Unlike last year's Anime Expo, the temperature never reached the triple digits in Fahrenheit. Instead, there were other issues that complicated things. Lines to get in were absurdly long, even for AX standards. Two significant earthquakes surely frightened many out of state and out of country visitors who have never experienced an earthquake before. That said, I still had a blast at this year's event, being allowed to cover a number of panels with fellow Vintage Anime Club members Kate and Sam.
First up, the Katsuhiro Otomo panel. Besides the man of the panel himself, he was joined on stage by Sunrise producer Yasumasa Tsuchiya, Sunrise president and CEO Makoto Asanuma, Kodansha director Shohei Yoshida, and Shochiko producer Motoki Mukaichi. Actor Ezra Weiss was the panel moderator, and he seemed even more passionate on stage than most of the fans in the audience. And that's pretty impressive since the entire audience was excited to be there. Otomo's latest film Oribtal Era was teased, a science fantasy film with a young male protagonist set on a space colony. While there are no release date details, there is definitely a lot of hype surrounding Otomo's first feature film in over 15 years, and I fully expect Sunrise to throw as much talent as it can. Next up, a collection of art titled Otomo: The Complete Works is also in development by Kodansha. Featuring as much artwork and stories since some of his earliest work from 1971, this compendium hopes to inspire artists and creatives worldwide. The most surprising panel announcement had to be the new Akira animated series project. It's already made known that this will not be a sequel, but a full blown new anime series, that hopefully tells as much of the story from the six books as possible. Jokes about Akira: Brotherhood aside, this is something I had personally wanted for since reading the Dark Horse published volumes back in the early 2000s. Finally, Akira will be getting a 4K remaster release as well in Spring 2020, with a North American release to follow.
As stated on the July 4 episode of the podcast, Kate was representing The Promised Neverland anime as an offical Mama/Isabella cosplayer for Aniplex. We were both able to attend the panel, featuring series director Mamoru Kanbe, producer Kenta Suzuki, animation producer Yuichi Fukushima, joined the principal voice actors for the children on stage: Sumire Morohoshi and Erica Mendez as Emma, Maaya Uchida and Jeannie Tirado as Normal, and Mariya Ise and Laura Stahl as Ray. While mainly recapping what it was like on the first season, there were plenty of fun anecdotes by all, and a confirmation that the second season will be on the way soon. With the success and critical praise from season one, I know many of us are looking forward to season 2. Of note, Morohoshi even gave Kate a shoutout at the end of the panel. Since Kate was cosplaying as Isabella, it made Morohoshi very nervous to be on that stage.
One of the panels that I had the most fun with was also perhaps the most controversial on my Twitter feed: the Gundam 40th anniversary panel. Panelists included Toshiro Fujiwara from Sunrise Sales, Gundam marketing manager Kenichiro Ikeuchi, writer Harutoshi Fukui or Gundam Unicorn and Narrative, and Sunrise Beyond President Masakazu Ogawa, producer of Build Fighters, Build Divers, and Iron-Blooded Orphans. One of the key things that were dividing fans was Fukui's comparison of himself and Gundam series creator Yoshiyuki Tomino to the likes of JJ Abrams and George Lucas with today's Star Wars movie saga. Though it was a bold claim to make, Fukui did have enough charm and charisma with most of the audience that we were okay with the metaphor, or jokingly accepted the comment. Others, including some online, found it more disrespectful to Tomino, or way too arrogant of a claim to make. And they are not wrong in feeling that way, either. Being around for forty years, Tomino has done so much with the Gundam universe and continues to do so, with the movie compilation for Gundam Reconguista in G in development. But that wasn't all. Ogawa later mentioned that they were working on the next IBO and Build-series, while also promising new Alternate Universe stories soon. While there are plenty of fans for IBO and Build, just as many made it known that they were also hoping for a new property. Having only seen a few episodes of Build Fighters and only the first season of Iron-Blooded Orphans, I am not one who can legitimately say they have stayed too long. If it's still profitable, they'll keep making them.
The other panel I had the most fun with was the +Ultra panel by Fuji TV. No, it's not My Hero Academia related, though that joke was not lost on the audience or panelists. The day before this panel, I attended the Production IG panel in hopes of seeing the next season release date for Haikyuu!!, but unfortunately any news about that will happen at Crunchyroll Expo at the earliest. But guest of honor and famed character designer Yoshiyuki Sadamoto was a special guest at the panel, and teased his new project that was going to debut at the +Ultra panel, which is why I attended. First up, Fuji TV general manager Yoko Matsuzaki and Studio Bones President Masahiko Minami were there to talk about +Ultra, their partnership with Netflix, wanting to get high quality anime stories seen globally, and most importantly, Carole and Tuesday. Podcast listeners are familiar with the many praises Ed has sung for this show, and it makes me very happy that we can finally watch it on Netflix later this year (mainly because I'm too lazy to get a VPN for Netflix Japan). The audience loved episode 1, with the stellar music and visuals. You'd expect nothing less coming from Shinichiro Watanabe. The last announcement was for their next Netflix partnered project The Great Pretender. With panelists of series director Hiro Kaburagi of Hozuki's Coolheadedness and 91 Days, character designer Yoshiyuki Sadamoto of Evangelion, FLCL, and being one of Gainax's founders, writer Ryota Kosawa of Parasyte live-action, and WITS President George Wada, episode 1 was also a ton of fun. What starts out as a comedic series featuring a con-man turns into something much more high stakes in this globe-trotting adventure involving the criminal underworld. No actual release date yet other than sometime in 2020 unfortunately. And with it also being a +Ultra/Netflix partnership, don't expect to be able to watch it in the US until close to 20 episodes are out in Japan, and we'll only get half of it at the time.
Finally, the last panel I was able to cover was the One Piece 20th Anniversary Panel for the anime. At the time, they just released the first episode starting the Wano arc, so everyone was hoping for some brand new announcements. Panelist included Funimation Senior Brand Manager Paul Frugé II, Funimation Social Content Producer and host of the One Piece at a Time Podcast Josellie Rios, actor and voice of Franky Patrick Seitz, Vice President of Global Shonen Jump Sasaki Hisashi, and Bandai Namco's Dmitryi Khlynin. They discussed reading One Piece legally through the Shonen Jump, Viz Media, or Manga Plus apps, excitement for the upcoming anime arc, and Pirate Warriors 4. They also answered some standard Q&A style questions, such as how they got into the series, favorite moments, first impressions, etc. There was even two special video messages: one from Hollywood star Jamie Lee Curtis and another from Luffy's voice actor Mayumi Tanaka. While both messages were a joy to listen to, unfortunately the panel ended with no new information regarding the One Piece anime. We don't know if the next movie is coming to the Western markets, and we don't know if the dub will be continuing anytime soon. Patrick Seitz still wants to voice Franky, it's just that Funimation has a lot of titles to produce, especially with their push for simuldubs.
That was my experience in a nutshell with Anime Expo. While it differs from yours, I'm still hoping that they will someday figure out lines and security, along with not having to pay for a masquerade ticket. Thanks out there for reading this, and I hope you'll continue listening to the podcast as well. Kanpai!