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A Belated SakuraCon 2007 Wrap Up

Anime Director Akitaro Daichi does some samurai cosplayA little over a week a go, the northwest’s biggest anime convention, Sakura Con, came and went with a bevy of big guests, including Fruits Basket Director Akitaro Daichi, Hellsing creator Kouta Hirano, Trigun Yasuhiro Nightow and Read Or Die creator Hideyuki Kurata, J-Pop acts Lin Clover and m.o.v.e., tons of great voice actors and even a few popular webcomic artists. Of course, the big announcements, such as Bandai’s acquisition of Sunrise’s Zega Pain and FUNimation’s licencing of Hell Girl, and surprising events like the now notorious Bandai Visual USA panel where Kyle Pope of ANN/ToonZone, Jesse Betteridge of Zannen.ca, myself and other panel-goers politely but directly delineated the folly of R2 pricing in North America, were soon relayed, but there are still interesting figures and tidbits.

For example, FUNimation followed their announcement of Hell Girl with some compelling business news. Namely, that they now compose 31.5% of US anime market as of March 2007, a 8.3 percent gain over their market share in 2006, a gain they largely attribute to word of mouth, though they also mentioned that their Limited Edition DVDs have been doing outstandingly well as they often sell out. Speaking of percentages though, they also mentioned that 90% of Gonzo’s anime output in 2006 was licenced by FUNimation, a previously unknown and fairly interesting figure. Additionally, they noted that their foray on to iTunes has been very profitable and successful, with brand manager Jonathan Brands going so far as to say it has been “making money hand over fist.” They were also very happy that partial seasons are now being made available on iTunes for FUNimation series currently running on TV. On the TV note, they hinted that CN was on the brink of picking up another FUNimation title, and that IFC was also looking at acquiring more FUNimation titles. Additionally, they are in talks to Comcast about getting the FUNimation Channel on Comcast in some fashion. FUNimation also had a booth at the Grammy Awards, where they were plugging their anime related clothing, and that apparently they drew some interest from various famous musicians.

On the upcoming series side, they mentioned that Beck volume 1 will be coming in an Amp-shaped collector’s box that can be customized with removable decals included with the box. Additionally, Beck’s volume 1 with box release will include a faux-leather wristband, and each volume of Beck will come with a special guitar pick. Afro Samurai will be getting a fairly posh release as well, as their will be tons of on DVDs extras and some very cool packaging for both the TV Broadcast and Director’s Cut versions. On a less feature packed note, Tsubasa volume 1 will come in a very cool box, but that will be the only physical extra for the release, as the box was just that expensive. However, Tsubasa will atleast be getting great merchandising out of FUNi, as they are going to release some Mokona hats (just like the Fruits Baskets hats) later this year as a con exclusive with wide release occuring later. Tsubasa will also be getting a big marketing push from FUNimation as they are partnering with Gaia Online to promote the series, and they even provide special Tsubasa-related content for Gaia’s user base. They also reconfirmed that they only have the first season of the Tsubasa TV series, and the xxxHolic and Tsubasa movies. On that note, the reps also mentioned that second half of Kodocha is currently up in the air, so they may or may not license the rest of it. FUNimation’s panel was fairly lively in general, and they wrapped it up by giving every panel attendee a Suzuka logo patch (which will be on sale Anime Boston as con exclusive.)

m.o.v.e at opening ceremoniesOf course, it’s not all been sunshine in the anime industry. While Geneon did screen some of Black Lagoon which the crowd absolutely went wild for, some of When They Cry which was all kinds of disturbing, passed around the steel book case that Black Lagoon volume 1 will be coming in (like the Hellsing OVA Limited Edition case, but capable of holding 4 discs) and showed off the excellent Rozen Maiden prototype box which features gold-leaf printing on a burgundy psuedo-velvet-covered box, they also mentioned that their CD division was slammed into an indefinite hiatus by the Musicland bankruptcy, as they were 80 percent of their sales. They are currently working with other music retailers to build that business back up, but until then, they’ll have no new OST announcements. They also noted that for cost reasons, they’ll be using the Singapore English dub by Odex for Karin. This isn’t with out precedent for Geneon either as they used the Odex dub of Zipang. However, Geneon is betting that Black Lagoon is going to be big, and they are apparently putting most of their marketing muscle behind it. They also noted that Ocean Studios in Canada is doing the dub for Black Lagoon and Samurai Horror Tales – Ayakashi. Additionally, they showed off that each volume When They Cry will have a reversible cover, one side cute, one side scary, and that volume 1 with box will feature the cute artwork rather than the spooky artwork. Lastly, they talked a lot about all the great boxsets they have coming out this year.

D.Gray-Man was fairly popular to cosplay this yearSpeaking of boxsets, Bandai clarified some details on their upcoming Big O Anime Legends boxset (it’s the first half of the series,) announced Zega Pain (which features some staffers from Outlaw Star,) ran trailers/openings for various upcoming titles (including FLAG, My-Otome, TideLine Blue, Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex – Solid State Society and the live action Cutey Honey movie.) They also revealed that the Solid State Society release which is apparently going to come in 2 different versions, a standard release and 3(!) disc steel book. They also fielded a few a questions during their panel (they only had a half-hour time slot,) which revealed that Manga Entertainment is in charge of the TV rights for both the Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex TV series and the film, that [adult swim] is happy with the rating Eureka Seven has been receiving and that while The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya LE will be loaded with extras and goodies, that the broadcast version of the next episode trailers are only an extra. Oh, and last but not all least, should Bandai some how get Haruhi on TV, they contractually obligated to air it in the original broadcast order, not the chronological order.

Gai-SenseiSpeaking of fans getting theirs, Dark Horse’s panel was all about fan service (though in a more literal sense than that term is typically used for.) They reassured readers that the controversial horror-suspense manga MPD Psycho would be fully uncut, including the covers, and that while they haven’t really heard whether that worries bookstores any, there is an absolute frenzy for advance copies of the first volume. It will be plastic wrapped due it extreme content, but MPD Psycho will also have color pages and embossed covers. They also mentioned that they were selected to publish MPD Psycho over a few other major manga publishers because they promised to bring it out uncut, unlike their competitors, and that they are already working on the series’ 3rd volume. They also noted that the response to their experiment with Harlequin Romance Manga line was good, but that Harlequin has decided to no longer collaborate with Dark Horse on the line, and future Harlequin Manga titles will be handled solely by Harlequin. The recent continuation of Shadow Star Narutaru has also been doing solidly for them, but it’s too early to well whether they’ll revisit that title in an uncut format. They finished off by noting that some publishers have even started to come to Dark Horse over other publishers because their commitment to uncut content is so strong, but that they still have to pursue more titles than they are offered. They also gave out a bunch of old Oh My Goddess! monthly issues and a few old copies of Super Manga Blast magazine.

Of course, anime cons aren’t all industry panels and big announcement, but they are also about anime fans getting together and having fun, and thanks to staff photographer Jim Betts (with a few photos from myself,) we also have over 150 cosplay and panel photos from SakuraCon 2007, culled from over 1500 Jim shot during the con. Highlights include (but are not at all limited too) SpiderMan vs. Zaraki Kenpachi from Bleach, an epic game of duck duck goose and Dr. Girlfriend with henchmen #21 and #24.

On the whole, I’d say I can’t wait until next year.

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