Anime NYC 2017: Panels

hisui_icon_4040_round Anime NYC did an excellent job of running a tight ship appropriate to a first-year convention. They had enough content to get people in the door but not so much that anything felt empty. That had its benefits and flaws. It was very nice to see all the panels and events getting a healthy attendance. At the same time, Anime NYC had only 3 panels rooms and the main events hall. There feels far more sparse in comparison to Otakon and AnimeNEXT which are the bigger northeast anime conventions known for their panel content. Even small conventions like Castle Point Anime Convention and Genericon have a larger amount of paneling. Considering how often we state that New York City is a wheat thresher of anime conventions it makes sense for Anime NYC to be a bit conservative with their debut schedule. It just meant that there were fewer panels than we might normally be used to.

One odd thing that broke the accepted norms more than anything else: 45-minute panels. They had the very useful 15-minute buffers between panels that a lot of the conventions do but 1-hour panels are sort of the unwritten standard. So much so that I know Kate and I always plan our panels to be an hour-long by default. I don’t remember any panels being super rushed so it did not seem to be a major problem. I think it was helped by the fact that I went to a lot of industry panels at Anime NYC and those tend to be highly modular. If you cut 15 minutes off of one of them you just lose some Q&A time.

I went to several industry panels but I’m not going to talk about most of them. Most of the important information out of them is available from any good anime new site. I have two exceptions to that rule. One is mostly just because it was so odd and the other because it is Type-Moon related.

narutaki_icon_4040_round The first AnimeNYC struck a good balance of panels for the number of attendees. There was always something to see, but I didn’t feel like I was constantly missing out.

hisui_icon_4040_round  While there were less than usual there were still some great fan panels at the convention. As a regular panelist, I always try to patronize my what colleagues are doing. Plus they are the panels that don’t get covered by the major press outlets but often have very interesting information.

The most surprising fan panel was probably When Gundam Came to HollywoodTom Aznable started the panel stating that this was not about G-Saviour as that what everyone, including me, would assume this would be about. The panel is actually about the far less known attempt to make an American Gundam movie back in 1983. G-Saviour has become a minor memetic train wreck but this attempt at a Gundam film has largely been forgotten by history.

It appears that at one point Robert Altman tried to make a Gundam film. It obviously feels as though he had put in a decent amount of work into the project. Tom was able to dig up parts of the script and storyboards through some pretty dedicated amounts of research. He went as far as to actually track down some of the key players in the film’s production and get some previously unseen information and materials from them. That is quite frankly amazing.

The most interesting details were what exactly they wanted to change and what they kept the same. Clearly, the original Gundam story would be nearly impossible to convert into a single movie without some major changes to the end product becomes a mixture of Gundam 0079The Seven Samurai, and Logan’s Run. It is hard to tell if it would have been awesome or horrible but it would have definitely been unique. Tom also did an article about the movie but the panel has some material, not in the written version and vice versa.

I saw The Women of Mobile Suit Gundam panel several years ago and gave it a very mixed review. The first time I saw the panel I was a little surprised that it was only talking about the women of the original Gundam TV series. Overall that is just a matter of me not reading the panel description. The actual problem was the panel really focused hard on Fraw Bow and totally disregarded Lalah Sune. This time I felt he had tinkered with the structure of the panel to a greater extent. I think all the women of the show were given a good deal more thought. It did a good job of highlighting why many of them are simultaneous wonder and horrible characters. But that is the nature of Tomino’s “unique” approach to characterization.

The gentleman running the panel said he wanted to tackle the women of Zeta Gundam next time. That is a project because while Zeta has some fantastic women it also has some of the flat-out worst. Not the worst female Gundam character Tomino made. Quess Paraya wins that title without a contest but it is still a fascinating minefield.

narutaki_icon_4040_round Mobile Suit Gundam Thunderbolt has been gaining in momentum so it was exciting to have some of the team at AnimeNYC including the man behind the phenomenal music of the series, Naruyoshi Kikuchi.

There was a large panel full of both Japanese and American staff. The first few minutes was taken up by everyone gushing about just how much they love Gundam Thunderbolt. They even polled the audience to see if it was anyone’s absolute favorite Gundam series, as it was for some of those on the panel.

Discussion about the diversity of the characters came up. This led to some talk about the voice actor casting in English and trying to match that diversity. They also talked about the difficult of finding voice talent who had never played a major Gundam character previously as that was one of their goals.

Mr. Kukuchi talked about the manga which I haven’t had a chance to read yet. The big takeaway was Io’s selection of jazz music is very calming in the manga, a major contrast to the anime version which is full of energy. It really highlighted how music manga get a second life in anime once sound is there.

hisui_icon_4040_round For the more musically inclined there was also the Beyond Bebop: Japanese Jazz panel. This panel was PACKED. I have to wonder how many people merely showed up because Cowboy Bebop was in the title. Truth be told there was very little Cowboy Bebop in the panel. That said it was still a panel appropriate for an anime convention as it focused exclusively on Japanese jazz which made it a great cultural lesson.

Since jazz is one of the musical classifications that is actually an umbrella for dozens of smaller categories so there is a good deal variety so has a nice bit of variety. Also, the panelists tried to pick Japanese Jazz pieces that were more uniquely Japanese alongside more traditional American forms.

I think the part where this panel succeeded over the music of Jojo’s panel I saw a while back is that this panel let the music be the start of the panel. The panelists gave each artist and their work some context and then let the piece breath without trying to talk too much over it. The Jojo’s panel tried to fit the maxim amount of music and information at the same time but they clashed so much it was a detriment to both halves of the panel. This jazz panel gave just enough history so that the music has context but let the songs themselves tell everything else.

narutaki_icon_4040_round VIZ and Tatsunoko’s Infini T Force panel was an unexpected treat. This being a VIZ panel, it was a little canned but still had some cool information about this recent CG anime series.

First, there was a big push to remind everyone at the beginning of where you can watch this series online, for free, legally so that was smart. Maybe because I hadn’t really looked into it yet, but I honestly didn’t know it was streaming on VIZ’s site.

The panel highlighted Tatsunoko’s history of hero characters and their place at the forefront of animation. We got a little back story on each of the series Science Ninja Team Gatchaman, Neo-Human Casshan, Hurricane Polymar, and Space Knight Tekkaman whose heroes all crossover in Inifini T Force.

In this new production, Oh! Great (of Air Gear and Tenjho Tenge fame) did the civilian character designs while Keiichi Sato (most well-known for Big O designs) took on the hero armor designs. Which adds up to saying the character designs are pretty cool.

The panel also featured a clip from what at the time was the latest episode and a teaser for the upcoming movie which ended with the exciting expectation that Joe from Gatchaman was going to show up.

There was a little trivia and prizes given away including buttons, special totes from Tatsunoko’s anniversary celebration, and a signed poster.

hisui_icon_4040_round  I have to mention how odd the What is HIDIVE? panel was. As far as I can tell they just played an episode of Hozuki’s Coolheadedness and Himouto! Umaru-chan and that is that. I’m guessing that the person who was supposed to run the panel was unable to be there so they just decided to play random shows they owned. The problem is I’m currently on the fence about getting a HIDIVE subscription. While I already have a bunch of streaming subscriptions which makes me hesitant to get another their recent niche mecha titles and Legend of the Galactic Heroes has tempted me. They could have helped sell me on the service but instead, I just saw parts of two random episode of shows that also are on Crunchyroll. They should have at least played some episodes of series that were unique to their service.

If the HIDIVE representative could not show up and a staff member just played some random episodes so there was at least something going on in the room then I withdraw my criticism.

I being me had to attend the Fate/Grand Order Localization Panel. It was mostly an announcements panel and as I stated before you can just look up that info if you need it. It was interesting to see that most of the rage over the initial translation of the game has died down. When Grand Order was initially released in English the transitional was a bit sloppy and people were very upset. Apparently the backlash along with the game doing quite well-meant that they went back and cleaned up their previous work and have been a bit more diligent going forward. I guess that is what is being one of the most profitable free to play games will get you.

narutaki_icon_4040_round I attended the Idolish 7 screening as my big event on Saturday. As I’ve said elsewhere, here is what I knew about Idolish 7 before going to this panel, 1) The character designs were done by Arina Tanemura, and 2) It was all over the doujinshi stores when I visited Japan last year.

Idols aren’t really a big thing for me, despite how much I loved the first season of Uta no Prince-sama Maji LOVE 1000%. Still, this seemed like a good opportunity to check out a new show and probably the best bet for another idol show I might enjoy.

Turns out I was right, I found Idolish 7 very entertaining. It follows new manager Tsumugi who is tasked with helping this new group of idols make their debut. The guys have just met, except the two brothers, and each has a different reason for being there. So part friendships story, part idol story. I thought Mitsuki’s story was the most compelling and look forward to seeing where it leads.

After the panel was a Q&A with the director and producer. This part of the panel really showed how many people in the audience were already fans of the franchise as people asked very specific questions. I asked whether there would be any original songs in the anime considering there are already CDs and the game. They said it was “a secret,” which seems to imply there will be some original music but we’ll just have to wait and see.

hisui_icon_4040_round I will end this post with the first event I attended at the convention. I was a panelist on the Robot Fight Club: Debates in Giant Robots panel with Patz PrimeTom AznableHazukari, and Dave Cabrera. Patz has run this panel before. I have actually been on this panel before. The thing is he tries to vary the line up of questions to the participants each time he runs it. Therefore like an old-school science fiction convention panel.

I admit that panels like this can be very bad. So far I think Patz has done well in selecting the panelist and questions but these panels by their very nature can be insanely variable in quality.  The wrong combination of participants and questions can just be dreadful but when the stars align you can get some amazing and thought-provoking conversations. I think the questions about “Is Evangelion still relevant?” and “Is there a robot show for everyone?” sparked the most engaging conversations.

I think Kate was just happy I was able to plug Brave Police J-Decker.

narutaki_icon_4040_round I do think the con could use more fan panels to balance with the industry run ones, but I also don’t think there needs to be more panel rooms just yet. Plus, more rooms would necessitate moving some of them away from the main hall area.

hisui_icon_4040_round I do wonder if they will increase the number of panels next year. I can’t see fan panels being a very expensive part of the con to increase in size outside of the cost of additional space. I’m hoping their success this year will greatly increase the demand for additional content as well as people to provide it. I would love to see if they could expand the number of panel rooms while still having the free-flowing dynamic they had with the Expo Hall as well. That would be the best of both worlds.


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