While I liked several things about Somerset it was hardly a major destination city. You rarely hear people overseas making elaborate plans to visit the first Marconi Wireless Station. The real draw for guests was the fact that NYC is not that far away. Atlantic City on the other hand acts as far more of a singular draw to guests. It might not be Vegas but the allure of gambling can draw some names that might over wise pass the convention by. I can’t say how many of the guests were here because of that but AnimeNEXT 2016 has a fairly impressive lineup that is distinctly worth talking about.
Since I am me and not Kate I will start the guest report with regrets. I feel like if I live a life filled with regrets it lets Kate live her life without regrets as a form of cosmic balance.
This time I am very disappointed in myself for missing all of Helen McCarthy’s anime panels. As she is a noted scholar it is always fascinating to listen to her. Since she is British she is not someone you can casually see at every other convention on the East Coast. Sadly I missed all of her panels and only realized my mistake on the bus ride home. If anyone has a recording or write-up of those panels I would love to see that.
The most disappointing guest was undoubtedly Rei Hiroe. In Rei Hiroe’s defense I feel like that was not his fault in the least. Nor was it the fault of AnimeNEXT. The main problem was Shogakukan had him locked down tighter than Front Knox during Goldfinger. All of his panels, signings, and appearances were tightly controlled. The only thing he was allowed to talk about was Black Lagoon and the only thing they allowed anyone to ask him about was Black Lagoon. In fact all the questions were taken from the web. On one hand this meant that his Q&A panels went fairly smoothly since no one was asking him awkward questions about his doujisnhi career under the name TEX-MEX or mistakenly assuming he also wrote Jormungand. On the other hand it also meant that the questions were all about as bland as could be. It actually made the Pony Canyon stuff at Otakon seem down right loosey-goosey.
Since Rei Hiroe has worked with Type-Moon several time in the past and even has an upcoming but unrevealed Servant in Fate/Grand Order you KNOW I was super disappointed about this. Actually they would not even let Rei Hiroe sign my copy of his official Barrage artbook for Black Lagoon on a page that had a picture of Saber because it was not 100% Black Lagoon related. Thankfully I was able to get him to sign the inside flap of the front cover since if had nothing but Black Lagoon art on it. That pretty much sums up the level of pedantic control Shogakukan exerted over his appearance.
Also all the Q&A sessions seemed OBSESSED with mentioning the PT boat vs. helicopter scene. I don’t mean they brought it up every at every panel. I mean they mentioned it five to six times every panel. I admit that was a cool scene but you don’t need to oversell it like that.
That said Rei Hiroe is still a mangaka so he still emits some interesting points of light no matter how many layers of obfuscation are placed on him. I did not know he originally started off his career as an editor before becoming a mangaka. That is an unusual route to becoming a mangaka. I do wonder how that changes how he works with other editors being he knows what it is like being on the other side of the table. He also mentioned really admiring Blacksad as a comic author which made me a little sad considering the fact Juanjo Guarnido was clearly not a fan of manga or manga artists so the feeling was almost undoubtedly not mutual.
But the MOST important guest I met was the fact that I met an ACTUAL REAL LIFE ANIME CHARACTER. That is correct. I met “VIP from New Jersey” as seen in Inferno Cop. It was a real privilege to meet the most famous anime character from New Jersey. He was surprisingly humble and personable with his fans. He even mentioned that he might show up again at AnimeNEXT 2017 if his crazy schedule permits it.
If you don’t get that joke I understand. One might let it just drop as an inside joke but I can’t for two reasons. One: It’s my role on the blog to constantly bring up obscure jokes no one else gets. Two: It is too awesome a story not to share.
Studio Trigger has become the cool studio in the eyes of American fans in general thanks to Inferno Cop, Little Witch Academia, and Kill la Kill. But when they come to AnimeNEXT they prove they are a studio that deserves that reputation. They speak rather frankly when answer questions and put on a good show when they do panels. Not only do they bring some great production materials they also usually bring an original piece of animation for the audience. Last year it was an Inferno Cop and Little Witch Academia cross over. This year they brought back Inferno Cop but he had a very special guest star: Vince Averello, Vice Chair of Programming at AnimeNEXT and friend of the blog.
It was really cool that they made Vince a character in the short. Everyone in the audience who knew him went nuts. It was an extra level of fan service in a video that was already filled with it. The cameo was totally unnecessary but greatly appreciated. It made it extremely obvious that the artists at Trigger enjoy coming to AnimeNEXT and are willing to go above and beyond to make share that feeling with the crowd. It really made it feel like Trigger staff was just as excited to see the audience as they were to see the artists.
The rest of the panel was mostly just good fun. There was an Inferno Cop and Space Patrol Luluco panel. The guys from Trigger had marshmallow guns which they fired into the audience during the Q&A and give out marshmallows for good questions during the panel. As always they brought lots of production materials for all their current shows and answered their questions frankly and amusingly. There were clearly still things they could not say but their answers were far more western than Japanese in their openness.
There was one guy who asked the Trigger crew what Inferno Cop’s feelings were on people who drank “Just Ice.” At first the audience got the joke but it took a few seconds for the translator to figure out what he was saying and then a little more time for him to explain it to the rest of the Trigger staff. The quizzical looks eventually turned into laughter when the joke was fully explained and they even said they might work in the joke to the next episode of Inferno Cop.
The biggest complement I could give Studio Trigger is that they have been sending staff members to AnimeNEXT for three years in a row and they are still one of the must see events at the convention. Each time they have appeared their panels feel fresh, fun and funky. Like Masao Maruyama at Otakon they could come back year after year to AnimeNEXT and always be a welcome addition to the lineup.
Akitaro Daichi and Naoko Matsui were an unexpected duo this year. All the way back in 2005 I saw Akitaro Daichi when he first appeared at the convention. He even took a picture of me because I happened to be wearing an Animation Runner Kuromi t-shirt. I mostly wanted to see Naoko Matsui because she was the fabulous Roux Louka in Mobile Suit Gundam ZZ but I was trying to get her autograph for Kate since she also plays Sonoko Suzuki in Detective Conan.
I expected a very simple Q&A where they talked a little about their new show and maybe answered some general questions about their careers. What I got was VERY different but in the best way possible.
I missed the Daichi-san: Kamisama Kiss panel so if something amazing happened there I can’t tell you about that. The Nobunaga non Shinobi panel on the other hand was AMAZING. Why? Because Akitaro Daichi and Naoko Matsui came out dressed as ninja. Yup. Daichi had a black ninja outfit and Matsui had a red kunoichi ensemble. That was shocking enough on its own but then Daichi and Matsui spent a good deal of the panel talking about ninja and their practices they had researched for the anime. That means they were demonstrating techniques with toy swords, shuriken, and kunai. Seeing Matsui performing a seductive assassination or Daichi demonstrating the many uses of the cord and sheath of a ninja-to would have been cool if it were just a normal ninja panel but it went to a completely different mind-blowing level when the same material was being preformed by Japanese production staff members. I have been impressed by how a lot of Japanese guests have really went out of their way to make their panels simultaneously informative and entertaining but this was above and beyond anything I had ever seen.
They did talk a bit about Nobunaga non Shinobi which seems like a fun little historical comedy about Nobunaga and a cute ninja girl who ends up in his service. If I was not already going to check it out I was definitely going to watch it now. I also asked who Daichi thought was a stand out character who was not Nobunaga or Chidori, the ninja girl. He said that he thought people would find Hideyoshi hysterical because he was one of his favorite characters in the series.
On top of all of that they were extremely nice during their autograph signing. They really kept the line moving while still taking the time to chat with everyone a little bit. I got to mention to Daichi that I had seen him over a decade ago when he last came to AnimeNEXT and that Kate had picked up the booklet for Detective Conan: The Darkest Nightmare during her trip to Japan. Daichi and Matsui were utterly delightful and I would love to see either or both of them return to an East coast con in the future.
It was nice to see ROOKiEZ is PUNK’D again. While it has not been that long since I last saw them they are still a highly energetic and entertaining band that is really fun to listen to live. They played a mix of their original work as well as their anime work. I was little surprised how much of a mixture of jazz and hip hop their work was outside of anime. It was still clearly what you expect out of them from their anime work but those influences are much stronger in their original work. They played Complication and Reclimb so there were some distinct anime touchstones as well.
I know my roommate liked the new Main Events audio set up more than what they had at Somerset mostly because the instruments were just as easy to hear anywhere in the room but they were nowhere as painfully loud. If anything the main problem was the lead vocalists’ microphone was a little to soft so it was a little hard to hear him at times.
My roommate and I were a little worried about the return trip from Atlantic City since this was our first time at the new location so we left a little early on Sunday meaning we could not see ZAQ. That was meant as no slight to her as I have enjoyed her work on Maria the Virgin Witch, Love, Chunibyo & Other Delusions!, and Sound! Euphonium so I did feel like I missed out on a great performance. It was just that with me having to go into work the next day and Hamacon being the next weekend I wanted to make sure I did not wind up getting back home at midnight. On the plus side since we left when we did I happened to roll a copy of Shuten-douji in Fate/Grand Order so maybe it was just fate.
If anyone did get to attend the ZAQ concert I am curious how it turned out.
AnimeNEXT had a really impressive line up of guests. In fact at this point they might easily have a far better selection of guests than Otakon this year. If this is just a preview of what is to come down the road then Otakon might be facing some stiff competition for the King of the East Coast anime conventions.
Other AnimeNEXT 2016 Coverage:
AnimeNEXT 2016: General Impressions
AnimeNEXT 2016: Panels
The Speakeasy #078: A Trip to AnimeNEXT, Hamacon, and Japan