But right, we went to Anime Expo! It's one of our favorite places to go, because it's full of people who know what ocarinas are. I feel like I keep saying this, but we really have very little by way of close friends and family who can follow our otaku ramblings. But at Anime Expo, we can go track down our manga editors and say, "Yeah, we translated this anime and the whole second half of the last episode was a kabuki play," and without any prompting on our part, they reply with, "That must have been a nightmare." It's nice.
Well, it started out being tricky, because we had an incident of identity theft the night before, so we couldn't just shop our hearts out; we had to withdraw as much cash as we could from the nearby gas station ATM (before calling the bank and saying, "Okay, cut us off!") and that was our con budget. And we couldn't spend all of it in case we needed, like, food or something before we got our new card. Nevertheless, we were sort of prepared, and off we went.
For day one, we dressed as Hiyori and Yatori, but since we were taking the bus, we were a little nervous about making the journey in full costume, so we carried certain costume pieces with us and changed at the cosplay changing rooms when we got there. There weren't any panels we wanted to go to yet, so after that our first stop was the dealers' hall, to find our publishing peeps. We kind of wanted to stop by the Sentai booth and see if we could introduce ourselves to people that we work with, but we couldn't identify anyone by their badges, and we didn't know what anybody looked like, and it looked like maybe the booth was run by a bunch of interns, so we chickened out and focused on our manga people. Our editors make us feel very special.
We went to Kodansha and talked to people about our constant dilemma, which is that we're overworked but we still want to translate everything. We said whenever we hear about a new license, we think, I wanna translate that!" and the boss said, "That's funny, because any time we license something we think, 'We should get the Nibleys to translate it.'" Awww... Then I remembered the digital situation and had to question his genuineness.
We window shopped for a while, and then went to the Sentai panel. I must say, Sentai's marketing team does know how to do a panel. It was very high-energy, and people were really excited about everything they said. That might be partly because people get really excited about new anime announcements, but I also think it had to do with the energy of the presenters. They announced Princess Principal, which is the new series we're working on this season. We were thinking of saying no anime this season, but they got us with the fact that it would be premiering at Anime Expo. For some reason, we felt like that made it special. Also, when we got the email, we were having discussions with people here on LJ about the "princess" label, so I was like, "See! I bet Japan knows that the label is a lot more broad than American princess haters think it is." So I was excited to do a princess series. It's an action series about spies. See? There's more to princesses than, as Maui puts it, "a dress and an animal sidekick."
We also went to the Yen Press panel. It wasn't as high energy as the Sentai panel, but it was still fun. Kurt Hassler has a knack for presentation. Every time it was his turn to announce a new license, he would give a summary that made you go, "Okay, I have to see this," before he even said what it was. And of course, there was his usual hassling of everybody there. They announced Toilet-Bound Hanako-kun, which is one of the new titles we've been working on for them. It's digital, so we're not sure how we're going to know when it comes out, but we follow Yen Press on Facebook, so I'm sure it will be fine.
That evening, we had our first scheduling conflict. There was a Welcome to the Ballroom panel (for the anime, but we hoped maybe our Kodansha Japan editor friend would be attending) starting just half an hour before the Infini-T Force premiere featuring Tomokazu Seki. This is not the only time the Anime Expo schedule presented us with deep conflict. But, with apologies to the historic heroes of Japanese entertainment, we were more interested in the anime about ballroom dancing, so we prioritized that one.
The panel featured the director, character designer, and producer for the Welcome to the Ballroom anime, and was in the format of "we're going to interview two of these people while the third one draws beautiful sketches to be given away at the end." They all introduced themselves, and the most notable was Producer Kinoshita, who said he was sorry to have this panel with only old (middle-aged, if you want to be really technical) guys (they all looked pretty young, though), and also said that they all looked very serious, but deep down they're all pretty crazy.
Now let's see what all I can remember they said. The producer talked about how he loved the Welcome to the Ballroom manga, and he really really wanted to do an anime, but he would pitch it to the anime studios and they'd be like, "An anime about ballroom dancing? Are you serious?" and turn him down. But then another producer with Kodansha managed to find an anime studio where everyone was just as crazy as he was, and now we have this anime to look forward to. (The premiere was the next day, but that was a Sunday, so we didn't go. The panel's host was really fun about it. She was like, "The venue only seats 3,400 people, so I want to see you there at six in the morning.") The director took ballroom dance lessons for six months for research purposes, and basically his main takeaway was that he doesn't have a talent for social dance. (The actor who plays the main character, on the other hand, did much better than him with only one lesson. But that's because he has experience with traditional Japanese dance and ballet.)
As for the voice actors, the main character is played by a relatively unknown voice actor, but the production team said he was perfect for the role. Meanwhile, the mentor type character is played by Toshiyuki Morikawa, who's kind of a veteran, and I think maybe I was paying too much attention to the drawing because I don't remember exactly what they said, but I think they said the rookie voice actor looked up to Morikawa-san, so it really was a perfect dynamic.
When they opened it up for questions, a lot of people asked variants of, "Seriously, why did you want to do an anime about ballroom dancing?" And the producer said to one of them that it wasn't really the ballroom dancing that had him interested, it was the passion. If Tatara had been into baseball, the anime would have been about baseball. Somebody even asked why the series was about a middle school kid and not adults, because middle school kids don't care about ballroom dancing. I think the answer to that was yeah, maybe you're right, but Athena and I were sitting there like, "Hello, the producer just said that he went to see live ballroom competitions and that there were tiny children competing." (He said they were adorable, and I bet they were.) It doesn't matter how many people are into it; as long as some people are, it's a viable story.
...And I think that's all I remember. As for the sketches, there were three of them, and one of them was a very dynamic and lively sketch of the mentor character and his partner dancing, and I really wanted it, but both Athena and I were eliminated in the very first round of jan-ken. Oh well.
When it was over, we still didn't see any sign of our editor friend, so we went to catch the end of the Infini-T Force premiere. We got there in the middle of the screening of the first episode, and from the second half of it, as well as what the presenters said afterward, I gather that this girl somehow came into possession of a magic pencil that has been summoning iconic Japanese heroes to modern day Japan. It seems pretty interesting. When the episode ended, they brought out Tomokazu Seki and the producer and had some Q&A. The main thing I remember from that is when Seki-san said, "I can't see because the lights are so low, but it's a full house out there, right?" He was obviously joking, because the lights were bright enough that anyone could see that the room was at half capacity at best, but sadly the interpreter didn't quite get it (they do say comedy is hard to translate...), so the audience couldn't start hooting and hollering to make it sound like the room was full or anything.
I think the only other thing I remember is that one of the questions was about how Seki-san was kind of like the cast clown, always joking around, so were there any specific stories they could tell us. He said nothing in particular, but he would pretend he hadn't practiced at all to get everyone's guard down and then be super amazing, and he was always deliberately making mistakes to make Ai Kayano (the lead) laugh. And at the end, we all got up close to the stage so we could take a group picture with everyone. It was nice.
After that, there wasn't much else to do, and we didn't want to be there too late, so we changed back into our half-costumes and caught the bus home. As for costume recognition, we did have one person ask to take our picture, so I had to ask him: do you get the concept? And he said, "Sort of...?" but didn't voice any guesses, so I don't know. I kind of hoped to run into some Noragami cosplayers, because they would be the most likely to get it, but they were scarce that day. Later, we ran into a group of them, and on a whim I asked, "Manga or anime?" and they all said, "Anime! ...Except for him." and pointed at Daikoku. We always knew Daikoku was the best. But if most of the Noragami cosplayers are only watching the anime, then nobody is ever going to get the concept of our Hiyori/Yatori cosplay. Alas. Unless Funimation gets the OVAs.
Once we got on the bus, the fatigue from being on our feet all day and not keeping ourselves properly fed hit. It's dangerous when that happens, because when it's really bad, we can get so sick we can't even eat, which is especially bad because as far as we can tell it's caused by low blood sugar. We have learned that the cure is lemonade, but we couldn't think of any places to quickly and cheaply (still on a budget) obtain lemonade on our walk from the bus stop to our home. As we passed by the 7-11, Athena had a feeling like maybe we should check out the Slurpee situation after all, and lo and behold, they had lemonade Slurpees! With real fruit juice! (Purely artificial lemonade, as you may have guessed, is not nearly so magical an elixir.) So that saved our lives and we were able to finish walking home without passing out.
And that's it for day one. So far, it was a fun but not super eventful Anime Expo. I am really looking forward to seeing Welcome to the Ballroom, though.
Today I'm thankful for getting to talk to our manga publishing friends, getting to go to the Welcome to the Ballroom panel, getting to see Tomokazu Seki again, the 7-11 having lemonade Slurpees, and getting to see the new Saiyuki anime complete with our beloved favorite voice actor.