Japanese Anime Film ‘The First Slam Dunk’ Scores Big in China’s Box Office

Japanese Anime Film ‘The First Slam Dunk’ Scores Big at China’s Box Office

The film about a Japanese high school basketball team is a hit with Chinese audiences, who have fond childhood memories of the original anime and manga

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11:07 AM HKT, Thu April 27, 2023 2 mins read

On April 20, hundreds of thousands of people across China flocked to their local movie theaters for the release of The First Slam Dunk. This anime coming-of-age tale follows a Japanese high school basketball team navigating friendship, competition, and adolescence.

Within its first week of release, the movie generated 380 million RMB (around 55 million USD) and received a rating of 9/10 stars on Douban, a Chinese platform similar to IMDb.

Slam Dunk Chinese poster

Chinese poster for The First Slam Dunk. Image via Weibo

The film is based on Takehiko Inoue’s popular 1990 manga series Slam Dunk, which was first adapted into an anime in 1993. The manga and anime were both hits with young Chinese audiences at the time, and all these years later, that fanbase is playing a significant role in the film’s box office success.

Scoring Nostalgia Points

Nostalgia has been a huge driving factor in the film’s success, and the majority of audience members for The First Slam Dunk are Chinese millennials.

Xiao Fang is a 32-year-old architect in Hangzhou, a major e-commerce hub near Shanghai. He was a massive fan of the anime series and amassed a collection of Slam Dunk manga books during his school years. Now, he’s one of the millions of people who rushed out to see the movie during its first week in theaters.

“It brought back a lot of memories and made me feel young again,” he said.

For many young fans, the world of Slam Dunk resonated with their own coming-of-age stories. Viewers found solace in the characters, who were also navigating the trials and tribulations of adolescence.

Additionally, the original anime never got an actual ending because the manga ran into funding issues and was abruptly discontinued. So for many fans, this is the closure they didn’t get when they were younger.

China’s Embrace of Basketball

Basketball is a beloved sport in China, and some stars like Yao Ming have taken their careers all the way to the NBA. Many Slam Dunk fans believe that the anime series played an important part in encouraging a whole generation of Chinese youth to take up the sport.

“I used to wonder why people were so into basketball before I watched Slam Dunk. After finishing the whole series, I ended up joining the women’s basketball team at my school,” one person wrote on Weibo, China’s top microblogging platform.

Xiao echoed this sentiment, saying that the anime encouraged him to work hard and improve at the sport.

“Despite the main character being an everyman, his determination and love for basketball transformed him into someone worth rooting for,” says Xiao.

Dunking on Hollywood Dominance

The success of The First Slam Dunk is part of an ongoing trend of Japanese animation challenging traditional Hollywood dominance in the foreign sector of China’s film industry. The Super Mario Bros. Movie, for instance, earned just 4.7 million USD during the Qingming Festival holiday weekend in China, compared to Suzume No Tojimari’s USD 7.6 million.

Suzume, an anime film, received high praise, grossing more than 100 million USD at the Chinese box office in its first month — and some predict that The First Slam Dunk has a shot at overtaking it in gross sales.

Cover image via IMDb

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