AX 2008 Day 2: My Real First Day at the Con

Since I barely did anything at the convention itself on Thursday (Day 1) due to the long drive down to LA and the problems figuring out parking/rooms, Friday was my real first day at the convention with visits to the exhibit hall and panel sessions. I’m not going to rehash all the news that has already been reported but the things I felt interesting enough to write down in my paper notepad. If you want to all the pictures I’ve been taken this weekend, I made a Flickr photoset collection that I’ll update each night.

Jump to: The Art of Reviewing Anime | Exhibit Hall First Impressions | Viz | Dark Horse | Right Stuf/Nozomi | ADV Industry | Reprisal of Exhibit Hall | Anime Genesis/Anime Diet Joint

10am: The Art of Reviewing Anime
Late Thursday night, I decided to change my plans for the next morning and attend a panel on crafting anime/manga reviews instead of the Ouran panel since the latter’s news would get out anyway. It was a good choice because I got some tips from by the three ANN employees hosting the panel: editor-in-chief Zac Berchtsy, managing editor Bamboo who does the Shelf Life column, and manga reviewer Carlo. They began with stating some basics of review writing – that they are subjective and not plot summaries, that they need to provide enough information for the reader to make a decision, and that you should be aware of the story’s target audience.

During the Q&A portion, someone asked how a reviewer should deal with discussion after it’s posted. Zac says he really doesn’t look at it since he hasn’t written reviews for a few years but he did say he defends his writers, citing a recent Death Note review where the series was described a masturbatory exercise catered toward vengeful teenagers. [Update: Quote from Carl Kimlinger's review: "It's a streak of solipsism so extreme that the series sometimes borders on a masturbatory fantasy for every teenager who ever blithely came to the conclusion that the world was evil just because they felt disenfranchised."]

Bamboo said she sometimes jumps in and other times stays out of it because other readers might defend you themselves and Carlo admitted Zac is better at defending him than he is at defending himself. I asked about how they introduce the subject in their leading bits and Carlo recalled beginning a Mushishi review with something to the effect of “it was so good I cried over a bamboo plant” (it showed up in the post-AX Right Turn Only column about volume 4).

Exhibit Hall Long Shot
11am: Exhibit Hall First Impressions
I had an hour before the next panel I planned to go to so I figured I would survey the exhibit hall. Funimation and Bandai had big booths with cosplayers and setups while ADV was literally stuck between them in a square made of tables, selling DVDs for 10 bucks a pop. Since I hadn’t read the news yet about Funi’s acquistion of 30+ plus titles from Geneon and ADV, I was surprised to see posters of Ergo Proxy and Rozen Maiden with a “Distributed by Funimation” sticker on the front. I don’t know how long the rebranding on boxes will take but the boxes from the previous distributors will become collectors’ items when they run out of stock.

07-Ghost Banner
After seeing the very large banner walking toward the hall for 07-Ghost (“the manga event of the year”) from Go! Comi (“the soul of anime”), I figured I would ask them at their booth about what that’s about. It’s coming out in December and it’s focused on a boy who has some…I honestly don’t remember that part but I can recall that they said they select projects to work on based on they really like, a sentiment I heard echoed later in the day from Dark Horse and Alteil.

12pm: Viz Panel
Viz’s noon panel began with some updates of upcoming anime releases like Blue Dragon vol. 1 on 9/16. They asked the audience simple questions about details covered in the previous slide and gave away prizes. When they started talking about the second Naruto movie, I had a thought that Gelel sounded more like a haircare product than a legendary place. One of the features in the upcoming DVD will be a translated movie pamphlet, or panfuretto as he continued to call it later in the presentation. The first volume of Hunter x Hunter is coming out 12/9 with 15 episodes on 3 discs; when I asked later if they had plans to put any more of their shows like HxH on TV, they said they didn’t.

The manga portion was more plentiful – they described Cat Eyed Boy as not as harsh as Drifting Classroom, One Pound Gospel as about a boxer with an eating problem, and solanin as one of many mature titles they are trying to bring over for an older audience. One panelist had to repeatedly but gently remind the audience to save their questions for later. Also announced were oneshot Heavens’ Will; Magic Touch, a shoujo title about massage; Otomen by Aya Kanno, which is popular with the ladies in the Viz offices); Honey Hunt from Hot Gimmick author, which will run in Shojo Beat and debut in volume form in mid-March; Gestalt, a bimonthly release that has “lots of hot elves” in it (their words, not mine); and some others that I’m sure you can find out in the ANN panel report and/or video.

They began taking audience questions at around 12:35 and one of them was about why certain volumes of Bobobo-bo Bo-bobo are not being published over here – short answer: it’s for content reasons. One female fan asked if there will be child molesting in Gestalt and their response was “as far as I know, all characters are of age”. Another fan asked about putting sign only subtitles as an option of their DVDs and they said they would talk to their video department about that. The HxH main series will come out in 4 box sets but the status of the OVAs is uncertain at this point and they ARE planning on releasing Monster on DVD sometime next year.

1pm: Dark Horse panel
I didn’t think I would like this panel very much since I’m not too into manga in general but by the end, I wanted to read some of their stuff, perhaps because of their self-proclaimed willingness to take on titles other companies won’t print. The panelists were PR guy Jeremy, assistant editor Samantha, editor Carl Horn, and licensing man Michael Ganbos. (Off-topic: I tweeted during the panel that they could make a indie rock band based on their looks.) There was a dedicated audience of fans who cheered for the upcoming releases of Berserk volumes 24 & 25 and many of the others on the calendar for the next few months. They talked about Style School, a series that encourages well-rounded illustration training; Evangelion alternate universe manga Shinji Akari Raising Project; and the manwha Explosive Delivery Man which you could buy at their booth.

In talking about Kurosaki Corpse Delivery Service (another crowd favorite), Horn said some series offer you a robot, others zombies and still others otaku but only KCDS vol. 7 “promises you a robot zombie otaku”. Some proofs from that volume as well as Japanese volumes of Clover and Shinji Akari Raising Project were passed around the crowd and all of them made it back to the front by the end except for one copy of Clover.

They admitted that the Kodansha US deal will affect some of their titles but that they are still getting materials for some others so the latter set shouldn’t be affected. Someone asked if they had considered ramping up the release schedule from their current bimonthly one; Sam replied that their pace is working well for now and going any faster would put their quality of work at risk. There were a few crowd suggestions including Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou and Highschool of the Dead – the first caused Horn to say they’re “always ready to give things a try” while the second was already picked up by another publisher but they did recommend Reiko the Zombie Shop. When asked about whether they would go back and reviving old series like 3×3 Eyes, they answered that their focus is more on trying to introduce manga that haven’t been brought over here than bringing back old series. Finally, I don’t remember what exactly the question was about (something with Kodansha) but Horn spoke the line “CLAMP is like a ska band” and I believe he later mentioned the X manga.

Slam Dunk Cosplayers

3pm: Right Stuf/Nozomi panel
Everyone’s heard about the Toward the Terra and Gakuen Alice announcements so let’s jump straight some Q&A material. Dark Lord Shawne said that some “unusual marketing” is planned for Maria-sama in the coming months. He was asked a number of questions about how Nozomi evaluates potential titles and he responded that they listen to the fans’ requests (he apparently reads every e-mail) but that they have to be careful as a small publisher in managing sales expectations and the inverse relationship heavy fansub traffic has with potential sales.

Cost effectiveness will also come into consideration when determining if it is worth it to produce a dub for a new title – they’re not giving up on them altogether but such a project would have to be projected to sell enough to recover the extra production costs involved. He later added that they are already working on digital properties that might come out over the next 6 months so we’ll see how that turns out.

Someone asked about the possibility of soundtracks for Emma and Aria coming out, the response being if there’s a demand, we’ll look into it. This question was also asked during the Viz panel regarding Naruto and presumably a few other series so there is at least some small fan interest for bringing anime soundtracks to America; whether they would actually sell is unknown. When asked about how sales of non-DVD merchandise are selling (e.g. keychains, T-shirts), he said that it varies and that frankly “the anime brands are undermerchandised” aside from the most popular brands, like Naruto and Death Note. One person later suggested anime car sunscreens (okay…?) and Shawne laughingly told him that they’ll consider it if there is enough demand for it.

I also learned some reasons why TRSI is headquartered in Des Moines, Iowa. Transportation is a large industry in the state (not as large as insurance but still big) and the city happens to be at the crossroads of I-80 and I-35, making it a great site from which to shipping things all across the country compared to being on the coasts. Finally, for those who have been waiting: yes, there is a box set coming in the near future for The Third.

4pm: ADV Industry Panel
As the last panel ended, the people in line outside began to be let in and they just coming and coming and coming until the whole was pretty much full. The co-founders admitted it’s “no secret it’s been a bad year” for ADV but they followed that up with an announcement that they found a replacement for Sojitz (can’t say who yet) and that they are currently in negotiations for a large quantity of acquisitions, some of which may be revealed at Otakon.

The live action Eva movie has grabbed the interest of three major US studios and 1 Japanese studio (unnamed due to NDA) after seeing the box-office success of Transformers, another giant robot film. They ARE looking to put out Blu-ray versions of titles but they have to wait until the Japanese version comes out first because the Japanese companies are like that. They are ALSO still producing in-house dubs with the equipment they still have, just not as many as before. There will be no new additions to their manga line in the short term.

When asked about why the recent re-releases of the Maburaho and Fumoffu thinpak collections bore different covers, one founder (don’t remember who) said “if you change the cover, they [the products] sell” since it might grab the attention of new people in a store situation.

I came up to the front to ask a couple questions after they began screening episode 1 of Kiba for those who didn’t see it Thursday. I had missed the Sneak Peek panel and hadn’t heard about all of the titles FUNimation had claimed from other publishers so I asked about Keroro only to find out that FUNi now has it. I also asked about when Kiba was coming out and was told it’s tied to a TV deal with an unnamed network (a Cartoon Network?) so the timing is dependent on that.

4:30pm: Reprisal of Exhibit Hall
Before I went to get some food outside the convention center, I returned to the exhibit hall and walked around for some more. I hit the Dark Horse booth and made my first anime-related purchase of the con: the first volumes of Mail, MPD Psycho and Eden.

Alteil gameplay screen
I also stopped by the Alteil booth right next to Media Blasters, where I was shown how the free flash-based browser card game plays out by one of the team managers, who also does box design for MB. She played a game with another TM while I asked her questions about play length, community aspects, and their alpha testing. It seemed like a game I might want to try some time so I signed up for an account and was entered into a raffle for 1 of 4 prints that I don’t particularly want.

Anime Genesis/Anime Diet Joint Panel
7pm: Anime Genesis/Anime Diet Joint
My long day at the LACC ended with sitting in the audience of Anime Genesis and Anime Diet Live! Benu from Anime Genesis, Jeremy from Redondo Beach, and Mike from Anime Diet sat in the front while Ray, also from Anime Diet, on joined over satellite from Taipei. They led with some “News You Can Believe In” such as legal downloads are killing the industry worse than fansubs, FUNimation buying licenses for any current and yet-to-be-produced anime and charging exorbitant fees to watch them online, and Ray getting arrested in his own home in a disgraceful way.

A few soft roundtable discussion topics followed such as their past bad experiences at cons before they introduced a special guest (a used panties machine cosplayer) and had some fun throwing them into the audience. The whole thing was entertaining in parts, with Ray being the highlight as always, but it was still weak in my opinion. I’ve never listened to Anime Genesis and only occasionally listened to Anime Diet (sorry, dudes) so maybe this was a slump episode.

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  • Ray

    Thank you for your critique of the panel. We’ll definitely come back next year with an improved version. Also, thanks for checking us out! :D