Normally we would have separate articles for guests and events. Otakon usually has so many great industry guests that we separate panels with them into their own category and then have a separate post for any events especially the ones with the musical talent. This year on the other hand paradoxically we got so many interviews that there was not much time left over for us to go to many guest panels. So this means we have a ton of great in-depth coverage of the industry guest but we don’t really have a lot of coverage of their public appearances. It is the sort of “problem” you never mind having.
That means we are combining the few industry guest events we could attend the other events we went to. I wanted to go the concert with MICHI but it was sadly somewhere in the middle of the cosplay contest. According to Kate, they tend to throw the concert more towards the last third than right in the middle so it seemed like a bit too much of a time investment.
I know there are various reasons for it but it is always surprising when the Matsuri gets better musical guests than the main convention proper. Last years when BACK-ON was only at the Thursday Matsuri I know I was among the people who was scratching their heads about that. Lotus Juice and Hirata Shihoko being Matsuri guests this year was doubly confusing. Eventually, they did an encore show but that was not announced until after the Thursday concert . Considering the popularity of the Persona games, especially considering the hype over the upcoming Persona 5, they seemed like the ideal artists to make your headline musical guests.
That said since we came early this year so I was able to go to their performance at the Matsuri with my roommate. Since he is Persona fan #1 just like I am Type-Moon fan #1 it only makes sense that the group would make time for this event. The concert started a little late but at this point, I am far more amazed when any musical acts start on time.
So if the rest of our posts did not make it clear I want to reiterate it was HOT this Otakon weekend. Adjacent to the sun hot. Since Lotus Juice was running all of his music through his computer there were some difficulties because his laptop was not the biggest fan of being soaked in heat and humidity. Thankfully, Lotus Juice was raised in New Jersey so he was able to banter with the audience whenever the laptop decided it needed a break. That means he had to throw out about a third of his planned set and improv a bit. Being able to speak fluent English really saved what could have otherwise bit a less impressive set.
If you have never seen Lotus Juice he is a rapper so most of his set was him rapping over prerecorded music. Growing up in New Jersey he listened to people like Biggie Smalls in his formative years. This means while he is clearly a Japanese rapper he feels a bit more authentic than other artists outside of America.
Half way through the performance Hirata Shihoko joined him on stage and the music took a much more Persona centered focus. Lotus Juice was entertaining on his own but I felt and overall increase in the energy when they were both on stage. Persona music is something that is recognizable enough to me because I have absorbed a lot of knowledge of it by osmosis but I can’t name any of the songs if there was money on the line.
It was a distinctly energizing performance. Considering how long we were in Baltimore for this final Otakon a boost at the beginning was distinctly welcome.
The P.A. Works exhibit showcased all of their projects over the years. Before entering, there was a line up of standees featuring heroines from each of their shows. (This more than anything else really highlighted just how different a series The Eccentric Family was for the studio.)
Inside the display, each show in turn had a section with a poster, a few other images, and a synopsis. These were fine but rather perfunctory. There was no original artwork or anything especially rare.
Then further on, there was a desk made to feel like it had popped out of Shirobako. This was a fun feature!
And better still were the glasses cases above which were signboards commemorating P.A. Works 15th anniversary. Below in the cases themselves were sketches, and other original works.
There was also a place to buy exclusive merchandise naturally, but I only took a cursory glance at it. There were a couple of Eccentric Family items but nothing that grabbed my attention.
I did miss most of the Guest events but I did go to the P.A.WORKS Anime Live Drawing: feat. Kazuki Higashiji. It is always interesting to see an artist do their work in front of you. If your not an animator yourself it is easy to either underestimate how much work anything they do takes. You often see both how quick these artists are but also how much effort even a simple piece of art takes. Also, it feels slightly different when you see it before your eyes as opposed to as an extra in a making of feature.
Kazuki Higashiji was a little different from the few times I have seen a live drawing. Most of the live drawings I have seen have been either manga-ka or character designers. The most unusual version was Sayo Yamamoto doing a live drawing of a storyboard. I had yet to see a background artist like Kazuki Higashiji ply his craft before the audience.
Since background art has embraced CG so quickly I noticed that he did almost everything with the computer. Unlike other artists that might do the majority of their preliminary work with pencil and paper and the do the rest of their work with the computer he did most everything natively on the computer.
Kazuki Higashiji and one of the PA Works producers bantered while he did a drawing of Manaka Mukaido from Nagi-Asu: A Lull in the Sea on a bridge. He mostly talked about cute girls and silliness while he was doing the background but he occasionally got serious and actually talked about his craft.
Interestingly enough as if channeling the power of Makoto Shinkai there was a lot of good information about clouds. He mentioned that he found clouds challenging because they have no set form thereby making it hard to make clouds that look “right.” Also, someone in the audience asked him what patterns he used for the trees and clouds and it turned out they were patterns of his own design. In fact they useful enough that they have been borrowed by most other people in the office.
Kazuki Higashiji showed me a unique aspect of the industry I always seen appreciated but never seen the details of before this point.
If you’re a little worried that the guest coverage seems a bit thin this year fear not. We have a LOT of interviews coming your way. Hopefully, our questions will be more informative than the public Q&A so it will all be worthwhile.