Normally Judge Adam Arseneau takes great relish in writing these blurbs, but this high-school basketball anime sucked the funny right out of him.
Might as well come clean from the start. I did not like Hoop Days. It did absolutely nothing for me, nor did not inspire me to go out and watch future installments of the high school basketball-themed anime. I would not go so far to call it terrible or bad in any particular way…just incredibly, incredibly mediocre and dull, especially when compared to all the other good anime out there that you could be watching right now.
Mizuho High School has a top-level girls' basketball team, but a less-than-prestigious boys' basketball team. Its four players spend their time lounging around the gymnasium sulking. At one point, the team was on the road to being champions, but after an altercation with the coach, the team self-destructed and was suspended from play. Boys' basketball is a dark subject at Mizuho High School, and nobody even mentions it for fear of retribution. That is, until a new transfer student shows up.
Bright and energetic, Kazuhiko Aikawa bursts into the school and loudly announces his desire to join the basketball team. The girls cringe and the boys glare…this guy won't make it to the end of the day without getting his ass kicked, they think. But why does his name sound so familiar? Even though the suspension period is almost over for Mizuho High School, and the team would theoretically need a fifth player, the four remaining basketball players are jaded and bitter, refusing to let Aikawa try out…until they see him single-handedly take the girl's basketball team apart on the floor. The players suddenly recognize his name: Kazuhiko Aikawa, as it turns out, was the young superstar who took his former high school to the championship last year! And with Aikawa on their side, Mizuho High just might have a shot again on the court!
Hoop Days, under the oddly ambiguous Japanese title of Dear Boys, was fairly popular in Japan, but I would be surprised if it made too much of an impact in North America. An anime about high school basketball is a whimsical idea, but fairly ridiculous in practice, especially for a weekly anime series. Characters move around the basketball court in slow-motion, holding CGI-animated basketballs, usually stopping for 30 seconds at a time for monologues which, in a game of basketball, strike me as slightly superfluous, if not just plain dumb. The animation cannot keep up with the concept of fast-paced play, and characters usually lurch about like mannequins, making arm-waving gestures as if trying to ward off evil spirits.
With a higher-quality animation style full of fluidity, such a show might actually be quite impressive, but the animation in Hoop Days is far too robotic and graceless. Character designs are rather pallid and dull, completely uninteresting in style or drawn with any particular flare. The show utilizes excessive amounts of awkward CGI backgrounds and objects, like basketballs, crowds, and moving cars. It isn't all bad…when the animation is good, it is very very good. Unfortunately, when it is bad…you get the idea. Certain sequences of basketball animation are fluid and dynamic, while others seem lazy and robotic. Facial expressions are wooden and stiff, but other times can be quite expressive. The show is fairly uneven all the way through like that. The story is bland and the characters uninteresting. Even though Hoop Days: Zone 1 contains five episodes, I couldn't begin to tell you anything that actually happened, other than some basketball. Yawn.
Luckily, Hoop Days manages to make up some marks in technical presentation, which is quite excellent all across the board. The transfer is colorful and sharp, favoring a yellow and green color palate with reasonable black levels. For an anime television show, the transfer quality is impressive. Backgrounds are fairly bland but are detailed enough to keep the show looking tight. Both an English and Japanese Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo track are included, and to my ears sound virtually identical. Anime distributors are getting better and better at making English dubs identical to the original Japanese tracks, and that is to their credit; no matter which you choose, things will sound good. Of course, the English dub runs afoul of my sensibilities; one of those weird ambiguous dub jobs where the voice actors either sound totally disinterested or absurdly earnest, usually at totally inappropriate times. But from a technical standpoint, the tracks are high quality.
The only extra materials included are trailer previews and untitled opening and ending sequences, which under no circumstances should you ever watch. Hoop Days has without a doubt the lamest opening and closing credit music I have ever heard in an anime before. They reach a level of staggering crappiness that could only be created when Japanese production teams erroneously associate rap music with basketball and start churning out synthesized pop music, combining the three in terrifying, terrifying ways. The ending credit sequence in particular is probably the most absurd and awful thing I have ever seen in my life. Understand how strong my desire never to see them again is when I say that I would rather watch Vanilla Ice's Cool As Ice than this crap. On a repeating loop. For the next 20 years.
Though not my cup of tea, there are no outright problems with Hoop Days to prevent me from recommending the show, especially to people who like the idea of a high-school basketball anime. Also, for people who like crappy CGI animation, bad voice acting, a predictable and laconic story, and boring character design. Ha ha.
All joking aside, I guess Hoop Days isn't too bad. But frankly, there is just too much superior anime out there to watch for you to waste any time here.
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