The First Slam Dunk Movie Review | A Court-crashing Classic Callback

2023's The First Slam Dunk movie felt just like picking up where everything left off in the original series, making it a must-watch.

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While it’s been more than a decade since I’ve seen anything alluding to the sports anime classic Slam Dunk, 2023’s The First Slam Dunk movie felt just like picking up where everything left off. Like seeing old friends after you all grew up, with all the fond memories intact. You’ve all changed, but only in the best ways.

That’s probably the best way to describe The First Slam Dunk movie, brought to life by the very same Takehiko Inoue, and brought to the big screen by Toei Animation. I’ll do my best to give my spoiler-free thoughts (and feelings) on the film, as I firmly believe it’s something you definitely need to see for yourself, especially if you’re a long-time fan of the series. That being said, let’ tip-off.

Not your typical nostalgia trip

We can’t deny the influence Slam Dunk had on an entire generation. Whether you’re a sub supremacist or dub demander, differences are cast aside once this series becomes the topic of conversation. The characters, the references, the story beats–all relatable.

There might be a smidge of confusion if you’re going in blind, as this movie comes along after a tremendous amount of buildup in the story. However, the quick pacing and emotional story-telling give newcomers something to latch on to, and stay invested all throughout the 2-hour runtime.

When I said quick pacing, I was probably understating it. This is a fast-paced anime, with heartfelt story beats fit nicely in-between scenes for ample breathing room. There’s quite the “twist” in the movie where the overarching plot focuses on Ryota Miyagi–which was already shown in the trailer. All things considered, they made the right choice, though. It was a refreshing take on a new, untold story that shines a new light on someone unexpected, but doesn’t take anything away from everyone else.

We get a completely new voice cast, and they nailed the character portrayals. Of course, it still would’ve been nice to get a few old school appearances, but that would be demanding too much.

Also, they never forgot the basics.

Peak sports anime

Speaking of basics, this is essentially a sports anime–one of the sub-genres that go the hardest. In this same vein, The First Slam Dunk doesn’t pull any punches.

There’s quite the amount of CGI used in the movie, so if you’re a snob when it comes to that, it might turn you off. All things considered, it was done properly–unlike certain anime in the not-so-distant past. This gave different feel overall. My memory might be a bit hazy, but given how the original Slam Dunk anime came out in the early 90s, the animation, while already great for the time, wasn’t quite as refined in encapsulating everything happening on the court. Yes, we did get a clear idea, but we can’t deny that a lot of animation was reused, and most of what appealed to us was the storytelling

CGI fixed this, to some extent. Now, we get sweeping, panoramic shots. We get a full experience of the action in the half-court. We get less of the animation stills, and more of the fluid animation itself. It teeters very close to falling into video game territory, but manages to stay an anime in essence.

In a sea of Kuroko no Basukes, Ahiru no Soras, and whatever Dear Boys is, we always looked back at Slam Dunk whenever we wanted an accurate, realistic portrayal of how intricate and intense basketball can be. The First Slam dunk couldn’t get any realer in delivering that experience.

Tying up loose ends

If you’ve followed the anime series, OVAs included, I’m sure you’ve been left hanging–for most of your teenage years and adulthood. The manga notwithstanding, Slam Dunk’s anime-only conclusion leaves a lot of questions. The series on its own was a hype train, and the ending was–quite the anti-climactic last stop. The First Slam Dunk somehow rectifies this.


Everyone knew that Shohoku’s high school life wouldn’t last forever, and we were aware that Akagi and Kogure would be graduating towards the end of the anime. All we wanted was a satisfying ending–an ending we never got in the anime.

The manga did its best to give a decent conclusion to how Slam Dunk began, but the movie goes above and beyond in that aspect. This time, things were definite. Inoue left just a bit in between for short stories and such, but now we’ll know where it’ll lead up to. It’s enough to keep us satiated for another couple of decades if need be. It may not have been the ending we truly wanted, but it’s an ending we can be satisfied with.

The feels. All of it.

Top 90s anime was a different beast compared to what we see nowadays. Ufotable’s Unlimited Budget Works was but a concept and MAPPA had yet to even think about pooling resources into something like Jujutsu Kaisen. There was a huge focus on storytelling, more so than the action we’d see on-screen. I’m not saying modern anime is bereft of this, but its highly stylized nature can be occasionally distracting–at least on my end. I wasn’t too bright as a kid.

Slam Dunk was all about storytelling. From its comedic moments, to its small info dumps on basketball fundamentals, to Hanamichi Sakuragi eventually being able to somewhat back up his self-proclaimed genius. Everything was shown, told, and elaborated through the anime’s story beats.

Oh, and the music and sound design? Perfect. Here’s the opening track. It sounds great on its own. But the way they incorporated it into the movie gave me chills. It was that damn good.

If you’re looking forward to references and callback humor, you’ll get them delightfully in spades. The flashback three-point shot? Check. Sakuragi manhandling Coach Anzai? Check. The delinquent support group and Sakuragi’s Army? Double check.

The two hours of emotional buildup concludes in an outburst of emotional hype, making things all the more satisfying. To be completely honest, it didn’t even feel like two hours. But the emotion? Oh, it was all there.

Final Verdict

I get it. This review is much too vague and plays way too safe. I’m well aware of that.

This is simply because you MUST watch The First Slam Dunk. Mentioning a couple more names and key moments would give away twice as many details. I watched the entire series and finished every manga chapter–and I was STILL genuinely surprised by how this movie turned out.

If you’ve followed Slam Dunk since the 90s and need that “closure” from an anime that ghosted you for years, come and get it while its in town.

The First Slam Dunk is currently showing in select SM cinemas in the Philippines.