Some fans are slamming Slam Dunk’s new look.

A year and a half ago manga artist Takehiko Inoue tweeted a succinct “Slam Dunk is going to be a movie!”, with a simple animated-text GIF delivering the same message. It was a pretty nonchalant way to announce the first new anime content for a series that, at the time, had been dormant for 25 years, but when you’re talking about one of the most popular sports anime ever, you don’t have to say much more than “There’s going to be more” to get people excited.

That’s not to say fans haven’t been ravenously hungry for any additional info on the project, and Toei Animation is now ringing the dinner bell with the first teaser trailer for the movie, which will be titled The First Slam Dunk.

Right away we see series star Hanamichi Sakuragi and the rest of his Shohoku High School teammates. But while the faces will be familiar to anyone who watched the 1993-1996 Slam Dunk anime, the same can’t be said for the way they move, because the trailer is CGI.

Toei hasn’t explicitly stated that The First Slam Dunk will be an entirely CG project, but the trailer seems like a pretty clear indication that that’s the direction they’re going with. There doesn’t appear to be any traditional hand-drawn character animation at all in the video.

That’s prompted a lot of angry English-language reactions in the comment sections for the teaser, such as:

“Why cgi??”
“Very disapointed by this shit cgi.”
“Worst movie trailer i ever seen.”
“Noooooooooooooooooooo not cgi.”
“Toei ruining a masterpiece with CGI.”

On the other hand, Japanese-language reactions have been several shades sunnier, or at the very least a lot more mellow.

“I’ve loved Slam Dunk for so long, and I’m grateful to be able to experience new anime for it in real-time.”
“This is the happiest 20 seconds I’ve had in a while.”
“The CG models and movement look good, but I don’t want the to forget about the sense of speed, spraying sweat, arena lighting, and intense facial expressions! ..Looking forward to seeing how this turns out!”
“I really hope this gets screenings overseas so that fans all around the world can see it.”
“Glad to see the characters’ faces and bodies are drawn just like they are in the manga.”
“Looks beautiful. Can’t wait to see it.”

So why the gap in reactions? The different space Slam Dunk occupies in the Japanese entertainment world, compared to other countries, is likely a big factor.

The series owes a lot of its success to its crossover appeal, as it’s both a high-quality youth anime and a compelling sports story. That said, you’d probably have a hard time finding many passionate overseas Slam Dunk fans who aren’t also pretty enthusiastic about Japanese animation as a whole, and the strength of Japanese animation has always been its hand-drawn artistry, with Japanese CG productions often falling far short of American ones in terms of technical merit. In other words, if someone is a non-Japanese hardcore Slam Dunk fan, odds are they’re also a hardcore 2-D animation fan, making the switch to CGI for The First Slam Dunk feel like a downgrade.

On the other hand, even though Slam Dunk is undeniably an anime series, being a Slam Dunk fan in Japan doesn’t necessarily mean someone is all that into anime, or so fiercely enamored of hand-drawn animation. The series became a mainstream cultural phenomenon in Japan in the mid-‘90s, roughly coinciding with the start of Japan’s real-world professional basketball league, and so it’s not unusual to find someone who’s read every chapter of the manga and watched every episode of the anime not because they’re an otaku, but because they really like basketball. For those who haven’t spent tons and tons of time watching hand-drawn Japanese animation since the Slam Dunk TV series wrapped up in 1996, 15 seconds of CGI movement probably isn’t going to feel as jarring, especially when the character models themselves look so close to the original manga artwork.

That said, there are also plenty of Slam Dunk fans who do watch a lot of other anime as well, so maybe the kinder tone of the Japanese-language reactions has something to do with a broader awareness that The First Slam Dunk is being directed by Inoue himself, and it’s unlikely the series creator would be accepting of the change to CGI, let alone be so closely involved with the movie, if he didn’t think it was a viable choice. That said, though he’s a highly celebrated manga artist, Inoue has never directed an anime before, and in addition to his first attempt being a project that comes with such high expectations, there’s the added challenge that Slam Dunk, like a lot of ‘90s anime, has a penchant for distorting and deforming its characters for comic effect, which is going to be a lot more difficult to do effectively in CGI, assuming the new movie doesn’t jettison that technique entirely.

Regardless of the reason, though, overall Japan just seems happy to have Slam Dunk back, and looking forward to the movie’s release on December 3.

Source: YouTube/東映アニメーション公式YouTubeチャンネル, Twitter/@movie_slamdunk
Images: YouTube/東映アニメーション公式YouTubeチャンネル
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Follow Casey on Twitter, where he says that while we may disagree on whether or not we like CG anime, we can all agree that Slam Dunk’s “My Friend” is a fantastic ending theme.