The First Slam Dunk Review

The First Slam Dunk is the latest movie in the Slam Dunk series, based on a manga that ran between 1990 and 1996, conquering the hearts of millions of people and, some would say, even inspiring them to play basketball.

© I.T. PLANNING, INC. © 2022 THE FIRST SLAM DUNK Film Partners

Ryota Miyagi is the point guard of Shohoku’s basketball team. He’s playing with his teammates Hanamichi Sakuragi, Takenori Akagi, Hisashi Mitsui and Kaede Rukawa against Sannoh’s basketball team, where the best player of their generation, Eiji Sawakita plays. The team wants to win and show that they are not just a bunch of unruly high schoolers. They will have to play above their limits to reach their goal.

The movie is the narration of the game against Sannoh for the inter-high tournament, but it’s mixed with flashbacks from the members of Shohoku’s team. Although Sakuragi is still relevant in the movie, the main character is Miyagi. He used to have an older brother, Sota, whose basketball skills impressed everyone. Miyagi and Sota played together whenever they could as children, and Miyagi was really proud of his big bro. However, an unfortunate accident with a fishing boat took Sota away. Since then, Miyagi has played basketball by himself until he went to high school. Thanks to the flashbacks that give insights into his childhood, psyche and dreams, the viewers can’t help but cheer for Miyagi on his success.

© I.T. PLANNING, INC. © 2022 THE FIRST SLAM DUNK Film Partners

We get flashbacks too about the other guys, and even from Sawakita. The mangaka and director of The First Slam Dunk, Takehiko Inoue, went for a more personal approach in representing the players. He wanted to show them in a more three-dimensional way, and I don’t mean just literally with the graphics, so that we, the viewers, could get to know them as real people with their highs and lows, and not just some characters on the screen.

Together with the actual 3DCG graphics mixed with hand-drawn scenes, it feels as if the viewers are at an actual basketball game, and the shot of adrenaline that it gives made me want to stand up and scream for Shohoku’s members to win. It was like watching a match by sitting court-side.

© I.T. PLANNING, INC. © 2022 THE FIRST SLAM DUNK Film Partners

I was a little bit sceptical at the beginning when I found out about the mix of 3DCG illustrations with 2D, as I didn’t really know what to expect, but it works well. While most of the basketball scenes are 3DCG, some hand-drawn illustrations have been used too, to make the action as realistic as possible. And for 80s and 90s anime lovers, you’ll be pleased to know that the movie backgrounds and even the colours are reminiscent of anime from that period, making it seems like no time has passed at all, except for the technology used to create the movie of course, from when the Slam Dunk anime was released in 1993-1996.

The music too plays a huge part in the movie. There are original songs from Satoshi Takebe (Earwig and the Witch) and from the Japanese band 10-FEET. The upbeat tempo highlights the basketball actions, until we suddenly get complete silence to mark the tension of the game. And I’d say of the viewers too. I was ready to jump up from my seat more than once from how invested I was in the game. Would Shohoku win and would I celebrate with them? Or will Sannoh win and I’ll cry for my favourite basketball players?

© I.T. PLANNING, INC. © 2022 THE FIRST SLAM DUNK Film Partners

The movie can be watched as a standalone without having read the manga or watched the anime, but if you already know the story, you can’t help but notice and smile at everything the players do or say. And for the anime aficionados, you’ll be pleased to know that there are a few cameos of scenes from the original anime itself. Although Sakuragi is not the main character, he’s still our Sakuragi with his loud voice and extreme actions. And I wonder if we can expect another Slam Dunk movie to address what happened to Sakuragi. That’s something I’ve been obsessing since watching the movie.

The First Slam Dunk is directed by the mangaka himself, Takehiko Inoue, and was released by Toei Animation in 2022. After receiving much praise and grossing more than $200 million in Asia alone, it’s finally coming to the big screen in the UK and Ireland at the end of the summer 2023. Tickets are now up for pre-order; check this out via the official movie website.

In the meantime, you can satisfy your curiosity about the movie with the official trailer.

© I.T. PLANNING, INC. © 2022 THE FIRST SLAM DUNK Film Partners

9 / 10


Number 1 fan of Solo Leveling who also happen to be a self-proclaimed bookworm with a special love for manga and YA, romance and fantasy books. I'm currently obsessed with Korean webtoons.

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