Coming from Japan, where it became one of the most successful anime films of all time, The First Slam Dunk tells the story of a high school basketball team who must overcome painful memories ahead of a pivotal match.
The film tries to mirror the all-or-nothing mentality of sport and the personal struggle faced by sportspeople. It certainly gets the first part right, using a 3D animation for the basketball sequences that give the action an immersive feel, combined with sound design that takes in every bounce and sneaker squeak.
It’s less polished when approaching the human side, with backstories that don’t always tie neatly to their sporting parallel. Ryōta (voiced by Shugo Nakemura) gives the film heart as a scrappy point guard trying to overcome his brother’s death, but his arc doesn’t go the distance.
The First Slam Dunk will appeal to those with Hoop Dreams, or fans of the source material; a flawed but affectionate journey.