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Otakon2011: Industry Panel Reports

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This past weekend brought a greater anime industry presence
to Otakon 2011 than what was there last year, with Viz Media and studio Sunrise
hosting official panels in addition to FUNimation Entertainment, Bandai
Entertainment and Aniplex of America, Inc. Like last time I’ll be getting
beyond the big news headlines in this space, taking you through these events
and bringing the finer details of them to you. bringing the details of these
panels to you. Enjoy the report and express comments on what you think about
all this on the forums!  

Aniplex of America 

On Friday Aniplex opened their panel with another fantastic
montage of their many properties, updated to include recent and upcoming
titles such as Blue Exorcist,
Oreimo
, Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, Guin Saga, Garden of
Sinners, 
the OVA’s and movie for Rurouni Kenshin, and Fate/Zero,among other properties. The panel began by promoting an upcoming live panel
event on the video website NicoNico.com, scheduled for August 12th at 7 PM. Much like the occasional
“FUNiCon” events done by FUNimation Entertainment, the idea is to use
the website to directly engage fans and respond to a virtual crowd in real
time.

The panel went on to promote the shonen action series Blue
Exorcist
, which has been streaming every Wednesday outside Japan
on Crunchyroll, Hulu, Crackle and Anime News Network. Aniplex confirmed its
intent to begin the subtitled DVD release for the show in October, which is
notable if only because it comes about six months after the series began its
Japanese television run in April. Aniplex also pluged Durarara!!and its straight-from-Japan Blu-Ray releases for the Rurouni Kenshin
OVA’s Trust and Betrayal (Aug. 24th), Reflection (Sept.
21st), and its movie (Oct. 26th) this Fall. Other Aniplex announcements
included DVD and digital rights to Oreimo, a show about a brother that
struggles to relate to a little sister that is a secret otaku of visual novel
games. Streaming will begin August 31st, with subtitled DVD set due in October.
They also surprised the crowd by announcing streaming plans for studio BONES’
super robot series Star Driver, whose DVD rights are held by Bandai
Entertainment. Aniplex plans to upload episodes of the now-completed series
every Wednesday starting August 17th.



Puella Magi Madoka Magica, first announced at Anime Expo along with Blue
Exorcist
, was said to be “coming soon” with release details still
undecided. However, it was revealed during the panel’s Q&A session that the
magical girl show would receive a English dub. Another questioner inquired
about Bakemonogatari, but like last year the response was negative; the
questioner was encouraged to make interest known to producer Atsuhiro Iwakami,
who was a guest at the convention to present a screening of Madoka Magicato fans. The Q&A session revealed encouraging details as well, though. In
regard to supernatural action thriller Garden of Sinners,
Aniplex acknowledged that they were in negotiations for a DVD set for the film
series; the title was previously given a limited edition Blu-Ray release
earlier in the year that quickly sold out. In response to a question about the
Rurouni Kenshin anime in development, the panelists couldn’t confirm much about
it but did describe it as a “series” due to begin sometime in 2012.

FUNimation Entertainment

Early Friday evening FUNimation once again drew a
great crowd to the massive panel 3 room, which contained enough seating for everyone
who wanted to attend as well as the crowds for the Bandai, Sunrise
and Viz panels later on that weekend. After an impressive video displaying a
host of FUNimation properties, the panel began in earnest with Marketing
Manager Adam Sheehan and Social Media manager Justin Rojas hosting. To their
credit they began by promoting upcoming new charity auctions in August, whose
proceeds will go to bolstering the Relief for Japan
charity effort in response to the earthquake & tsunami disaster that struck
Japan earlier
this year. After that they recapped FUNimation’s digital content, highlighting
ongoing and recently-finished simulcasts for One Piece, Toriko, Baka
and Test – Summon the Beasts 2, [C] – CONTROL
, and Aria the Scarlet
Ammo.
They also singled out their “Summer of Streaming” event,
where nearly all their videos are available online for the duration of the
summer months, and ran a trailer promoting the FUNimation Channel’s lineup for
the Summer and Fall. After this, FUNimation offered
trailers for recent and future releases: Dance in the Vampire Bund, Rideback,
the third seasons of Sgt. Frog and Crayon Shin-chan, Baka and
Test
, Noir, Eden of the East: Paradise Lost, and the second season
of Spice & Wolf.

 

FUNimation then made an event out of a prolonged trailer about the remastering
of Dragon Ball Z for its imminent Blu-Ray release. Having received paper
hats resembling super saiyn hair, the audience was called upon to stand up and
raise their hands to mimic the creation of Goku’s spirit bomb technique. With
enough “power” given, the trailer began. It indulged in no small
amount of silliness, but it also made it clear that the series was receiving a
brand new transfer overseen by a small team of individuals going through every
second of footage. The trailer and the rhetoric afterward convincingly stressed
that this release is a serious effort rather than a casual one. After the DBZ
fun was over FUNimation then played recently
released trailers for the movie Dragon Age: Dawn of the Seeker,
which showed off concept art and character sketches. Though this co-production
was originally
planned for 2011
, the film is now slated to be released in 2012.

Surprisingly, there were nearly no special announcements besides the licensing
of Heaven’s Lost Property the Movie: The Angeloid of Clockwork. Sheehan
urged the audience to “stay tuned”, informing the crowd that they
were close to big announcements that did not work out in time for the
convention. With that said, the panel proceeded to a quick Q&A session. In
regard to Dragon Age one fan asked whether Morrigan and her storyline might be
involved. Sheehan said he couldn’t answer that, although he did suggest that a
certain character fans have already seen could turn up. On the subject of When
They Cry
, Sheehan stated that there were no plans to license more of that
show. Further questioning on DBZ’s Blu-Ray release revealed that the video
would be presented in its original 4:3 aspect ratio with the Japanese music
included. In regard to the long delay on releasing Geneon titles such as Tenchi
Muyo
, Hellsing Ultimate and Black Lagoon, it was revealed
that there had been a very long delay in getting materials due to the ongoing
merger of Geneon and Universal. Sheehan stated that they would receive
materials when that process was done, further promising to keep fans updated on
the situation as it changes.

Sunrise

On Saturday evening Sunrise’s
Industry Panel was hosted by Sunrise
producer and General Manager of Overseas Development, Masayuki Ozaki, as well
as Bandai Entertainment’s director Robert Napton. I arrived at Sunrise’s panel
too late to hear
its introduction and see a very long video chronicling the complete history of
the Gundam franchise, though I was right on time for trailers promoting the
studio’s animated projects for 2011: Tiger & Bunny, Sacred Seven,Phi Brain: Kami no Puzzle, Horizon on the Middle of Nowhere and GundamAGE. After the obligatory presentation, the panel opened up for a
particularly informative Q&A session.

When one fan asked about the status of Code Geass Gaiden: Bōkoku no Akito,
first announced in April 2010. Ozaki described it as the “next
season” of Code Geass and acknowledged that it was behind production, but
he confirmed that it would premiere “sometime next year” and that the
project’s director is Kazuki Akane (Vision of Escaflowne, Noein, Birdy the
Mighty: Decode
). In response to a comment on the originality of Tiger
& Bunny
, and a question about whether its success encourages
risk-taking, Ozaki acknowledged the show’s success and responded affirmatively.
Another question inquired about merchandise, prompting Ozaki to say that Japan
is rushing to produce it since at the moment, there isn’t even enough for the
Japanese market while there
are also many “lines of production” for merchandising Tiger &
Bunny
in the United States.

 

A question about the Japanese remaster of Gundam Wing prompted an
apparent confirmation that this would be released in North America
eventually, although the time was to be determined. Napton jumped in to remark
that Bandai tries to work very closely with Sunrise
to release Gundam and get the older titles released, pointing to Turn A
Gundam
and the rerelease of Mobile Suit Gundam as examples while
also observing the many requests he gets for ZZ Gundam. Questions about
plans for Gundam AGE and its appeal revealed that the series would run
for four quarters and fifty-two episodes, with Ozaki also confirming that the
series was intended for “a wider range of viewers” and that plans for
digital streaming were “in the works.” Ozaki went on to comment that
Sunrise wanted to reach a younger audience outside Japan, and he did not rule
out using streaming to reintroduce the studio’s older
titles.

 

In response to a request for animated sequels or Blu-Ray releases for My-HiMEor My-Otome, Ozaki did not rule it out and noted that they were both set
up for more stories set in their worlds. After a query about the development of
a movie for Gundam Seed, Ozaki disclosed that there had been a
“change in circumstances” and that the project was on hiatus. Another
viewer inquired about the 2010 movie Colorful, which Ozaki acknowledged
as a “bold challenge” that proved to be a “great success”
at film festivals and a good future prospect for Sunrise.
Finally, questions about the future of Sgt. Frog and Gintama prompted
Ozaki to remark on his fondness for both titles. For Sgt. Frog Ozaki
said he would love to have the show come back, while for Gintama he
stated his desire to produce another Gintama movie as he did with the
first one.

Bandai Entertainment

After the Sunrise
event Bandai Entertainment’s began its traditional “Bandai After
Dark” panel, known as the panel where they “let their hair down”
and deliver a particularly informal presentation. President Ken Iyadomi,
Producer Taku Otsuka, and Production Consultant Loy Fruel playing host to a
vast audience similar to the attendance for FUNimation’s panel. Attendees were
given miniature Ghost in the Shell figures for coming to the panel at
the end, while a select number of early arrivals received a small Gurren
Lagann
backpack containing those and some other goodies. After an
obligatory pitch for Bandai’s online store the panel got into the cartoons,
starting with the news about the December 2nd release of Gundam Unicorn’s
fourth episode on Blu-Ray. Though no trailers have been released yet, it was
publicized that the next installment will feature Zeon remnants still surviving
on the Earth and an appearance from the Federation veteran, Captain Bright Noa
himself.

After that, the panel entered a lengthy segment on The Disappearance of
Haruhi Suzumiya
, due on September 20th. For the occasion voice actresses
Stephanie Sheh and Cristina Vee took the stage and were promptly joined by
Johnny Yong Bosch, who surprised the audience by coming in through the doors to
drop in on
the panel. The panelists spent some time discussing the recording of the movie,
relating an anecdote about how Crispin Freeman (the voice of the protagonist,
Kyon) was astonished by how much dialogue he had to record for the film. In
contrast the others had an easier time; Sheh and Bosch joked that they were of
course one-take wonders. Some fun was also had at the expense of the series’
“Endless Eight” storyline, where repeating events meant recording a
series of very similar scripts. Things quickly got silly when Sheh led the
audience in the “Mikuru Beam” catchphrase again; Bosch surprised
everyone by doing a convincing rendition of it himself. Napton ended up asking
Bosch to sing for the audience in the improvised way he’d do it when recording
lines. Bosch mulled retrieving his guitar, at which point he was handed a
ukulele to use instead. With Bosch being a good sport trying to play the
unfamiliar instrument, he and Vee improvised two absurd little songs for
everyone’s entertainment.

 

With
that fun having been had, the audience was treated to an appearance from the
film’s music composer, Hiroaki Yura. panel played multiple clips from the film
showcasing highlights of Yura’s work, with Yura offering some of his thoughts
on the story during this time. In his view it is not actually about Haruhi
Suzumiya’s disappearance as the title suggests, but rather about a “love
story” involving Kyon and Yuki. He also noted parts of the movie that used
no music at all, since the director wanted his songs to put emphasis on
critical scenes. Finally, the audience was treated to a musical performance of
a very different sort: a beautiful violin performance for “Yasashii
Boukyaku” from the movie that received a well-deserved standing ovation
from the crowd.

After that the focus turned to K-ON!, with Sheh introducing Cassandra
Lee Morris, Shelby Lindley and Karrie Shirou to the stage, all of whom
participated on the K-ON! cosplay concert with Vee that weekend. They
made the effort to teach the “Fuwa Fuwa Time” song
from the show, going through it slowly once and then leading the audience.
After that they asked for a volunteer to come up on the stage to lead the song;
one fan stepped up, did it well and received a signed K-ON! banner for
his efforts. They ended by promoting volume 3 of the show on September 13th,
noting that it would include the voice actresses’ English performance of
“My Love Is A Stapler”. After that the panel got down to business by
promoting the simulcast of Sacred Seven, the new DVD release of Makoto
Shinkai’s 5 Centimeters Per Second, the Anime Legends box sets for Mobile
Suit Gundam
, Gundam 00: A Wakening of the Trailblazer, Tales of the
Abyss
(now scheduled for October) Star Driver, Tekken: Blood
Vengeance
, and a new DVD release for Akira. For new acquistions
Bandai announced the licensing of Gosick, a mystery series set in the
1920s, and Nichijou, an adaptation of a 4Koma comedy manga. The panel
ended on a light note to suit the general mood of the panel with a clip of
outtakes from the English recording of The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya,
full of one-liners and jokes that are not suitable for this space!

Viz Media

Viz did not have a panel at Otakon in 2010, but this time
representative Amy Mar was on hand to do a presentation Sunday morning.
As one might expect a majority of the focus was on the company’s publishing
business, but some attention was given to animation as well. Mar first noted
the theatrical premiere of Naruto Shippuden: Bonds, which will screen in
October at New York City. Later on
the panel promoted the third volume Vampire Knight Guilty, with Mar
informing the audience that a boxed set for the series would be released in
December. Viz also ran a trailer for the thirteenth Pokemon movie, Pokemon
Zoroark: Master of Illusions,
due for release on September 20th. There was
also a surprisingly engaging trailer for Professor Layton and the Eternal
Diva,
based on the adventure/puzzle video game series and said to take
place after the events of Professor Layton and the Last Specter. Viz
proceeded to advertise several of its streaming titles, including Tiger
& Bunny, Blue Exorcist, Death Note, Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan,
and Blue
Dragon
uncut.

During the panel’s Q&A session Viz was asked about the status of InuYasha:
The Final Act.
Mar had no news to report and speculated that it might be a
matter of the dubbing studio trying to get the old voice actors back, although
she said to not quote her
on that. Another questioner noted that Richard Ian Cox had stated in a panel
that he had finished recording his lines for the hero InuYasha, which took Mar
by surprise. She promised to investigate the matter with Viz’s animation
department. I asked whether there was any possibility for DVD plans for Cross
Game
and more of Monster; Mar wasn’t sure but did comment that she
wanted to see Monster continue. A similar response was given in regard
to the possibility of more Zoids anime being licensed. In regard to Reborn,
it was confirmed that it’s simply on hiatus and that Viz still has the license
for the property. One fan asked about the possibility of localizing the novels
for Legend of the Galactic Heroes or other work by Japanese author
Yoshiki Tanaka; Mar was receptive and said she’d look into the subject, noting
that she remembered seeing the anime for The Heroic Legend of Arslan on
VHS tape years ago. In regard to the possibility of Viz licensing manga titles
that had been distributed by the now-defunct publisher Tokyopop, Mar
acknowledged interest but stated that there is lag involved since licenses for
English distribution have to be given back to Japan and then given out again.
However, Mar stated that there might be news on the subject around the holiday
season.

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