The trouble with Takehiko Inoue being so good at what he does is that, well, one eventually gets used to seeing him do it. In other words, Slam Dunk's ninth volume offers another exciting round of Japanese high school basketball, but shows little sign of Inoue elevating his game as a manga-ka. We already know he can draw terrific sports action scenes—which he does in this volume. We know that he can fill his stories with charismatic and memorable characters—which he also does in this volume. But where is the heart-wrenching drama of Mitsui's flashback in the previous installment, or even the life-or-death adrenaline of the brawl in the gym? The latest action in Slam Dunk is pleasing, to be sure—but it doesn't quite hit the next level.