Scotland Loves Anime 2014
Scotland's number one Japanese animation showcase, Scotland Loves Anime, returns with more great hand-drawn cinema from the land of the rising sun
With any hopes of Disney making a 2D feature animation again looking increasingly unlikely, and even SpongeBob SquarePants venturing into CGI territory for a forthcoming movie sequel, it's primarily left to the East nowadays for more traditional animation to thrive. Returning to Edinburgh and Glasgow this October for a fifth year, the Scotland Loves Anime festival showcases some of the best of contemporary and classic Japanese animation, mostly of the hand-drawn variety, on the big screen where so much of it belongs but is rarely seen by Western audiences (unless it's another Miyazaki masterpiece picked up by a big distributor).
The festival features many UK or Scottish premieres, and the most high-profile of these is Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Gods, the first theatrically released spin-off in years for one of anime's most well-known and commercially successful properties worldwide. Any twenty-something who came of age during the anime on UK TV boom of the early 2000s (thanks, Cartoon Network) will want to get themselves to either GFT or Filmhouse to catch the gloriously daft super-powered fights, slapstick and general shoutiness through cinema speakers.
Battle of Gods is part of SLA's In Competition strand, which also includes Giovanni's Island, a recent prize-winner at both the Annecy International Animated Film Festival and Montreal's renowned genre-focused festival Fantasia. Recipient of favourable comparisons to Studio Ghibli's Grave of the Fireflies, the film concerns two brothers living on the small island of Shikotan (located among the Kuril archipelago between Japan and the east of mainland Russia) in 1945, whose lives are uprooted when Soviet troops occupy the place at the tail end of World War II. The film's director, Mizuho Nishikubo, will be in attendance at the GFT screening.
Also in competition are Bayonetta: Bloody Fate, an adaptation of a popular action video game, and Appleseed Alpha, a CGI instalment of the popular cyberpunk series. Playing out of competition, but also UK premieres, are K: Missing Kings, a sequel to the TV series K, and Lupin the 3rd vs. Detective Conan: The Movie (actually a European premiere), a cross-over between two of anime's biggest franchises, wherein high school detective Conan attempts to apprehend Arsène Lupin III, the world's number one thief.
Science fiction tends to be one of the most explored genres in Japanese animation, and this year's SLA shines a spotlight on some established sci-fi favourites. Glasgow attendees will get an exclusive opportunity to see the influential (and often ripped off) animation milestone Ghost in the Shell on the big screen once more, while Edinburgh's Filmhouse has the festival's only screening of aerial war romance The Princess and the Pilot, based on a popular young adult novel. Both venues will screen the 1987 effort Wings of Honneamise, one of the most acclaimed Japanese animations ever made, in which a young astronaut enlists in a controversial space program in an alternate version of Earth. There's also Time of Eve, an ensemble piece concerning human and android interaction in the not too-distant future.
Finally, there's an Edinburgh-exclusive focus on major animation house Studio BONES, the makers of such anime series as Fullmetal Alchemist and Wolf's Rain, with its president Masahiko Minami coming to visit Filmhouse. The beloved movie version of Cowboy Bebop will be screened, as will 2007 effort Sword of the Stranger, a film about a stranger from a strange land who may or may not have a sword, but probably does because that's in the title. BONES' recent TV series Space Dandy also gets a spotlight, and that show's premise concerns an alien hunter who travels around space with a robot assistant and a space cat named Meow, having adventures and repeatedly breaking the fourth wall. Essentially, it sounds like the greatest show of all time. To confirm if it is, get yourself some SLA tickets right... meow. (Sorry.)