The venerable basketball animation has returned! Slam Dunk will return in the fall, with creator Takehiko Inoue writing and directing the script. The timing could not be better after such a long gap.
Slam Dunk premiered as a manga in Weekly Jump in 1990 and ran for six years until being cancelled. It wasn't the first basketball manga, but it was a great phenomenon in Japan, selling over 120 million copies and inspiring a hugely popular anime series that aired from 1993 to 1996, as well as four animated feature films.
Inoue initially revealed the upcoming film on Twitter in January, as reported by Kotaku at the time. We now know that everything is on track, and that the picture will be released later next year.
This is a crucial program for anime enthusiasts of a certain generation. Slam Dunk is one of the most influential sports manga and anime of all time. It has a freshness to it, with interesting characters that pique the interest of even non-basketball aficionados. The characters are amusing, and the manga has aided in the further popularization of basketball in Japan, much like Captain Tsubasa did for soccer.
Many of the references to NBA stars of the time, such as Michael Jordan and Patrick Ewing, went unnoticed by many readers at the time. It wasn't required for readers to catch all of the nods and homages. What was evident was Inoue's enthusiasm for the game.
Kids in Japan who had never followed basketball before became followers, and the comic appealed to both young men and women. My wife, who was born in Osaka, developed a strong interest in Slam Dunk. She was more interested in the story and characters than in the sport. Any new interest in basketball was a plus for her and others growing up in Japan in the early 1990s.
After years of languishing on the periphery, Japanese basketball is now coming into its own decades after its inception. Rui Hachimura and Yuta Watanabe, for example, are NBA players, and the national women's team recently won silver at the Tokyo Olympics.
Slam Dunk is making a comeback, and it's an even better time to be a basketball fan in Japan.