It is so nice to be able to have a whole section on guests for AnimeNEXT again. I missed being able to see people like Kenji Kamiyama or Harold Sakuishi and not have to go several states over and spend lots of money I don’t have. This year Sayo Yamamoto and Hiroshi Shimizu were a special treat. Sayo Yamamoto’s two major directorial credits are Michiko to Hatchin and Lupin III: The Woman Called Fujiko Mine which are both extremely nice bullet points to have on your CV. She has also storyboarded some extremely visually inventive animation like both openings to Arakawa Under the Bridge and the Attack on Titan ending. Hiroshi Shimizu on the other hand has been a key animator on more anime than some fans have ever seen in their lives. He was also apparently the voice actor of Duke Todo (whom I guess is a Duke Togo parody) in the second Kochikame movie.
At the same time on the American front I am sure several people I know were super sad that they were not able to attend a convention where Mike Toole was a guest. Lets put it this way: As people are getting their panels rejected left and right for Otakon more often than a case of Near Beer at Oktoberfest it seems that Mike Toole had his panels auto-accepted as soon as they were submitted. I think that fairly well sums up his status as a respected commentator on anime.