Growing up in California, with a number of prominent basketball teams such the Warriors, the Lakers, and the Clippers, the sport of basketball has always been around me, even if I personally didn’t care too much to play myself. But even amongst the community of anime fans that I resonate more with, basketball would also have a presence as a result of the Slam Dunk manga and anime series of the 90s. And after nearly 30 years, the love fans have for Slam Dunk was apparent on each day of Anime Expo as there was always multiple attendees cosplaying as these basketball players with the appropriate numbers on red jerseys. Seeing all this and knowing about the North American premiere of the film, The First Slam Dunk, it was a no-brainer for me to attend and find out for myself what this series is all about.
Storywise, the film was perfect: the Shohoku high school basketball team are playing against the inter-high basketball champions from the Sannoh school. The stakes are high for the main characters who are clearly the underdog, they’ll have to work hard in order to have any chance of victory against their formidable opponents. Ryota Miyagi, the point guard from Shohoku, is the main character of this film as flashbacks to his childhood involving family and basketball leading up to joining the team are shown. In addition, this includes him crossing paths with his teammates captain Takenori Akagi and former bully Hisashi Mitsui.
When it comes to the characters, by the end of the film, I felt attached to the members of this run and gun basketball team. They truly played their hearts out and demonstrated a love of basketball I’m sure fans of the game will recognize. But despite the focus on Ryota Miyagi, the character I was most fond of was Hanamichi Sakuragi, self-proclaimed genius despite having only played basketball for about 4 months by the events of the film. He emits that typical shonen anime energy like Naruto or Goku, being fearlessly and/or stupidly vocal in the face of competition or danger. So I was delighted and motivated to start the original anime series when I heard that he’s actually the main character in the source material, but I can also appreciate the decision to put the focus on Ryota for this film as his emotional journey with basketball definitely delivered a powerful effect on audiences.
What I noticed and appreciated most about the art for The First Slam Dunk was the way it blends high quality animation while incorporating stylized sketch lines that seem to be a nod to art from the pages of the manga while also helping to provide a visual cue for when the action is heightened during a scene or moment.
Lastly, the soundtrack just kills it. Even without understanding the lyrics, 10-Feet’s Dai Zero Kan serves as the theme song for The First Slam Dunk and everytime the song starts playing, it seamlessly fits the scene as that crescendo matches the feeling of players charging down the court or even leaping up to the basket.
Across story, characters, art, and music, The First Slam Dunk absolutely kills it. It’s no wonder it won the Japan Academy Prize for Animation of the Year in 2023 and became the fifth highest-grossing anime film of all time, grossing $262 million worldwide so far.
Catch The First Slam Dunk in theaters starting July 28th. #SlamDunkMovie
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