Now entering its fifth year, Scotland Loves Anime has fast become a favourite among Glasgow and Edinburgh audiences. Taking place during Scotland’s busy film festival period of October, this is an event that always strives to please its fans whilst also standing out from the crowd and drawing new audiences. With the festival regularly tapping into the genre’s rich variety, it doesn’t matter if you’re an anime novice or something of a seasoned pro, Scotland Loves Anime will have something for you. Allan Johnstone has been looking ahead at 2014’s highlights and hidden gems.
Once the preserve of cultish enclaves, it’s now obvious that anime is as varied and as all-encompassing as cinema itself. Running parallel to this sea-change, and no doubt shaping it to some extent, has been Scotland Loves Anime. Since 2010 the festival has shone a light on the farther reaches of the genre, while still delivering the crowd pleasers (2013’s Evangelion blow-out was a particular highlight).
This year offers more of the same – only here, more of the same can mean either an intimate drama about school-kids growing up during World War II, or a hyperkinetic bullet ballet starring a gun-toting witch. By its very nature, this is not a boring festival.
Any of these films could top the bill, but those out of the loop should check out Giovanni’s Island (tickets: Glasgow/Edinburgh), which with its wartime setting and child protagonists, is ever-so-slightly reminiscent of Grave of the Fireflies. The highly stylised animation nudges it towards picture-book fantasy, although since it’s based on real events, come prepared for a three hanky tearjerker. The Glasgow screening on Sunday 12th October is the film’s Scottish premiere, and is followed by a Q&A with the director, Mizuho Nishikubo.
If nothing else, the other selections demonstrate how tightly anime is woven into the rest of Japanese culture. Bayonetta: Bloody Fate, the aforementioned witch-based action film, is a video game adaptation. Expect frenetic pacing and a tongue in cheek sense of humour that keeps it on just the right side of fanboy excess (Glasgow/Edinburgh).
Considerably more brooding, though no less action packed, is K: Missing Kings (Glasgow/Edinburgh), which pulls the classic anime move of handing its school-kid characters some big bloody weapons and then letting them get on with it. Given that it’s the follow-up to a TV series, this is probably one for the hardcore only, although the combination of 3D and 2D animation looks stunning.
While keeping pace with the new, this year’s festival also hits us with some nostalgic treats. There’s the latest from Dragon Ball Z (Glasgow/Edinburgh) and a return for one of anime’s most iconic characters in Lupin the 3rd vs Detective Conan: The Movie (Glasgow/Edinburgh), with the venerable master thief looking to be in rude health.
The biggest curio for 2014, however, might be Royal Space Force: The Wings of Honneamise (Glasgow/Edinburgh). Released in 1987, there’s some gorgeous art direction in this comic space opera, which should feel completely new if you’re only familiar with the Akira/Ghost in the Shell axis of cyberpunk anime. Having said that, the latter film is playing on the opening night of the festival in Glasgow, and from a sparkling HD print too. As one of the early markers for the possibilities inherent in anime, it’s the perfect choice for a festival that embraces the art form’s breadth and depth.
By showing these films in the cineaste surrounds of the Glasgow Film Theatre and Edinburgh’s Filmhouse, the team at SLA have done the best possible thing for anime – they’ve placed it in its proper context. These films push the envelope visually, narratively and in just about any other way a film can. It’s easy to forget that, especially when it takes a moment to boot up whatever obscurity you find on YouTube or Netflix, but anime belongs on the silver screen; it’s the only canvas big enough to fit all these mad ideas and scattershot ambitions.
Whether you’re an anime newbie, or the type who wears a puffy red motorcycle jacket outside of some spectacularly niche parties, this should be your festival of choice for October.