The highly anticipated film, The First Slam Dunk, is set to release in theaters on July 28th, bringing back the beloved Shohoku High School basketball team after a 27-year hiatus. Contrary to its title, The First Slam Dunk is not a prequel but rather a sequel to the iconic ’90s manga and anime. This film adapts the final arc of the manga, depicting the crucial match between Shohoku High and Sannoh High. However, newcomers to the series may find it challenging to fully connect with the story due to the established relationships and character arcs that are already in place at the film’s start.
Despite this potential obstacle, manga creator Takehiko Inoue, who also wrote and directed the adaptation, has made intriguing choices that make The First Slam Dunk a perfect introduction to the series for newcomers and a satisfying conclusion for long-time fans. One such choice is the decision to set the entire movie during a single game, a game that holds immense significance as an underdog team faces off against the undefeated champions. By intercutting the gameplay with character backstories, Inoue ensures that the audience develops an emotional connection to the players while they are on the court. This approach allows viewers to learn the dynamics and mechanics of the game as they watch, rather than sitting through an exposition-heavy introduction. The film focuses on delivering all the exciting aspects of Slam Dunk right from the start, without holding back for a grand finale.
Furthermore, The First Slam Dunk shifts the protagonist’s spotlight from the iconic Hanamichi Sakuragi to Ryota Miyagi. Through Miyagi’s perspective, the film provides flashbacks that summarize the series’ history, giving newcomers a chance to catch up on major character relationships without dedicating too much time to exposition. These flashbacks also deepen Miyagi’s own backstory and motivations, enhancing the overall narrative. The other members of the Shohoku team, initially appearing as character stereotypes, are developed in a way that makes them feel like real individuals within the constraints of the movie’s runtime. Even though Sakuragi isn’t the main character, his vibrant personality and Dennis Rodman-inspired antics steal the show in every scene, injecting humor and breaking any potential dramatic overload.
One of the film’s standout qualities is its ability to feel fresh and accessible, regardless of the viewer’s familiarity with Slam Dunk. With a new protagonist and a singular focus on one game, The First Slam Dunk acts as a captivating entry point to the source material while also delivering surprising elements to long-time fans. Additionally, the film’s nostalgic setting, filled with nods to ’90s basketball legends, adds an extra layer of enjoyment for fans of the era.
The central highlight of the movie undoubtedly lies in the climactic match between Shohoku and Sannoh. Inoue’s directorial debut is incredibly impressive, showcasing his keen eye for visual composition and thrilling basketball action. The game itself is portrayed with kinetic energy, utilizing dynamic camera movements that provide a bird’s eye view of the court and exciting point-of-view shots from the characters. Such camera angles, only achievable in animation, contribute to the overall exhilaration of the game, with the audience feeling fully immersed.
Visually, The First Slam Dunk is stunning, seamlessly blending 2D and 3D animation to create a mind-boggling level of detail and realism. The fluid movements of the players and the intricacies of their uniforms are awe-inspiring. Despite the realistic animation, the film takes advantage of the medium to experiment with reality, timing, and perspective in ways that live-action cannot replicate. Although some of the more dramatic scenes initially venture into the uncanny valley, they improve over time, leaving a lasting impact in the film’s second half. The exquisite pacing adds to the building tension leading up to an explosive finale, complete with unexpected twists and turns reminiscent of title-winning sports documentaries. The electrifying sound design further enhances the film’s intensity, isolating crucial sounds and providing insight into the characters’ personal investment in the game. Every dribble of the ball, swish of the net, and drop of sweat contributes to the film’s gravitas and sense of impending victory.
In conclusion, The First Slam Dunk is a must-watch film for both newcomers and long-time Slam Dunk fans. With its fresh approach, captivating storytelling, and stunning animation, it delivers a unique movie experience that pays homage to the beloved series while also engaging new audiences. Get ready to be swept off your feet and join the chants of “de-fense!” as the Shohoku High School basketball team takes the court once again.