Screenings this month to allow shouting, cosplay, and glow sticks.
Like a lot of pop culture phenomena in Japan, there’s a bit of a dichotomy behind the success of hit movie Shin Godzilla. On one hand, the film, which is largely the baby of director Hideaki Anno, treats the implications of a kaiju attack with more weighty realism than any other Godzilla film in recent memory. On the other hand, it’s still a giant monster flick, making it part of a genre that has a certain viscerally entertaining excitement to it, plus arguably a touch of inescapable silliness.
It’s those latter qualities that distributor Toho is indulging in with a series of special fan-oriented screenings of Shin Godzilla, which encourage moviegoers to come in cosplay, shout at the screen, and wave glow sticks inside the darkened theater. In the past, other film companies have tried to get Japanese crowds involved, sometimes with disappointing results, but that doesn’t look like it’s been a problem for Shin Godzilla, with this in-theater video full of all sorts of audience participation.
Taken at an early special screening in Tokyo’s Shinjuku, the audience makes itself heard the moment the movie starts, shouting “Show us what you can do, Hideaki Anno!” as soon as the lights go down at the video’s 0:34 mark.
In addition to cheering as their favorite characters make their initial appearances and face the challenges the movie throws at them, the audience plays off of specific lines, too. So when one character solemnly tells another, “I wanted to warn you” at 1:12, the audience calls out, “He warned you!”
And during the genre-mandatory scene, at 1:18, where a government official looks at shaky footage of a monster for the first time and incredulously asks, “What is that?”, the audience has the answer.
▼ “It’s his tail!”
Craft-oriented types even showed up with signs decorated with the lines they were prepared to shout, adding a surreal but stylish bit of punctuation to stern-faced disaster response meetings.
▼ “Give us your decision!!”
Even the glow stick use is color-coordinated, with red for when Godzilla is on-screen and green for the members of the Self-Defense Forces trying to stop him.
The video includes a reminder from distributor Toho that this is just how things went at one screening, so there’s no pressure to follow the examples. “We hope that at each theater the audiences will be able to enjoy it in their own way,” says the message concludes, and if you’d like to be part of that, the list of theaters for the next round of special screenings, to be held September 15 can be found here.
Follow Casey on Twitter, where he’s wondering if there are still any anime conventions that encourage audience participation at showings of Fast Food Freedom Fighters.