had produced. I passed on the poster because I didn’t have room in my luggage and said no to the DVD because it cost a few too many thousand yen for me.
Of course, a week after I came home: I scoured the internet for both of those items, they’re still elusive to me.
It’s this connection, this appreciation for the manga that still exists. Recently, Viz Media has picked up the rights to the manga and has to date released most of the volumes that make up the story.
If you need a gateway back to the childhood days, or if you just want another manga to add to your list, give it a shot.
And if you’re a huge Slam Dunk fan like me, just know that you’re not the only one with a Sendoh jersey in your closet, and don’t let anyone tell you it’s cosplay if you put it on.