And here we are with plenty of time, so I figure I might as well do some reporting about Anime Expo!
After some back and forth trying to figure out whether or not they were seating for the Atsushi Ohkubo live drawing, we found out that yes, they were, and despite this late discovery, we managed to snag seats in the second row. Next was the hard part, because we had to wait about half an hour before it was actually time to start the panel. But it was well worth it, because it was a lot of fun! They brought out Ohkubo-sensei, his editor Tsuchiya-san, the interpreter Misaki, and the host whose name I don't quite remember but he works for Funimation.
It started with some question and answer, and of course I don't remember the order of the questions, but I do remember some of them! The main one I remember is that the host brought up the Atsushiya afterwords, and specifically the one where Usher (Ohkubo-sensei) kills his editor. He asked Tsuchiya-san how he felt about that, and Tsuchiya-san said that first of all, Ohkubo-sensei keeps talking about how close to the wire he is on deadlines, but it's never actually that close to the wire. This makes me really wonder about the afterword with the Japan Expo report... Tsuchiya-san also said that he never knows what's going to be in the afterwords until he gets the manuscript, so he was pretty surprised to see the one where he got killed. After that, he made it a point to speak more politely to Ohkubo-sensei.
I think the host didn't quite do all the research, because he seemed to think that Tsuchiya-san was Ohkubo-sensei's editor for Soul Eater, too. One of the first questions was what they both did between Soul Eater and Fire Force. Ohkubo-sensei said he played video games. Tsuchiya-san said he read Soul Eater and played video games. He also explained (at a different part of the panel, I think, probably after he was asked how Fire Force came about) that he was a fan of Soul Eater, so he contacted Ohkubo-sensei via the internet, then they met for dinner, which is where (I assume) they had the conversation immortalized in the afterword for Fire Force volume one. Ohkubo-sensei already had the idea to do a series about firefighters, so the rest of it fell into place pretty quickly. He said that they meet weekly to discuss the manga, and mostly they talk about, since it's a mystery, how much of the truth to reveal and when.
When asked about why he wanted to do Fire Force (or how he came up with the idea or whatever), Ohkubo-sensei said he'd always admired firefighters, and while there are a few series about real firefighters, there are like no sci-fi/fantasy stories about firefighters, so he figured he might as well fill in the gap. And I forgot! When Ohkubo-sensei introduced himself, he started by saying, "Hey yo, wazzup?" ...which fits in very well with the image you get of him from reading his manga, but other than that, he came across as being very reserved and maybe a little shy.
I kind of wanted to express my annoyance that the host asked who all was caught up with the Fire Force manga, and then he asked if we read the volumes or the chapters in the magazine. But the chapters are not available legally in English! This series doesn't have a legal simulpub! Gah!!! Please confirm that before you go promoting the chapters!
When asked their favorite characters, Tsuchiya-san spoke first and said Maki, because she's his type, and...I don't remember the specifics. Sorry. For my own sake, I wish I did. Ohkubo-sensei said Haumea, and after a bit of thought, I realized that explains a lot.
The host asked if either of the panelists had any advice for aspiring manga artists. Ohkubo-sensei said just draw a lot, and show it to everybody. If you show everyone your story, and like maybe 10 people say, "Hey, this part was kinda weird," then you know maybe you should change that part. Tsuchiya-san said that what happens a lot is that people will get all gung-ho about something, like drawing a manga, and they'll start doing it and it won't work out so well, it'll be really hard, their story isn't that great, etc. So his advice is to not let that stop you--keep going, and finish a story, and there's a lot of value (and I'm guessing experience) in that.
And of course there was drawing! First, Ohkubo-sensei drew Shinra, and it looks amazing. Then he started drawing another character, and it took a little while but we realized it was Maka. We're pleased with ourselves for figuring it out before everybody else (we think it's because we knew about a Fire Force / Soul Eater collaboration they were doing to promote the new Soul Eater release in Japan). I said, "I think it's Maka," and all the people around me were like, "Oh my gosh, I think you're right!" and they were getting all excited because most of the people at the panel were more familiar with Soul Eater than Fire Force. It still took a while to be absolutely sure, though, because Tamaki wears her hair in pigtails, too. Still, the eyes looked more like Maka than Tamaki. Anyway, it was Maka.
Then! he started to do a third drawing! What! The host and interpreter were like, "Do we have time for this? We have 13 minutes left...and we want to do a giveaway for them, so...seven minutes?" And Ohkubo-sensei was like, "Okay!" and kept drawing. Somebody either suggested it or figured it out immediately and shouted, "Excalibur!" and he was all, "Don't give it away!" But sure enough, it was Excalibur. And as per the interpreter and host's request, he added, "Fool!" in big roman letters (then in tiny katakana, he added, "Bakame!") Personally, I feel like "fool" by itself is kind of a weak translation of Excalibur's catchphrase, but it's already locked in, so we didn't fight it.
To give away the drawings, they did what they always do--giant group janken! And of course they had Ohkubo-sensei do the honors. He would put out rock, paper, or scissors (but behind his back so no one could change theirs after they saw his), and if you beat him, you were still in the game until they narrowed it down to a few people, who would end up playing each other in sudden death. It's a psychological game, and we figured that Ohkubo-sensei of all people would have figured out the janken truth that most people instinctively put out scissors first. But we also know he's contrary, so how would he play this? I guessed right in that he put out rock to destroy them, so I won that round. I guessed right again that he would put out rock again to psych people out. Now it was a question of would be do something new to switch it up, or would he keep going with rock? I guessed he'd keep going with rock...and I guessed wrong. And he saw it coming, too, because he put out scissors. So now Athena and I were both out of the game, but it was fun watching it play out.
After the panel, all the winners got to choose their sketches, and then they kept them around to take publicity photos with. Since they were all hanging around, we thought maybe we could get their attention and introduce ourselves as the Fire Force manga translators, but we only had the nerve to go up front and hang around, not to actually say anything. On the bright side, we were able to help the winner of the Excalibur sketch read the personalization on the autograph. (It said "to XX-san" in katakana.)
The next thing we did (other than probably go to the dealers' hall to lament our situation to our industry friends) was go to Dallas Middaugh's state of the manga panel. He said a lot of interesting things, and used a lot of graphs and charts...or actually mostly lists. Basically the upshot of all the lists and things was to say that, currently, manga is doing well. It's growing at a healthy rate as an industry.
I think the most important thing I learned (when Dallas went off on a tangent about piracy) is that the pirates are very good at making their apps and things look legit, so a lot of the time the people reading manga through them don't even realize that it's illegal. That explains why the one guy at the Fire Force panel didn't see anything wrong with proudly announcing he was all caught up. (I think I heard him say he was all caught up on Fire Force from the Shonen Jump app, which is wrong on a few levels.) I would think, then, that it might help to make sure the consumers are aware that certain places, and only those places, are where you can read manga legally. But on the other hand, you still can't beat free. It's discouraging.
And after that panel, I think we were pretty much done for the day, so I will save the saga of our Miyano Marathon for tomorrow's report.
Today I'm thankful for getting to go to the Atsushi Ohkubo live drawing, getting to see the sketches up close, getting some exercise today, the manga industry still being in good health, and finishing work early today.