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The Shohoku High School Basketball Team along with other students from Shohoku.

The manga and anime series Slam Dunk features several fictional characters created by Takehiko Inoue. The series takes place in Japan, with the main characters being Japanese basketball player from high school.

The series tells the story of Hanamichi Sakuragi, a teenager who falls in love with Haruko Akagi after being rejected by other fifty girls. However, as Haruko is in love with Kaede Rukawa, a popular basketball player, Sakuragi decides to enter the Shohoku High School basketball team to surpass Rukawa and make Haruko fall in love with him. As he starts learning how to play basketball in Shohoku, Sakuragi starts liking the sport and becomes determinated to be the best player. In the team, Sakuragi meets Haruko's older brother, Takenori Akagi, who is also Shohoku's captain, and two other player with a violent past which caused them to leave the sport some time ago, Ryota Miyagi, and Hisashi Mitsui. They, along with Rukawa, make Shohoku one of the strongest high school teams from Japan.

Creation and conception

Inoue became inspired to make Slam Dunk a basketball series as he liked basketball since High School.[1] With the series, Inoue wants to demonstrate the feelings from an athlete such as their thoughts when they win, lose or improve at their sport.[2] As part of the development from the characters, Inoue wants the readers to feel achievements as well as love for the sport.[3] His experience from the basketball also influenced the story from Slam Dunk: when being young Inoue started playing basketball to be popular with the girls, but later became obsessed with the sport. This was mirrored in the character of Hanamichi Sakuragi, who starts playing basketball to impress the girl he likes.[4]

Basketball teams

Kainan University Affiliated High School

The Kainan University Affiliated High School basketball team Kainan has won the Kanagawa Interhigh Tournament for 17 years running and are known as the "Kings of Kanagawa." Their entire team is composed of elite players and demonstrates incredible stamina and defensive ability. The team has no notable weaknesses. Kainan lost in the semifinals in the previous National Championship, where they faced the defending champion Sannoh, losing by 30 points. At the end of the manga, they are ranked number 2 in Japan.

Soichiro Jin

Jersey no.#6/189 cm/Shooting Guard. Soichiro Jin (神 宗一郎 Jin Sōichirō?) is one of the best sharpshooters in Kanagawa, matched only by Mitsui. He originally used to be a center, but his slender build, slow movement and weak leaping ability never allowed him to perform well in this position. Instead of being discouraged, he became a shooting guard, where he could put his talents to better use. Jin became well-versed in 3-pointers as a result of making 500 3 point shots a day after practice. Jin has a very mild personality and is always looking calm and agreeable. It is revealed in the National Championships that Jin finishes as the leading scorer in the Kanagawa prefectural tournament, averaging 30.6 points per game(followed closely by Rukawa's 30 points per game). He is voiced by Nobutoshi Canna.

Nobunaga Kiyota

Jersey no.#10/178 cm/65 kg/Small Forward. Nobunaga Kiyota (清田 信長 Kiyota Nobunaga?) closely resembles Sakuragi in attitude but has the skills to back it up. He tends to underestimate other teams, especially Shohoku, and this can lead to embarrassing situations, such as when Akagi flattened him with a dunk. Kiyota likes to call Hanamichi "Red-furred Monkey" while Hanamichi calls him "Wild Monkey." Despite being so arrogant, Kiyota has a high level of respect for his teammates, especially towards his captain Maki. Kiyota is known for his leaping ability and ball-handing skills. Despite being only 178 cm, he can dunk and block shots quite regularly. Kiyota is the only starter for Kainan who is a 1st year. He is voiced by Toshiyuki Morikawa.

Shinichi Maki

Jersey no.#4/184 cm/79 kg/Point Guard. Shinichi Maki (牧 紳一 Maki Shin'ichi?) is reputed to be the best player in Kanagawa, and was crowned prefectural MVP twice. As team captain, he exerts great leadership over his teammates, who follow his orders to the letter. Though his personality belies it, he can be as strict as Akagi, but mostly only towards Kiyota. He is commonly noted to be appear older than he is; Maki responds by pointing out that Akagi looks even older.

Maki plays mostly as a point guard, although he has the all-round skills to play in virtually any other position. Extremely muscular and strong, he likes to use his physical attributes to drive into the lane to score while drawing fouls. Sakuragi manages in one occasion to surpass Maki in physical strength while scoring a dunk, despite Maki fouling him. His scoring ability is incredibly difficult to stop and in one game four players from Shohoku (Akagi, Rukawa, Mitsui and Miyagi) were needed to completely shut him down. Maki uses his height and power to create mismatches against other point guards, which his team usually capitalizes on effectively. He is voiced by Hisao Egawa.

Yoshinori Miyamasu

Jersey no.#15/160 cm/42 kg. Yoshinori Miyamasu (宮益 義範 Miyamasu Yoshinori?) is known as the sixth man for Kainan. His unimposing presence (by comparison, he is 5 cm shorter and 10 kg lighter than Hikoichi Aida) distracts opponents from his real basketball skills, especially his reliable 3 point shooting, the accuracy of which is comparable to Jin's and Mitsui's 3 point shooting. Though he has to wear glasses, when called to play, he replaces them with a pair of goggles. Yoshinori plays his first game when he is called in to take the court by Coach Riki Takato in order to shut down Sakuragi. Takato correctly deduces that Sakuragi will not take Yoshinori seriously enough to properly mark him, enabling Yoshinori to be effective. He is voiced by Shinobu Satouchi.

Riki Takato

Riki Takato is Kainan’s coach and a contemporary of Ryonan’s Moichi Taoka, who is a year older than him. Both of them have known each other since high school, when Takato was known as the "Rookie from Hell" in his first year. He has been responsible in some degree for the team’s domination of the Kanagawa Interhigh Tournament for the past 17 years. Kainan’s training regimen is so tough that it weeds out half the incoming players within the first week, and another half within the first month. After a year, barely a fifth of the new players remain. The previous year, Takato also coached the team to the semifinal of the national championships, which they lost to Sannoh.

He is able to read Sakuragi’s character well enough during the league round match to substitute in Yoshinori for Jin, which causes Sakuragi to lose focus and allow Yoshinori to compound this by being effective at shooting. Normally cool and collected when his team is dominating, Takato becomes very agitated and anxious when they get pressed, when he starts to yell at his players. He is voiced by Masaharu Sato.

Ryonan High School

The Ryonan High School basketball team is considered one of the top teams in Kanagawa along with Shoyo and Kainan, the defending Kanagawa Interhigh Tournament champion for 17 years running. The team was seeded first in their respective division during the Interhigh Tournament. However, their main weaknesses are the lack of a star point guard and a three-point shooter.

Hikoichi Aida

165 cm/52 kg. Hikoichi Aida (相田 彦一 Aida Hikoichi?) aspires to become a player like his Ryonan teammates but, not being up to their level, he just stays with the reserves (more specifically with the coach, Moichi Taoka) and acts more as a team manager than a full player, taking detailed notes during matches. His catchphrase is "gotta check it," aside from shouting "Unbelievable!!!" every time something exciting happens during a match. He too considers Hanamichi a great player, because he was talked into it when they first met. Hikoichi also idolizes Ryota because he is a starter for Shohoku despite his short height (Ryota is only three centimeters - about one inch - taller than Hikoichi). He is voiced by Masaya Onosaka.

Kicchou Fukuda

Jersey no.#13/188 cm/80 kg/Power Forward. Kicchou Fukuda (福田 吉兆 Fukuda Kicchō?) Fukuda is the other ace Ryonan has up their sleeve. His offensive power rivals many of the best players in the Kanagawa prefecture and is seen throughout the series doing alley oops with Sendoh as the passer but his defensive ability is weak and can be easily exploited. He has something of a special rivalry going on with Hanamichi from the first time they knew of each other, when the latter was depressed over the loss to Kainan and was near a basketball court where Fukuda was practicing. Fukuda had previously heard about Hanamichi from Sendoh and had wanted to play him, but the latter refused. They do not actually meet each other until the last match of the Interhigh Tournament, when Fukuda outplays Sakuragi for the first half and lights the fire within him, with the words "I won, Sakuragi". Unwilling to accept the loss, Hanamichi strengthens his marking over Fukuda in the second half.

Ryonan coach Moichi Taoka saw potential in both Fukuda and Sendoh starting from when they joined the team together. However, as Fukuda still seemed green and thick-skinned, Taoka would frequently criticize him while praising Sendoh. Fukuda however, turned out to be quite sensitive. As a result, in an exhibition match at Ryonan, Fukuda released his pent-up aggression on Taoka. This incident resulted in a suspension from all games up until the Interhigh Tournament. Thus he does not play in the practice match against Shohoku and is not seen until Ryonan plays Kainan. Possibly because of all the rudeness he used to be treated with, Fukuda loves to be respected and praised. He even bursts into tears when the crowd cheers him on against Kainan. He is voiced by Hideo Ishikawa.

Ryoji Ikegami

Jersey no.#5/183 cm/6'/72in. Ryoji Ikegami (池上 良治 Ikegami Ryōji?) is known as the best defender in the team. In the last half of the Shohoku-Ryonan match he was asked to mark Mitsui and he did manage shut him down (only for some time), having previously outclassed Sakuragi (who was obsessed with beating Fukuda) in the same match. He leaves the team with Uozomi after the loss to Shohoku knocks Ryonan out of the National Championship run. Unlike Uozomi however, who starts to get emotional in encouraging his teammates to bring Ryonan further the next time around, Ikegami is cool and collected. He is voiced by Hikaru Midorikawa.

Akira Sendoh

Jersey no.#7/190 cm/79 kg/Point Forward. Akira Sendoh (仙道 彰 Sendō Akira?) is Ryonan's ace and is considered one of the top players in Kanagawa. An easygoing person, Sendoh usually has a smile on his face whether on-court or off. He can be lazy at times, and has a reputation for arriving late to practice sessions and matches. His tardiness is tolerated though, because of his abilities. One of his hobbies is fishing, and he has a taste for lemons. His teammates trust him wholeheartedly, firmly believing that he can lead Ryonan to victory even if they are trailing. However he was outplayed by Eiji Sawakita in junior high.

Sendoh's all-round skills are repeatedly displayed throughout the series. He is capable of playing a one-on-one style of play like Rukawa, but also understands how to utilize his teammates effectively. Against Kainan, Sendoh was deployed as a Point Guard, but transformed himself into a deadly scorer when the game was on the line. In the second match against Shohoku, he traded shots with Rukawa. Sendoh succeeds Uozomi as captain after he and Ikegami leave the team. He is voiced by Hōchū Ōtsuka.

Jun Uozumi

Jersey no.#4/202 cm/90 kg/Center. Jun Uozomi (魚住 純 Uozumi Jun?) is Ryonan’s captain. He considers Takenori Akagi his rival, but has never managed to personally beat him, although Akagi considers him to be better. However their rivalry is not antagonistic; indeed, there is respect that borders on friendship. When Akagi was outplayed and discouraged in the match against Sannoh, Uozumi was able to restore Akagi's spirits. After the loss to Shohoku in the Kanagawa prefectural trials eliminated Ryonan from national competition, Uozumi left the team to train as a chef, since his family owns a ramen restaurant; Sendoh succeeds him as team captain. Sakuragi likes to refer to him as "Boss Monkey" because he is as well-built as Akagi, and even taller.

Uozumi's size and power are unmatched in high school basketball. However, he started as a very weak player, and was ridiculed and bullied by his upperclassmen for only having height but very little of everything else. Ryonan's coach Taoka Moichi encouraged him to continue playing though, and eventually Uozumi developed into becoming a fearsome center. He is considered as one of the top centers in the Kanagawa prefecture. However, his bad temper and lack of control in game situations has led to serious consequences for his team on more than one occasion. He is voiced by Yukimasa Kishino.

Moichi Taoka

Moichi Taoka is Ryonan’s coach and a contemporary of Kainan’s Riki Takato, who is a year younger than him. Both of them have known each other since high school, when Taoka was known as “Kanagawa’s Taoka”. Taoka compares himself to Sendoh, which his players find hard to believe. Both men are still friends, but are also rivals. If he had had his way, his dream team would have consisted of Sendoh, Uozomi, Mitsui, Miyagi, and Rukawa, with the latter three playing the same positions they now play for Shohoku. He personally recruited them, but each turned him down for various reasons. Still, Taoka is happy with his current team and believes that out of all the teams he has coached, it has trained the hardest.

Taoka is a good coach, but has made mistakes in judging his players and the opposition. He still has an eye for talent though, as he recognized Uozomi’s potential and gave him encouragement when Uozomi’s skills were weak and he was thinking of quitting. Taoka also realized that when Sendoh and Fukuda joined the team that they would become key players. However, he thought that he could encourage Fukuda by criticizing him while at the same time praising Sendoh. Fukuda’s personality turned out to be more sensitive, and after a year of criticism, he snapped, attacking Taoka during a practice match. Having learned from his mistake, Taoka uses Fukuda to great effect during the match with Kainan. His errors cost Ryonan, and Taoka acknowledges Shohoku after the game. He is voiced by Unshō Ishizuka.

Sannoh Industry Affiliated High School

The Sannoh Industry Affiliated High School basketball team has been the defending national champion for three years running and is ranked as an AA team. They are considered the top high school team in Japan and have been a dominant force in high school basketball for years. The team has mastered the full court press defense and can trap even the fastest point guards and immobilize their opponents' offense.

Kazunari Fukatsu

Jersey no#4. Kazunari Fukatsu (深津一成 Fukatsu Kazunari?) is the captain of this multi-talented champion team. He is able to read and control the flow of the game quite well. He always plays with a calm and cool demeanor, looking to exploit any flaws in the opposing team. He possesses great passing skills, an accurate three point shot, and excellent defensive powers. He forms the core trio of the Sannoh team, along with Masashi and Sawakita. He has an odd habit of adding "yo" to almost everything he says, that seems to be dragging on for some time - Masashi told reporter Yayoi Aida he used to always say "man" before switching to "yo" (even though Fukatsu is still caught saying "man" in isolated moments).

Satoshi Ichinokura

170 cm. Satoshi Ichinokura (一ノ倉聡 Ichinokura Satoshi?) is a defensive specialist who has the most stamina and endurance on the team. He is known for his sticky defense and starts the game against Shohoku with the sole purpose of wearing down Mitsui. He is quite proud of his stamina and endurance. His accomplishments include never running away from the team's training camps, winning the school marathon over members of the track team, and finishing a test despite having a ruptured appendix.

Masashi Kawata

190 cm/92 kg Center. Masashi Kawata (河田雅史 Kawata Masashi?) is considered the top high school center in Japan. Unlike a traditional center, he possesses speed and long-range shooting ability to complement his height, power and rebounding. Masashi was initially quite short as a first-year student (165 cm), but rapidly grew over the next year (25 cm); as his height increased he played different positions. This provided him with the opportunity to develop skills other centers lack. When Shohoku meets Sannoh in the National Tournament, Akagi is completely outplayed by Masashi and concedes that Masashi is the better player. His younger brother Mikio is also on the team. Masashi seems to be a bit jealous of Sawakita's popularity with the girls. Sakuragi calls him "Gori-ball" ("because he looks like a round-shaped Gori", as he explains to Mikio). There are rumors that Masashi was accepted by Shintai University, the school that wanted Akagi. He became the school's number one center, and later went on to have a successful basketball career in Japan.

Mikio Kawata

210 cm/130 kg. Mikio Kawata (河田美紀男 Kawata Mikio?) is the younger brother of Masashi Kawata and the largest player in high school basketball. He uses his large size to his advantage by posting up under the basket for an easy shot (even pushing back his marker to do so), and Sannoh hopes to have him become an eventual starter. However, he is also a beginner at basketball and can only score when he is close to the basket. As such, he lacks experience, and having such a talented player as Masashi for an older brother to look up to puts additional pressure on him. Sakuragi takes advantage of this to try to get him off the game. He has a habit of apologizing to his brother whenever he does something wrong. He also bears a striking resemblance to his mother. He is the tallest player in the Interhigh, followed by Hiroshi Morishige from Meiho High.

Masahiro Nobe

198 cm-200 cm/94 kg. Masahiro Nobe (野辺将広 Nobe Masahiro?) does not stand out for scoring abilities, but is a great rebounder. Because his team already has several scoring players, he is allowed to focus on rebounding. When Kakuta is matched up against him, he succeeds in blocking Kakuta out of his position and exhausting him, although Kakuta is only on the court for a few minutes. Sakuragi is probably the first opponent who beat him on rebounding by succeeding in psyching him out, great timing, and jumping ability, as well as scoring an alley-oop dunk over him. His teammate Masashi Kawata is the only other player who beat him. Masahiro is called "totem pole" (or just "pole") by Sakuragi because of his height.

Eiji Sawakita

189 cm/Small Forward. Eiji Sawakita (沢北栄治 Sawakita Eiji?) is the best all-round player in Japanese high school basketball. His offensive ability is nearly unstoppable and is equally matched by his defensive ability. A basketball prodigy since childhood (mostly thanks to his father, Tetsuharu "Tetsu" Sawakita, who doctrined him in the sport and with whom Eiji played one-on-one since when he was four) armed with extraordinary skills and outrageous stamina, no high school player can offer a true match-up with him. Sawakita beat Sendoh in junior high. Rukawa attempts to play him one-on-one in the second round of the National Championships, but Sawakita proves that he was the better player and forced Rukawa to change tactics. He managed to shutdown Rukawa's scoring ability. However, his play style was as selfish as Rukawa's had been, and eventually Sannoh lost. His signature shot is a finger-roll layup (teardrop shot), which has a release so high it is impossible to block, even for Sakuragi. Sawakita plans to go to America following the National Championships. Unlike many other characters who are extremely skilled as he is, he has a goofy attitude sometimes, and has comical moments of extreme shock when an opponent does something impressive, or he was once so focused on intimidating Rukawa after his point, that he did not even notice the ball being passed to him, resulting in it bouncing of him.

Goro Domoto

Domoto is Sannoh's coach, and the youngest high school basketball coach shown in the series. It is not revealed how long he has been Sannoh's coach, but under his leadership, Sannoh has continued to maintain its dominance of high school basketball. Like Riki Takato of Kainan, Domoto also has a tough training regimen, which has motivated his key players such as Sawakita and Masashi Kawata to have previously skipped sessions.

Despite Sannoh’s legendary reputation, Domoto does not rest on his laurels and yearly reiterates to his players that no team is guaranteed to win a match. This carries over to the preparations he makes for the match against Shohoku even though they are ranked low (C in comparison to Sannoh's AA ranking). To prepare, he has his players watch some game footage of Shohoku, and has his current team play some of his former players who are now basketball stars in college and who comprise the current all star team, having the former Sannoh players wear jersey numbers corresponding to their Shohoku counterparts to simulate the upcoming match. Even though his current team beats the team of former Sannoh players, this does not cause an underestimation of Shohoku. Domoto remains cool and collected during the Shohoku-Sannoh match, and only makes two mistakes that end up costing Sannoh the match. The first of these is matching up Mikio Kawata with Sakuragi, who emerges from this match up with more confidence and determination in himself. The second is underestimating Sakuragi's drive to win the game in its final seconds and discounting him as a result of his injury. Domoto thus does not call a timeout that he intended to take.

Shohoku High School

The 'Shohoku High School basketball team has for two years running been considered of no consequence at the prefecutural level and largely a one-man team because of the presence of team captain Takenori Akagi. It is not until Akagi's third year that things begin to turn around for Shohoku and they start to become a team to be reckoned with. They are the only non-seeded team to make it to the final four of the Kanagawa Interhigh Tournament, their sole loss in the tournament being against Kainan. Despite being the runner-up representative for Kanagawa, they are ranked as a C class team and placed into a tough tournament bracket, facing Toyotama and the reigning National Champion Sannoh. They favor a run and gun style of play and have a wide breadth of offensive capabilities. However, their major weakness is their weak bench and as a result must rely completely on their starting lineup.

Takenori Akagi

Jersey no.#4/197 cm/6'6"/78in 90 kg/198 lb Center Birthday 05/10 Shoe Brand:Converse

Takenori Akagi (赤木 剛憲 Akagi Takenori?) is the captain of the Shohoku basketball team and Haruko's older brother. Despite at first not thinking too much of Sakuragi (who addresses him as "Gori" for gorilla due to his immense physical presence), he actually realizes Sakuragi's potential as a basketball player. Serious and disciplined, Akagi's dream is to lead Shohoku to the national championship. His determination is shown in the match against Kainan, where he played on despite a serious injury to his ankle. Akagi considers Uozumi of Ryonan to be his biggest rival, though their rivalry is not antagonistic.

Akagi differs from the other starters in two respects. First, he is the most academically talented out of all them and is considered a model student. Before the final four of the Kanagawa trials, the other four had to beg their teacher to be given the chance to retake some exams they had flunked; they would otherwise have been disqualified from playing in the Nationals for having failed too many classes. Akagi, together with Ayako and Haruko helped the four in reviewing for their make up exams in which they passed. After the loss to Aiwa knocks Shohoku out of the Nationals, Akagi leaves the team along with Kogure to study for the college entrance exams. Second, Akagi is the only starter not to have gotten into an actual fight, although he has used physical force against his own players (most notably Sakuragi) to keep them in line. He is the only other character besides Rukawa and Tsukubu's Center, Nango, to be able to take one of Sakuragi's trademark headbutts without being knocked out and the only other character who has had Sakuragi inadvertently dunk a ball on his head (Murasame of Miuradai was the second, in the manga; in the anime, the second one to be dunked on the head is Naito, also from Miuradai).

Regarded as the best center in the Kanagawa prefecture, Akagi plays as a fairly typical center, using his height and power to score close to the basket. He also has a reputation for being a virtually unbeatable defender. As captain of the team, he keeps discipline among his players during matches. He is voiced by Kiyoyuki Yanada.

Kiminobu Kogure

Jersey no.#5 178 cm/5'10"/70in 65 kg/137 lb

Kiminobu Kogure (木暮 公延 Kogure Kiminobu?) is Shohoku's vice-captain and a good friend to Akagi and Mitsui. He and Akagi are the only two players who have been on the team for all three years - Mitsui left during their first year, while other players quit the team because they found Akagi's training regimen to be too strenuous. Along with Miyagi and Ayako, he always tries to bring out the most of Hanamichi's talent. He is gentle, empathic, and always friendly, and is almost never seen without his glasses on (this is why Sakuragi calls him "Megane-kun" which loosely translates as "glasses-wearing guy"); however, when needed he shows notable willpower and brutal honesty, such as when he barely flinched after being slapped twice and cruelly insulted by the embittered Mitsui during the gym fight.

Despite spending a lot of time on the bench, Kogure brings experience and considerable firepower to the team when he's on the court; he is the player most likely to be subbed in to replace one of the starters. A pretty good shooter and tactician, he hit a crucial three-pointer against Ryonan. He is voiced by Hideyuki Tanaka.

Hisashi Mitsui

Jersey no.#14 184 cm/6'/72in 70 kg/154 lb Shooting Guard Birthday 05/22 Shoe Brand: Asics

Hisashi Mitsui (三井 寿 Mitsui Hisashi?) was an MVP for Takeishi Junior High. Despite having opportunities to join more prestigious high schools like Ryonan, he choose to go to Shohoku because of Coach Anzai; Anzai had given him the courage to win in the Junior High tournament by encouraging him during the last seconds of the match. However, an injury to his left knee in a training session interrupted his basketball career. An imprudent early return to the basketball court reinjured the knee more severely, leading to a basketball hiatus of over a year. Although he eventually healed, he was embittered by his exclusion from the court, and quit basketball to become the leader of a gang. His gang picked on Miyagi during his first year, and during a fight that ensued Miyagi beat Mitsui senseless before taking a beating himself, knocking out a few of Mitsui's frontal teeth and leaving the both of them hospitalized until after the practice match against Ryonan.

Afterwards, Mitsui attempted to ruin the basketball team by instigating them into fighting with his gang, as the team would have been banned from competition for fighting. In the end, Sakuragi's own gang - Yohei, Takamiya, Ohkusu and Noma - voluntarily took the blame for the fight, and Mitsui was filled with remorse when he saw Anzai again. He rejoined the team and vowed never to fight again. During the game against Ryonan, Mitsui placed a photo of their absent coach Anzai (who was hospitalized at the time) on the bench and prayed to it. This angered Sakuragi and Akagi, since Japanese people usually reserve this honor for dead people.

Mitsui is best known on the team as a three-point specialist, though his skills extend to other areas; during a practice match, he once managed to shut down Sakuragi, playing center. His defensive ability completely shut down Fukuda's scoring abilities. His three-pointers helped Shohoku catch up when they were 12 points down against Shoyo, and again when the team was 20 points down against Sannoh in the National Championships. His greatest weakness, though, is his lack of stamina due to his long break from playing basketball. Thus, in the latter halves of games, he has not always been as reliable - he was completely worn out in the game against Shoyo, missed a potential game-winning shot against Kainan, and collapsed on-court during the game against Ryonan. Mitsui becomes the vice-captain of the team after Akagi and Kogure leave the team. At the end of the manga instead of preparing for the entrance exams he stays with the team for the winter tournament in an attempt to earn an athletic scholarship because he feels he isn't smart enough to pass the exams. He is voiced by Ryotaro Okiayu.

Ryota Miyagi

Jersey no.#7 168 cm/5'6"/66in 59 kg/130 lb Point Guard. Birthday 07/31 Shoe Brand: Converse

Ryota Miyagi (宮城 リョータ Miyagi Ryōta?) is Sakuragi's closest friend on the team, making him the only person apart from Akagi whose advice Sakuragi will actually heed both on and off the basketball court. After an initial misunderstanding that caused conflict between them (he was fighting Mitsui when Sakuragi and Ayako came around, and he thought she was dating him), both found comradeship in the fact that they had both been unlucky in love, although Miyagi, having only been rejected 10 times, still falls short of Sakuragi's record of 50 rejections. Like Sakuragi, Miyagi is motivated to play by his love for a girl: his best friend and classmate Ayako, the manager of the team, whom he refers to as "Aya-chan". He has been known to pose for Ayako during matches. Off-court, Miyagi has a reputation for being a bad boy. He was hospitalized for a while after his fight against Mitsui's gang.

Miyagi is small for a basketball player, but makes up for it with incredible speed, skills, and court awareness. His skills are typical of a point guard: strong passing and dribbling, as well as an understanding of the game that allows him to be a floor leader. He also shares a similar level of arrogance with Sakuragi, claiming to be the number one point guard in the prefecture, though popular opinion among characters in the series ranks him just behind Maki of Kainan and Fujima of Shoyo. In the series he is often pitted against taller point guards (Toyotama's Daijiro Itakura, for example, spent nearly the whole match picking on his height as an attempt to sap his focus away) but he is able to beat them with his incredible speed. Miyagi becomes the captain of the team after Akagi and Kogure leave the team. He is voiced by Yoku Shioya.

Kaede Rukawa

Jersey no.#11 187 cm/6'2"/74in 75 kg/165 lb Small Forward. Birthday 1/1 Shoe Brand: Air Jordan 5

Kaede Rukawa (流川 楓 Rukawa Kaede?) is Sakuragi's rival as well as almost his opposite; he is attractive to girls, skilled at basketball, and very cold and aloof, mostly unfeeling. The only time he is shown smiling throughout the course of the story is when he recognizes Sawakita's talent in their personal one-on-one inside the game between their teams. The only traits they share are that they are not academically inclined and good fighters. He regards Sakuragi as an idiot and both normally fight. Actually, he knows Sakuragi can put his talents to a better use, but is ashamed to see the immaturity with which he deals with things. His hobby is sleeping, and is usually seen asleep whenever he's not on the court; he can even ride his bike while asleep often crashing with objects when doing so. Waking Rukawa from a nap is considered unforgivable, since he will almost automatically beat up the culprit. Unsurprisingly, he has also been in his fair share of off-court fights, but can hold his own. Rukawa's goal is to be the best high school player in Japan, and he considers Sendoh of Ryonan to be his greatest rival. A fact being that he is often nicknamed the "super-rookie", the "ace of Shohoku", even.

Rukawa is extremely good at basketball, and possesses a wide range of skills to complement his height, athleticism and drive to win. Despite being merely a first-year high school player, he is the undisputed ace of Shohoku's team. In the Kanagawa Interhigh Tournament, he was named one of the top five players, the only first year player so honored. He has managed to change the course of many games, such as when he single-handedly brought Shohoku back from a double-digit deficit against Kainan (Rukawa scored 15 straight points for Shohoku in 2 minutes and 5 seconds just before the end of the first half). However, his style was criticized as being too selfish, and he sometimes comes into conflict with his teammates for various reasons; this was one of the reasons why Coach Anzai refused to give him his blessing when Rukawa told him that he intended to go to the USA, and told him to become the best in Japan before he even thought of it. When he was outplayed by Sawakita during the match against Sannoh Technical, though, he realized what Sendoh reminded him as a challenge: To defeat Sendoh, Rukawa had to change his style and pass the ball. It was his pass that led to Hanamichi's buzzer-beating shot, winning the match. Rukawa is subsequently named a member of the All-Japan basketball team. He is voiced by Hikaru Midorikawa.

Hanamichi Sakuragi

Jersey no.#10 189.2 cm/6'2"/75in 83 kg/183 lb Power Forward. Birthday 01/04 Shoe Brand: Nike Air Jordan 1 & 6

Hanamichi Sakuragi (桜木 花道 Sakuragi Hanamichi?) is the protagonist of Slam Dunk. At the beginning of the series, Sakuragi is a slacker, good for nothing other than fighting (he was on the brink of getting identified by those around him as a delinquent). He is the leader of the feared "Sakuragi Legion", which consists of his four friends Mito, Noma, Ohkusu and Takamiya. He was always trying to ask girls out, but was rejected constantly, the 50th rejection occurring at the start of the series. He then met Haruko Akagi, a lovely basketball fangirl, whom he fell in love with immediately. This and Haruko's encouragement led to him to join the Shohoku basketball team. However, as a complete beginner, he was not able to keep up with the rest of the team at first despite his physical attributes (great height, athleticism, stamina, speed and leaping ability). He regards himself as a genius though, with self-confidence that borders on arrogance. His most recognizable trait is his red hair, though he shaves his head as reparation for an error that led to a loss in the interhigh tournament against Kainan. Sakuragi has a habit of making fun of other players by calling them things other than their names, such as calling Akagi "gorilla".

At first, Sakuragi was known for his poor basketball skills as a beginner and in his first few official matches, he fouled out every game. However, his basketball skills advanced throughout the series. First he developed his basic skills, such as dribbling and layups. Then, trained by Akagi, he became a formidable rebounder, with his rebounding becoming his claim to fame throughout the latter half of the series. His jump shooting was then developed by Coach Anzai, who had him make 20,000 shots in a week. However, he also injured his back during the match against Sannoh after saving the ball from going off the court, and underwent rehabilitation after Shohoku's subsequent loss to Aiwa Academy. While considered by most to be an amateur's instinctual tactic, the tactic itself, coupled with Sakuragi's formidable athleticism actually goes well with his somewhat unorthodox playing style. This allows Sakuragi to be in the right place at the right time to intercept more experienced players.

In spite of the setbacks he has had to face, Sakuragi displays a great deal of tenacity and determination that carry him through and help reciprocate for his other failings, both on and off the court. Although his love for Haruko and rivalry with Rukawa are the main driving forces motivating him to succeed in basketball, his injury during the Sannoh match makes him realize that he has actually come to love the game, leading him to give his all for his team and bring them victory. He is voiced by Takeshi Kusao.

Yasuharu Yasuda

Jersey no.#6 Yasuharu Yasuda (安田 靖春 Yasuda Yasuharu?) is one of the minor players from Shohoku. Although Hanamichi picks on him, he is no pushover, as demonstrated when he stood up to Mitsui and Tetsuo when they were attempting to get the Shohoku team banned from competition for fighting. He is Ryota's close friend, and thanks to his mild and calm character he can manage to calm things down when the tension on the court starts to heat up. One example of this is when Anzai sent Yasuda into the match against Toyotama in the place of Sakuragi (who is recognized as the one with the shortest temper in the team), after all five starters were infuriated by Toyotama's provocative tactics. He is voiced by Masaya Onosaka.

Mitsuyoshi Anzai

Mitsuyoshi Anzai (安西 光義 Anzai Mitsuyoshi?) is the coach of the Shohoku High basketball team, and one of the best ones in Japan. Even the coaches of other teams call him "Anzai-sensei" with respect. His calm and collected attitude contrasts with the temper he had in the past, when he was nicknamed "White-Haired Devil" as a demanding college coach.

A talented player, Ryuji Yazawa, trained under him and was eyed with high regard by Anzai. However, Yazawa was unhappy about Anzai's tough training for him (especially the repetitive and strenuous basic technique training), and against the Coach's wish, left Japan to play in the USA, where he thought he would have better opportunities to show his talent. Five years passed and Anzai learned from the press that Yazawa died in a high-speed head-on car collision, reportedly under drug influence. Yazawa's mother gave Anzai a letter written 4 years prior, in which Yazawa expressed profound regret about his rebellious decision to leave, and the depression from his experience in the unsupportive American college basketball career. Anzai grieved deeply for the loss of Yazawa and resigned from college basketball coaching ever since. This also changed Anzai's former strict attitude to his now mild temper, for which he is now known as the "White-Haired Buddha."

Sakuragi always calls Coach Anzai "Oyaji" (old man) and has the habit of jiggling his fat when hyped, which makes the others - Mitsui in particular - mad at him, as this is considered disrespectful. However behind such an impassible demeanor is a brilliant strategist, who always knows how to turn the tide of a match for his team. Anzai, like Haruko Akagi, realized Sakuragi's potential early on and decided to make him a starter even though some of his basketball skills were not yet par. Recognizing that shooting was Sakuragi's weakness, he made him make 20,000 baskets in a week to get ready for the national tournament. Anzai is also very charismatic and able to inspire his players to greater heights, as evidenced before the match against Sannoh, where he managed to bring down the insecurity within Miyagi, Mitsui and, to a lesser extent, Sakuragi. Mitsui respects Anzai the most; after his introduction in the game against Ryonan, Mitsui put a picture of Anzai on the bench and prayed to it when Anzai is unable to come to the inter-high Shohoku-Ryonan match due to heart attack. This caused Akagi and Sakuragi to get angry, with Akagi comparing the action to a wake. Coach Anzai is well known in the series for his trademark Santa Claus-like laugh (Ho ho ho). He is voiced by Tomomichi Nishimura.

Ayako

Ayako (彩子?) is the manager of the team and object of Ryota's affections. Strong-willed, somewhat tomboyish and good-natured, at first Ayako does not seem to reciprocate Ryota's feelings for her, which she knows of, and will not until the end of the series. She is directly responsible for sharpening Hanamichi's abilities for real matches, by training him in the basics, such as ball possession and dribbling. Her disciplinary style is midway between Akagi and Anzai - while not as soft as the latter, she is also not as hard as the former. Her last name is unknown. Curiously, Hanamichi treats her almost as respectfully as Anzai, even though she is in a lower position in the team; possibly because of her gender, since he is generally more respectful towards females. Ryota refers to her as "Aya-chan" because of his attraction to her, and she responds by calling him "Ryota" rather than by his surname. Ayako always calls Sakuragi by his full name. During the National Championships, the relationship between Ayako and Ryota has developed to the point where he can confide in her about his uncertainties about the upcoming Sannoh match when he is alone with her, and during the match Ayako motivates him by writing the words "Number 1 Guard" on his hand to keep him focused and determined. She is voiced by Eriko Hara.

Shoyo High School

The Shoyo High School basketball team Shoyo is considered the top rival of Kainan, the top team in the prefecture and defending Kanagawa Interhigh Tournament champions for 17 years running. The team was seeded first in their respective division during the Interhigh Tournament, and is the only team so seeded not to make it into the final four because of their loss to Shohoku. The height of Shoyo's players are among the tallest in Kanagawa; this was revealed in their match against Shohoku, where only Akagi was as tall as his marker (Toru Hanagata). However, their one weakness is the lack of a dedicated coach and Kenji Fujima is forced to play the roles of both coach and point guard. Shoyo is known for their large cheering section, all of whom are members of the basketball club but are not actually players.

Kenji Fujima

Jersey no.#4/178 cm/66 kg/Point Guard and Coach. Kenji Fujima (藤真健司 Fujima Kenji?) is the player and coach of Shoyo High. As such, he only enters the court when his presence is really needed, such as when the team is behind and struggling. Fujima is so respected by his teammates that as much as possible they try not to make it necessary for him to get on the court, and even the hint of his getting off the bench to join them inspires them to play harder. His personality also varies depending on which role he is playing in the game; as a coach and off the court, he is calm, mild-mannered and friendly (he even personally deals with his fangirls and is very kind to them), but he becomes confident, high-spirited and even ruthless when he's on court. As Maki says in volume #10, "As a player, he's far from rational."

Fujima plays as a typical point guard, leading his team and passing the ball, but also shooting and scoring when necessary. He is one of the top point guards in the Kanagawa prefecture and a force to be reckoned with on the court. According to several characters, Fujima is seen as the second best point guard in the Kanagawa prefecture, only edged out by Maki.

Fujima is referenced during the first round of the National Championships when Shohoku plays against Toyotama High School. Toyotama's captain, Tsuyoshi Minami, known as the "Ace Killer" injured Fujima in a match resulting in his removal from the game due to his injury. Subsequently, Shoyo lost the match to Toyotama. Before the Winter trials, he lost some weight to make himself more agile. He is voiced by Koji Tsujitani.

Toru Hanagata

Jersey no.#5/197 cm/83 kg/Center. Toru Hanagata (花形透 Hanagata Tōru?) is considered one of the top centers in the Kanagawa prefecture along with Akagi and Uozumi. He mixes strength and tactical skill in his playing, being able to easily avoid defensive play. When Fujima is not on court, he takes the role of captain, being responsible for psyching up the team. For this, he is quite a trustworthy player for Shoyo. He is known for his fade away shot, which is difficult to block. Hanagata is the only starter shown to wear glasses, though they are knocked off his face when Sakuragi commits his fourth foul, and Hanagata plays the rest of the match without them.

Hanagata holds his own in the Shohoku match against Akagi, but is totally outclassed by Sakuragi in rebounding. Being a top center, he is quite agile for his height. He also knows how to use his teammates effectively. He and Nagano are knocked down by Sakuragi after the latter dunked on them, but despite the effort Sakuragi still got his fifth foul. He is voiced by Nobuhiko Kazama.

Kazushi Hasegawa

Jersey no.#6/190 cm/80 kg/Forward. Kazushi Hasegawa (長谷川一志 Hasegawa Kazushi?) has a personal history with Mitsui. Back in junior high school, he faced Mitsui's confidence as well as his own inability to beat him in a match. Later on in high school, he encountered Mitsui again after the latter had become a delinquent and was shocked to see how much he had changed. They met again in the last match before the Kanagawa Interhigh Tournament, when he offered to mark Mitsui personally in a box-and-one. There, Hasegawa brought his memories back and marked Mitsui relentlessly, but to no avail, as Mitsui had already managed to turn the tide of the match for Shohoku. His words ("don't underestimate high school basketball") made Mitsui think about how much he could not let his efforts be in vain. Before the match, he had stated that he would hold Mitsui to no more than 5 points. Having accidentally overheard this, the reawakened Mitsui went on to score 20 points, including five consecutive 3 pointers in the second half, to erase Shoyo's 12 point lead over Shohoku. He is voiced by Kouzou Shioya.

Toyotama High School

Toyotama is the runner-up team from Osaka in the National Championship, having lost to Daiei. They are an A ranked team and almost all of their starters are third years.

Shohoku faces them in the first round of the National Championship, where Toyotama show a talent for getting away with violent, flagrant fouls, not to mention the constant teasing from the crowd, that constantly yells, swears and threatens the opposite team. They have mastered the run and gun style of play and divide their effort between 80% offense and 20% defense. Their main weakness was the replacement of their coach, Kitano , who nurtured the team's offensive philosophy and is widely respected by the players. His replacement, on the other hand, Kanehira, emphasizes defensive basketball, which the players have difficulty adjusting to. Because of this, they prefer to play their own way than listening to their new coach.

The Toyotama match only appears in the manga. One of the reserve players, Teruo Okawa, is a friend of Hikoichi Aida's from junior high. Toyotama has an ace in the form of Minori Kishimoto, who earns not only Hikoichi's enmity for Toyotama after he dismisses Sendoh's abilities as a player (Hikoichi in retribution gives Shohoku information on Toyotama), but also from Sakuragi, who spent the first half under intense pressure and could not perform well enough, being substituted for by Yasuda early in the match. Their other ace and captain is Tsuyoshi Minami (who Sakuragi calls "chick-face" after the bird), who is the most aggressive of the players. He is known as the "Ace Killer", and lives up to this nickname by hitting Rukawa in the face with his elbow as he once did to Kenji Fujima from Shoyo, leaving him with a black eye for the whole second half of the game. Minami however makes up for it later, as the night before the match against Sannoh, he gives Rukawa an ointment to help his eye heal and warns him about Sawakita. The other players include Mitsuaki Iwata (center), Kyohei Yajima (shooting guard) and Daijiro Itakura (point guard).

Other characters

Haruko Akagi

Haruko Akagi (赤木 晴子 Akagi Haruko?) is Takenori's younger sister and Sakuragi's love interest. Sweet and with a captivating personality, she is always around to cheer on the players, especially her brother Takenori, who is extremely protective of her and taught her the basics of basketball, and Sakuragi, whom she considers her best friend. Haruko often appears at matches together with Sakuragi's cohorts and her two best friends, Fujii and Matsui. She, like most girls in Shohoku, only has eyes for Rukawa, although he never reciprocates her feelings and, later in the anime, she acknowledges that he will not love her the way she wants him to and tries to let go of her crush, however unsuccessfully.

Haruko was responsible for uncovering Sakuragi's athletic talent after seeing him try to dunk a ball at her request - she was impressed by the height of his jump and considered him good enough to join the team. Sakuragi always listens to her due to his deep affection for her. They have gone on some (what Sakuragi considers) non-official dates and have occasionally trained together.

Despite her emotional denseness and sweetness, Haruko is a pretty good student, helping Akagi tutor Sakuragi and the other three starters when they had to retake some tests they had failed or be disqualified from the National Tournament, and is not afraid to stand up for others when needed. She confronted Sakuragi when she mistakenly thought that he had attacked Rukawa, and she also defended him many times from his most rabid fangirls (one of them even knocked her to the ground in the anime series). At the end of the manga series, Haruko becomes the second manager of basketball team. She is voiced by Akiko Hiramatsu.

Sakuragi's Gang

Sakuragi's Gang, also known as The Sakuragi Legion (桜木軍団 Sakuragi Gundan?), act like a Greek chorus. Yohei Mito (水戸 洋平 Mito Yōhei?) is Sakuragi's best friend from childhood as well as a skilled fighter. although Yohei is the only one able to help with actual advice. He also appears to be the best fighter out of the four aside from Sakuragi himself, having beat Mitsui badly all on his own during the gym fight. The other three students who often hang around Sakuragi and Yohei, Chuichirou Noma (野間 忠一郎 Noma Chūichirō, who sports a mustache), Yuji Ohkusu (大楠 雄二 Ōkusu Yūji, with blond, bushy hair) and Nozomi Takamiya (高宮 望 Takamiya Nozomi, short, fat and bespectacled) also attended Wakoh Junior High with. Despite their loyalty and willingness at offering a hand whenever convenient, they often tease Sakuragi, for which they receive headbutts on their foreheads. They also take advantage of him by frequently placing bets on whether his endeavors will succeed, and even charge admission to see Sakuragi's new hairstyle. In spite of all this, along with Yohei they are among Sakuragi's most loyal supporters, going to all his games to cheer him on, and helping him out when he had to make 20,000 shots in one week to prepare for the National Championships. According to Yohei, they are known as "The Three Stooges of Wakoh Junior High".

Tatsuhiko Aota

The captain of the Shohoku judo team, Tatsuhiko Aota (青田 龍彦 Aota Tatsuhiko?) is a childhood friend of the Akagi siblings, having argued with Takenori over which sport was better, judo or basketball, since their youth. This grudge continued until their present age, where their feud is over which team will be National Champion first. He once tried to make Sakuragi join the judo team because he considered his fighting skills exceptional, and to achieve this, "bribed" him with some photos of Haruko when she was younger. Still, Sakuragi refused, saying simply, "because I'm a basketball player" (actually because he knew he would actually be closer to Haruko if he stayed with the basketball team). But Tatsuhiko does not give up on trying once in a while. He is rather loyal to Takenori when the need arises, cheering him on when he is outplayed and hard-pressed during the second Ryonan match.

Despite his inability to physically coerce Sakuragi into joining the judo team, Tatsuhiko has proven that he is skilled, as he is the sole member of the judo team to qualify for the National Championships in judo. It is also worth noting that Tatsuhiko has had a crush on Haruko since they were young. She calls him "Ta-chan" instead of by his last name, which irritates Sakuragi immensely. He is voiced by Hideyuki Umezu.

Norio Hotta

Norio Hotta (堀田 徳男 Hotta Norio?) is the leader of a gang of fellow Third Year students who are the reigning delinquents at Shohoku. Sakuragi catches his attention on the first day of school when he gets into an altercation with two of his cronies, resulting in his issuing a direct challenge to Sakuragi by interrupting one of his classes. Before Sakuragi and his Gang arrive, Hotta and his cronies run into Rukawa on the school roof, who singlehandedly knocks out all four of them.

Hotta is a good friend of Mitsui, and backed him up when he challenged Miyagi to a fight a year ago. He and his friends provide the muscle again after Miyagi returns, and they join Mitsui in his attack on the basketball team. From Kogure’s revelation of Mitsui’s prior history with basketball, Hotta realizes that Mitsui deep down wants to play again, and is persuaded by Sakuragi’s Gang to share the blame with them for attacking the team, getting the team off the hook for fighting. It should be noted that though Hotta and his friends failed to win in fights against Sakuragi’s Gang or even Rukawa, they are portrayed as among the best fighters in Shohoku. Hotta and his cronies later become supporters of the basketball team during the National Championship Tournament (though even they get scared by the aggressiveness of the Toyotama crowd), largely because of their friendship with Mitsui, who they give the epithet Honoo no Otoko (lit. "Flaming Man"). He is voiced by Hōchū Ōtsuka.

Tetsuo

Tetsuo (鉄男?) is a biker and the only adult member of Mitsui’s gang, which included Norio Hotta and his cronies, in addition to some other delinquent high school students. It would appear that he is the gang leader, although he largely defers to Mitsui when they launch their attack on the Shohoku basketball team. He appears to be in his late 20's/30s, and is the gang’s most experienced and capable fighter. Tetsuo succeeds in knocking out five Shohoku players, among them Rukawa and Miyagi, but meets his match in Sakuragi.

After Mitsui leaves the gang and rejoins the team, Tetsuo later runs into him after the former is heading home after getting his knee checked. He accepts Mitsui as an athlete, reaffirming the latter’s decision to rejoin the team. Tetsuo makes an additional appearance in the anime when on the morning of Shohoku’s match with Shoyo, he is chased and cornered by the non-Shohoku members of his gang, who beat him up in a bid to challenge his leadership. Mitsui comes upon them, but refuses to fight because of the promise he made to Coach Anzai not to fight again. Tetsuo stands up for him, but gets knocked out. However the timely intervention of Sakuragi and his Gang enables the two basketball players to leave the scene, resulting in Tetsuo teaming up with Sakuragi’s Gang to take out Ryu and his cronies. He is voiced by Masaharu Sato.

Yayoi Aida

Yayoi Aida (相田 弥生 Aida Yayoi?) is Hikoichi's older sister, who works as a reporter for a weekly basketball magazine. Even though her brother plays for Ryonan, she is mostly designated to cover Shohoku matches, in which she is always impressesed about Shohoku players' performances, as they mostly play stronger opponents like Kainan or Sannoh. In the National Championship though, she gets to watch Sannoh's exercise training routines. She is almost always accompanied by a bubbly trainee called Nakamura, who does the driving when they need to go from gym to gym even though he drives slowly, as he had just gotten his driving license.She also has a huge crush on Ryonan ace Sendoh. She is voiced by Yuko Nagashima.

Ryu

Ryu (?) is one of the non-Shohoku members of Mitsui’s gang and the only other non-Shohoku member besides Tetsuo given the most depth. During Mitsui’s attack on the basketball team, he is matched up with Rukawa, giving him a bloody head wound with a broken mop head, but in turn gets knocked out by Rukawa. In the anime, Ryu challenges Tetsuo’s leadership by recruiting new members and targeting him after Mitsui rejoins the basketball team. The arrival of Sakuragi’s Gang enables Mitsui and Sakuragi to break away and head to the 3rd round match (which they are late for), and results in the trouncing of Ryu and all his gang members. He is voiced by Nobuhiko Kazama.

References

  1. Inoue, Takehiko (1996). "Afterword". Slam Dunk, Volume 31. Shueisha. ISBN 4-08-871839-9. 
  2. Deb, Aoki. "Interview: Takehiko Inoue". About.com. Retrieved 2009-05-11. 
  3. "Takehiko Inoue Talks about Visit to Kinokuniya". Comipress.com. 2008-02-02. Retrieved 2009-05-11. 
  4. Cha, Kai-Ming; MacDonald, Heidi (2007-11-26). "Takehiko Inoue Unveils Mural at New Kinokuniya". Publisher Weekly. Retrieved 2009-05-11. 

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