But anyway, we were about to go to Toshiyuki Morikawa's panel.
Morikawa-san seemed to like to talk. Or at least to like to explain stuff. He gave himself a long introduction. Actually, the MC gave him a really long introduction, too, listing a bunch of things Morikawa-san's worked on and a bunch of famous voice actors he went to school with. It makes us wonder what would have happened if we'd gone to the Meet the Guests Reception in our Saiyuki costumes. Not that he necessarily remembers playing Homura.
Anyway, after the MC introduced him, he started talking. He said he had been to America once before, when he went to Guam a while back, but this was his first time on a long plane ride, so he was really excited like a little kid on the way to the States. He said he was worried about his dog, whom he had to leave behind, but he was sure he would be okay. And then he said that he when he heard there would be a question and answer panel, he got really nervous because he didn't know what to expect, so he decided to ask someone who had come to AX as a guest before, and since he and Toshihiko Seki are both in One Piece together these days, he asked him. And Seki-san told him that they order you to do lines as your characters and it's really terrible.
Now as the fans who make it terrible, this had us and a few of our other AX friends a little worried, but if we're accurate judges of character, we figure Seki-san was just giving him a hard time and/or trying to scare him. At any rate, Morikawa-san asked us to go easy on him. And then it was time for the questions!
Almost right away, a girl got up and asked if BL anime/manga/etc. has helped to open people's eyes to the reality of homosexuality in Japan, and... something about political movements along those lines. The MC tried to block the question by saying it was too personal, but even as he was doing it, Translator Guy started interpreting it. As for our own observations of BL... all the ones we know of are created by women, and all the BL fans we've seen portrayed in anime and manga are squeeing fangirls, so as far as we can tell, it could be really hard to see BL as anything other than the fantasies of squeeing fangirls (though of course we might be missing something). And indeed, Morikawa-san answered that BL is entertainment.
He went on to explain that when they first started doing BL CD dramas and the like way back when, they were very careful about it, they'd let the actors know exactly what kind of role they'd be portraying, and then they'd give the actor the chance to turn the role down if they felt uncomfortable with it. And, not entirely surprisingly, a lot of actors would turn down the roles. (We know that Toru Furuya turned down those roles, as he explained at AX'06 with his line, "I like the ladies.") Morikawa-san had decided that, as an actor, he wants to try all kinds of roles, so he would accept the parts, and now he's done like 500 BL roles and has become known as the Crown Prince of BL.
As for the political aspect, he feels that the United States is farther along in that regard, and... something about if anyone would like to teach him about it, he would be happy to learn. Or something like that.
Someone asked him to do his Super Robot Wars character's attack in his Sephiroth voice, which he really liked and said, "Now I'm having fun!" And right after that, someone asked him to use his sweetest voice to confess his love to everyone in the room. He said, "I love you all," then, "Fushigi na kibun ni narimashita. (Roughly, "that felt strange.")" Incidentally, his laugh is incredibly sexy.
Speaking of Morikawa-san's laugh, he said he does enjoy playing villains more than heroes, because he can laugh more. But I like his genuine laugh better than his evil laugh.
When asked how he thinks Sephiroth would react to all his adoring fangirls, he put on his Sephiroth voice and said, "Omoide ni wa naranai yo. ...Zetsubou o okurou." (I won't become a memory. ...I'll give you despair.) And of course every time he did the Sephiroth voice, he started it with the laugh♥ We wonder if Sephiroth sometimes makes him laugh as much as he makes us giggle.
When asked about his dog, he explained for the benefit of people who don't follow his blog or anything like that that he owns a Labrador, and the dog is doing very well. His full name is Morikawa... we don't remember if it was Axel William or William Axel, but he was named after the guy from Guns & Roses. And he's about 33kg, but he didn't know how much that would be in pounds (we were surprised to see he realized we don't use the metric system here). Translator Guy supplied about 70lbs., and, since we have the conversion formula (comes in handy when translating manga), we have calculated it to be 72.765lbs.
The one other thing I remember is that someone asked him to tell a lame joke in his Conrad (Kyo Kara Maoh) voice, and he said he didn't know if it would translate, but "Tadoritsukeba, Alaska." We know Japanese and it still doesn't make any sense. We should have asked Translator Guy. Then he said, "Don't you feel cold now?" (A lame joke in Japanese is "cold." Maybe that was the pun... Since it's cold in Alaska...)
And Athena reminded me that someone asked about the thing that he does with Nobuyuki Hiyama. We already forgot what it's called. But, since Morikawa-san is very kind and likes to make sure that everyone is on the same page, he explained that it's a show he and Hiyama-san do... once a year? I think? And they'd have other seiyuu come on as guests, and they'd do a little cosplay corner thing which has now basically turned into the "put everybody in a dress" corner. At the most recent one, Hiroshi Kamiya apparently looked very natural in his China dress, but that one won't be coming out on DVD, because he edits the DVDs himself and he doesn't have time.
After the panel, it was time to set out on our Quest. Incidentally, we had tried to embark on our Quest before, but the dealers' room wasn't open yet. As we wandered around outside after discovering that fact, we ran into another friend sort of from college. We actually met her for the first time when we went to Otakon 2002, when she was kind enough to pay for the Power Wheels Jeep we used for our Saiyuki cosplay (has since been sold ):). We met her a few more times at subsequent AXs, but by the time she was finally at BYU, our roommate had befriended her, and that was the year our roommate was pretending we didn't exist. So it was nice to talk to her, but again with the reviving of past trauma. (We hear the roommate eventually started doing what she did to us to this same person, which is how they all figured out we weren't exaggerating.)
But anyway, our Quest. Before we left for the convention, I mentioned our friend from last year who's in Japan and couldn't come this year because his company is afraid of the swine flu? He had bought us Saiyuki: The Musical and refused to let us pay him back (what part of 7000 yen (about $70) is not expensive?), so we wanted to do something nice for him, and we promised to get him an autograph if there were any guests whose autograph he wanted. His request: Yasuhiro Nightow, creator of Trigun and Morning Musume audition flunkee. So now we had to find something of Trigun for him to sign. Our objective: an art book.
We started at one end of the dealers' hall, and we very methodically checked out every single booth. And it didn't take us long to realize that, what with Trigun being about ten years old, it wasn't going to be easy to find anything. Boo. Incidentally, we were so focused on finding that Trigun art book that as soon as we determined that a booth didn't have it, we immediately forgot its very existence, so by the time we were wandering around doing our own shopping, everything was new! and fresh!. We did eventually find it on the opposite end of the hall from where we started (at least we had an adventure!), and by that time we had also come up with the backup plan of getting the English version manga (since our friend in Japan would probably already have the Japanese version), and we liked that idea so much that we got that, too. The decision was made easier when we realized the booth we wanted to buy it at was selling it for just $5.
Once our quest was completed, we decided to check out the art show, since our friend had entered some etched glass stuff. We were surprised to see that she had stuff representing things like Gurren-Lagann and Hetalia, serieses we'd talked about but not gotten a response on. Logically thinking, she probably got into them long after we had mentioned them, but we had already been mentally weakened by our encounters with College Friends 1 and 2, and we found ourselves falling into an illogical funk. Plus we were tired from our long Quest through the dealers' hall, and we needed to iron our Risa & Riku costumes, because they get really wrinkly and we wanted to have them ready to put on for the Meet the Guests Reception early the next morning. So off to our hotel room we went!
We listened to our Haruka 4 CD while we ironed, and then it was time to go back to the convention for five hours of Gurren-Lagann stuff. On the way there, we were blessed with several reminders that we're not, in fact, hated by the world. First, as we waited for an elevator, the first one to come along was jam-packed with people, which was kind of a bummer, but one of those people was Translator Guy, who waved enthusiastically when he saw us. Yay! When we did get an elevator, it had three people in it, at least two of whom were also AX Staff. One of them was actually the person we had dubbed Translator Girl, but she hasn't been interpreting for the last few years, and I was kind of worried that she'd stopped being involved with AX at all, so I was glad to see her. When we walked into the elevator, the other (definite) staffer said, "A, Saiyuki da! (Ah, it's Saiyuki!)" and showed us his staff badge.
AX staffers get to choose whatever picture they want for their badges, and he had chosen a lovely picture of Sanzo. Translator Girl then asked, "Doesn't that mean you get to beat her up?" (indicating me in my Goku costume). So he made as if to whack me with the piece of paper he was holding, and I said, "Nani mo shitenai noni! (But I didn't do anything!)" and we all laughed. Then the other staff guy started talking about how Yun Kouga had seen his badge and said she was a friend of Kazuya Minekura's, and so he ended up talking with Kouga-sensei about Minekura-sensei, and he wasn't sure if that was appropriate. Ironically, Translator Girl was speaking English the whole time.
Once we got off the shuttle and were wandering back toward Live Programming 1 to see the Gurren-Lagann movie, suddenly a girl shouted, "That's the one!" and she and a guy in a tailed coat and top hat came up to Athena and the guy handed her a Ring Pop. Apparently he was playing a game where he would find someone and have them choose a cosplayer for whatever reason, be it a character they liked or an awesome looking outfit or just for the heck of it. He would give that cosplayer a candy, and then it was that cosplayer's turn to choose another cosplayer. The only rules were that they had to be in costume, and it couldn't be someone he'd already given candy to. Athena got chosen because of her Saiyuki cosplay (the girl didn't notice me until later). Athena says it didn't occur to her until later that she could have chosen me, but that's fine because I didn't realize that until she pointed it out to me just now. Fortunately, there was a girl in a very cute Chocolat (Sugar Sugar Rune) costume posing for pictures not too far off, so we had the guy give her a candy, took her picture, and then headed off to the movie.
We had heard that AX is the worst place to watch movies for the first time, but we had also heard that the Gurren-Lagann movie was basically a recap, so we decided to brave it anyway, especially because what we really wanted to attend were the panel and documentary afterward. Of course, it didn't take long to realize that, with the flat seating arrangement, it was going to be very difficult to see the bottom of the screen, aka where the subtitles are. We felt very fortunate to already know Japanese. Other than that, the experience was mostly very good. It was pretty fun, with everyone cheering for the characters and stuff. Though we could have done without the one joke at the Very Dramatic Scene. Though to be fair, the joke was a humorous yet very accurate expression of how I'm sure most of us felt about what happened. And while the movie was mostly recap, they paced it very well, and the last twenty some odd minutes were done completely differently from the series, and exceedingly awesomely. Except for the one bit where we really don't care what Nia's panties look like.
The panel afterward was a lot of fun. They had the director, the assistant director, the character designer, and one of the key animators come up to talk about the movie and the series. They were all very touched to see how well we all received the movie, and they really liked how everybody cheered and laughed and didn't worry about being quiet. There was one part in particular where they were sure they would get a big laugh, but the Japanese audiences maybe kind of chuckled to themselves, while the American audience just busted up. Though I'll have to admit I didn't laugh at that part. I'm going to claim distraction based on it being the end of the movie and the audience not being settled. The character designer wanted to know what characters everybody likes, so he would say a name and we were supposed to cheer if we liked them, but everybody cheered for every name (except Roshu (I don't know the official spelling; we've only watched it raw except for when we couldn't see the subtitles)), so eventually he listed one of the more obscure characters (I think his name was Atenporo or something), and somebody was like, "Yeah, Atenporo!!"
They asked us all what our favorite scene in the movie was, and people got to line up to say their specific favorite. A lot of people agreed that just about everything in the last twenty minutes was fantastic, and only one person mentioned Nia's panty shot, which I'm going to bring up because actually I was kind of amused by what happened in consequence of that mention. The character designer commented that he gave specific instructions to the animation staff to make them himo-pan, which the interpreter interpreted as g-string. When it came time for the question and answer period, a Nia cosplayer got up and said, "Why a g-string!?" So the character designer started making excuses. He said he didn't mean it in a sexual way--but because Nia is kind of exotic, and so are himo-pan, so in his completely masculine brain, he was just trying to think of what kind of underwear Nia would wear.
It was pretty late by that time, so I'm having a hard time remembering what all else got talked about. Oh, but I did forget to mention that, despite the MC coming out and saying that they were going to start the panel early because the creators had a loooooot of stuff they wanted to talk about, it didn't start all that early because the Gainax people got distracted by a big group of Gurren-Lagann cosplayers. They even had the bird general guy! We were so incredibly jealous of their shiny costumes, their big group, and the attention they were getting. *pout*
I do remember that they had a big surprise! at the end. They started by showing a trailer. It started out with a big dramatic scene from Gurren-Lagann, and a big dramatic scene from FullMetal Alchemist, and a big dramatic scene from Shikabane Hime... basically big dramatic scenes to represent what else all the people working on this new thing were working on. And then! they showed a trailer for a gag movie about kindergartners. At the end of the trailer, one of the characters said, "But downloading is illegal, so buy it on Amazon, 'kay?" (they did make the trailer specifically for an American audience). And that's why I'm not telling the title, as if you people couldn't easily go find out anyway.
And the director on this project is none other than Seiji Mizushima, director of (the first) FullMetal Alchemist and Gundam 00, and also a guest of honor at AX! So he came out and they got to talk about that for a little while. One of the Gurren-Lagann guys was like, "Well, Gainax pretty much is a bunch of kindergartners, so it will be good to have you come teach us, Mizushima-san." And they were all like, "Mizushima-san, let us work for you!" so Mizushima-san was like, "Sure! I have this for you to work on, and this for you to work on, and (to the Gurren-Lagann director who loves mecha) you can come to Sunrise and work on Gundam with me!"
It was all very cute, and then they all got to go either out drinking or off to bed (or, y'know, something else; I don't know, we stayed for the documentary) while they played a documentary about the making of Gurren-Lagann. It was made by a Japanese-German man, who we're sure is a friend of Tetsuya Kakihara (voice of the main character and also grew up in Germany). It was a really fascinating documentary. They talked to at least one person from every single step of the animation process. But it was late and we were having a hard time focusing. Athena says it's like DVD extras (or how we approach them anyway). It's all stuff we want to know about and want to watch, but we never want to watch it "right now," because it's kind of long and doesn't have as much story, but if we don't watch it now, we'll never get back to it, so we have to watch it all at once regardless of brain power, and by the end it's kind of like "unnnngh..." But we loved it anyway.
The inbetweeners were adorable. I think it's kind of like a paid internship, but not with very good pay. They get 200 yen (about $2) per page they draw. For perspective, all we do is translate manga, and at the very least, we get $3 a page. But then again, we know Disney animators can draw supersuperfast!. So basically it's just training them to draw better and faster. They even talked to the guy in charge of them, and he pretty much said that's what it is. He's really really hard on them during their first year, but after that, he figures they probably know what all he expects and how to do everything. Incidentally, I think they said they draw about 300 pages a month, 350 if they're going really fast.
The mechanical designer really seemed to hate his job on Gurren-Lagann, because he thinks all the mecha look really stupid, and he doesn't want to draw stupid-looking mecha. They talked to the director about that, too, and he said he wanted it all to look lame, and have the audience think it's really lame at first but then have everybody turn out to be really cool. So when we'd be reading people's LJ entries and stuff where they're like, "I thought this show was pretty dumb at first, but once you get to such and such episode, it's actually really really good!" we shouldn't have been so sad, because that's exactly what the director was aiming for. As for us, we were hooked as soon as Kamina said, "Listen Simon. Don't believe in yourself. Believe in me!" in the first episode. It was just too funny.
At any rate, I'm glad it's not entirely the mechanical designer's fault that a bunch of the mecha are so... ...
Well anyway, it was a really good day at Anime Expo, and I've been typing for over an hour, so I think it's time to stop.
Today I'm thankful for reminders that people like us (everybody needs them sometimes), finally having Kraft singles again (I can't believe we forgot to get them the second time in a row), awesome animation documentaries, people with happiness(aka candy)-distributing games (especially when said candy is not laced with drugs or poison), and our friend being right there and willing to give us a ride to Mom's place from the church yesterday.