Otakon 2011: Guests

The problem with Otakon’s announcement schedule is that every year it falls into the same pattern. Anime Expo releases its lineup and everyone goes wild. Then we don’t hear much from Otakon and everyone gets worried that it is going to be weak. Then with only a few weeks left they pull out their lineup and everyone is impressed. This year was no exception with Makoto Shinkai, Masao Maruyama, Noboru Ishiguro, and Atsuhiro Iwakami in attendance as well as a slew of other guests. I think that everyone was extremely excited to see Makoto Shinkai but we should not forget the other great guests who showed up from Japan. They had a great many things to say. Sadly to see Mr. Maruyama and Mr. Ishiguro I had to skip out on the Children Who Chase Lost Voices from Deep Below premiere but I think the things I learned at their panels was well worth it.

The Angel ScandyS panel was an odd beast. Apparently the show is about a trio of angels and a trio of demons who are trying to become pop idols to win the soul of a music school principal. The show is still in preproduction so most of the show was still in the form of a pitch with some sample animation. But Ishiguro mentioned that most of the show was still subject to change. It seems the novelty of the concept was all the actors and actresses were picked before the characters were finalized to adjust their characters to the performer. The three voice actresses from the show that came to the U.S. put on a little skit for the audience. First it was in English and then in Japanese. The main problem was their English had you longing for Ryoji Kaji’s performance at the beginning of Evangelion 2.0. They did their best but they were obviously not used to speaking it. It was odd to see the show in such an early state of being. I am now curious to see how the show turns out. If nothing else Ishiguro wrote the song they used it the animation previews we saw which made it a unique experience. The best part of the panel was it was listed to be an hour and a half long but was only an hour so I decided to take a quick nap before the panel began. When I woke up I noticed that someone decided I had a good idea and took a nap before the panel in the same row as me. That person was Noboru Ishiguro.

If you have a chance, going to panel with Masao Maruyama is always worth it just because he has been in the anime industry forever and is very friendly. His age lets him say almost whatever he wants without having to participate in the politeness games most of the younger staff is obliged to play. But he is also talkative and friendly unlike some of the more reserved creative talent from Japan. The worst news he delivered in his Q&A was that The Dreaming Machine is currently on indefinite hiatus. Apparently there’s no money for the movie and Maruyama has even gone as far as to start his own production company to raise the funds to finish it. That was heartbreaking news to anyone who was a fan of Satoshi Kon‘s work. I wonder if Maruyama could start a Kickstarter fund-raiser for the film. It might not raise all the money needed but it would at least show sponsors that people are interested in the project and willing to open their wallets to see this movie made. On the positive side, he strongly hinted that the second season of Kaiji was doing well and that more Akagi or Kaiji was on its way. He also confirmed my theory that serialized anime movies are basically the new OVA market. These films usually get extremely small releases mostly as commercials for the physical copies. Glad to see I was right for once. I did note there was one area that he was fairly well-guarded on: any questions about co-productions with the U.S. Given what a straight shooter he normally is, this was unusual but hardly unexpected. It is just good business.

Mr. Ishiguro spent the first half of his personal Q&A telling stories and they were pretty awesome stories. He started off talking about how all the animators of his generation looked to Disney for inspiration and told a bunch of stories about the creation of Snow White as he studied the production as a young man. Right after that he went into stories about the production of Cream Lemon as if that were the next and most logical step. He wrapped up with some stories about Space Battleship Yamato and Yoshinobu Nishizaki. It sadly ended with the distinct awareness that many of the people he knew when he started have been passing away recently. The most important thing I learned was why the misstep known as Legend of the Galactic Heroes: Golden Wings exists. Apparently it was made to appeal to fans of the manga but in the end it just wound up appealing to no one. Also it turns out the Legend of the Galactic Heroes musicals are doing extremely well and seem to be all anyone cares about in Japan now.

The last big guest panel was the Producers and Directors panel. It turned out to only be a panel of directors but it was still extremely enlightening. There was a strong mixture of old and new. Ishiguro has been in the business for almost 50 years whereas Kazuya Murata and Makoto Shinkai are comparatively young pups. The audience threw some good questions at the panelists including how they were affected by the terrible March 11th earthquake, how they expressed non-vocal communication through animation, and Blu-Ray sales. Evan Minto used my favorite question of asking what they thought were anime everyone should watch. Murata picked Future Boy Conan and Shinkai chose Legend of Galactic Heroes. Then Ishiguro threw out some obscure choices like Czechoslovakian puppet shows, the work of Norman McLaren, and even a little known Chinese animation project. Carl capped off the panel with the controversial request to have the younger directors give Ishiguro some advice on digital animation. At first, the translator did not want to ask Carl’s question but Ishiguro pushed it through. It led to a good discussion about the generation gap between animators and how they have to learn to work together.

Overall, I was impressed by the turn out for the Japanese guests. They were nowhere near as amazing as the turn out for the American guests but everything other than the Angel ScandyS panel was well attended. People had more questions than time to ask them and most of the questions were intelligent. It was not the ferocious turn out I would have liked but it was better than the nightmare scenario I had in my head considering what the guest panels were often up against. As always I learned a great deal from the panels and had a good time doing it. My one request to any Otakon staff reading this is that they try to get Kinoko Nasu and Takeshi Takeuchi from Type-Moon. With Atsuhiro Iwakami mentioning they were trying to stream Fate/Zero in the U.S. so they might be willing to come over to promote their work. I would of course love for this to happen. Oh, so very much.


4 thoughts on “Otakon 2011: Guests

  1. vinnieave says:

    I would love to see a DVD of the LoGH musicals. I wonder if the show is having a revival in Japan now. If the musicals are doing well it might be indicitive of one. Who knows maybe this will renew interest in the show getting a US release.

    • reversethieves says:

      There is a raw copy flatting around if you want to sample it. The link may provide a big clue. ;) I myself have yet to watch it but I look forward to giving it a watch and doing a little review.

      – Hisui

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