By Tiffany Ran
Northwest Asian Weekly
On April 25, a team at Cinerama will debut its Anime Movie Festival. Its lineup of movies, featuring a list of classic favorites, will run through May 3.
Each year, Cinerama narrows its focus to highlight niche content outside its usual blockbuster fare. In the past, this meant featuring unique sci-fi and horror films, including a well-received 70mm Film Festival last year where Japanese anime “Akira” was also shown. The response to Japanese anime at Cinerama has been fantastic and always sells out quickly, explained Josh Lackey, the marketing manager with Cinerama’s parent company, Vulcan. The response inspired the idea for Cinerama to host its first Anime Film Festival.
“It’s kind of rare, especially for a theater as large as Cinerama to show these films dating back to the 1980s that are now considered modern day classics,” said Lackey, who says that in the future, they are open to expanding the anime genre to include animation from other countries and cultures.
The growing interest in Japanese anime is palpable to staff at Cinerama. It plans to feature the well-received “Akira” again this year for the Anime Film Festival, along with genre favorites and classics like “Ghost in the Shell,” “Paprika,” and “Cowboy Bebop.” The line up began with a long selection narrowed down to 20 to 30 films with the final list depending largely on talks with distributors. Due to availability and demand, the final lineup inevitably includes an impressive range of Ghibli films, including films by renowned anime creator Hayao Miyazaki like “Spirited Away,” “Princess Mononoke,” and “My Neighbor Totoro.”
Local anime vet and Anime Meetup organizer Zach McCue notes that while the Cinerama lineup consists of what some might consider “safer choices,” it is also a “good representation of the scope and breadth of quality of Japanese anime” and a good gateway for many who have not yet been exposed to the genre.
“For me, there’s a really interesting and unique cultural exchange with Japan in terms of what we send to them and what they send back. I think the animation is an extension of that, to see how they interpret Western art styles and see how they use their own work. Miyazaki is big on European artists and that is shown in his work in terms of the settings in his films. There’s also a film from the 1970s called “Bella Donna Sadness,” which visually takes a lot from Art Nouveau and 1960s and 1970s fashion magazines,” he explained.
After failing to find a proper community dedicated specifically to watching and discussing anime films, McCue organized his own Anime Meetup in early 2012. The group has grown quickly since then — enough that McCue was able to step away momentarily, but returning more recently to host a Halloween showing of two “Vampire Hunter D” films. He is looking forward to catching Cinerama’s showing of “The Red Turtle,” a 2017 Oscar-nominated collaboration between Dutch-British animator Michael Dudok de Wit and Studio Ghibli.
McCue hopes that the popularity of Cinerama’s anime features this year may lead the theater to extend beyond showings and cultivate discussion in a larger forum.
“I hope there is an opportunity to reach out to filmmakers to see if they’d be interested in coming and doing Q and A sessions and evening talks,” he said. “I don’t think there’s really an audience for that in Japan from what I understand. They don’t do a lot of public appearances. As a filmmaker, I think they would really appreciate being able to come and discuss their process. I’m hoping that’s something they’ll do in the future.”
Lackey believes that the growing anime community and interest may inspire the Cinerama team to continue hosting an Anime Film Festival in subsequent years. To kick off the inaugural anime film festival, the Cinerama team has worked with the kitchen crew at TanakaSan to create a film festival menu that includes “I WANT HAAAAAAAM” ramen inspired by “Ponyo,” Lin’s balcony steamed buns inspired by “Spirited Away” and more.
Lackey noted that the kitchen team at TanakaSan fired back a list of menu ideas within only a few hours of seeing the lineup — suggesting that there are also fans among the kitchen team who required little research to conjure up menu items. It went to show for Lackey, the wide reach and fast growing community of this genre.
“A lot of people think of animation as for children but a lot of subject matters in these films are very adult. I personally find these idea and themes in a lot of titles, like the juxtaposition of industrialized society and nature.
You see that pop up in ‘Princess Mononoke’ and in ‘Akira’… It’s a different way of experiencing how someone views the world,” he said.
Lackey also notes that in the spirit of preserving authenticity, all but one of the anime films will be shown in Japanese with subtitles. Only “Ponyo” will be dubbed in English for the sake of younger audiences. While the more recent anime phenomenon “Your Name” will not be part of this lineup, the already promising response from ticket sales makes it likely that this modern anime will be a feature for future festivals.
For more information on Cinerama’s Anime Film Festival, visit cinerama.com.
Tiffany can be reached at email@example.com.