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Anime Expo 2010: Days 3 and 4

ANIME EXPO – DAY 3

VIZ INDUSTRY PANEL 

Representatives of VIZ Media gave away prizes and presented their upcoming titles to attendees.  VIZ showed a preview for one of its recent anime licenses, Vampire Knight, which will get volume 2 and 3 DVD releases in September and November respectively.  The next uncut DVD boxset for Naruto Shippuden will be released on August 3.  There were a lot more new manga titles than anything announced at the panel.  In terms of new anime, VIZ announced the licensing of the new anime series, Nura: Rise of The Yokai Clan. VIZ has recently began simulcasting the new series on its website.  Nura does look like an interesting show.  I asked one of the VIZ representatives about official digital releases of Shonen Jump manga titles, but according to VIZ, it appears there are no plans for this right now.

INSIDE THE VOICE ACTOR’S STUDIO – CRISPIN FREEMAN

Tommy Oliver moderated a special “Inside The Actor’s Studio” interview/panel with voice acting superstar, writer, and director Crispin Freeman.  Before the panel started, Bang Zoom showed some clips from its Adventures in Voice Acting DVD.  Crispin Freeman delivered some informative anecdotes regarding his upbringing and growing up in the world of theatre and opera houses.  Also, a video was talking about the anime mythology course that Freeman teaches.  The course also analyzes Western civilization’s attraction to super heroes and the East’s attraction to giant robots.  Freeman answered questions for fans in attendance.

ANIME PREVIEW:  GUNDAM UNICORN

If you are a fan of mecha, Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn is just what the doctor ordered.  Bandai Entertainment premiered the new English dub for the first episode of the six episode OVA series.  The new series is set in the classic Gundam Universal Century timeline, U.C. 0096, not long after the second Neo Zeon War.  An engineering student, Banagher Links, rescues a woman named Audrey Byrne.  Audrey is trying to prevent a war.  The center of the new conflict surrounds the secret held by something called Laplace’s Box.  Ultimately, Neo Zeon launches an attack on the Industrial 7 colony where Branagher lives.  As usually in Gundam, the plucky young protagonist (this time Banagher), unwittingly becomes a Gundam mobile suit pilot.  This definitely looks like it will be a fine and exciting Gundam animation, coming off the alternate universe Gundam phenomenon that was Gundam 00.  The animation and production quality are top notch.  The new Gundam Unicorn mobile suit looks fantastic in action, especially the transformation from Unicorn mode to Destroy mode.  Some of the dialogue bits between Audrey and Banagher are a little hokey, like when Banagher expresses that he desperately wants Audrey to need him.  I’m not sure if this is just bad translation or another writing brainfart such as, “The master of unlocking,” from the original Resident Evil.   

ANIME PREVIEW:  TRIGUN – BADLANDS RUMBLE

In a surprise premiere from FUNimation and Flying Dog, the new Trigun anime movie, Trigun: Badlands Rumble was shown.  This was the first time the movie was screened in the US with English subtitles.  Producer Shigeru Kitayama, who also produced the TV series for Trigun, was live in attendance to introduce the movie.  Kitayama explained that the intent was to go back earlier in the story of Trigun when it was more light hearted and fun, before all the heavy drama that came later.  The movie begins in a flashback where the one and only Vash The Stampede thwarts the bank robbery of a bank robber named Gasback.  Gasback takes bank robbing very seriously. Like most encounters with Vash, the incident ends with many explosions and Gasback gets away.  However, Gasback’s three accomplices betray Gasback and get away with all of the cash too.

Twenty years later, Gasback’s former accomplice, Kepler, is now the mayor of a prominent desert city on planet Gunsmoke.  However, Gasback is apparently planning the robbery to end all robberies and get revenge on Kepler.  The Bernardelli Insurance Agents from the show, Milly and Meryl, are back.  Milly and Meryl must protect Kepler’s gaudy bronze statue, which has a hefty insurance policy payout.  Gasback’s pending appearance draws the interest of bounty hunters from all over, including the lovely and mysterious Amelia.  Amelia appears to hold a personal connection to Gasback (the movie pretty much telegraphs it from the moment she appears).  Vash is also hanging around, but his sense of justice and righteousness in wanting to help people, as well as his refusal to kill anyone, comes to the forefront.  Vash’s acquaintance, the wandering preacher, Nicholas D. Wolfwood, also comes into play with his boss Mercy crucifix weapon. 

In terms of narrative timeline, this is more or less a filler storyline for the Trigun anime series or an inbetween-quel, much like the Cowboy Bebop movie.  The villain and plot are fairly average.  However, the great thing is that the movie reunites the dynamite cast and crew of the series.  Satoshi Nishimura returns as director.  All of the original Japanese voice actors have reprised their roles as well.  And most of all, Tsuneo Imahori returns as music composer, bringing in his funky beats and jamming guitar.  Later in the movie, the Trigun theme song, “H.T.” even makes a special appearance, and it has never sounded better. 

The animation looks gorgeous.  Madhouse has brought its A-game to this production.  The movie contains a little bit of CG animation mixed with the traditional animation style.  The movement and fluidity of the action sequences look extremely fluid and well done.  The animators have kept the production and character design faithful to the original series.  It appears that Vash’s design was tweaked ever so slightly.  But aside from that, everyone appears to look the same as their TV counterparts.  FUNimation will release Trigun: Badlands Rumble stateside sometime in 2011.  Hopefully, Johnny Yong Bosch will return once again behind the microphone to play our favorite Humanoid Typhoon.



ANIME EXPO – DAY 4

ANIME PREVIEW:  FULLMETAL ALCHEMIST – BROTHERHOOD, FINAL EPISODES

FUNimation showed a special presentation of the final two episodes of the Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood series, straight from Japan and subtitled into English.  Several years ago, I was put off and annoyed by the purist fans of Hiromu Arakawa’s Fullmetal Alchemist manga, who constantly complained about the ending of the original Fullmetal Alchemist anime and subsequent movie.  The series was harsh and a little rough, yet bold, and did not hold our hands and wrap every little detail of the story in a bow.  All that said, I was eager to see the execution of Brotherhood, produced by Studio Bones.  Brotherhood, a new series, faithfully adapts Arakawa-san’s manga that was never animated.  Arakawa is still a fantastic and visual storyteller, and there are a lot of great moments and characters to witness in Brotherhood.  I mean Olivier Armstrong, hubba hubba. The final two episodes resolve everything so FMA fans hearts should be content this time around.  Despite my unabashed love for the original FMA series and movie, I am totally fine with the ending of Brotherhood.  Like it or not, this is what the original author intended.  Brotherhood in no way invalidates the original anime series.  It’s simply another perspective that fans can enjoy.  The fan squeeing moments in the epilogue episode appear in ridiculously large supply.  I will say, the ending here felt a lot more fulfilling as the end of Ed and Al’s journey, and in some ways the start of a new one.  Ed/Winry is my OTP (One True Pairing). 

VOICE ACTING PANEL 

Voice actors Kyle Hebert, Yuu Asakawa, and the incomparable Shinchi “Nabeshin” Watanabe all together took part in a special Guest of Honor voice acting panel.  Asakawa was nice enough to out her famous, “HERE COMES THE DEATH BLOW” line as Rider from the show Fayt/Stay Night.  Asakawa-san remarked on her fondness for her recent turn as Lebreau in Final Fantasy 13.  Kyle Hebert told an interesting story regarding recording the voice for Kamina in Gurren Lagann.  Hebert tried to lower the age of the voice to appease the Japanese producers who had a say in the English voice casting as well.  Nabeshin humorously remarked about Asakawa-san’s speaking and how everything sounds better when said by a beautiful woman.  Nabeshin also belted out the NABE-MEHA-MEHA attack line from Excel Saga which is awesome.   Since Nabeshin is more of an anime director who simply voices himself in most of his shows, Nabeshin told humorous stories about working with anime voice actor Shinichi Watanabe and anime director Shinichi Watanabe.  Nabeshin also explained how to best become an Afro Warrior. 

ANIME EXPO 2010 ANALYSIS

Going by the Anime Expo this year, the overall prognosis for the industry appears better than usual.  Or at the very least, better than last year.  Geneon Universal is co-producing and financing new anime projects and partnering with American distribution companies for US releases.  FUNimation had a strong presence, made some strong licenses, and previewed some excellent looking titles.  Section 23 appears to be gaining ground as a US anime distributor and is now going to dub some newly licensed titles such as High School of The Dead.  I was very surprised and happy to hear about the pending US releases for shows such as K-On and Durarara!!  It’s great that so many distributors now use modern technology by shortening the release window of new anime with simulcasts and ad-supported web streaming.  I just wish the big manga publishers would get on board with something similar.  The convention itself still seems like it is shrinking and declining.  There appears to be new shift in management and staff that has caused an overall downturn.  In comparison to recent years, the exhibition hall setup looked sad. Autograph booth setups and signing schedules were left a lot to be desired.  Hopefully, staff and management will have a better handle on the convention next year.  I would also like to personally thank Nabeshin for showing me the way of Afro Senshi and for giving me his personalized autograph on my Excel Saga DVD set:

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