[12 Days of Anime] Day 11: Anime in The Theater

2017 was the year of anime movies, from immediate hits like Your Name. to film festivals playing classics like Akira. For the first time in my life, anime movies felt accessible. Theaters near me made the impossible available, allowing me to both re-experience the awe of older films as well as join in on the  hype of new releases. We were even given the option of choosing dates, limited as they were, for either subbed or dubbed versions. This gives me hope that we’ll continue to see more works brought overseas in the coming years.

Here’s a list of all the movies I saw in the theater in 2017:

  • Akira (Cinerama Anime Movie Festival)
  • Porco Rosso (Cinerama Anime Movie Festival)
  • The Wind Rises (Cinerama Anime Movie Festival)
  • Your Name.
  • Lupin III: The Castle of Cagliostro (50th Anniversary U.S. Theater Debut)
  • No Game No Life: Zero

While A Silent Voice did come to the U.S. theater this past year, I had already seen it at a convention the previous year. I raved about it then in my coverage of Sakura-con and later in a separate blog post, and I’m glad to see it do so well here after finally arriving on the big screen.

One film I was unable to see was In This Corner of the World. I found out about the release far too late; the dates to watch it were limited in number and I was busy for all of them. I also tend to hear about anime film releases in roundabout ways, like through ads on Facebook or from friends. With movies becoming more popular with audiences outside of Japan, I hope run time and advertisements for them will increase so people have a higher chance to hear about and watch them.

For a more thorough discussion of the Cinerama films, you can read this post. I had yet to get around to talking about the other three, so I’ll do so briefly below:

Your Name.

Like most of my introductions to anime films outside of Studio Ghibli, I heard about Your Name by word of mouth. Anitwitter friends raved about it, and I started seeing articles with the title popping up on my news and blog feeds. I was already familiar with many of Makoto Shinkai’s other works, and hearing this film compared to Ghibli releases made me curious. Would it feel like his 2011 film, Children Who Chase Lost Voices, which I sort of liked but ultimately felt like an attempt to fit in with box office hits, or would the new work show his improvement as a writer while still retaining his identity?

Your Name not only set itself apart as a unique work of its own, but one that fully and comfortably filled every second of its run time. Mitsuha and Taki’s stories, on their own and intertwined, captured my complete attention. Their body switching felt like less of a gimmick for them to wear another’s shoes and more like divine intervention. Sure, Taki had a fascination with groping boobs and Mitsuha seemed oblivious to her effect on Taki’s friends, but there was always a clear sense of innocent curiosity.

For fans of Shinkai’s older works, it’s interesting to see not only how he has improved, but also how his style has evolved. Whether it was by his own choice or due to the suggestion of others, Your Name stands out as one of his only works to provide viewers with a hopeful ending. Since his films usually feature adolescent characters, their first loves are fragile and fleeting. Here, the audience is handed a hint of a future, one most of us had been waiting for.

No Game No Life: Zero

I found No Game No Life: Zero out of pure luck. Again, only two dates to watch the film’s U.S. release were available. Our first choice would have been to watch the subbed version, but due to my own scheduling conflict, we ended up going to the dubbed release. No Game No Life as a television series was a fun romp through a world that revolves around games of all kinds, and both my husband and I were disappointed in the lack of an ending. We had hoped that this film would either tell a side story with Sora and Shiro, or perhaps even wrap up the loose ends from the series if a second season wasn’t possible. Zero instead provides the history of Disboard and how it became the game-loving place we know today.

Prequels are usually interesting, even if uncalled for, and we went into the theater with the hope that this film would entertain, if not satisfy. My husband enjoyed the movie, but I had a far less favorable reaction. The “love” between Riku and Shuvi happened too quickly, and felt hollow as a result. When they orchestrate their grand plan to stop all of the death and destruction in their world, the film opts to tell us the finer details instead of showing us. We hear about Riku’s movements among the other races; we don’t actually see them. I wish we could have gone along with him for the negotiations and learned for ourselves how the races used to be. Maybe over the course of those interactions, the story could have also written in a more convincing love story, one that grew naturally instead of appearing out of nowhere.

Prior to the film even beginning, the audience was trapped in a ridiculously long series of interviews with staff and English voice actors. Since we were watching the English dub, the inclusion made sense even if I wish they had shortened the extra feature and excluded spoilers. Friends who watched with Japanese audio, however, told me the same feature was included in their viewing. In the future, I hope Sentai would consider these issues: shortening the introduction, preventing spoilers, and matching staff interviews to the film’s spoken language.

Lupin III: The Castle of Cagliostro

From almost the beginning of my time with anime, Lupin the Third had buzzed around my head as something I should experience for myself, whether that be the television series, films, or specials. The many spin-offs should have convinced me sooner than now of the validity of the character’s popularity, yet it wasn’t until I saw an advertisement for Lupin III: The Castle of Cagliostro that pushed me to fulfill my earlier conviction.

Being Hayao Miyazaki’s directorial debut and a known classic, it didn’t take much convincing to get my husband to watch the subbed version of the film with me. I didn’t even mind the overly long introduction by John Lasseter that played at the beginning. I can only hope that others watching the movie for the first time arrived late and missed the spoilers that were dropped in Lasseter’s excited explanation.

Then the real thing started, and I was lost in the setting and antics of a thief who seemed too ridiculous to succeed. Even if the film originally came out in 1979, the story and characters still resonated with me; the art and animation, too, looked fantastic on the big screen. It was hard to believe something that still looked so great came out more than 35 years ago. The Castle of Cagliostro is now up there among my favorites from Studio Ghibli.

Did you watch any anime in the theaters near you this past year? If so, what did you see, and what are your own hopes for the future?


14 thoughts on “[12 Days of Anime] Day 11: Anime in The Theater

  1. I got to see Your Name, A Silent Voice, and a stack of Ghibli films (film fest at the local arthouse as well as the Fathom Events GhibliFest) in the theatre this year.

    But I have say Ordinal Scale was my favorite experience of the year. (Note that I worded that very carefully!) Other than some of the visuals in Your Name, anime that makes you think and tugs at the heartstrings don’t suffer much on the small screen. But there’s just something about seeing the fight sequences on a truly big screen with theater quality sound… Plus Asuna in Bad Ass mode is always a delight.

    I think my biggest disappointment was not getting to see In This Corner Of The World…

    I’m glad we’re getting more anime movies over on this side of the water, because trekking to Seattle is *such* a pain, especially on a weeknight when my wife has to work the next day.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I was pretty disappointed to not see Ordinal Scale in the theater. I learned about it way too late, like with In This Corner of the World, and just couldn’t make it work with my schedule. One of my biggest issues with the anime that come to the theater is the limited show time. As nice as it is to go to a theater in the middle of the week when there are far less people, it also tends to jive with other events that tend to take place M-F.

      Going into Seattle for the Cinerama Movie Festival was definitely a pain. I had fun the first time since we went out to eat afterward, but the rest of the time it was just traffic and parking complaints.

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      • You live Seattleside IIRC, I live West Sound which adds a whole ‘nother level of pain. It took two hours to get to Bellevue for Your Name… Thank Heaven that Ordinal Scale was at Southcenter.

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  2. I also went to the Fathom / GKIDS Studio Ghibli fest, and actually had my wife go with me to see subtitled movies (she is not an anime fan). I hadn’t seen most of the movies so I enjoyed them, to varying degrees. I actually found that Spirited Away was my least favorite of the bunch because I found the story arc unsatisfying. I really liked Castle in the Sky (my wife didn’t), and we both liked Howl’s Moving Castle.

    I thought about going to Your Name, but it was “Hey, it’s playing tonight!” and was kind of far away, so I passed on that.

    In general, I’m not really a fan of movie theaters, because they’re uniformly too loud, uncomfortable, have other people, and just are a generally unsatisfying experience. But we had fun making them date nights.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Castle in the Sky is one of my favorites, as well. As much as I enjoy the movie and soundtrack of Howl’s Moving Castle, I actually prefer Diana Wynne Jones’ narrative.

      Usually I’m in the same boat as you regarding movie theaters. I somehow always sit next to the loud people in the theater, or kids come by at the last second and choose seats near me. Seattle’s Cinerama is nice since it’s a bit pricy and usually you only have adults there, the kind of adults who prefer to pay attention to the movie than talk to one another. I’m willing to pay more for these kinds of theaters given the crowds they draw.

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  3. Yeah, it felt like this year out of the past few years there have been more anime films available, which is great. We get to experience it in a different way! Never thought I’d say that five, even three years ago. Anime sure has changed.

    I saw Napping Princess, your name, and In This Corner of the World, and each were different, and were also great to watch. Missed out on A Silent Voice though.

    Think there’s an appeal to have more anime in theaters the next few years, probably more now than ever because of the live action films coming out from Hollywood, and well, there’s some good films being made! Looking forward to Mary and the Witch’s Flower in January, and Hosoda’s next work.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Napping Princess is another film I wish I could have seen! I didn’t hear about that one until last minute, and even now I’m not clear on that the movie is about since I haven’t seen much advertisement on it.

      The amount of Japanese works coming to Hollywood does seem to indicate increased interest in their stories, though I hope that in addition to more anime films coming over, that Hollywood adaptation will take better care of the source material and their choice of actors. I, too, picked up tickets for Mary and the Witch’s Flower and am pretty excited about it.

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  4. One difference for me is that being on the US East Coast, there’s much less opportunity to see and perhaps demand for current anime movies. Sometimes there’s a bit of jealousy when people on the west coast are like “Oh, I’m going to see this and that” and everything’s in Seattle, Vancouver, and LA. 🙂

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    • That surprises me, actually. I would have figured there were enough major cities on the East coast to allow for plenty of available places to watch anime films. I wonder if it’s because we’re closer to Asia—that’s typically the reason given for why West coast conventions get more Japanese guests.

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      • I think it’s a lot of “more people of Asian descent” on the west coast than the east coast. And there isn’t a lot of crossover between cities on the east coast. I *might* in the rarest of circumstances go to DC to do something (We actually saw The Force Awakens at the Air and Space Museum when it was released, because it was about the only place that was showing it in 70mm IMAX film). In general, being near Baltimore is like being near the little brother of all the other cities.

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