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One word...Shower!

City of Baltimore, prepare yourself, Otakus are on the loose!

by Andrew Chanthaphone

Finally after many months of anticipation, Otakon had arrived. While I do not consider myself a hardcore fan, I do live in Virginia, and this being one of the biggest conventions, or cons to most, I had to go. Thursday was the day of pre-registration, and I was warned of the long lines. Boy, they weren't kidding.

I waited in line with my friends for two and a half hours just to get my badge. The line was outside and all the way around the center, and then once we actually got inside...there were more lines! From what I've been told, there were about twelve thousand pre-registered anime fans along. WOW!

FRIDAY

Otakon officially had begun and there was not much in the way of studio panels on its first day. The only one I was terribly interested in was the Ghost in the Shell 2 panel hosted by DreamWorks Studios and Production IG. As you may know, Ghost in the Shell 2 is currently out on DVD in Japan, but it was not named as the sequel to Ghost in the Shell. It was simply given the title Innocence. Dreamworks plans to make a nationwide release to certain markets that are yet to be determined. The feature cost 18 million dollars to produce and took four years to complete. The funny thing is the original director Mamour Oshii was "forced" into directing the second movie. How was he forced? Simple, either he does this film or there would be no more movies or anime shows for him. I got a kick out of that. The second movie will be shown here in the U.S. with the original Japanese language track and English subtitles, which is nice. There were some trailers of the movie, and one scene in particular took Production IG over a year to complete. When I saw it, HOLY S*** were the only words that I can think of.

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SATURDAY (BIG DAY!)

Saturday was the big day for all the main studio panels to began. Weird thing is that I sat in the same room for four hours straight. The first panel was by King Records and Production IG. They showed a couple of new series they are working on in Japan and will be out there soon. There were some great looking shows, and I can't wait to see them over here in the next couple of years. Also there are four different type of Ghost in the Shell 2 in Japan, and one of them is $500 dollars, yes you heard me, five-hundred bucks!

The next panel was Geneon, and they had plenty of titles to announce, which, all things considered, is a bit surprise. Geneon announced the following titles: Star Ocean EX, Human Crossing (13 eps), Tokyo Underground (26), Koi Kraze (13), Ultra Maniac TV (26), Le Portrait De Petit Cossette (3 eps OVA), Kyo Kara Mo (39) and Jubei-chan 2 (13). The best part of the panel had to be after Geneon was done, when one of their reps says to Jerry Chu of Bandai, "Hey, we've got Jubei-chan 2! Hee hee." Yes, I was on the ground laughing.

Anyway, expect those titles to be out next season. Appleseed: The Movie will be out in theaters by the end of 2004. Geneon also promises all music fans that 2005 will be a great year for music from Geneon, but we will see. Geneon also brought in the band Angela, who does the opening theme to Stelliva. They were very entertaining with a cool Q and A session. They also said they want to come back next year to do a better concert. Sadly, I didn't make the concert, but I heard the show was rocking.

Bandai is up next and this one I was very excited for. I was also very upset, for someone at Otakon decided to have the US premier of Gundam F91 and the Bandai panel at the same time, and I was not happy to miss the show. Bandai had few announcements. Here are Bandai's new licenses: Fantasic Children, Avenger, and Plantis. Bandai also has coming out for the holiday season are limited edition sets of the following: Banner of the Stars season 1 and 2, Ronin Warriors complete set with the OVAs, Betterman, Lucina with the OVAs, .Hack//Sign, Geneshaft, Escaflowne and Witch Hunter Robin. They said that once they are gone, they are gone, so be ready for them this holiday season and be on the watch out for the 2-disc set of Gundam F91 close to the end of this year. Bandai also plans to put it in theaters at the following cities: Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, and Minneapolis. Though Bandai had no announcements, they did say they are working on two projects that they are funding. One project is Dice, which will be out early 2005, and their second is that they will jump into the manga market. The last thing for Bandai is that Scrapped Princess will get a special box. My outlook on this panel is that Jerry is a very funny guy, and I look forward to more Gundam soon from Bandai.

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AD Vision or ADV panel was very exciting. Not for announcements, cause they HAD NONE, but with all the funny antics that was going on. The first one was David Willams, or DLW as we know him, put on a shirt that says, "I can't confirm or deny it." I want a shirt like that. He also had a fan who said that they were his illegitimate child with a shirt that said: "I'm David Williams's child"...hilarious! Some voice actors from ADV also appeared at the panel and Monica Rial did the funniest thing I have ever seen. She took a mic and put her mouth over it and did a noise. I was out of my chair laughing. I asked questions about ADV trying to pick up the older robot anime series, such as Mazinkasier and Getter Robo, and they said they are trying and to keep looking on their anime network stations. Some uplifting news is they have pitched their idea to Direct TV, and I hope all goes well, for that's my provider.

After a little break, I went to see Ong Bak. All I have to say is I am getting this title. The story comes from my native land of Thailand, and it's about Thai kickboxing and is LOADED with action. I was on the edge of my seat with this movie. I can't wait to get this! Back to panels. Next up was TOKYOPOP.

TOKYOPOP, who is more known for their manga, revealed release dates for their new manga titles here in the states. Also their Princess Ai title that was created with Courtney Love is doing very well in sales. TOKYOPOP also showed off the winner of the Rising Stars of Manga contest, and they want everyone who loves to do manga to sign up. In anime news, TOKYOPOP announced that Initial D box 2 will be out this year.

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Central Media Park is up next, and their big announcement is the launching of two new lines for manga. The new lines for CPM are Manwha, or Korean manga, and also Be Beautiful, which is a Yaoi for those who do not know. Nothing new on the anime side, but they were taking ideas on how to promote their new line of manga.

A quick walk down the hall to the next panel, Media Blasters. Nothing much on new stuff, but Giant Robo will out in November and will consist of four DVDs. Expect more in merchandise out of Media Blasters, especially Berserk merchandise. A big bonus for me! They will be adding more to their other lines such as Tokyo Shock, so be ready.

Finally, to end my day of panels, I went to the small studio panel that also owns me as far as anime purchases goes. Yes, that's right...Right Stuf. The biggest shocker of the day was being utterly bombarded by Gravation fan girls! The horror, the shock! Yes, there were tons of fan girls dressed up as men SCREAMING the title song. After all this crazyness, I managed to get down two new titles from Right Stuf. They have--gee, what a shocker--the Gravation OVAs and also Piano. In other news, The Irresponsible Captian Tylor is coming out next year in a new special box similiar to the one out in Japan and will include three extra disks packed with interviews, artwork, and much more. Very cool! The biggest news though came for the hentai fans. Yes, finally Cool Devices is getting re-released...YES!!!

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To top off my night, I ventured into the drunken voice actor panel with all the ADV guys. One word...HILARIOUS! I thought I was going for some tips on how to become a VA. Nope, I got a comedic stand-up by all the actors and actresses that came: Monica Rial, Chris Patton, Richard Epcar, Chris Sabat, and two others I forgot, sorry. Only tips I got was that you must live in New York, Houston, LA, or Vancouver for a shot. Also, take lesson, they help. I wasn't prepared for the sexual antics of Chris Patton and Monical Rial. Got some cool personal stuff on all three and I have to use two classic quotes from this panel. One, Chris Patton was asked several questions and one reply was, "Well, I got wood in my face." And Monica Rial declared when the staff said that their time was almost up, "We can be here all night! The only problem is there is no bathroom in this room!" I was on the floor laughing. Great stuff, it gave my night a big plus!

SUNDAY

It was the final day of Otakon and I was sure feeling the effects. Still, many came out in full force with their costumes. There were also many that wanted to be glomped, hugged, hit with a special Yaoi oar...I'll pass. The final panel I hit up before leaving this great convention was the FUNimation panel. Nothing special really. They showed a few trailers to some of the upcoming shows, such as Full Metal Alchemist. Their only announcement was that they picked up of both season one and two of Grappler Baki. I still remember the old OVAs that came out five or six years ago, so it'll be interesting to see this series.

AFTER THOUGHTS

This being my first con, I was a little scared. Who am I going to see here? Weird people? People all dressed up in their favorite anime costumes? MANFAYE?!

What I didn't realize until the end was that it didn't matter. All these people, including myself, are here for one purpose and one only; to show our love for anime! The crowds were big and the Baltimore Convention Center was HUGE. I got lost so many times just trying to find the panels and other events.

The dealer's room was humongous, and there was a line just to get in on Friday. I promised myself I wouldn't spend too much money in there, but that vow sure didn't last long. I ended up getting a few manga and some anime that was pretty cheap. I did find though some dealers who were selling titles for MSRP or even a bit over. I pointed it out to one dealer and he gave me a dirty look. Some dealers even had items that weren't even out yet and they were selling them for a fair price. All and all, the dealer's room was ok, but nothing special. My overall impression was that this con rules, and I for one can't wait to come back next year. A few of my fans wanted me come as Guts from Berserk, but I think I'll pass. Best moment though had to have been when Monica Rial took a picture of me and told me that I'm hot!!! Oh yeah, can't wait for next year. Rule number one though...SHOWER!

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