On Saturday 7th September we hosted the first ever Anime Film Festival. And I think it’s safe to say that it was a resounding success! We sold out all four screenings, most of them almost a week before the event. And that was after moving up from the smallest screen at Picturehouse Central to the second biggest. We welcomed more than 700 people on the day to enjoy some amazing anime films in Picturehouse’s beautiful, flagship cinema. And we were really pleased with the feedback from attendees.
We had an Anime Room set up next to the screen, with a private bar, Dragonball figurines, and Mario Kart on the Switch for our attendees to enjoy between screenings. This was all set up by Picturehouse staff, who are keen anime fans themselves and really got into the spirit of the festival. I was really glad that we were able to put the festival on at Picturehouse Central as I’ve been going to the stunning art deco venue ever since it opened and really had my sights set on running the event here.
I’d like to thank all the attendees who beared with us on the day for any minor issues we had. Whilst we appreciate Picturehouse giving us the flexibility to move to a bigger screen so that as many people as possible could enjoy the festival, it did mean we had to have unallocated seating. I appreciate that for our pass holders seeing multiple films this was annoying, so we’re going to work with Picturehouse to put a better system in place for next year. We really welcome your feedback as it will help us to put on an even better event in future.
Mirai was enjoyed by the widest spectrum of ages I had ever seen for an anime film. A story about families and what brings us together, about growing up and accepting responsibility. These themes are evident in a lot of Mamoru Hosoda's work, and they give his films a real emotional depth and heart. His tale of a young boy who has to start sharing his parents’ affection with a new sibling touched the hearts of all who saw it. For anyone who had this as an introduction to Mamoru Hosoda, I strongly recommend checking out some of his back catalogue. He’s one of my favourite directors and I hope we’ll get to show more of his work in future.
Penguin Highway was perhaps the wild card of the day, a film that I’m sure was new to a lot of people. It’s a highly original and unique mystery film, centred around a young male protagonist who thinks quite highly of himself. More recent than any of the other films, it didn’t get a huge theatrical release so it was great to see that it was so well enjoyed, and that there is a place for quirky films like these on the big screen.
Your Name, the highest grossing Japanese film of all time, wowed fans once again, and made new anime fans of all those who hadn’t seen it. I know a few people who came to this screening as their introduction to the world of anime, and am pleased to say that after speaking with them after the screening, they enjoyed what they saw and will be coming back for more. One of the most beautifully shot films I’ve ever seen, the landscapes of the Japanese countryside really took me back to my time in Nagano prefecture. I lived in Iida, a small town very similar to the fictional town of Itomori in Your Name, and you can certainly see the inspiration Makoto Shinkai drew as a native of Nagano. For me, the stunning beauty of the Japanese countryside is better captured in this film than any other anime I’ve seen. Seeing this film in the cinema, you really get to enjoy the brilliant soundtrack by RADWIMPS, their J-Pop anthems and subtle instrumental pieces perfectly complementing the unfolding story. Makoto Shinkai personally asked for them to soundtrack this film, and they worked on the music together over 18 months with edits and feedback flying back and forth. They’ve worked together again on Shinkai’s new film, Weathering With You, which is one of the most highly anticipated anime films around and one we hope to show next year.
Takeshi Koike’s Redline was a true cinematic experience. The slick visuals, the pumping techno soundtrack, the raw energy of the dramatic space race exploding onto the screen in front of us - a true feast for the senses. A cult classic, seen by a few hardcore fans but very rarely experienced in the setting of a cinema, it was a pleasure to behold. Seeing the looks on peoples’ faces and hearing the discussion afterwards, I knew it was all worth it. I was particularly glad to hear one fan tell me that the film was just as awesome an experience as I said it would be, and another who told me it was his favourite film of all time and he was so happy to finally have the chance to experience it in the cinema.
For me, the highlight of the festival was seeing people of all different ages, hardcore anime fans and others who were completely new to the genre, walking out of the screening with a smile on their face. It was brilliant to see children watching their first ever anime film, or hear glowing reviews from more senior audience members who were touched by the storyline of Mirai or the visuals of Your Name. I hope we can do the same again and have an even bigger audience to enjoy new films from the likes of Makoto Shinkai, Masaaki Yuasa, and perhaps even Hayao Miyazaki next year.