I Cry Every Time: Slam Dunk Episode 44

This is the first post in new series I’m starting called “I Cry Every Time”, or ICET (Ice-Tea) for short. The goal of this series is to highlight scenes in games, anime, TV shows, movies, books, etc. that have caused me to cry, weep, bawl, or shed a lone tear in response to an emotional state brought upon by the scene (not by any physical pain or irritation to my eyes). While ICET scenes are typically sad, they can also highlight moments of joy, nostalgia, love, and many more complex emotions.

An important note is that most ICET scenes depict significant plot moments that will likely include heavy spoilers. You have been warned!

This ICET scene occurs in episode 44 of the 90’s basketball anime, Slam Dunk, titled “Mitsui! Stormy 3 Points” (“三井!嵐の3(スリー)ポイント”).  Near the end of this episode, Hisashi Mitsui, the shooting guard of Shohoku High School’s basketball team, has an internal monologue in a pivotal moment in their quarterfinal match against Shoyu that is as follows (translated from Japanese, of course):

Mitsui: “No way I’m going to lose now! When I’m in, no way we’re settling as a top 8 team!”


Mitsui: “If I don’t measure up here…I’m just a…Just a…Just one huge idiot. I won’t lose!”

What happened in this flashback, you ask? First, some background. In middle school, Mitsui was the MVP in the league due to his extraordinary shooting talent and his ability to perform under pressure. In the finals, his team was down by one point with a few seconds to go, without possession of the ball. After a failed steal attempt, Mitsui was about to give up before being encouraged by Coach Anzai, the wise Shohoku coach who was watching the game at the time. From this encouragement, he hit the game-winning shot at the buzzer and vowed to play for Anzai at Shohoku the following year.

A young Mitsui hitting the game winner in the middle school finals

Mitsui was the star first-year of Shohoku the following year, and he vowed to take Shohoku far in the national tournament. However, an unfortunate knee injury forced an early end to his season before the tournament even began. The discouragement from this injury made Mitsui resent basketball, and for the next two years, he left the game and instead joined a violent gang in the city. In his senior year, Mitsui heard that Shohoku again had a strong roster, so in his resentment, he decided to take out his frustrations on the basketball team. Thus begins a series of seven flashbacks that depicted this appalling scene.

Mitsui and his gang attack the basketball team

Mitsui and his gang visited Shohoku’s gym during one of the practices to assault Miyagi, Shohoku’s point guard that he had a previous fight with. Knowing that the team couldn’t fight back since any news of the basketball team getting into gang violence would threaten their season, Mitsui taunted the other team members as he and his gang members pummeled Miyagi while they watched helplessly. At this point, the scene shifts back to the Shohoku-Shoyu game, where Mitsui sees Miyagi, now his teammate, working hard on defense.

Ryota Miyagi, Shohoku’s star point guard playing defense

Then, the flashback continues back in the practice gym and this time Mitsui is taunting Rukawa, Shohoku’s starting forward, who had just fought back against one of Mitsui’s gang members. He laughs at Rukawa, telling him that they were disqualified, before Rukawa throws a punch that connects with Mitsui’s face. After this punch, the scene again shifts back to the present, where Mitsui looks at his teammate Rukawa, who is clearly exhausted from playing so hard in this game.

Kaede Rukawa, the first-year star forward

Next, the pattern continues with another flashback with the protagonist, Hanamichi Sakuragi. Mitsui swings a large metal broom that connects with the basketball genius and leaves a large bloody wound on the side of his head. Sakuragi, given his strength and build, is unfazed, and shoves Mitsui to the ground in retaliation. Back in the present, Mitsui sees Sakuragi, who is also a teammate on Shohoku after forgiving Mitsui, playing aggressive defense against Shoyo.

Hanamichi Sakuragi playing defense against Shoyo

Akagi, a player who was once worse than Mitsui who is now Shohoku’s captain is the subject of the next flashback. When Akagi finally arrives on the grisly scene in the gym, he has no words for the former MVP, but merely slaps him across the face several times. Mitsui was supposed to be a player who alongside Akagi, could take Shohoku far in the national tournament, but instead had resorted to resentment and violence toward the basketball team, whereas Akagi had honed his skills and carried the team on his back over the last two years. Back in the Shoyo game, Akagi is shown with his commanding presence as the leader of the team during this pivotal play in the game.

One of the most dominant centers in the league, Takenori Akagi

Again, back in the gym, Mitsui is shown hitting Kogure, another current senior on Shohoku’s team. Kogure was one of Mitsui’s closer friends who admired him during his brief stint as a first-year, and even visited him in the hospital as he was recovering from his knee injury. Seeing him slapping Kogure was heartbreaking, especially after the scene again shifts back to the Shoyu game, where Kogure is shown on the bench cheering on the team passionately.

Kiminobu Kogure, the sixth man of Shohoku who is also the team’s vice captain

The last flashback of this ICET scene leaves the gym scene to a more recent incident when a redeemed Mitsui is ambushed by a rival gang of his old group. At this point, he was already back on the basketball team and had promised his mentor, Coach Anzai, to never fight again. So Mitsui is helpless on the ground being pummeled when his new teammate, Sakuragi, comes to the rescue and is willing to take the beating for Mitsui, despite their previous disagreement when Mitsui’s gang attacked him. Eventually, Sakuragi’s gang fend off the thugs and the two make it out of the situation. Mitsui then sees these new friends in the crowd cheering him on, even though they had fought against him in the practice gym incident earlier.

Sakuragi’s gang who used to be Mitsui’s enemy

At this point, Mitsui makes a brilliant play after a Shohoku steal that culminates in a step-back three-pointer that puts Shohuku within reach of catching up to Shoyo, with less than four minutes remaining. But it wasn’t necessarily this resulting success that made this scene bring tears to my eyes, it was the stream of parallel flashbacks that showed all the people who had forgiven Mitsui for his wrongs who were now counting on him to make the big play. Finally, Hisashi Mitsui was no longer playing for the glory of being MVP; he was playing for his friends, to repay them for their kindness and forgiveness.

ICETears rating:

Empty Teardrops

2/5: A tear or two actually succumbed to gravity and fell down my face.

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