College Hill’s Manga Manga to Host the First-Ever Cincinnati Anime Film Fest

“Our mission with the shop is to celebrate Asian art and stories. And the film festival is just another version of that."

Jun 12, 2024 at 5:07 am
The Cincinnati Anime Film Fest takes place July 11, 18, 20 and 25 and Aug. 1 and 8 at The Hollywood Drive-In Theatre.
The Cincinnati Anime Film Fest takes place July 11, 18, 20 and 25 and Aug. 1 and 8 at The Hollywood Drive-In Theatre. Photo: Provided by Manga Manga

In early June, College Hill’s Manga Manga launched its first-ever Cincinnati Anime Film Fest (CAFF) with 1995’s cult classic Ghost in the Shell at The Woodward Theater. Now, fans of Japanese comics and animation can feast on six screenings this July and August — all at The Hollywood Drive-In Theatre, located in the parking lot behind Manga Manga’s storefront.

When C. Jacqueline Wood first opened Manga Manga in April 2022, it was already in the back of her mind to create programming around anime. After all, anime films and TV shows are often based on manga, and vice versa. 

“Our mission with the shop is to celebrate Asian art and stories,” says Wood. “And the film festival is just another version of that. We started doing meetups last summer and it was a really interesting way to build community.”

Wood goes on to list various meetups, which included everything from a Japanese conversation night to a cosplay event and a teen hangout. 

“That was a really exciting way to bring people together to talk and learn about manga, Japanese culture and Asian culture,” says Wood. “The drive-in screenings are just another extension of bringing people together with a shared interest of participating in a community-minded activity. And the drive-in is really fun! People love movies; this will add something exciting to people’s summertime plans.”

CAFF, which Wood describes as a celebration rather than a traditional film fest, also allowed her to dip back into film programming. Prior to opening Manga Manga, Wood founded and helmed The Mini Microcinema, an experimental film nonprofit. She also worked as a film curator for FotoFocus Cincinnati. CAFF combines that past experience with her current business. 

“Film is my passion and it’s really neat to be back in that space doing the thing I love the most,” says Wood. “It’s really cool for me that the shop can support film programming through the Cincinnati Anime Film Fest, and that the mission can still be there at the core but in a different form. I’ve always loved community building. It’s what I used to do with The Mini Microcinema and what I’ve tried to do with Manga Manga.”

The emphasis on community is evident even in the program materials; Wood commissioned artists to create art for the program. She also asked five people to write about their experiences watching the films, which were used in the program’s descriptions. 

Wood emphasizes that she doesn’t consider herself a manga, anime or Japanese culture “expert,” but she is a fan. She goes on to explain that she has always worked to treat the art form with respect in how she runs Manga Manga. She aims to do the same with CAFF. 

Screenings take place on Thursdays at 7:30 p.m. throughout July and August, starting with a nostalgic childhood throwback on July 11: 2004’s Yu-Gi-Oh! The Movie: Pyramid of Light (PG) directed by Hatsuki Tsuji.

Other screenings include a recording of the play adaptation of Studio Ghibli’s beloved Spirited Away (NR) on July 18 and Saturday, July 20. Directed by John Caird, Wood says the first screening features Cast A and stars Kanna Hashimoto; Saturday’s showing stars Mone Kamishiraishi with Cast B. 

“With Spirited Away: Live on Stage, which is a really beautiful adaptation of the Miyazaki animation, they required us to do two screenings,” says Wood. “There were two different casts and so they recorded it twice. What you’ll be watching is the stage play.”

While the stipulation was interesting, it also gives fest-goers more chances to take in the stage adaptation’s puppetry, costumes and musical numbers. If viewers wanted, Wood says they could even watch both and compare the casts. 

Next up is The First Slam Dunk (PG-13) on July 25. Directed by Takehiko Inoue, the movie is based on a Shōnen Jump manga series that follows a delinquent high schooler’s quest to woo his dream girl and help his basketball team reach the national championship.

“I knew I wanted to include a sports anime; Slam Dunk was the perfect choice for that,” says Wood. “Takehiko Inoue is a very famous mangaka, or manga artist. His most famous, I would say, is Vagabond. Even though it’s an older series, it’s still very popular. But he also created Slam Dunk, which is very popular. The First Slam Dunk movie is a recent release in 2022. I’m not sure how many people have seen it, so it’s exciting to bring it to the festival.” 

August programming kicks off on Aug. 1 with CAFF’s sci-fi pick: Metropolis (PG-13), which Wood says is also an ode to Osamu Tezuka, known as “the Godfather of manga.” Along with Metropolis — now out of print and hard to find — he created classic manga like Astroboy. Released in 2001, Metropolis is another throwback. 

“It has a really interesting soundtrack. The animation is beautiful,” says Wood. “It has a bit of everything. It has suspense. It has mystery and a little bit of romance. It’s a really powerful film. Any anime or manga fan should see this because it influenced a lot of work after it.” 

Speaking of romance, 2019’s Weathering With You (PG-13) by Makoto Shinkai winds the fest down on Aug. 8. Shinkai is also known for Your Name and, more recently, 2022’s Suzume. Wood points out that Weathering With You is based on a light novel: a type of book native to Japan aimed at teens and young adults. 

Concessions will be available at each screening; Wood also encourages fest-goers to come early and grab dinner at a nearby College Hill restaurant or explore the store, which will also be open late for anyone who wants to pop in after the movie. All screenings are in Japanese with English subtitles, except for Yu-Gi-Oh!, which is in English dub. 

After the fest, there will be a casual Friday wrap-up on Aug. 9 from 6-8 p.m. on the patio outside of the shop. Customers can discuss what they watched over the summer and connect over their shared interests. 

Tickets are $25 per car and $6 if you opt to bring your own chair and radio. Children under age 10 are free for walk-up tickets; minors must be accompanied by an adult. 

The Cincinnati Anime Film Fest takes place July 11, 18, 20 and 25 and Aug. 1 and 8 at The Hollywood Drive-In Theatre. For more info, visit mangacincinnati.com/cincy-anime-film-fest