Title: Slam Dunk (“Survival Game”)
Author: Takehiko Inoue
Publisher: Viz Media (Shonen Jump)
Volume: Volume 16 (of 31), $9.99
Vintage: 1993 by Shueisha in Japan, June 7, 2011 by Viz Media
Genre: Sports, drama, comedy
The Shohoku boys take a back seat this volume, as most of the action is devoted to the game between Kainan and Ryonan. Most of the plot on the Shohoku side deals with Sakuragi’s training. Sakuragi has a lot of spirit, is fast, and is great with rebounds, but can’t make a shot worth a damn. Team captain Akagi sets Sakuragi on a grueling training regimen, ordering him to make hundreds of shots a day for the three days leading up to their next game. It’s tough, but Sakuragi pushes forward for the sake of the team. Unfortunately, he pushes a little too hard in his enthusiasm, and completely misses their next game. Even without Sakuragi, Shohoku makes quick work of Takezato (so quick that the page count is miniscule). It all comes down to Kainan, Ryonan, and Shohoku for a spot at nationals, and Kainan and Ryonan are up next. The game is full of surprises, as Ryonan brings out a secret weapon. A prodigy named Fukuda, who was recently suspended and unable to play in the previous games, bursts onto the court, and along with Sendoh makes a near unstoppable team for Ryonan. Not only does Ryonan have a a new variable, their coach also places Sendoh in the uncharacteristic position of point guard. Kainan’s misjudgement of Sendoh’s abilities proves quickly fatal, and he and Fukuda essentially wipe the court with them. Shohoku watches from the stands, impressed by the skills on display, and the wheels start turning in their front line players’ heads as they begin to build strategies to handle whichever team they play next. Unfortunately, they’re currently all too focused on their individual egos instead of thinking how they can work as a team to take down the opposition.
Another exciting volume from Inoue. I’m not sure how many different ways to say Slam Dunk is exciting, and that its portrayal of teenage boys feels real. The art is always easy to follow and excellently expresses the action that is occurring. It’s really fun to read, even for someone with no interest in sports (like myself), and, as I’ve said before, if you’re looking for a sports comic, you won’t find much in American comics (they exist, but they’re rare). Manga is about the only place you’ll find a good, entertaining, and accurate sports comic here, so you really can’t go wrong with Slam Dunk.
Title: Kamisama Kiss
Author: Julietta Suzuki
Publisher: Viz Media (Shojo Beat)
Volume: Volume 3 (ongoing), $9.99
Vintage: 2009 by Hakusensha in Japan, June 7, 2011 by Viz Media
Genre: Supernatural, comedy, romance
One normal afternoon, Nanami suddenly found herself homeless, kicked out of her house after her dad abandoned his debts. In a local park, she saved a stranger from a dog, and he offered her his home as a place to stay. Unfortunately, this “home” was really a shrine, and the man had passed on his role as the resident shrine deity to Nanami. With the help of her shinshi, the wild fox ayakashi Tomoe, Nanami must balance her duties as the shrine deity with her life as a normal high school student. In the last volume, Nanami saved Tomoe from a fairly selfish sky goddess who wanted Tomoe for her self. Now they are both back home at their shrine, and things are relatively back to normal…as normal as they can be when you’re a human-turned-shrine-deity sharing your home with spirits. And you find yourself falling for your loyal shinshi. When she’s with Tomoe, Nanami finds her heart beating strangely fast. Her feelings are noted by Himemiko when she goes to visit the swamp goddess, though Nanami doesn’t quite understand them herself, yet. She doesn’t have a lot of time to clear her head, when a white snake shows up at school and, when Nanami rescues it, imprints a brand on her wrist. This brand is a mark of engagement, so Tomoe insists on going to school with Nanami in order to protect her when the snake comes to claim her. As Nanami begins to enjoy these simple moments having Tomoe nearby, the peace is shattered when the snake spirit, the shinshi Mizuki, kidnaps her. Nanami attempts to escape on her own, but soon realizes that something is not right at Mizuki’s shrine. Having Nanami stolen right under his nose, and seeing her injured so easily, Tomoe begins to worry what he’s gotten himself into with a human master. Even so, to protect her and make her happy, Tomoe attends school as Nanami when she falls ill so her attendance record won’t suffer. Hoping to capitalize on Tomoe’s absence, Kurama lays it on thick trying to gain “Nanami’s” affections. While Tomoe is gone, Mizuki pays a visit to the sickly Nanami, and shows Nanami a scene from Tomoe’s past.
Ahh, it’s so cute! I’m starting to fall in love with this series. Nanami is growing into her role as the heroine of the tale quite well. In volume 2, I didn’t think much of her; I found her blank and plain. She’s taking on more personality now, though most of that has to do with her budding feelings for Tomoe. Still, she’s very observant, and incredibly kind. She even forgives Mizuki for kidnapping her once she realizes how lonely the shinshi is, and equates his state to the state she found Tomoe in when she first found him (and the state she worries he would be in if she left him behind). It seems her kindness, particularly her propensity for rescuing animals, will be getting her into continual trouble, however. The romance part of the story is starting to form, slowly but surely. It’s not taking over the story, though, which is nice; it’s subtle. Both Tomoe and Nanami are starting to feel a bit more for each other than they should as kami and shinshi, particularly since Nanami is a human. I imagine there will be a lot of “we can’t be together because I’m not human/you’re a spirit” down the line, and I’m looking forward to that. There are also hints in this volume that Tomoe is worried about taking care of his human kami, because she’s far more fragile than he had imagined; she can die so easily. I wouldn’t be surprised if he tries to release her (or convince her to give up her position) as the shrine’s deity at some point. I’m happy to see that Kurama has made a return to the story, and he may be appearing more often, along with a female classmate of Nanami’s. The cast of characters is expanding, and hopefully they’ll all be interesting additions.
Review copies provided by Viz Media.