Scotland Loves Anime 2012: Animation Looks East

Scotland Loves Anime returns for a third year with its best line-up yet. With Pixar churning out princess stories and sequels, we need to look east to Japan for innovative animation more than ever

Feature by Josh Slater-Williams | 28 Sep 2012


Following a very successful run in 2011, animation festival Scotland Loves Anime returns to Glasgow and Edinburgh in October for a third year, with even more international and UK premieres than before. Though the festival’s film selection is centred around Japanese animation and culture specifically, its charity organisers Scotland Loves Animation seek to promote animation of all origins as art. As such, the festival plays host to interview sessions with people involved with films in the line-up, as well as an education day for students of animation at Edinburgh College of Art (19 Oct), with input from industry professionals.

Coming from Studio Ghibli, From Up on Poppy Hill (17 Oct, Edinburgh Filmhouse) is perhaps the festival’s most high-profile title. Directed by Gorō Miyazaki, son of Hayao, it’s a low-key coming-of-age tale set in 1960s Japan. Elsewhere in the line-up is a director whose work has received favourable comparisons to Ghibli’s best. Mamoru Hosoda’s The Girl Who Leapt Through Time was a breakthrough anime hit a few years back, and his latest film, Wolf Children (21 Oct, Filmhouse), is a tender, deeply moving gem that has received raves internationally. College student Hana falls in love with a man, later discovering he is also a wolf-man. Circumstances lead to her having to bring up their two children alone, unaware of how to raise human kids prone to turning into wolves. Spanning over a decade, Hosoda takes a potentially dubious, fantastical premise and paints a beautiful portrait of parent-child relations, adolescence, and finding one’s own way in the world.

Game of Thrones fans may be intrigued by the two Berserk films, Egg of the High King (13 Oct, GFT; 19 Oct, Filmhouse) and The Battle for Doldrey (20 Oct, Filmhouse), both similarly based on an ultra-violent fantasy epic; guests from those films’ production will be in attendance for Q&A. Also violent, and screening as a late nighter, is Gyo: Tokyo Fish Attack (12 Oct, GFT), in which Japan is invaded by mutated sea life. The gory Blood-C: The Last Dark (14 Oct, GFT; 20 Oct, Filmhouse) is also recommended for older viewers only, especially for established fans of cult favourite Blood: The Last Vampire.

Anime Mirai Project (14 Oct, GFT; 21 Oct, Filmhouse) is a collective effort that showcases short works by fresh young talent. A unique slice of CG animation can be found in Afterschool Midnighters (13 Oct, GFT; 19 Oct, Filmhouse), while a further programme of anime shorts of all kinds will also be screened (16 Oct, Filmhouse). Sci-fi novel adaptation Nerawareta Gakuen (20 Oct, Filmhouse), from the studio behind Cowboy Bebop, will additionally receive its international premiere at the festival, while superhero TV series prequel Tiger and Bunny: The Beginning (14 Oct, GFT) is presented on the same weekend as its Japanese release. Another TV spin-off K-On! The Movie (13 Oct, GFT) also screens, though its tale of a schoolgirl rock group running amok in London requires no prior knowledge of the multi-million dollar franchise. Director Naoko Yamada will be in attendance.

Outside of animation, SLA has the UK premiere of Ace Attorney (12 Oct, GFT; 15 Oct, Filmhouse), a wild adaptation of the Phoenix Wright videogames from director Takashi Miike (13 Assassins, Audition). Also showing in Glasgow the weekend before is influential 90s effort Ninja Scroll (7 Oct, GFT; 21 Oct, Filmhouse), screening from a new digital restoration. Having kick-started the initial anime boom in the UK, alongside Akira and Ghost in the Shell, that film is perhaps an ideal introduction to the heavier stylings of some of SLA’s hugely promising line-up.

Interview: Jonathan Clements

Author of Schoolgirl Milky Crisis: Adventures in the Anime and Manga Trade, Jonathan Clements will perform hosting duties throughout Scotland Loves Anime.

Scotland Loves Anime hosts numerous British or international premieres, and offers an often rare chance to see anime of all kinds on the big screen. How important do you find festivals like these for the promotion of animation as art?

A lot of people only get to see TV anime. It doesn’t matter how big your telly is, anime films are designed to be seen in the cinema, and Scotland Loves Anime really pushes for that cinema experience. It’s a world away from watching it on a laptop or in your lounge, and I am always surprised by how many first-time SLA attendees only realise this when they’re sitting with their mates in front of a twenty-foot giant robot in surround-sound. Glasgow Film Theatre and Edinburgh Filmhouse are both good venues for us, and they are staffed by people who really love film, which helps with the atmosphere.

Do you have any recommendations from the line-up, for the anime novices or in general?

Wolf Children is the one to watch, whether you’re new to anime or a long-time fan. It’s got massive attention in Japan, is sure to win a bunch of awards, and is one of the films in competition for SLA’s own award, unofficially known as the Golden Partridge (much to the organiser Andrew Partridge’s irritation and dismay). Quite by accident, this year we’ve got vampires in Blood-C: The Last Dark and werewolves in Wolf Children, so it wouldn’t surprise me if the Twilight fans show up to see just how differently Japan works with these themes. If you’re interested in anime as art, then you should also take a look at Anime Mirai Project, because that’s got a lot of apprentice pieces where the new animators are showing off what they can do. I haven’t seen Nerawareta Gakuen (School in Peril) myself, but I am very interested to see how it turns out, as it’s plainly an attempt to replicate the success of The Girl Who Leapt Through Time by tapping the work of another famous Japanese SF author, Taku Mayumura. It’s been made a dozen times in Japan, but this is the attempt to do it anime-style.

For serious anime fans, it’s going to be hard to resist K-On! The Movie. Not just because it’s a European premiere, about a bunch of Japanese rock chicks going wild in that fancy London, but because we’ve got the director Naoko Yamada in the house. Scotland Loves Anime spends a lot of its money bringing the actual filmmakers to the UK, and I always try to dispense with the PR and get them talking hard facts about the anime business. So many Japanese guests are just squandered on bland junkets, so I like to put them to work a little. Similarly we’ve got the producer and designer/lead animator for the Berserk premieres at Filmhouse. I’m pleased to say that anime fans appreciate the effort that this sort of thing takes, and they travel a long way for that kind of opportunity. We were pretty pleased in earlier events when we discovered people travelling up from Newcastle, but then there was someone who came from Oxford and even a bunch of nutters from France. I love it that anime can bring in that kind of business, and those tourist pounds feed into the Scottish economy.

In fact, we've got a secret policy, too: to push Scotland at these people. We make sure they get around and see the sights, and these are people who take visual reference home and let it percolate. Who knows, maybe we can steer things so that the next K-On movie takes place in Edinburgh...

Scotland Loves Anime runs 12-14 Oct in Glasgow and 19-21 Oct in Edinburgh. See website for more details