25 years after its completion, Slam Dunk remains one of the most popular sports manga ever. On Jan 7, Slam Dunk's creator Takehiko Inoue announced via Twitter that the classic basketball manga is receiving another new animated film adaptation by Toei studio. Within a day, the announcement tweet had already received over 370,000 likes and 170,000 retweets, proving that the fandom of Slam Dunk has never waned.
The original Slam Dunk manga ran from 1990-6 in Weekly Shonen Jump. Toei produced a 101-episode anime adaptation lasting from 1993-6, along with four animated short films. It's been 25 years since both the Slam Dunk anime and manga ended.
【スラムダンク】— 井上雄彦 Inoue Takehiko (@inouetake) January 7, 2021
The four Slam Dunk shorts, each running between 30 and 45 minutes, are more or less standalone stories disconnected to the main series, make them feel more like fillers than a serious telling of the Slam Dunk story. Over 25 years later, this new film is expected to be something that is more in line with what Inoue envisions for his magnum opus.
Slam Dunk more-or-less solidified the typical shonen sports manga formula. It follows the basketball team Shohoku, and the protagonist Hanamichi Sakuragi is a teenage delinquent who joined the team for a girl he likes. As Sakuragi falls in love with basketball, his relatively unknown team also steadily goes on a path to Japan’s National High School Tournament. There are rivalries, friendships, hard work, redemptions, sacrifices and all the other usual shonen elements in Slam Dunk, making it an enduring classic. The manga also features some of the best-illustrated sports scenes ever put to paper.
The animated series never finished animating the manga, leaving the story as the Shohoku goes to the National Tournament. The manga's final arc, however, features some of the best action in the series. Fans have been begging for an animated version of the Nationals for years, and it would be the ideal candidate for an animated film.
The nationals in Slam Dunk mainly consist of just two games. The first round is against the incredibly aggressive Toyotama team, who often deliberately injure their opponents. This is a relatively short but very engaging game that can comfortably fit within the two-hour time frame of a movie.
However, it's the second round in the Nationals that every Slam Dunk fan wants to see on the big screen. In this round, Shohoku faces the defending three-time champion Sannoh High, the strongest high school team in Japan. This game is one of the longest and tensest games in Slam Dunk, spanning six volumes and almost 60 chapters, it also has an incredibly satisfying and poignant conclusion. Due to its length, this game would probably take more than two hours to tell, but it is definitely worth the screen time.
To animate the entirety of the Nationals should require a full seasons-worth of anime, similar to how Haikyuu!! uses an entire season to portray just one game. However, since animated films have a higher budget and generally better production values, a movie is what this long-awaited Slam Dunk anime adaptation rightfully deserves. Even a partial adaptation of the arc would be a dream come true for a lot of the fans.