Slam Dunk and Why You Should Read It Even If You’re a Beginner


I’ve been holding back from writing about one of Japan’s most beloved manga for a while. The reason being is that it has taken me a little while to get through the entire series. It has spanned across 31 editions and just under 300 chapters.

While the length of the manga isn’t nearly as long as Naruto or One Piece, 31 editions is quite a chunk of reading to get through, especially in Japanese. But don’t let that throw you off because this is one of the more simpler and more entertaining manga to read.

With that being said, I have one edition left to read, so I thought now is as good as anytime to get into the details about why I think you might like to start your Japanese reading adventures with Slam Dunk.

A Short Synopsis

Without giving away too much, Slam Dunk is a story about a delinquent type boy who goes from being attracted to a girl to gaining a deep passion for the game of basketball. Through the course of the story, the main character comes in contact with a myriad of characters who challenge and make him better as a player on the court and better as a person in the real world. And likewise, his rash and loud behavior has an astounding effect on the people around him.


Long story short, the characters are where this story really shines.  In fact, I’ll argue that if the writer / artist wanted to make any of the other supporting cast the main focus of the story, it would have been just as successful and great.

I’m a huge subscriber to the idea that even if you have an amazing story, without a strong cast of characters you really can’t tell an interesting story. It’s like owning a brand new, top of the line, expensive car, but without tires, your baby won’t be moving.

Each one of the characters have their own little back story that does well of connecting the reader to the story. When it comes to feeling emotion though, everyone reacts differently. But I guarantee you’ll connect instantly to at least one of the characters if not all them.

You Don’t Have to Like Basketball

Basketball and Japan are not synonymous. In fact, when people think of Japan, one of the last things anyone would ever connect to the country is the sport of basketball. Unlike say  China, Philippines or Taiwan.

But that’s what’s so great about this manga. A country where very few people had even a slight interest in a western sport, this one manga has managed to sell more than 120 million copies in Japan alone, making it Shonen Jump’s fifth best selling manga series of all time.

Not only that, but it has been cited as one of the strongest influences for a growing interest in basketball among youths since the 1990s, and Takehiko Inoue (the manga’s writer and director) even won an award from Japan’s national basketball league for his contributions to the sport. Not to mention the ton of other awards it received.

It just goes to show the broad appeal this manga has had over the last 20+ years.

It’s Easy to Read

One of the biggest turn-offs to anyone starting their Japanese reading adventures is finding that perfect balance of something being interesting and challenging but not to the point where it’s too difficult. Since Slam Dunk is a Shonen Jump publication, there will be furigana next to all the kanji, so you don’t have to worry about not being able to read all the kanji.

I’ll admit that through the course of the story, there were times where I had to consult translated sources to get all the facts straight, but for about 70 to 80% of the time, I could understand perfectly well what was going on. Likewise, when the basketball matches begin, a lot of it is enjoying the action taking place where very little reading comprehension is necessary.

In other words, there’s enough to keep you challenged, but not too much from turning you away.


Give Slam Dunk a try. Because it’s one of Japan’s best selling manga of all time, means that a lot of Japanese people have read it, which will become a great conversation topic at your next enkai (Japanese drinking party). Likewise, there are tons of great quotes that have resonated strongly with many people. And above all else, it’s FUN!

Slam Dunk: How Japan’s Love of Basketball Can be Traced Back to a Comic
Slam Dunk Wikipedia


2 responses to “Slam Dunk and Why You Should Read It Even If You’re a Beginner

  1. I’ve been meaning to read Slam Dunk for a while…. I guess its on the list with every other manga though

    • A lot of people will recommend Yotsuba& to those who want to improve take their Japanese studies from textbook to manga, but imo, I really try to encourage everyone in that position to try and start with Slam Dunk. Even if you’re an advanced reader it’s really fun and very moving. Thanks for you comment!

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