“Mappa! Mappa! Mappa! Mappa!” 8:45 p.m., Sunday, March 13. The Grand Rex, in Paris, is sold out. In the gigantic Parisian cinema hall, 2,400 Japanese animation fans are gathered to preview the film Jujutsu Kaisen 0highly anticipated adaptation of Gege Akutami’s hit manga.
The walls and the armchairs tremble to the rhythm of the cries of the public, which acclaims Mappa, a Japanese studio renowned for the quality of its animation and at the controls of “JJK0”. The film begins to thunderous applause, which intensifies as Gojo, one of the charismatic heroes of this dark fantasy story, appears on screen. For 1h45, they will have a blast.
These days, it’s not enough to go to bookstores, on social networks or to the Japan Expo to shout out your love for Japanese animation. According to the decibels propelled during the previews of recent films Demon Slayer: The Infinity Train, My Hero Academia: World Heroes’ Mission and Jujutsu Kaisen 0 (in theaters this Wednesday), the cinema is now the place par excellence to take the pulse of the mad craze for Japanese culture in France.
“The mission is to have a good time”
The Grand Rex has established itself as the nerve center of this phenomenon. “They play a lot with this explosive atmosphere trying to heat the room”, confirms the twittos Shironeki. For Spider Younesanother Internet user who has become a regular at the place, these sessions were designed above all to allow fans “to share and experience the film together”.
“It’s rare to find yourself with the community in front of a film”, adds UrbanLePharaon, content creator specializing in manga and animation. “The mission is to enjoy the moment. We then see whether to shout or not.”
We call these fans “monkey” or “mood stripper” who “like to share the film and the emotions it provides with the whole room”, summarizes Spider-Younes. “It goes through screams during ‘hyping’ scenes, intense fights, unexpected turnarounds, or exclamations during quite shocking scenes.”
Last year, “Eren Jäger” was the rallying cry of these fans, in reference to a cult scene from The attack of the Titans. “You don’t see a lot of people shouting ‘Eren Jaeger’ anymore,” Shironeki remarks. “It had become very awkward.” “Some still do it, but they get booed by the room”, laughs MissSosoco-host of the preview of Jujutsu Kaisen 0. That evening, some fans had nevertheless passed the word to shout “Squid Game” during the session.
A recent phenomenon
From the memory of spectators, these scenes of jubilation are recent. “It started with Dragon Ball Super: Broly [sorti en 2019, NDLR]. There was this phenomenon during the previews”, notes Olivier Fallaix, Japanese animation specialist who works for the Crunchyroll platform. According to the YouTuber Otakultthis phenomenon applies “often only to large cities”: “In Grenoble for example, I have never been confronted with this kind of atmosphere, whether it concerns anime or not.”
The enthusiasm there was for Star Wars and The Lord of the Rings “has been postponed to Jujutsu Kaisen and My Hero Academia“, comments the presenter Mehdi Aouichaouiwho notably worked on Dragon Ball Super: Broly. “Japanese animation mobilizes a fanbase that no longer exists for other current licenses, except for Marvel.”
“Having a Japanese series that arrives in the form of a film in a cinema such as the Grand Rex, it remains a small miracle, even in 2022”, notes the content creator Marie Palotalso in charge of hosting the preview of Jujutsu Kaisen 0. “It’s a real recognition for this community to have such a film screened in one of the most beautiful theaters in the world. It’s also the promise of discovering the same films as the Japanese.”
These “decibel competitions” are most often encouraged by the distributors of these films or the organizers of these screenings, fond of the publicity provided by videos made on site by fans, which are then relayed hundreds of thousands of times on social networks. At the start of the session, content creators are also mandated to heat the room.
“Sometimes you just need to say a character’s name and people are screaming,” says MlleSoso. “Manga and anime fans react very easily. Especially in a movie theater for a movie they’ve been waiting months for.” “We are the match thrown on a brazier already on fire”, sums up Marie Palot. “We’re going to over-excite them before the movie so that maybe they’ll be calm during the screening. Or it will be worse.”
Not everyone is sensitive to this display of energy. “I sometimes have the impression that this can distort an entire appreciation of the film concerned”, laments Otakulte. “We go to the previews just to see the film first”, abounds the twittos Lait.eau, for whom “there is no reason for the atmosphere to be different from a normal session.” Especially since the most important thing remains, according to Lilloutre, to appreciate “the comfort and the quality of these films in the cinema.”
They are a majority to think like them, to believe a survey organized on Twitter on January 26 by the Internet user Lilloutre, and attended by 7,559 fans. 74.9% of voters said they preferred to see the film in a quiet room. An astonishing score, recognizes the twittos: “I was rather surprised with the result, I expected it to be tighter, even that the preference was for the strong atmosphere.”
Because for many fans of Japanese animation, these festive atmospheres are often more unforgettable than the films themselves. “I’ve never stood up to scream in a movie theater before. Thanks to My Hero Academia to exist, seriously”, had thus summed up on Twitter the Koumo influencer last January after the preview of My Hero Academia: World Heroes’ Mission.
For the tweeters Aruriothe projection of one piece stampede in October 2019 remains “the best experience” of his life: “Seeing so many fans gathered for the same passion is a feeling that you have to live”, he assures. “Each appearance of a character loved by the community One Piece made the room scream. Every attack, every revelation made people scream.”
So many reactions that make YouTuber Otakulte say that these sessions worthy of a “big football stadium atmosphere” are “like what the anime community has become, all for the hype [ndlr: l’enthousiasme] and overreaction.” He denounces “excessive and sometimes even inappropriate reactions depending on the context of the film”.
Lait.eau compares these fans to “hyenas”: “It looks like they are screaming and getting up only to follow the movement and set the mood in the room and not for the stage.” Without forgetting those who have fun shouting spoilers at the start of the session or taking videos with the flash during the film. “A little prevention message for flashes during the session might not hurt!”, implores Shironeki.
“We don’t have these instructions”, specifies Marie Palot. “As a preview at the Grand Rex, there’s always security that comes straight to people who pull out their phones. But they can’t be everywhere at once.” This is what happened at the end of January during the preview of My Hero Academia: World Heroes’ Missionof which Spider-Younes has a bitter memory:
“There was a lot of commotion, people talking during the movie, people filming with the flash on, and people screaming for nothing and running around up and down the stairs. friendly atmosphere where everyone shares their emotions with the rest of the room, as long as it remains limited to the appropriate scenes. During scenes that emphasize the progress of the plot, I do not validate because it is totally unnecessary and just disturbing.”
At the Grand Rex, this Sunday March 13, for Jujutsu Kaisen 0, the jubilation was just as intense, but confined to one part of the room. The spectators installed on the mezzanines did not attend the spectacle of certain fans getting up and putting themselves bare-chested during the appearance of Todo, a very popular character from this universe.
Not the same communities
Not all Japanese animated films arouse such enthusiasm. The last works of Mamoru Hosoda (Beautiful109,164 spectators last January) and Makoto Shinkai (The Children of Time228,006 in January 2020) generate less excitement than My Hero Academia: World Heroes Mission (246,407 last January) and Demon Slayer: The Infinity Train (727,889 in June 2021).
“It’s not the same emotions,” says Arurio. “Beautiful Where The Children of Time don’t have a community before the film is shown, and audiences aren’t as attached to the characters and the universe as they are to Jujutsu Kaisen 0“, analysis of his side Lait.eau.
These films derived from popular manga also attract an audience looking for moments of bravery (“sakuga”) different from those offered by Japanese animation auteur cinema. “The Children of Time emphasizes the beauty of the narrative, the landscapes, the beauty of the graphic style, and the story while the film MHA emphasizes the action scenes, the fights, the ‘badass’ scenes”, specifies Spider-Younes.
Projections of One Pieceyet one of the most popular mangas of the moment in France, escape this kind of overflow, still assures Arurio: “There was a respect like there is not for certain animated films in the cinema. No joke during the movie. No shouting for no reason and we could listen to the movie quite quietly.”
“The last movie One Piece goes back a few years already”, remarks Olivier Fallaix, however. “It was after it started…” See you this year at the previews of the new spin-off film Red to find out if the fans have changed.
“I will enjoy it at home in 4k”
To avoid the over-excited atmospheres of the previews, some fans are ready to wait for a video release of films they have always dreamed of seeing on the big screen. “People ages 18-25 screaming at the cinema in front of a shonen… I’ll see it and enjoy it at home in 4k,” squeaked like this Internet user Mirai last January.
This problem remains very French. “In Japan, it doesn’t happen like that”, underlines Thomas Romain, co-creator of the series Code Lyoko, who has worked in the Japanese industry for about 20 years. “Movie theaters are as quiet as libraries. Nobody says anything. There’s no applause. It’s super respectful. But I think it’s cool that people are really like that. cartoon, I would be very happy if people reacted like that.”
And France is nowhere near the decibel level of American anime fans. The animator Vincent Chansard, who works in particular on the series Borutoremembers a session of Demon Slayer particularly lively in a cinema in Washington, where he lives: “Americans like to make noise. In the room, there was really this communion. Beers were flying. It was very lively. It was a dedicated audience, acquired in the film, completely ready to give of their body and their voice to make their emotions felt.”