Jul 12, 2021
It's more than easy to say that this is the weakest out of the four Slam Dunk films currently available. This series does a pretty good job balancing it's character drama with the high intensity basketball games it's known for. However, for this not-quite-feature-length movie, the character drama seems to take center stage with middling results. Oda Tatsumasa, a former junior high classmate of Sakuragi's, loathes the idea of having the former delinquent turned "basketball genius" play on the same court as him. Oda finds the head to head match against Sakuragi's school the perfect opportunity to disgrace him and thus purifying
the sport from soiled hands. Sakuragi, as stubbornly confident as ever, intends to wipe the floor with Oda (despite his relatively weak grasp on the sport at this point in the series) for even suggesting that his justification for joining the sport is too shallow and, therefore, doesn't deserve to play it. Meanwhile, the relationship of Oda and his girlfriend is....also here. This is where the problems start to arise.
Oda isn't exactly an interesting character, but when the focus shifts to one more concerned with his relationship to his girlfriend, the result ranges from boring to unfortunately laughable. A scene depicting Oda slapping his girlfriend for even suggesting that basketball has made him a more unlikeable person with something missing in his life is a good summation of the two aforementioned results. The placement of this character detour also contrasts pretty poorly with this series' patented comedy. Most of the charm of this film is placed strictly on Sakuragi's shoulders as he boldly shows his passion for basketball (whether he knows it or not), injuring himself multiple times in the process. This culminates in the movie's climax, in which Sakuragi makes one last desperate lunge off court as he tries to save the basketball for his team. He succeeds right before slamming face-first into a wall and rendering himself immobile for a few seconds. In those seconds, the jeers of the crowd fall silent and a lone standing ovation from the opposing team's coach is heard. And then they all clapped :) . This scene not only goes on for way too long, as it pans to every character's reaction before clapping themselves, but it also throws away the character conflict in this film. Oda, amongst the cheers, reaches out to help Sakuragi up--immediately acknowledging him as a sportsmen without words or transition despite his constant undermining of him up until this point. I'd like to commend it for it's subtly, but all of this comes of as really cheesy (and not in a good way as seen in the third film). Then the match is just...over. We never see the end of the match because the movie opts to transition to the two teams coaches post-game after the clapping scene. I haven't mentioned the basketball match itself due to the very forgettable nature of it in this film; to have the end of the game not even shown tells me that the focus isn't really on the match, but on the characters instead (which one could imagine how that might make me feel given the context of what's been written). This comes off strange in a series usually concerned with depicting the grand battles and outcomes of a basketball match--giving hyper importance to even practice games.
On the production end this isn't all that strong either. The OST is borrowed from the show so it's hardly worth mentioning that it's quality (though never utilized in any significantly impactful way). The animation this time around prioritizes having more detailed still frames rather than actually animating well. Action/Sports scenes come off as stiffly paced, and often will hold on a still frame in that uniquely awkward old-anime way which dates it instantly. It's all moderately serviceable, but, thankfully the character performances are likable enough to enjoy.
This isn't a horrible movie, just a really bland representation of what Slam Dunk is as a series. Though moments in this film, from a comedy standpoint, properly showcase glimmers of understanding of what the series is; the overall construction of the movie and how it goes about it almost seems misrepresentitive and confused, despite the theme of full body dedication/passion to the sport implying otherwise.
Reviewer’s Rating: 5
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