New York Comic Con 2013: Masters of AnimangaOctober 28, 2013
I think everyone who saw the schedule has about the same though, “Why would I want to go to a panel about and Amerimanga He-Man?” OK. I might be the only person who had that thought but I think most people who saw these panels assumed they were about some mediocre OEL manga titles with some talented American comic artists forced to ULTRA-ANIMIZE their artwork to try to capitalize on the long over manga boom. The only people who would be interested in the panel would be someone who was interested in one of the artists involved outside of the Masters of Animanga project. But that was not the case.
In actuality Kazuo Koike, Takashi Okazaki, Sin’Ichi Hiromoto, and Masao Maruyama were all on the panel. A panel of two well-known manga artists, one legendary manga artist, and one anime producer whose career is almost as old as modern anime itself. This was a surprisingly high-profile line-up. I think most major cons would love a row of anime and manga guests like that. And here they were not getting anywhere near the attention they deserved. There was some signage about it around the con so it was not totally unadvertised but I think the name alone turned away 80% of the people who would have normally flocked to such a panel.
These panels put on by Wikia win the award for worst names ever. I honestly think they were preventing people from coming; I know I skipped over them in the schedule at first. A name like Kazuo Koike shouldn’t be buried in the fine print and yet there he was.
Mr. Koike is one of the few manga-ka known by comic fans and could have easily filled a room to just chat about Lone Wolf and Cub. Instead, the Wikia panels were focusing on their latest venture which one might describe as hyper fan-fiction.
As I have mentioned on the blog before some of the best Japanese guests are the old Japanese guests because they have gotten old enough that they no longer need to play as many silly political games. Therefore they can just shoot from the hip on any number of subjects that a younger professional would have to give generic non-answers to. Kazuo Koike proved he was the prototypical old Japanese guest.
Mr. Koike was sort of a hurricane. On both Wikia panels for the con he was the star of the stage. He would frequently interject on any subject that was brought up and the moderator was more there as a speed bump than any sort of driving force behind the conversation. Mr. Koike even grabbed the microphone to make the last statement on occasion.
The only person who really could stand toe to toe with the legend was Mr. Maruyama. The problem was Mr. Maruyama seemed sleepy on Friday. He was mostly very quiet and did not really answer any questions with major gusto. I assume a mixture of jet lag, fatigue, and the fact that he is not a spring chicken all combined to his somewhat muted presence. But after some rest (and probably some good food and alcohol) he was right up to speed on Saturday.
Takashi Okazaki and Sin’Ichi Hiromoto on the other hand were much more subdued both days. Most of the time they seemed content to let their seniors answer any questions they were not directly asked. Takashi Okazaki definitely had a real enthusiasm where as Sin’Ichi Hiromoto was much more laid back.
Wikia’s project which teamed fans with well-established creators to work on stories was, in concept, rather intriguing. A first, it sounded like a mentorship, but it was much larger than that. It involved hundreds of fans contributing to the Wikia site and growing stories out of the tidbits the creators set before them.
Luckily there was a video before the panel laying this out for me because I did not even know this project was happening. As an active participate in the anime and manga community, you’d think I’d have more knowledge of the project, but I didn’t. Perhaps I had just ignored it, on the other hand I don’t remember anyone I know mentioning it either. This project has gone pretty far with character designs and major plots having already been established, yet I can’t say anyone is really talking about it.
This was also reflected in the questions fans had. No one really seemed to have any interest in the project, but had lots of questions for Mr. Koike about his long career with a sprinkling of questions for the rest of the panel.
The Wikia representative asked questions pertaining to the project to start off the Q&A. This is where oddly enough, Mr. Koike decided to talk about how he doesn’t like doing collaborative work! He likes making all the decisions and not worrying about the opinion of others. Mr. Maruyama picked up on that thread and discussed that in anime production there is a lot more compromise because it isn’t just the manga-ka and the editor making choices.
Mr. Koike was very talkative the entire time which was a treat. He even regaled us with a story about his coming to San Diego Comic Con. Apparently, he tried to enter the United States with a samurai sword in his luggage. As you might imagine, customs detained him, asking questions for well over an hour. As one point, they finally just said, “Why did you try to bring this sword anyway?” and Mr. Koike simply replied “I am the creator of Lone Wolf and Cub.” They let him go.
The power of Mr. Koike.
He had some advice to a young artist wanting to make a career in Japan. Mr. Koike stated firstly that you must know Japanese inside and out, not just be able to speak it but really get the nuances of the language. He said he has had many Western students but they all eventually give up and go home. Then he amended at the end that perhaps in a few years that will not be the case considering how English is spreading and becoming a requirement for so many students.
We learned many things over the course of the two panels. Some of it was even occasionally about the Masters of Animanga project. I did not ever remember this existed. I mostly know Wikia as the place I go for very specific wikis about one show like the Type-Moon Wiki or the Index Wiki. I never really ever thought about the site having a community or doing projects like this. It is not that these things don’t happen but they were never something I pay any attention to.
But the idea of the project is to have well established manga creators give the Wikia community a premise for a story. Then people could contribute their own pieces to the story in an exquisite corpse style of writing. The three stories were The Fading Light: A Tale of Zan, Red Bat and TAO: Rize of the Ying-yang. The project has just ended so Wikia flew out some of the people involved. Sadly Yoshitaka Amano could not be there for the panel.
There are two vital facts you must take away from the panel. The first is that Masao Maruyama is a confessed lolicon. When Mr. Hiromoto asked why Mr. Maruyama wanted cute girls in his story he jokingly confessed it was all to satisfy his lolicon tendencies. The audience exploded with that statement in part becuase the translator bluntly interpreted that as pedophile. The translator tried to back peddle a bit after saying that but Masao Maruyama owned his statement like a boss.
The second is that Kazuo Koike considers Mad Bull 34 a pleasant lighthearted comedy with some dashes of sexy as opposed to his normal darker stories If you look at his body of work that all makes sense but I think it is still an amazing telling remark about that sort of writer and human being he is. We also learned from that same question that he is currently watching Castle and Criminal Minds and is a fan of police procedural shows in general. I personally believe the watches Castle for sexy Nathan Fillion.
The most important part of the discussion was Kazuo Koike insistence that good characters will lead to good stories. When ever he was asked about writing stories that came up. He did note that trying to punch up a bland hero is useless. A good writer will flesh out a great villain with strong reasons for what he is doing to get the best story. It did make me wonder how much of the character based focus on modern anime comes from Kazuo Koike drilling this ethos into the students of his school. I’m sure he is not the sole reason for this shift but I do suspect he is a strong influence on the trend as well.
I appreciate Wikia bringing over some amazing guests, these are creators that have had major influences everywhere including in the United States. I just wish people had been more aware of who was going to be at these panels. I realize Wikia wanted to promote their project, but I think they missed out on bringing more people into their events by the way they were advertised.
But all of that was unimportant. The real value of the panels was being able to talk to manga-ka about their art. With more anime cons not willing to shelling out the time, money, and effort to bring over anyone in the manga business these opportunities are increasingly valuable.
Also I just relish the fact that I was able to directly speak to Kazuo Koike and other people who have disregard New York Comic Con would have dearly loved that opportunity. Schadenfreude at its best.