IMAGE: Jonathan Hill

I almost love Japanese movies too much to admit this: Despite being an obsessive film geek, I'm not into anime—Japanese animation best known for its atom-bomb metaphors and characters with freakishly large eyes. Maybe it's because the genre's combination of blank facial expressions and constant pan-and-scan effects always comes off as cheap and hacky to me—or because anime's devoted strain of geekdom involves fans who wear elaborate costumes plucked straight from the screen (a.k.a. "cosplay," or costume play). But this weekend, Portland's own anime blowout, SubVersion, has a chance to prove skeptics like me wrong. The one-day festival, produced by local Japanese culture/fashion purveyors Dreamland Japan, packs nine subtitled Japanese cartoons, a cosplay fashion show and a gaming hour into a marathon 12-hour party this Sunday at the Clinton Street Theater.

Intrigued? Me too. That's why I finally gave these Japanese cartoons a fair shot and, in my own minimarathon, took a good, long look at three of the films SubVersion is screening. My conclusion: If it involves vampire girlfriends and animated hand-to-hand sword combat, I'm all for it.

The title of this 2007 film refers to the speed at which cherry blossoms fall, in turn a metaphor for how people tend to drift through life at the mercy of unforeseen forces. The story focuses on Takaki, a bookish, quixotic young man who can't seem to find the right time to unite with his one true love. The visual style, always the most salient feature of anime, is an attempt at realism, at least a filmic one. Impeccable compositions and fine attention to mock-natural lighting make

5 Centimeters

easy on the eyes, but I kept wondering—what's the point of animating this kind of romantic story as if it were real? Am I missing the point altogether?

2:30 pm

Along with


and the work of Hayao Miyazaki, this is what anime looks like to the West. It's a jokey, machine-gun-friendly riff on

Star Wars

about an intergalactic bounty hunter named Spike who jets around at the speed of light, kicking criminals in the face. The action doesn't have anything particular to distinguish it except for the fact it's pretty much nonstop. It's hip, genre-mashup fun, but also highlights what annoys me about anime: horribly expository dialogue, the fact that all non-Japanese characters look like Asians in culture-specific costumes....

12:30 am.

A supernatural take on the story of Japan's most popular and enduring folk hero, Minamoto Yoshitsune. The 12th-century samurai general helped conquer the country for his brother Yoritomo only to be betrayed and hunted for suspected designs upon the shogunate (yes, I read Japanese history for fun.)


imagines that while stealing around the countryside, Yoshitsune met a beautiful woman vampire, underwent a blood ritual and become an immortal ghoul as means of avoiding capture. He lives on (undead) to this day, still racking up adventures. The action—hand-to-hand sword combat—is genuinely exciting and better choreographed than


That, plus the historical tie-in and surprisingly ominous, creepy blood ritual, have me hooked.

11:30 pm.
GO: SubVersion Anime Festival takes place at Clinton Street Theater, 2522 SE Clinton St., 238-8899. Noon Sunday May 24. $20 advance, $25 door. Kids age 12 and under get in free with paid adult admission. Visit for tickets and info.



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