I met up with my friend Sean for lunch 2 days after the funeral.
I would usually catch up with him annually but that is not the only time I would see him in the year (too many hints and people will know which Sean I am referring to.)
Near the end of the year, he dumped the news that Singapore will get its first exclusive screening of the movie The First Slam dunk. The tickets will cost SG$89, inclusive of merchandise. I thought it was steep but in all honesty, I might not care but go and watch it because I can afford it, and secondly, it’s Slam Dunk!
I always wondered how our children would look at us if they have a spy camera to see what we do sometimes. I think our kids would have a good laugh at how similar 40-year-old adults behave compared to them.
They would see us scrolling through our social media, then scroll back up and see this teaser of a second season of Slam Dunk… or was it a movie? Then, we will click on it, and read it. And then… we will search for different sources to check if this is legit.
There is still a little boy that exists in most men.
If you grew up in our generation watching soccer, and playing basketball, it is quite likely you would have come across the Chicago Bulls and… Slam Dunk.
On the last day of the funeral, Sean shared that The First Slam dunk movie will be in the theatres. With all that is going on, I think watching a movie is the last thing on my mind.
We met up, and talk shop, but Sean said: “The majority of the plot, we know already… but I think we should still watch it.”
I went back to the office, then decide to check the listing. Luckily, the movie was shown in the cinemas. I decided to book my ticket to watch it that weekend.
Takehiko Inoue first wrote about the story of the gang leader and delinquent Hanamichi Sakuragi from 1990 through 1996. That is probably my secondary school days. In his first year at Shohoku high school, he meets Haruko Akagi and was overjoyed that she doesn’t find him repulsive (unlike many girls before). Haruko introduced Sakuragi to the school basketball team.
Sakuragi dislikes basketball because he thinks it is a sport for losers. It didn’t help the last girl he lost was to a basketball player. The manga takes us on a journey with Sakuragi as he discovers his love for basketball.
If you wish to watch the anime, you can watch it here.
Most of us know that when it comes to basketball, the First Slam Dunk revolves around Shohoku’s pivotal match against inter-high basketball champions Sannoh school. That is not new.
What is new is the choice of the main lead.
Instead of continuing with Hanamichi Sakuragi as the lead, Inoue, now in his 50s, decided to center the movie around the speedy point guard Ryota Miyagi.
Miyagi was chosen maybe because of his lack of much backstory and also because Inoue used to play as a point guard.
This movie might not come out because of Inoue.
Back in 2003, a producer at Toei Animation approached Inoue if he was willing to do a movie on Slam Dunk because the anime was so popular. Inoue rejected them (and a lot of other proposals put in front of him). Six years later (2009), it was Inoue who approached the producer by challenging them to send him a good enough proposal.
The producer, Toshiyuki Matsui, assembled a team that spend the next FIVE years developing proposal prototype videos of the visual look using 3DCG.
In 2014, Inoue had dinner with Matsui and greenlighted the movie.
“The pilot video I received in 2014 contained the spirit of the creator. The animator’s enthusiasm and devotion appealed to me rather than the computer-generated imagery and the quality of the video. So I decided to give it a go,”Inoue
Matsui suggested Inoue should script and direct, as he was the person to be trusted the most with the character’s dialogue, visual appearance, and expression.
I was open-minded but deep down, I had reservations about the movie:
- Basing the story on a more obscure person.
- The weird animation.
- Centering on a conclusion most of the fans know about.
Sequels or remakes are challenging because you need to live up to fans’ expectations and be different, yet those new to the franchises should still enjoy the story.
That is why most end up being poorer than the original. Just ask what Star Wars fans think of those three episodes.
I went to watch the show alone, just like Top Gun Maverick a few months ago.
Walking around NEX before and after the movie was probably the least stressful feeling in a long time. I kinda forget that feeling of not needing to jog through my mind what is the next thing I need to do.
Here is what I told Sean after the end credits rolled:
The movie hit almost everything right for a classic fan-favorite manga.
The moment the movie transits to the first gameplay between Sannoh and Shohoku, you know why they spend so much effort on that “weird” animation. You can feel that the animation was computer graphics yet at the same time it really makes the entire basketball scene more real.
It is one of those things that once you see this person act in this classic film, you cannot picture how those actors that got passed over or rejected in the movie will look in the film.
The advanced computer graphics also allow Inoue to tell his story in different ways. The subtle change in facial features, and the grin expressed what is about to come better than words could.
Some fans were worried that the light-hearted elements would be lost with this CG but Inoue was able to inject them in his own way. They turned out alright.
Inoue revealed in the past that if he were to do Slam Dunk again, he would add more narrative to Ryota’s character. If it is about the same old story, he might as well don’t do it. There is a new, underlying message that he wanted us to think about after the film.
The story was about loss, expectations, and responsibility.
It is also a show probably fitting for someone who just lost someone.
The film uses the Sannoh game as a base to weave in not just Ryota’s story but Mitsui, Rukawa, Akagi, and finally Sakuragi’s backstory in a very seamless manner.
As a content producer, I can really appreciate how someone can put together different parts to form a good story that keeps you wanting more and more.
Near the start of the movie, Ryota acknowledges that by playing Sannoh, he has finally come a long way to play on the big stage. But you have no idea what Sannoh meant for him until nearly three-quarters into the movie. That, together, with Ryota’s unique relationship with Akagi and Mitsui, was done very well. There was no long flashback bullshit.
Inoue connects everything well Ryota’s relationship with the team member to the subtle actions in the Sannoh match.
Inoue subtly provided a scene for Sannoh’s bests player Eiji Sawakita, Japan’s number 1 high school player. It shows Sawakita’s religious side as he goes to the temple and wishes for guidance. It shows his nature, and what he thinks about the competition in Japan and it amplifies the tone of the match in a different way.
The trailers… didn’t reveal much.
But I had to go back and rewatch the trailers to see how much they hid in the trailers. You cannot find any streams of the movie, but if you want to know how the movie unfolds, this YouTube video is the closest:
And you have a deeper appreciation for the lady who repeated “Ike” in the trailer.
I think Sean knows the film is great but decides to risk managing my expectations in case my perspective is different but like Top Gun Maverick, they were great.
First Slam Dunk should still be showing in the cinemas.
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