Join Andrew Chanthaphone as he returns to the con that popped his cherry--Otakon!
I've returned to the east coast Mecca of anime conventions! Ladies and gentleman, Otakon 2005 has finally arrived. With a year of con experience under my belt, I have returned to do more than just hit panels, but to actually go to concerts and the great panels that I missed during the first year that I was there. One difference from last, I'm press now, and I got power over the regular Otakon visitors. Otakon is the second and last big convention of the year, and normally there are a few new licenses announced. Anime Expo is in July, and most anime companies unload their new crop there. Sadly, with the anime market not doing so well, few announcements were made at Anime Expo and many were anxious to see if there would be more at Otakon.
With a new restriction of the amount of convention goers this year, many pre-registered early, and it was apparent. On Thursday, where many could pick up their badges early, the line was crazy. Unlike last year, the lines seemed to move faster than normal, and the response that I got from others in the line was pretty positive. With Thursday being the pre-registration day, I ventured off to explore more of Baltimore before my press meeting later on that night.
Friday was a slow day, as there wasn't anything really big going on. What sucked was that it was pouring rain, and there was a line almost as long as it was on Thursday. I felt bad for those guys, but hey, always come prepared.
I stopped over to see the ADR Directors panel, as they had the two usual suspects from ADV, David Williams and Matt Greenfield, and one director from Funimation and Bandai. An interesting topic was working with a child actor, as Funimation has Aaron Dismuke, who plays Alphonse Eric from Fullmetal Alchemist. He says that the best way to work with them is to use bribes, such as the Internet and candy. The crowd laughed immensely as he revealed that candy always works.
Afterwards, I ventured off to the Madhouse panel, where they showed some screening of past and upcoming work. The one that caught my eye was Redline; think Twisted Metal in the future. That's the best thing that can describe it. It should be out in Japan in 2006.
ADV had a panel which focused more on what ADV is trying to do with bit torrent. David Williams discussed the possibility of more trailers with extra goodies, such desktop wallpaper to be included. So far, ADV has released a promo for Godanner via bit torrent, and fans should look for more online promotions in the future.
FUNimationís panel was late in the night. Lance said that Funimation has six items in the works, but since they are not public, they can't say anything at the moment.
Saturday is always the big day of conventions, and there was plenty to do. First thing on my agenda was to see what the rumored big news from ADV was. They sent out a press release saying that they were going to unveil a "top secret" project. Last year, ADV announced that they had the rights to Ghost Stories, a kids show about a girl who must stop ghosts who have gotten loose. The big secret is they took the entire script, threw gas on it, lit it on fire and redid it for their own pleasure. They turned it from a boring kids show to a funny script that will leave adults laughing.
Bandai decided not to show up at all, and their panel was cancelled, only to be replaced by Animenation. Animenation has two titles in their current anime licensing catalogue, Risky Safety and Miami Guns. They showed their newest title, Hare+Guu. While watching the first episode, the only thing I could do was hold my jaw up from being dropped again. Shannon Fay did a feature on this, and now Iím inclined to pick this up to see if there are more twists and craziness to this show.
VIZ Media cancelled as well, so TOKYOPOP was next, and they have a slew of new manga coming. Some of interest are more video game manga, such as Devil May Cry 3 and Samurai Champloo. They are also releasing their yaoi "Blu" line in November, so for all you yaoi fans, itís coming. TOKYOPOP also brought some of their original creators, and each were asked a few questions about what inspired them, how hard is it to draw, the usual questions. One of the creators is Pop Mahn, who I met at their booth in the Dealer's Room. He is from the same decent as I, so we got along fine. His up-coming manga Blame is all about "T&A," in his own words. He has done work for Dark Horse, DC comics and many others. Look for Blame sometime next year.
TRSI or The Right Stuf International panel was loud, as always. The big following of Gravitation fanboys and girls was off the wall. The big announcement, however, was that TRSI is going back to their roots, and they are bringing out all of Astroboy if possible. TRSI is also working on remastering Kimba the White Lion, which will be released hopefully in November.
ADV Films' second panel had no announcements, other than Chrno Crusade being shown on Showtime. Additionally, The Anime Network has been expanded to more than twenty million homes now. After that, it was straight to Q&A. Some of the answers given to various questions were that the reason ADV didn't get more Paul Champagne boxes was that he couldn't produce mass quantities in a sufficient amount of time. Others notable are that the second volume of Princess TuTu is coming out in November, and the second season of Kaleido Star will be coming late December or early January.
Geneonís panel began with the group The Indigo taking questions and interacting with the crowd. The male of the group was hilarious, and when asked about Michael Jackson, he goes "no comment" in a hilarious manner. After the band leaves, Geneon reps showed trailers of upcoming shows that they have previously announced. Some are not even out in Japan yet, such as Fate/Stay Night, but the most anticipated teaser was shown for our eyes only. The new Hellsing teaser was just unbelievable, however, no announcements again.
The Media Blasters panel was very relaxing, as CEO John Sierbella talked about old and currently released titles for Media Blasters. He also talked about Media Blasters going into the video game market. They plan to license games from Japan and bring them over. So for all you fans of Berserk for the Playstation 2, keep your fingers crossed! The shocker was questions of a season two of Berserk. He reassured fans that Ah My Goddess TV will make its street date. Also, the box is coming with a phone strap and a foil box. They actually had copies of volume 1 at their booth, but that sold out quickly. Media Blasters is looking for more live action shows. One they are eyeing is the GTO TV series. Their adult line, Kitty, is doing well, and the new season of Bible Black is coming out in November, which brought a big smile to this reviewer's face.
Finally, the best panel on Saturday was Central Park Media, or CPM. This year, it was run by a new group, as their new marketing rep is Peter Tatara. Their slogan was anime for less, as CPM is going through a big repricing scheme to lower almost all of their titles to ten dollars less or other reasonable prices. Their announcements were Munto 2, Animemation Runner 2, and finally, Votoms. Votoms will be released in one box set. No word on whether itís the remastered version or not, but I can only hope that they are. There will be more Be Beautiful books in their yaoi line. Finally, CPM has all of Night Shift Nurses, and they plan to release them soon, and more Angel Blade is on the way in 2006. What made CPM the best panel was the energy and humor of the staff running the panel.
It seems it's true; the anime industry is taking it slow. There were no big announcements this year. The panels were more Q&A than anything else, with CPM being the most enjoyable. The best thing was the teaser trailer for Hellsing.
Janet, one of my editors at Animefringe, told me to visit Kumiko Katoís concert, and boy, was I glad that I did. Janet described her as fun and bubbly; I would describe her as fun and hot! Her concert was enjoyable, and she had the crowd rocking. She played a total of nine songs, some of them in English. She did an okay job at it, but her voice talents in her native language were good. She is new, so look for her in the J-Pop scene in the future. My Otakon experience comes to an end with a last minute raid of the Dealer's Room.
It was my second time around, and I had a great time. Otakon 2005 was fun, as I met more people, and I had a better appreciation of all the people who cosplay. I even remembered a few from past conventions, and it was fun talking to them again. I wish shows like Monster and Bleach would get announced, but oh well. I do understand that the anime market is saturated, and a break is good. My only grip for Otakon is for them to work on their scheduling, but besides that, they did a fantastic job. I promised a few people that I would cosplay next year, so be on the lookout for me in a costume. Wait, did I say I was going to COSPLAY!!? Everyone run! See you guys at Anime USA 2005! Remember everyone, showering is a good thing!