Anime Expo 2010: Day 2
The Anime Expo 2010 adventure continued on Friday. I started the day at the Geneon Universal industry panel which I recapped in another story. Geneon is now back under the banner of Universal International Pictures. Attendees received a fancy bag that also featured a Japanese anime preview magazine. Now, if only I knew Japanese.
ANIME PREVIEW – BLACK LAGOON 3: ROBERTA’S BLOOD TRAIL
The first of the new OVA’s for the popular Black Lagoon series premiered at Anime Expo this year. This was the original Japanese version with English subtitles. Roberta’s Blood Trail starts with a “quick and dirty” refresher of the events thus far in the story. The story then flashes back to Vietnam in the late 1960’s before jumping ahead to the mid-1990’s. The catalyst of Roberta’s Blood Trail is the assassination by an American NSA team of a South American politician. This incites the politician’s blood-thirsty assassin, Roberta, to go on a killing spree for those responsible. The politician’s young son hires the Lagoon mercenary team of Rock, Revy, Benny, and Dutch to stop Roberta. The OVA included a sequence where Rock and Revy go to a local watering hole to get information from a contact. A young maid and protege of Roberta, Fabiola, visits the bar while Revy and Rock exchange information with local drug cartel members. The cartel gangsters take Fabiola captive but not for long. Fabiola commits one of the nastiest violent acts imaginable, and soon all hell breaks loose in an action packed shootout. Meanwhile, Roberta starts tracking down the assassins who killed her master and dispatches them in brutal fashion, which could possibly cause an international incident and a world war.
The action sequences and violence in this show are fantastic. The main characters are rather amoral and the story operates in a very grey area, but this one of the show’s more appealing facets. None of the characters are one-note or cookie cutter. However, the notable female characters are insanely sadistic, violent, and aggressive — almost to a stereotypical degree. But in a way it’s refreshing to see such ruthless, vengeful, and cunning female characters. The women of Black Lagoon are not typical demure, blushing anime heroines. While Black Lagoon is loads of fun, at times the exposition and talking scenes are rather clunky, confusing, and contrived. This could be due to the English subtitle translation and my lack of understanding Japanese. But by the end of the first OVA episode, when the Lagoon mercenaries are hired for a job, you have no idea what they were hired to do. The scene is meant to be pivotal to move the story along, but it came off poorly. As with many Studio Madhouse shows, the animation production is a bit of a mixed bag. The character designs, locations, and settings are very well done. The action sequences look great and have an amazing sense of kinetic movement. At other times, the production values and animation look a little sloppy with some cut corners, which is sometimes the case with Madhouse shows. Still Black Lagoon 3 looks like it will be a must see if you enjoy hard boiled action stories.
ANIME PREVIEW – EDEN OF THE EAST
Following the screening of Black Lagoon 3, Funimation screened the first four episodes of the English dub of Eden of The East, a series produced by Production I.G., from anime director Kenji Kamiyama (Ghost In The Shell: Stand Alone Complex; Blood: The Last Vampire). The story focuses on a Japanese college student, Saki Morimi (Leah Clark), who travels to Washington D.C. and runs into a naked Japanese man carrying a gun and a strange cellphone, Akira Tokizawa (Jason Liebrecht). Akira has absolutely no memory of who he is and gets dragged into a case of suspense and intrigue with Saki. Eden of The East is a heady, dramatic mystery-thriller anime that looks and feels completely unique. Kamiyama continues to improve exponentially as a storyteller, and quite possibly is the best director in the industry today. The story has a melancholy, almost somber tone, but there are still some wacky bits of humor and levity. Saki and Akira are both likable characters. Akira is far from the typical anime protagonist in that he’s very confident and sure of himself despite being an amnesiac. Saki appears to be an average Japanese girl, but the story hints a personal background that could turn out to be a Freudian nightmare. The English dub directed by Mike McFarland is extremely high quality. The English voice cast also features non-Texas talent such as Stephanie Sheh who plays Saki’s friend, Mikuru, and Michael Sinterniklaas as Saki’s friend, Satoshi, who McFarland brought in for the show. The production design for the series is amazing. It looks like the animation team used photo realistic locations of actual cities like Washington D.C. and Tokyo and washed over the paint of the backgrounds. This technique gives the backgrounds the resemblance of a water-color look. The series also includes some rather complex imagery, such as the creation of an imitated picture of 9/11 Ground Zero by Saki and Akira. Eden of The East will be released in a complete series DVD boxset on September 28.
FUNIMATION INDUSTRY PANEL
FUNimation’s marketing manager, Adam Sheehan, moderated the panel in front of a jam-packed Petree Hall (seats 1,500 people) and introduced FUNimation’s release slate, new titles, and acquisition for the rest of 2010 and the coming year. Later this year, FUNimation will continue its anime simulcasts with Black Butler II, Sekirei 2, Shiki, Legend of Legendary Heroes, and also the live action movie version of Moyashimon. FUNimation also announced some rescued licensing DVD rights from Geneon including: Serial Experiments Lain; Texhnolyze; Hellsing TV; Armitage 3; Aoi Yori Aoshi; Habane Renmei; and the entirety of Tenchi in animation. New pickups for Funimation include: Toaru Majutsu no Index and Index’s spinoff series Toaru Kagaku no Railgun; Hellsing Ultimate OVA V – VII (AN: FINALLY!); Hetalia: Axis Powers; Master of Martial Arts; Darker Than Black Season 2; and Black Lagoon 3: Roberta’s Trail of Blood. In addition, FUNimation officially announced the US acquisition of Shakugan no Shana Season 2, the Shana movie, and OVA — all set for a 2011 release. New trailers were shown for Master of Martial Arts, which basically looks like another Ikki Tousen anime with girls who fight and rip off each other’s clothes. Hetalia: Axis Powers looks like an outrageous comedy series about riffing the countries involved in World War II. Sheehan stated that all FUNimation acquisitions will continue to be released with an English dub.
At one point, a fan dressed as Vash The Stampede delivered a DVD to show to the audience. You probably guessed right. FUNimation announced the acquisition of Trigun: Badlands Rumble. During the panel, FUNimation played a new trailer and announced a special screening of the movie with English subtitles for day three of the Anime Expo. This was a good panel, because FUNimation was very enthusiastic in the presentation. Despite the struggles the anime industry still currently faces, as a company, FUNimation conveys a tone filled with optimism and progress. At the biggest anime convention, that is quite significant. FUNimation encouraged fans to take its online survey to help expand the FUNimation Channel. Sheehan concluded the panel with a Q&A session with attendees, and presented a list of topics that FUNimation could not answer at the time. Sheehan revealed that a limited US theatrical release is planned for the Trigun movie. Sheehan and FUNimation brand manager, Lance Heiskell, confirmed that the Production I.G. anime series, Sengoku Basara, will be released on DVD and Blu-ray on September 21. FUNimation acquired the US DVD release rights for Sengoku Basara in 2009.
I concluded the day by attending the Aniplex Inc. industry panel. Representatives of Aniplex announced the companies plans to start releasing and distributing anime titles in the US including Durara!! which will be released here in the US in 2011 with an English dub as well. According to Aniplex, there are unfortunately no current plans to re-release the Gurren Lagann movies with the Gurren Lagann anime series’ English voice cast. Aniplex has also set up an English US website for their expansion and titles that are released in the US.
Earlier in the day I also managed to visit Nabeshin’s autograph signing. I bought one of his manga format autobiography books which he personally signed for me. Afro senshi!