Sitting in the darkened theatre, feet sticking to the floor and salt assaulting your nostrils, the sound of foreign voices fill the room. The English subtitles flashing across the bottom of the screen are the only clues that you haven’t stepped through the doors and across the oceans to Japan. That and the loud Somerset accents of the family two rows in front.
Anime screenings have been setting UK records in a way not seen since ‘Spirited Away’ and other Ghibli hits. When ‘Your Name’ (aka Kimi No Na Wa) hit UK cinemas in November 2016 it quickly became a hit, ranking number 14 despite only appearing in 23 cinemas nationwide. According to distributor FUNimation Films, the movie made $108,372 on its opening day, a UK record.
The success of the critically acclaimed Makoto Shinkai picture has paved the way for a new wave of Japanese anime films to appear in UK cinemas. The film was soon followed by ‘A Silent Voice’ (aka Koe No Katachi) in March 2017 and the Sword Art Online movie ‘Ordinal Scale’ in April 2017.
As well as national success, one Dorset cinema is leading the way in anime screenings. Cineworld Poole, in Dorset, is set to show three more anime films in the next three months, with ‘Fairy Tail: Dragon Cry’ in May, ‘In this Corner of the World’ in July, and ‘Napping Princess’ in August.
“I personally love anime because it’s usually so sentimental, emotional, and beautifully drawn”
And it seems like this is a trend set to continue, Terry Whitehead, the Cineworld Poole General Manager explained that “Cineworld aims to screen a wide range of films in order to accommodate the varying preferences of the area.” He goes on “At Cineworld Poole we’ve seen a real interest from the community in anime films…”
So, the local area seems a driving force for the wave of anime films, local cosplay groups have around 250 members and the Anime Society at Bournemouth University, just 3 miles down the road from Cineworld Poole, has over 500 members. The local businesses also reflect this, Bournemouth has had a “tech boom” according to local company Redweb, with companies expanding so fast that “1 in 5 jobs aren’t filled yet.”
Locals are enjoying the new screenings, Sam Bale lives in Poole and works at the local Cineworld and is excited by the variation “I think it’s really cool that we do them personally because… it’s obviously something rather different” and according to him it isn’t just Japanese anime that Cineworld Poole have been pushing, “alongside it we’ve done Bollywood films and we’ve started doing Polish films too!”
For Sam, the rise in anime films comes more from a desire for “variation” for audiences, with the amount of rom coms, action films, and thrillers that all seem to be clones of the last film that came out. Anime provides a new and exciting way to experience familiar genres.
Hannah Siobhan, who is a Supervisor at Cineworld Poole, thinks the expansion is part of a wider “trend” in Bournemouth and Poole. Bournemouth recently had its own comicon and, much like comic book films, Hannah thinks that “it’s just more accepted now”.
But for many, anime remains an inaccessible medium, these screenings do not have audio description for partially sighted customers who cannot read subtitles. It is also a medium for the younger generation, with the median age of subscribers to Crunchyroll (the leading UK anime streaming service) at 18 and 75% of their users under the age of 35, according to their own statistics.
Just the prospect of having to read subtitles puts many off and whilst ‘Your Name’ has begun screenings of an English dub in the US, it’s coming over 6 months later when much of the hype and excitement has died down.
But Hannah is determined to spread the joys of Japanese anime film as far as possible, to those that are sceptical she says “try a movie that will be so different and original to what they are used to watching… I personally love anime because it’s usually so sentimental, emotional, and beautifully drawn.”
Whilst the rest of the country is yet to follow the push for anime films, if Cineworld Poole can reap success, then we can expect a huge boom in UK anime.
The National Health Service has been a recurring problem for governments since its inception in 1948. Rising costs, inefficiencies, scandals, and funding allocation disputes have led to a rise in government re-organisations of the NHS. Since the first one in 1974, the NHS has been reorganised 9 more times, most recently in 2012 under current Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt.
The Health & Social Care Act, 2012, which laid out the most recent restructuring was pitched by the government as a way to remove bureaucracy and improve efficiency. However, 5 years on and The King’s Fund’s (an independent healthcare charity) ‘Quarterly Monitoring Report’, which surveys NHS trust finance directors and clinical commissioning groups, is predicting a £873 million deficit in NHS budgets for 2016/17.
“30% think private provisions of NHS-funded care would improve the health service”
The repeated failures of reorganizations have led to some to call for a complete change of healthcare system, such as Ann Widdecombe, who called for a “mature debate” about healthcare funding on a recent episode of Question Time. The Dutch system of healthcare is a favourite of those wishing to completely change the way we fund healthcare.
In the UK our NHS is funded mostly by taxation, around 80%, with the remaining share coming from National Insurance contributions, prescription charges, land sales, and fundraising schemes. Data from the OECD think tank but UK spending on health care at 9.9% of GDP for 2014, behind our Western European neighbours.
This disparity is reflected in the quality of healthcare, the Netherlands has repeatedly topped healthcare rankings, most recently in 2015 when they topped the Health Consumer Powerhouse company’s ‘Euro Health Consumer Index’. The report points towards the Dutch system of having competition between a range of insurance companies, leading to greater patient choice in the healthcare they receive and greater accessibility to healthcare.
One of the few criticisms that come up in the report is a reliance on ‘in-patient care’, where patients are admitted to hospital to receive care, and a tendency to institutionalize elderly and vulnerable patients. The report claims this may explain why the Dutch spend a full percentage point more than the UK on health care as a proportion of GDP.
The more pressing and obvious issue that proponents of this system will have to face is the public opinion. The Dutch system requires, by law, that every resident have a health insurance plan, with those that cannot afford having their payments subsidised by the government. An Ipsos MORI poll conducted in April 2015 showed 85% of voters wanted the NHS to be “tax-funded, free at the point of use, and provides comprehensive care to all citizens”. The same poll also showed that whilst 30% think private provisions of NHS-funded care would improve the health service, 33% said it would make it worse.
Hallam Wiltshire, a Pharmacist at RP Healthcare, believes the conversation needs to change “from privatisation to patient choice” and describes that as “the driving factor in all quality healthcare”. He points towards the current way in which prescriptions can be collected in the UK, with patients choosing which pharmacy they go to. He claims “it drives innovation and you compete for patients based purely on service, whether you want short waiting times, a pharmacist always available, or a free delivery service.”
However, Jet, a Dutch student currently living in the UK for a year, suggests the system isn’t as accessible as Hallam claims: “The experience I had last time with the NHS was really good… I do love how I literally just need to sign in to get free medicine… In the Netherlands I pay 15 euro. (sic)” She goes on to explain that it can often be harder to see a specialist as “we want to be really sure… as we have to pay for it.”
One of the advantages Jet does enjoy is the ability to travel to other European countries for treatment, a right that UK citizens often have to pay extra for. Jet’s health insurance plan costs €1210 a year, but as she is a student the Dutch government subsidises €960, meaning she pays €250 a year. For context, an average UK student with a part-time job pays around £198.72 a year in National Insurance contributions.
I also met with Louis, a UK resident who was born 6 weeks prematurely with a heart condition and had a stroke shortly after. When I asked if his mum could afford the Dutch insurance he replied simply “God no.”. Louis says “If it wasn’t for the NHS I probably wouldn’t be here, it’s great, except the food is awful!” He goes on, “I get that it’s not perfect, but I needed it, would it be worth my life for a few hours saved in a waiting room? What about hundreds of other people’s lives?” In his eyes, it just isn’t worth the risk.
Sadly for Louis, the public is worried it won’t last, with 63% of respondents in the Ipsos MORI poll saying they don’t think the NHS will be free at the point of use within the next 5 years. The debate rages on, in the meantime, people’s lives remain in the balance.
Check out my double page spread on Anime Cinema in the UK: