Anime movie Blame! will be released in Japanese cinemas for a limited period of two weeks on 20 May 2017. On 14 March 2017, a talk event and preview screening was held in Chiba Prefecture for professionals and those involved in the making process of the movie.
Compared to other countries, the audio equipment used in Japan’s cinemas is not exactly cutting-edge. Recently, so-called ‘bakuon joei’ (explosive sound screenings) of movies such as Mad Max: Fury Road or Girls und Panzer have gained some popularity. This has brought the issue of audio equipment to the surface, but Japan is still behind.
Blame! is a computer-generated animation by the same team that made Knights of Sidonia; director Hiroyuki Seshita and sound director Yoshikazu Iwanami are on the staff roll, and Polygon Pictures is the production company. The Aeon Cinema Makuhari branch has been equipped with a gigantic 18m screen called ULTIRA along with the sound system Dolby Atmos. Blame! is the first anime movie in Japan to use this amazing technology.
The Acoustic Revolution of Japanese Animation
On the day of the preview screening, Seshita, Iwanami, and assistant director Naohiro Yoshihira were on location for the sound check. Director Seshita said: ‘It is the first time for me watch the movie with Dolby Atmos. Since we record the voices before doing the animation, the voice actors perform without seeing the characters. That’s why I have to explain where the character is standing or how to talk and create the atmosphere like that. I rely on that realistic sensation while producing.’
Yoshihira added, ‘The production method is the same as a regular live-action movie, but we produce it with CG animation. We don’t only create a screen, but we have to think about things you normally think when doing live action movies. What is the setting of the scene, who is standing where and saying what, what noises do the surroundings make and more. Three-dimensional sounds are possible, so they also set the story. Through this movie you gather so many experiences, so it is not just a normal movie.’
Director Iwanami’s dream came true when they were able to use Dolby Atmos. He has always pushed for anime with good sound, such as the explosive sounds in Girls und Panzer or the Sword Art Online: Ordinal Scale Extreme Sound 6.1ch. Screening. He says that Blame! is a work to be proud of.
‘I created this movie to start an acoustic revolution in Japan. When I watched the movie Gravity I realized once again how far behind Japan is concerning sound. Producing something like this wasn’t as hard as I expected. The sound gets delivered to outside of the screen, creating a whole new experience. I hope to be able to create even more.’
Sci-Fi Survival Story in an Endlessly Growing City
Blame! takes place in a continuously growing huge city, which ceases to function and grows disorganized due to the technology improving on its own. Humans have lost control of technology and end up being hunted down and killed by a system called ‘Safeguard.’ In the middle of it are the Electric Fishermen, doing their best to survive on the verge of extinction. A girl named Zuru sets off in search of food to save her village, but ends up being found by the Safeguards at the watchtower. Appearing at the scene is Killy, who is looking for the Net Terminal Genes, which are said to be the key to returning this world back to normal.
The original Blame! manga is the debut work of Tsutomu Nihei, who also is known for Knights of Sidonia. It was serialized in Kodansha’s Afternoon between 1997-2003 and will be turned into an anime movie 20 years after the first chapter was published. Nihei is involved in the character design and scenario writing as a creative director, supervising the overall production.
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