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Despite the increased recognition and critical acclaim anime films receive nowadays it is still quite rare for them to receive cinema screenings.  When they do it's usually somewhere in London, and if you don't live there it's a long way to go and a lot of money to spend to see one film.  However, for four films it's a bit more worthwhile.

The week-long Sci-Fi London Film Festival has always been a friend to anime, and usually has a couple of anime films on its roster that are shown several times.  However, although it's good to see these getting the cinema treatment the problem of getting to them and the expense still remains.  But this is not so much the case for the Festival's legendary annual Anime Allnighter.

The Anime Allnighter always takes place on the final Saturday night/Sunday morning of the Sci-Fi London Film Festival.  As the name suggests it's an all-night anime marathon that starts at about midnight and runs till 8am the following morning, taking in four or five films in the process.  It's run in the Apollo West End cinema right in the heart of Piccadilly in London on the May Bank Holiday weekend.  Animetion has attended the previous two events and were there again for this one, so now we've suitably recovered we can tell you all about it!

Anime screenings in London are probably more frequent than anywhere else in the country, but are often on weekday evenings.  This generally stops us from going to them as not only do you have to buy the ticket (average London cinema ticket price is about 8.50), get the train or coach to London and get across the city to the cinema.  But we'd also often have to book a hotel as getting back home after the film is near impossible.  The Anime Allnighter is great on each count as it is a) slap bang in the middle of London, b) not too badly priced (about 25) and c) we'll be in there all night so no hotel required! 
 

 Having booked our tickets in advance (it sells out, so this is important to do) we got the coach up to London on the Saturday morning ready to do a bit of shopping and sightseeing.  The location of the Apollo West End cinema is perfect for an anime fan visiting London as it is dead central and about one minute's walk from London's famous Piccadilly Circus.  This puts it just round the corner from the Trocadero Centre - which is home to a massive games arcade and TokyoToys' London store - and the Japan Centre, which is a mecca for all things Japanese.  The Japan Centre houses a Japanese Restaurant, Takeaway Sushi Bar, a Travel Agents, bookshop, food shop and

general Japanese goods shop.  It's a great place to stock up on Pocky and other Japanese snacks as well as the best place in the country to get Japanese cookware and ingredients.  Also within about 15 minutes walk are both Forbidden Planet and Orbital Manga, both perfect places for getting your manga fix.

In fact it's so central that we only used the Tube once and just walked everywhere else.  There's plenty of stuff to do nearby, and with places of interest like Trafalgar Square, the National Gallery, Soho's Chinatown, Leicester Square and Covent Garden, as well as major shopping areas like Oxford Street and Regent Street all within walking distance there's good reason to make a day of it.  The Allnighter started at midnight so we had quite a lot of time to wander around, take in the sights and stock up on anime and manga merchandise before we had to be there.  Several hours later, with our bags decidedly heavier, we picked up the tickets from the cinema and popped off for some Okonomiyaki in the excellent restaurant Abeno, before winding down in the Trocadero before the night started.  We got to the cinema at about 11.30pm and, having picked up some sandwiches, water and a litre bottle of Tesco's own-brand Red Bull wannabe Kick each, we were ready for the night to come.

As with previous years the Festival was running more than Allnighter simultaneously, with other screens showing a Mystery Science Theatre 3000 Allnighter and a Sci-Fi Horror Allnighter.  In fact it was the first time the Festival had run all five of the screens at the same

time (two of the Allnighters had two screens each) and as such we weren't expecting things to go off without a hitch.  Which was for the best as a failure with the projector that meant the first film came on nearly forty minutes late.  Once this had been sorted and we were finally given a break from the repeating EA Games trailer reel, a brief but entertaining introduction from one of the Festival committee signalled the first film.  I'll cover the films in more depth on the next page, but first up was an unbilled CGI short film called Simulcra, before we were treated to the first film of the night, the action packed cel-shaded sequel Appleseed 2: Ex Machina.


Appleseed
was a pretty entertaining sci-fi action romp and the end of the film brought a welcome break for everyone to stretch their legs, go to the toilet and have some of the free Red Bull and tea & coffee that was on offer in the foyer.  We could also spend a bit of time looking through the free goodie bag that was given to us on the way in, which contained two film DVDs (anime Casshan and a live action film called The Triangle), a few badges and postcards, an inexplicable after-dinner mint and one of those chewable toothbrush things you find for sale in train stations.  It was a pretty good selection of freebies, but there were a few problems at break time.  The main problem was that several of the screens seemed to be let out at the same time, so the toilet queue was immense, but also (probably to make up a bit of time) the next film came on whilst most people were outside of the cinema.

This was a shame as the film - The Girl Who Leapt Through Time - was the best of the evening.  In fact despite it being nearly 4am by the time the film ended we weren't feeling tired at all, and after another break - which brought more free tea, coffee and Red Bull along with free tubs of Purbeck Ice-Cream - we settled down for the next film.  Next up was Tekkonkinkreet, which was probably the night's first weak note.  The film wasn't too bad but it was overlong and in places quite slow moving, causing several people to drop off to sleep.  After the next break, which brought more tea, coffee and ice-cream, we were ready for a hit of sci-fi action to jolt us back awake, and it came in the form of the hugely entertaining Vexille.  Unfortunately though, the Allnighter's late start came back to bite us and we had to leave over 20 minutes before the end of the film to catch our coach home.  It was a bit of a sour note to end the night on to be honest, but it was partly our fault for going by previous years' end times when booking the coach tickets.  Nonetheless we still had a great time, saw some good films and got more than our money's worth.  By the time we got home we'd been up for well over 30 hours but thankfully the bank holiday weekend means we had ample time to recover.  Needless to say we'll be there again next year, we consider the Anime Allnighter to be one of the must-attend events of the UK calendar.  It's a great chance to see some of these films as they were meant to be seen on the big screen, and technical issues aside, you can't ask for more than that. 


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