Both the Slam Dunk and Kuroko no Basket series follow the competitive journeys of underdog high school basketball teams who surmount impossible odds to achieve their dreams. Always a popular point of debate, the superiority of one series over the other remains a hotly contested topic amongst fans. We consider some points of interest below.
Depiction of Basketball
Slam Dunk and Kuroko no Basket differ most markedly in the way each series treats the sport of basketball. In Slam Dunk, there is an unquestionable love for all things basketball. From its realistic presentation of the sport, to the occasional basketball history lesson, to the explanation of the sport’s finer rules by Dr. T - the author's in-anime avatar - Slam Dunk is an unreserved love letter to basketball.
By contrast, Kuroko no Basket treats basketball more as a plot-device that allows for the author to tell their story about friendship and conflict. In Kuroko no Basket, there are players with powers that are frankly impossible in any real-life basketball situation. Yet it is precisely the anticipation in seeing the battle between these powers which fuels much of the drama that unfolds in Kuroko no Basket. Arguably, Kuroko no Basket would have been just as successful if the subject matter was any other team-based sport.
Products of two different eras, the art style of both Slam Dunk and Kuroko no Basket also differ accordingly. Hailing from the 90s era, the art style in Slam Dunk favours more detail in facial expressions, emphasised through the use of shading and angularity in the shape of the features.
Kuroko no Basket, by comparison, hails from the 2010s era; facial features are more rounded and less detailed, with cleaner, more simplistic lines. The later era of Kuroko no Basket also meant access to more advanced CGI techniques, allowing for exaggerated fantastical emphasis to be made on certain plays or powers exhibited by each of the main characters.
Both series weave great stories out of their subject matter, and explore some potent themes over the course of their narratives. Slam Dunk generally deals with darker themes, such as loss, redemption and ambition. On the other hand, Kuroko no Basket deals with somewhat lighter and more optimistic material, such as the power of friendship and never giving up. One notable theme that both series do share is the importance of hard-work and dedication.
In Slam Dunk, protagonist Sakuragi Hanamichi starts the series as a complete basketball newbie. Although he possesses excellent physical stats, his hot-headed, lackadaisical behaviour made him more of a liability on the court than a genuinely useful part of the team. However, his determination to actually contribute to the team drives him to practice extremely hard - at one point committing to shooting 20,000 jump-shots within a 7 day period. By the end of the series, Sakuragi not only becomes useful to the Shohoku team - he is an indispensable part of it.
In Kuroko no Basket, titular protagonist Kuroko Tetsuya is repeatedly referred to as one of the players with the weakest attributes. He regularly collapses from physical training sessions and does not possess the stamina to play a full game. Nevertheless, his unrelenting work ethic sees him through hellish practice after hellish practice in the exacting Teiko team – to the point where he catches the eye of Captain Seijuro Akashi, who eventually moulds him into the champion team’s ‘Phantom Sixth Man’.
Natural athletic ability or not, becoming a true player of a basketball team requires putting in the hard yards and fully applying oneself to the cause.
This was just a short, quick look at some of the main similarities and differences between Slam Dunk and Kuroko no Basket. Any in-depth examination would probably be pages and pages long. But the truth is, although both series used basketball as their main focus, the similarities pretty much end there. If we were asked the question of which series is better to watch, the answer would invariably be: neither. Both should be watched and appreciated for their own merits, as audiences will no doubt derive different delights from each series.
Give them both a go, we promise you won’t regret it!