This past weekend saw Anime Boston, the northeast’s largest convention dedicated to anime, manga, and Japanese culture, held at the Hynes Convention Center. Several thousand otaku, the majority of which in cosplay, braved the cold and snow to mingle with their fellow fans. On Friday, a band named The Beach Episode, greeted con-goers with renditions of popular anime, video game, and cartoon theme songs such as The Legend of Zelda.
One of the highlights of this year’s show was the grand premiere of the English dub of the eagerly anticipated movie Sword Art Online: Ordinal Scale. Following the events of the popular television series, SAO: Ordinal Scale finds protagonists Kirito, Asuna, and their friends once again playing a video game, but this time instead of immersing themselves in a digital realm a new technology allows for enhanced reality where players engage in combat in the real world against virtual foes. Naturally, a sinister plot threatens them once again.
Special guest Cherami Leigh was on hand for a Q&A session in which she discussed her ten years of working in the voice acting industry. When asked about her experience making this movie and reprising the role of Asuna, Ms. Leigh said, “She goes through a lot of changes in the movie and her relationship with Kirito grows. You kind of see how much of a positive effect being in SAO series affected her.”
She went on to say that it spoke to real life issues in that many fans of games and animation are misunderstood by others in their lives who do understand their passion. “I think that something for people, specifically parents, who don’t think that games or anime can positively affect someone. There are things you learn about yourself, gain confidence levels, and things you didn’t know you had in when you’re playing once you step outside of yourself and realize, “I can do this.” A lot of the characters in the series realize this in the movie. So I hope that it opens people’s eyes that aren’t as accepting of anime or games.”
In discussing the themes of technology taking over one’s life Ms. Leigh said, “But at the same time there’s that cautionary tale that’s been very prevalent with SAO of being careful with what technology is now able to do, like getting trapped in this virtual world or what it might do to our brains and the crazy things that happen. It’s definitely scary but it’s really cool and I was excited to work on it.”
She also mentioned that the recording sessions gave her a rare opportunity to collaborate with the Japanese creators, “I watched it subbed and met the creative team from Japan and they were able to guide me in some of my recording sessions which is very rare to have the director, Tomohiko Ito, present. He told me about the process of recording in Japan and there were a couple of moments he said he wanted to be sure were exactly right for this version. It was great to have our English writer/director, Alex von David, and the Japanese creative team working together.”
Fellow voice actor Patrick Seitz, who plays Agil in SAO, was also a guest of Anime Boston 2017. He said following the screening, “The SAO fans were really hyped for this movie. It’s great to see that reaction and that the fanbase is still so strong after all these years. I liked that the movie was an original story continued the series and not a rehash of previous episodes.”
Ms. Leigh was quick to point out that one does not have to any prior knowledge to enjoy the movie. “They did a really great job with the movie because you don’t have to have seen the entire series in order to watch (it). “You can pick up with the movie and they’ll do some exposition to catch you up on what you might have missed. My husband hadn’t seen much of the series when he watched the movie (in its original Japanese) and it didn’t affect his awareness or catching up with the story at all.”
Sword Art Online: Ordinal Scale hits theaters on April 22, 2017. For further information, please go to their website: sao-movie.net/us