Anime Movie: A boy, his dog, and some guy

February 6th, 2009  | By: Daichi  | Categories: Anime, Movies  | Tags: , ,

So I caught Sword of the Stranger in theaters this evening. The movie itself was great. A nice and simple storyline with some great action scenes. While the storyline does not feel like anything original when you look at the root of the story, I do not have anything to complain about. Even the dub is pretty darn good. Really, just sit back enjoy the action and obscene violence. While I wholeheartedly recommend the movie, I can not say the same about the Fathom Events venue.

I have caught quite a few Japanese movies in theater before. Just to list a few off the top of my head: Spirited Away, Steamboy, Howl’s Moving Castle, The Place Promised in Our Early Days, a Dragonball Double feature, Maiko Haaaan!!!, Vexille, 5cm Per Second, The Girl Who Leapt Through Time… Anyway, these were all great movies, but I am digressing. I just want to point out that I think I know what a semi decent theater experience should be like.

Now last year, Viz started distributing their films through Fathom Events. I caught Bleach, and both Death Note movies. I saw all of these up in Seattle. These movies experiences had two major issues: the audio sounded like it was blasting stereo from the front (almost like loud mono) and the video had major interlacing issues. You do not really notice the video interlacing too much during live action films like Death Note, but you could really see it in Bleach’s action scenes. The audio quality really depends on where you were sitting in the theater.

Okay, so at least the movies were a good watch, maybe it is the theater that is causing the problems. Fathom Event’s does offer a pretty nice theater selection for it’s movie distribution. So skipping on Seattle this time, I tried out a theater in Federal Way instead. Any better? Nope, to start with, it was more expensive then before and right in the beginning of the film, they had audio issues, where it periodically cut out in-and-out the first ten or so minutes of the movie. After that the audio was full blast straight in front of you, kind of like the prior movies. Took my ears a bit to get used to the loud unbalanced volume. Oh how I really wished for good balanced surround sound. During only a couple scenes did I realize there was actually more then one speaker playing the audio.

The video quality on this one was worst then Bleach. First off, you could see a checker pattern in the screen, which was probably the pixels of the fabled NCM “high-definition digital presentation” projector. Now, when I saw Bleach, it looked deinterlaced via frame blending, which is when you see two frames overlapping each other at the same time. This does not look very good, but I can manage with this style. SotS however, just looked plain wrong, like it was interlaced backwards with the fields out of order. What was very odd, was scenery panning was typically smooth and beautiful, but anything with an “actor” on screen was jerky as heck. Oh and Sword and the Stranger had some awesome action scenes, to bad it was a big blur that was very hard to follow. Might be a latency issue on the projector doubled with the horrible deinterlacing, I am not quite sure. I would not be surprised if people walked away with a headache at the end.

I really would not be surprised if Fathom just plays DVDs. Deviating a little off topic, I just do not understand why North America is still stuck with interlaced DVDs after all these long years. We have had the ability to play progressive content for quite a while now, Japan has a number of beautiful progressive DVDs: Kanon, Clannad, or Evangelion 1.0 anyone? Geesh, the Americian Kanon R1 DVDs look horrible in comparison to the R2 Japanese disks. While the bitrate is not too bad, the interlacing ruins the crispness of everything. I really just wish Blu-ray would be adopted faster just so I would not have to deal with so much rubbish interlacing. With HD video, I think that fact that your video is progressive is a more an improvement then the resolution upgrade.

Back on the topic of Fathom Events, this is really unforgivable, with the movie costs just getting more expensive, it is just an excuse to pay a lot to watch a lousy quality DVD on a really big screen. I can get a better experience at home on my 27 inch LCD, with household grade hardware. Heck, I am not crazy for the Dragonball dub, but when I went to see Dragonball in theater, I got a free T-Shirt and Poster. Extra goodies can do no wrong. I do hope for another decent distribution for Japanese movies to open up somewhere, because Funimation has not done anything with their distro in a while and Fathom Events is just offering you a delightful deep dull pain pounding in the front of your brain. And by delightful, I mean I would rather puncture my head with a pitchfork. With Fathom, your best bet is to wait for the release on disk.

Anyway, do check out Sword and the Stranger when it comes out. I am hoping for a Blu-ray release myself, I sure think it is most definitely worth another watch.

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