Continuing the "What the devil am I watching?" theme, day two of the Glasgow leg of Scotland Loves Animation started with After School Midnighters which had more than a touch of Pixar envy to it. Continuing his introductions, Jonathan Clements revealed that this was originally a short by the production staff in order to bolster support for their abilities.
At one point it looked like the short wouldn't go anywhere until it found its way onto French TV which catapulted it into a film. Originally featuring the animation of previously inanimate objects - a vampire, Jesus Christ and an anatomical model - only the latter made it to the final film. Produced by T-Joy who also own numerous theme parks around the globe and who are also set to distribute the Evangelion 3.0 movie, this was obviously an opening salvo in a wider push for global recognition.
The crowd was noticeably thinner for this showing, likely due to the hedonistic lure of Glasgow on a Friday night and despite a film targeted squarely for children and for a homogenous "international" audience, laughs and a good time were had by all.
Finishing shortly before the European premiere of the K-On movie, those of us staying for that film were first told we could just stay in the cinema, but then later told we would need to leave while the GFT's dutiful staff cleaned. This was understandable but the epically long line which had formed bordered on the absurd - a rogues gallery of fans with headgear from cat ears (no Neurowear as far as I could see) to top hats, it was like the Haruhi movie premiere from two years prior.
Of course with the promise of a Q&A session with the director, Naoko Yamada, and producer, Yoshihisa Nakayama, probably did nothing to quell the crowd. Anecdotally it was not a sell-out but near as could be. Jonathan's usual introduction was replaced by one by festival organiser and perennial butt of Jonathan's quips, Andrew Partridge. This was mostly to welcome the esteemed guests as well as indicate that any recording of the after-film session would be taken care of by a Kyoto Animation camera person.
With the film now out in Japan on home video release, it was likely not the first time many of the audience had seen the film, but a show of hands after it indicated that for many (perhaps a third) it was their first introduction to the rose-tinted and fluffy world of K-On. The film itself was met with a rapturous reception making the atmosphere for such a movie spot on, helped by a near flawless presentation throughout.
The Q&A session had Jonathan Clements asking questions with Bethan Jones as the very capable translator (who had similar duties with the Trigun: Badlands Rumble guests). Starting with questions about scenario and scene scouting, Naoko and Yoshihisa had visited London twice: the first to scout locations and the second to flesh out what the girls would have done. When Naoko was asked what was most memorable about her trip to London, she mentioned mistaking Marmite (divisive at the best of times) for chocolate sauce with predictable consequences.
This moved on to Yoshihisa's time studying in America (during the heady days of when 1 USD came to 340 JPY) and how common the idea of a high-school graduation trip abroad really was - in short, the strong yen is making it more popular, but with girls it's mostly about safety. Naoko also indicated that while the K-On movie is original in terms of story, both her and her staff tried hard to keep the spirit of the original series and manga rather than putting themselves into it. Similarly the instructions given to the staff focused on utilising the film format to its best, increasing scope and scale beyond what the TV series could do - as much as that is possible in K-On at least.
As was bound to happen, the question of whether there would be any further K-On productions was raised, either in movie or series format with the (apparently poorly received) college arc of the manga now available? Both guests were characteristically cagey but the short answer was it was finished, the second series and movie provided a satisfying ending - more trailing off than going with a bang as Yoshihisa put it. Hypothetically then, if another would be made, could it be set in Scotland and if so, what would the girl's reactions be to Irn-Bru? Of course, and "Cute!".
Opening the floor up to questions from the audience, in somewhat of a surprise base on past experience, the questions were lucid and very interesting. So when asked whether there were any locations in London that they wanted to include but couldn't, both responded "Piccadilly Circus", cut purely because of time.
The most revealing question was one I had wanted to ask myself: with Kyoto Animation's reputation for having a high number of female staff, does this have any effect in a typically male dominated industry and when producing something like K-On? The answer was slightly cagey with Naoko having not worked anywhere but Kyoto Animation in her career, but she mentioned the staff's propensity to "mother" the characters; so if one of them was showing too much skin they would cover her up saying "she would be cold!" The answer to a follow on question by Jonathan on whether the lack of fan-service was purposeful - definitely yes and the fan-service is in the words not the visuals - elicited spontaneous applause from the audience which seemed to take both Naoko and Yoshihisa by surprise.
This built upon an earlier question as to whether anything had been done to expand the audience of the original series. With the late night slot for the K-On series targeting the M1 (male, 20-35) audience, it was something both guests were aware of but anecdotally they said they though they had branched out into the F1 (female, 20-35) audience.
Other questions were not quite as on the mark as others, with one audience member asking what Naoko and Yoshihisa were working on next (Chuunibyou), another questioning whether the ending to Chuunibyou (directed by Naoko) was influenced by K-On's second series' "No thank you" ending (no) and whether the girls would be scared of kilts and bagpipes (no, but Jonathan said they would change their mind on going out in Glasgow on a Saturday night).
With a further Q&A session with Naoko tomorrow, the possibility for more questions is there, but that concluded the K-On premiere, leaving only Berserk: Egg of the King to round off the day.
Drawing comparison with Game of Thrones (the TV series of which is only out in Japan this January), Jonathan mentioned some of Kentaro Miura's influences before quite literally throwing out some promotional coasters with the help of Jeremy from Manga Entertainment.
It was a perfect film to round out the day which had gone from bat-shit lunacy to girls drinking tea through to ultra-violence which covered a whole spectrum of genres. With the Anime Mirai Project, Tiger and Bunny: The Beginning and Blood-C: The Last Dark (the film I'm most excited to see) coming tomorrow, the Glasgow portion of the festival is certain to end on a high note, especially after such a strong showing both in quality and audience turn out so far.