Setting the actual movie aside for a bit, Bandai and the other sponsors set up quite a nice event at this unsuspecting mall theater. When we showed up at 6pm there was already a moderate queue. Though the event officially started at 7:30, the staff decided to begin the voice actor meet-and-greet/signing at 6:30 so we could wait inside the theater. All attendees recieved free movie posters signed in person by the dub voice actors Wendee Lee (Haruhi) and Crispin Freeman(Kyon), a raffle ticket, and a free copy of either the first english novel (the dreadfully ugly paperback) or the first manga volume courtesy of YenPress.
Rather than running ads or trailers for the pre-show entertainment Bandai showed the first two episodes of the recently completed season 2 dub, a pleasant surprise even if I despise dubs. At 7:30, (the actual starting time) the ASOS Brigade (Bandai's semi-viral marketing team) featuring Christina Vee (a popular fandubber/budding VA; again not my cup of tea) preformed a skit and a few of the songs (both in English and Japanese) with the accompanying videos on screen behind them. After this the movie finally ran (more on that below) and after the movie there was a raffle for Crunchyroll subscriptions (Aki won one :)) and the opportunity to get your poster signed by Christina Vee(from above) and Stephanie Sheh (The dub's Mikuru). Though not exciting, the final event feature was that attendees got atleast 5 hours of parking validation in the very expensive garage, longer than the usual validation given by the theater.
Just the guests, giveaways, prescreenings and parking credit alone were enough to warrant the 15$ admission fee (which sold out in 24 hours). This was a superbly handled event, especially for dub fans (and us sub fans got to see the movie subbed so no reason to feel shorted either). Especially since we combined this with a trip to Little Tokyo, the trip had all the makings of a convention (even overpriced concessions). Well done Bandai, well done.
I don't want to say too much in fear of spoiling it, so I won't detail the plot beyond what the title gives away. It asks, what would happen if Haruhi completely disappeared one day and no-one besides Kyon remembers the world ever being otherwise? Obviously this movie is meant for fans of the TV series and even those who have seen season one (but not two) might be confused (luckily Bandai showed some of season two before the movie). As long as you fit this billing (and if you're reading this you probably do) Disappearance does not disappoint. Blessed with a longer than average running time (163 minutes) and a budget to match, it is a joy to watch. The story is compelling and hooks you in, I cannot remember the last time I have left a theater wanting to watch something again immediately. I rarely see the same movie at the cinema twice but if I could I would have bought a ticket for the next showing. I loved it.
The theatrical presentation was from an actual film print, with unfortunately white subtitles (a bit hard to see but unlikely to be the same as the future DVD). The translation was competent and the picture was clearly a step above the DVD video that was shown earlier. I have no technical complaints (even if I did they would be rather moot as this was a one-day event).
So that's that. Unfortunately for those who missed the showing, Bandai hasn't announced the movie's DVD release date yet ( I plan on preordering the DVD ASAP). However, season two went up for preorder recently (and i already reserved mine). Half of it is Endless Eight but the set price isn't bad considering the feature list:
Street Date: 2010/08/17
Price: $64.98 SRP (45$ @ amazon)
Language: Japanese Language Dialogue / English Language Dialogue / Optional English Subtitles
Bonus Features: Interactive Menus (Exciting!) Location Scouting Videos / Behind the Scenes of Aya Hirano’s Music Video (but not the music video?) / Endless Eight Prologue (because you really wanted more E8) /Special Event Video / Promo Videos / Commercials / Adventures of the ASOS Brigade Episodes / CD Tracks: Super Driver / Tomare!
So 14 (or 9 depending on your view of Endless Eight) episodes of anime and some sweet J-Pop for 45$? Seems like a good way to spend time while waiting for the Disappearance DVD :)