With THE FIRST SLAM DUNK Takehiko Inoue has turned his legendary manga into one of the biggest films in Japanese history. Its the story of a high school basketball team battling their way into the the big game. They are led by Ryota, a point guard who learned to love the game from his older brother. Beginning in the big game, the film then flashes back to show us the guys and how they came together.
On the face of it the film shouldn't be as moving as it is. Its a mix of well worn cliches mixed with driving score and gorgeous animation, and normally that would be a sure sign that the film was trying to distract us from any flaws. But the truth is Inoue isn't interested in the flash, but the human. He's crafted a very real and very moving group of guys who we pull for. While the film is mostly focused on Ryota, the truth is everyone is beautifully drawn. We get a sense of them beyond the screen. This is clearly the result of the film coming from a 31 volume manga series, an earlier TV adaption, and several earlier films. The result is a film that moves us and makes us feel well earned emotion.
The animation is impressive. Using a variety of subtle palettes for the different part of the film, the animation adds to the story telling in ways we could never have gotten if this were live action. For example look at the rich details in the flash back sequences and contrast it with the hard edged game sequences, Yes it all looks essentially the same, but at the same time the differing pen and brush strokes entirely alter our feeling. You can't get that level of image change in anything live action. This is why some films need to be animated.
This film is awesome. It's a wonderful human tale you need to see on a big screen at Fantasia or Japan Cuts or where ever you can.