COVID-19 has turned cinema-going upside down, and anime is not immune. Many spring releases have been delayed indefinitely, and it’s anyone’s guess as to whether the same fate awaits films slated for after summer.
In the meantime, with their vast libraries of anime films and series, streaming services can tide us over. [The following suggestions refer to availability in Japan; streaming rights can vary from country to country.]
“Detective Conan: The Scarlet Bullet,” the latest entry in the annual film series starring the titular pint-sized detective, was set for release on April 17 before being delayed. It’s a significant blow for distributor Toho, as the last two “Conan” films brought in a walloping ¥9 billion-plus each. Fans, at least, have an ample catalog to rewatch: Most of the “Conan” films, stretching back to 1997, are currently streaming on Hulu.
So, sticking with the detective theme, this is a good time to catch up with a lesser-known directorial effort by Hayao Miyazaki: “Sherlock Hound,” a 1980s series about a pup with Holmes-like sleuthing skills (streaming on dAnime Store). There are precious few ways to get a Miyazaki fix, after all: Studio Ghibli has finally licensed its films for streaming abroad, but here in Japan they’re still stubbornly disc-based.
“Conan” is just one of anime’s youth-oriented mega-franchises to suffer a hit from COVID-19. The latest “Doraemon” and “Crayon Shin-chan” films have also been delayed, but several films from both series are available on Amazon Prime. For a film that both children and adults can enjoy, check out “Crayon Shin-chan: Fierceness That Invites Storm! The Adult Empire Strikes Back” (say that three times fast) from celebrated director Keiichi Hara. Meanwhile, AbemaTV is home to the new “Crayon Shin-chan” spinoff, “Super Shiro,” helmed by another eminent auteur, Masaaki Yuasa.
“Words Bubble Up Like Soda Pop,” a poppy, music-centric look at a blossoming romance between two teenagers, was set to hit theaters May 15 but has been pushed back indefinitely. It’s the theatrical debut of Kyohei Ishiguro, a young director best known for the tearjerker “Your Lie in April” and the cryptic “Children of the Whales,” both of which are available on Netflix. “Soda Pop” features a script by veteran screenwriter Dai Sato, whose classics “Cowboy Bebop” and “Eureka Seven” (both on Netflix) also feature music front and center.
Of all the anime films delayed by COVID-19, Kyoto Animation’s “Violet Evergarden: The Movie” has faced the most hurdles on its way to the big screen. Originally scheduled for a January release, it was delayed by the 2019 arson attack on the film studio that killed 36 of its employees. The remaining staff rallied around the film and a new April release date, only to see that date pushed back by the pandemic. Netflix is currently streaming the original 13-episode series on which the film is based, as well as several other films and series from the embattled studio, like 2016’s award-winning “A Silent Voice.”
Delays have now reached as far as the summer moviegoing season: “Evangelion: 3.0+1.0 Thrice Upon a Time,” the long-awaited final entry in the “Evangelion” tetralogy, was originally set for release on June 27 but has now been bumped. The original 1990s series and films are available on Netflix, though — look out for the futuristic teleconferencing scenes that have become a meme in recent days.
More delay announcements are likely in the coming weeks, and broadcast anime is feeling the impact, too, with series like “Sword Art Online” already affected. Instead of looking forward to the next big thing, anime fans in Japan and abroad may need to retune their expectations and make this the year to finally catch up on those older films and series they’ve been putting off. Just save some bandwidth for me, OK?
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