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Otakon2010: Day 1 - Adventure!

Going into this con there were a few things I thought to expect. I expected things to be
crazy, I expected crazy costumes, and I expected rabid fans. Those
expectations? Completely blown out of the water. Otakon truly is one of
those events that you kind of have to be at to realize how extreme, over
the top and huge it is. Sure, you can “imagine” (as I did) what things
are like, but you will never know until you actually experience
the convention. That being said, I suppose I should have been a bit more
prepared considering I went five years ago, but that experience doesn’t
even begin to compare to this one, and it is just day one! Not only due
to the sheer fact that attendance is higher than before but also due to
the fact that this time I am actually going out of my way to try and
experience everything.

The industry panels, something I went in knowing nothing about, were pretty
awesome. It’s great to see these companies (Aniplex and FUNimation) take
the time to put together a presentation and have that in-person communication with the fans. Sure, you can get the information they give on, say,
Twitter, but first-hand just felt so much more … personal. Shocking, I
know. By now you are more than likely laughing and thinking about how
ridiculous I am to be so happy over such a thing, but it is the honest
truth.

Okay, enough of me being a gushing fanboy and time to get down to some business. As announced earlier, Aniplex will be releasing a Read or Die Blu-ray Box set containing 3 Read or Die OVAs and 26 episodes of the Read or Die TV show. They will also be releasing Durarara!! DVDs starting January 2011. Aside from an awesome show being licensed
and released, this is also pretty remarkable because this is the first
show Aniplex has dubbed/distributed themselves. This is a huge move for
the company and it could reward them very well in the future, and I
certainly hope it does.

FUNimation’s panel was a wee bit bigger, and with it came a bit more
information. The big, big news they announced of course is their
licensing of both Evangelion 2.22 and Summer Wars. Not only that, both of them will be getting a theatrical release in the United States. They also announced that they have licensed Okamisan and Blessing of the Campanella and are also picking up Hetalia (the movie and seasons 3 and 4) and Strike Witches Season 2. While none of those series personally appeal to me (though I am tempted to check out Hetalia) this is great for FUNimation. Strike Witches was a huge hit for the company, so it can be assumed that the second
season will also do well, meaning more money, meaning more licenses! All
business is good business after all.

Aside from those tidbits, FUNimation also took the time to talk about
the anime industry and how it is doing on their end. Now, for the past
couple of years people have been saying the anime industry is quickly
diminishing. FUNimation, however, doesn’t quite think so. As a company,
they have seen a 17% growth in sales for new products being brought in,
with con attendance as high as it has ever been (Sakura-Con went up 22%
in 08-09 and another 9% this past year). What is giving FUNimation the
edge over other companies? Well, they are finding new ways to connect.
On YouTube alone they have 154,000 subscribers. Compare that to all of
the other networks on YouTube, in the entire world, and this places
FUNimation at #56. That’s really quite impressive given the sheer
number of them on YouTube. Anyways, you get the idea. FUNimation is
doing well because they are making the effort to connect to every single
fan, no matter what age and sex. Of course another, though suspected,
announcement they made was for the new Funimation.com to launch as a
social media site. Basically this is their way of giving direct
information to the fans, as well as bringing them together and making an
online community. Those who get an Elite Membership will receive early
access to English dubs, no advertisements while watching, exclusive
forums and additional contest information/opportunities. Nifty? I
certainly think so, and if you want to get in on the action early and
test out their new site visit Funimation.com/Beta and sign up!

Alright, so I have talked quite a bit about the industry, now for the
other side of things. I actually started my day out by listening to an
individual who voice acts, directs and even owns his own company. Being
so involved with the industry he obviously knows his stuff. This
individual is none other than Michael Sinterniklaas, founder of NYAV
Post LLC, a recording company. He basically went over things that happen
in the industry and a bit of how they work. Perhaps things you already
knew, perhaps some you didn’t. For instance, the main difference between
American animation and Japanese animation is the voice recording. In
America, the voice actors record and then the characters are drawn up,
but in Japan the story is drawn/animated and then the voice actors
record, matching the lips of the character. Not only that, but in Japan
recordings are done as a group, while in America recordings are done
individually. You might also be wondering how properties
even get licensed to begin with. Ignoring all of the dealing and
whatnot, the simple answer is that majority of them are put up during
the Tokyo Anime Fair and when they are put up, American licensors offer a
minimum guarantee for said properties in order to gain the rights to
dub/sub and then broadcast. What’s a minimum guarantee you ask?
Basically said licensor tries to estimate how much they will be able to
make off a certain property and then offer that amount in order to get
the rights. Oh and, just because someone offers the most money does not
mean they will get the property. Japanese companies want to make sure
the property they are giving to licensors will be treated properly, and
if they believe someone who offers a lesser amount will do a better job
with the property, they will sell it to that bidder. He goes into a few
other things, talking about other voice actors, how to get into the
industry (hint: get involved with theatre in general) and some equipment
they use (ProTools for recording/editing/etc) but that is the basic
gist of the panel. All in all he knew what he was talking about and I
left feeling informed and pretty satisfied.

As for guest panels and fan panels, I attended a few. To be honest, I was a little let down by the guest panels. Not because the guests weren’t great, but
because I wish the Q&A was a bit more serious. Granted, I should
have realized that this is the Anime community and expecting such a
thing was silly of me. Still, I will say they were pretty funny and each
of these guests have quite a sense of humor. In case you weren’t aware,
Todd Haberkorn likes all kinds of hugs. However strange it may be/seem,
he will commence with the hug. Oh, and Maruyama hasn’t heard anything
about a live-action Trigun movie. Madhouse also doesn’t resort to
producing shows that cater to the ‘Moe’ audience because well, they
simply aren’t good at making them (or at least that is what Maruyama
thinks). I also had the pleasure of attending the Hetalia Mock
Summit. Now, I have never watched this show and to be honest I had
barely heard anything about it prior to Otakon, so I wasn’t sure what to
expect. Lucky me, the panel turned out to be absolutely hilarious and
actually made me want check out the show. In case you didn’t know,
America (an actual character in Hetalia) thinks we should have a McDonalds in every single home, while
Germany (also a character in the show) is really only concerned about REAL beer, go figure. Ridiculous?
Intensely so, but that’s why I enjoyed it.

To wrap up, today turned into an adventure I hadn’t entirely expected. I had a great deal of fun and learned quite a bit, as well as
finding myself pleased with the industry and how it treats community
members. Now, I will say that Otakon needs better maps and signs.  I found myself lost quite a few times, and received  conflicting directions when I asked. Frustrating? Yes. But ultimately
that isn’t enough for my day to be ruined, and it is probably my fault
for being so direction-challenged. Anyways, before I start to ramble on
and on I’ll just stop here and end with a quote (supplied by Mike) that
sums up my feelings on the day, “getting my imagination exploding.”

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