Anyway, we were talking about Anime Expo. Like I said yesterday, we weren't too thrilled about getting back on the bus, so Athena provided some extra motivation by using the Disney Dream Duets CD in the alarm clock. Listening to Morita-san sing "Something There" definitely helped a little. We made it onto the bus without incident, and having happy music to replay in our heads made the ride slightly more tolerable. That was the day I realized that when you ride the bus, it's kind of like you have to stop at every light, only if you really have to stop at every light, you have to stop more than that, too. It's not really a problem if you're not in a hurry and are good at entertaining yourself, but the Tsum Tsum App wouldn't work without an internet connection.
Oh well, we made it anyway, and that's the important thing. We went straight to LP1, where the panel was to be held, and visited the Aniplex panel just long enough to learn about their "win a trip to Japan sweepstakes." Then I remembered that Anime Expo clears the rooms between panels, so we left and found the line to Masakazu Morita's panel.
While we were there, a woman went around distributing mobile devices to other women in line, and asking them to use those devices to take surveys. There were a few men in the queue who were bummed out that they couldn't take the survey, too, but it was for a company that markets to women, so they weren't interested in men's opinions. Of course I volunteered, because surveys can be really fun (this one was only mildly fun, though), and for my trouble, I got a little button with their Lace & Lore logo, in whatever color I wanted! ...As long as I didn't want pink or purple. The surveyor said it was her designer's fault--she (the designer) refused to use pink or purple, probably because in an act of rebellion against the whole "pink and purple are for girls" thing. I honestly stated that I was offended, because I happen to like the color pink, and I resent the implication that only inferior beings like pink. To placate me, the surveyor offered magenta, to which my general reaction is a groan. I think magenta is why the Disney Princess pink is such a glaringly ugh kind of pink, and I think the Disney Princess pink might be part of why pink is so unreasonably ostracized. There are pretty shades of pink, you know!
I took a blue button, and we parted ways amicably. Then we waited for a while until they finally seated the line. The unfortunate thing about this is that it did not happen until the panel was scheduled to get started. Ideally, the people who waited in line will be seated before the panel starts. This was never the case for us, unless the guest welcoming thingie was really supposed to start at seven, but to be fair, we only waited in line for about four things. Although, we weren't planning to wait in line for the Sailor Moon panel--we just got there about ten minutes before it started, and there was still a massive non-seated line.
But anyway, the good news is, while we were following the line into the room, we saw Masakazu Morita up close! It was funny, because a saw him walk by, and as soon as I recognized him, I started pointing in a flailing manner. Athena looked and saw a guy dressed kind of like Translator Guy, but in a more fashion-conscious sort of way. She thought, "Is that Translator Guy? No, he looks different...wait a minute!" (Incidentally, we didn't see Translator Guy once during our entire time at the convention, but some pictures of events we didn't go to showed someone who looked a lot more like him, so we were relieved to know that he probably was there.)
So partly because of the seating delay and partly because we were waiting for an interpreter (at least, we think that's what we were waiting for), the panel got started about twenty minutes to half an hour late. But when it did get started, it was so incredibly awesome. Like whoa.
First, Morita-san said hello to everyone, and he said he was really happy to be in the United States on Independence Day. He asked who had come to see him last time, and we were really sad that we couldn't raise our hands or anything. He also asked if Independence Day was a really big deal in the US, and I think our reaction was kind of weak, because...well, if we're at an anime convention celebrating Japanese culture on America's birthday... (I feel a little bad about that, because I really do think America is a great country.) But we all cheered anyway, even if it wasn't a big cheer, and then Morita-san asked us to demonstrate how we moriagaru ("show our excitement," I guess is the best translation in this context) for Independence Day. So of course, we all started pumping our fists and chanting, "U-S-A! U-S-A!" And he got this really big smile on his face (he had the biggest grin for the whole beginning of his panel; we could tell he was really excited to be there), and said he was really happy to see that, because he'd seen it in the movies and stuff all the time, but never once in real life. Come to think of it, even living in the US, I don't think I've seen it that many times. Probably because we hate sports.
Then they opened the floor for questions, and there was a stampede to line up for the microphone! The first person who got there asked, "We know you got your start by doing action movies. Could you show us some of your moves?" We were really excited about this, because one of our favorite things about his work is the motion modeling he's done for Final Fantasy. Still, I was afraid he would be bothered by the question, and want to do something like what Tomokazu Seki did whenever somebody at AX asked him to sing. He'd start coughing and be all, "I seem to have come down with a sudden case of pneumonia..."
But not Morita-san. He got this look on his face like, "...Really?" Then he said, "You started this off with the best question." He came down from the platform with the table so he'd have room on the floor to move around, and he asked if there were any cosplayers in the audience with a sword. We all looked at each other trying to find one, and he was like, "Anything will do. Like a bokuto or something." Finally a Rukia cosplayer came up with a real katana. Not just any katana, of course--a replica of Rukia's sword, which of course Morita-san knew the name of (and we still don't).
So now that he had a real sword, he was able to give us a kendo lecture! He explained that he started doing kendo when he was three, and he learned karate when he was in his teens. And he wanted to show cosplayers the right way to wield and wear their katanas. He started by borrowing a belt from someone in his entourage, so he could hang the sword at his waist. He pointed out that if you wear your katana the wrong way, you're in the wrong era. I don't remember which era he was demonstrating (Athena thinks the interpreter said it was the samurai era (Edo)), but the end of the blade is supposed to be curving down toward the ground. If it's pointing up, you're in the wrong era.
The he showed us how to "koikuchi o kiru," which means roughly "to break the carp mouth," because the mouth of a katana sheath looks like the mouth of a carp. I think this process is familiar to a lot of anime fans. You grab the sheath with your left hand, right by the hilt, and you push the hilt out with your thumb.
Then you can unsheath the sword with your right hand, but you can't just pull it straight out, because the sword is longer than your arm. So while you pull the sword out, you twist your hip in the opposite direction that the sword is going, so you can unsheath it in one fluid movement. When you want to resheath the sword, first you hit the non-blade edge of the sword against the koikuchi (carp mouth), and you slide it along until the tip drops into the sheath. That's your cue to push the sword back into the sheath, but you don't only push the sword with your right hand--you also push the sheath toward the sword with your left hand.
After that he showed us a few different stances, and how to hold the sword properly. You don't hold it with both hands next to each other. Your right hand (if you're right-handed) holds the hilt right under the...thingie. You know, the bit that separates the blade from the hilt. And your left hand holds the other end of the hilt, but only with your thumb and first two fingers. It was all very interesting.
Then he apologized for taking so long on the first question and went back to his seat on the platform for more questions. The next question was about the acting school he runs in Japan. When he got that question, he looked really surprised and answered, "How did you know about that? That's kind of a secret even in Japan. Are you in the CIA? The FBI?" And I was going to leave my report at that, but then he kept on talking, so I figured it wasn't that much of a secret after all and it's probably okay.
So Masakazu Morita runs an acting school, and you have to audition to get in. They charge a small tuition, which he admits isn't necessary for his sake, but he wants the students to realize that they're investing in their future, and I think it's kind of a way of making sure they really want to learn. Also, there was something about teaching the students to appreciate the value of money. Then when they start taking classes, the first thing they do has no acting training at all--they do physical training. Morita-san listed some exercises but the only one I remember for sure is squats. He says it's really hard, and it's designed to make the students more fit, while also teaching them about their weaknesses, which they can then make stronger. So if any of us are ever living in Japan, go try out for his acting school.
Let's see, there weren't that many questions, because he liked to talk a lot. We got the impression that he just loves everything he does so much that he's happy to talk your ear off about all of it. I also got the impression that he's the type to really throw himself into everything he does.
Anyway, there were some Bleach-related questions. Someone asked him to do a line as Shiro Ichigo, and someone asked about the possibility of more Bleach anime. He said that the Bleach manga has reached his final arc, but Tite Kubo says it's going to be a very long arc, because everything before it was basically prologue. (Morita-san's reaction to that was, "I spent seven years working on a prologue!?") There are no plans for an anime yet, but everybody involved (the manga publisher, the animation studio, and the voice cast) is interested in doing one, so it's likely.
The last question we remember was about the Sengoku Basara anime, season two of which started, like, this weekend or something. When the attendee mentioned season two starting, he said, "How did you know about Basara season two? Seriously, are you in the FBI?" Then he said he did a recording for it right before he flew to Los Angeles. He asked everybody who their favorite Basara character was, and people started shouting different names. We were like, "Uh, I don't know. We've only seen a few episodes." Then we remembered that they just said the name of his character, so we were like, "Uh, Maeda?" But it didn't matter, because he was like, "Guys. When I'm here, and I'm asking you who your favorite character is, you're supposed to shout, in unison, Keiji Maeda." To get the nuance right, the interpreter started by adding, "You need to learn a lesson."
Then he said, "You're supposed to do it like you did that U-S-A thing: Ke-i-ji! Ke-i-ji!" And we were all able to take a hint, so we did just that. Tadah! ...Eh heh heh.
After just a few questions, the convention staff insisted that the panel needed to end on time, so they told everyone in the question line to go sit down, and we were all bummed out, because the panel was way too short. But before we ended it for good, Morita-san wanted to do the bankai shout that they did last time he came to AX. He does his spiel and ends with "Ban-kai!" which we all repeat, "Ban-kai!" We did a whispered practice run, which was a good idea, because the first time, he was like, "That wasn't in unison. You need to unite your hearts." So we tried it again, and then we were ready. He used his Ichigo voice and said a bunch of stuff in Japanese, including asking us how we were all doing. The audience was able to answer because he gestured at us with the microphone. I don't know who all knew what he said, but we all knew that that was our cue to cheer. Then he got to the end and shouted, "Ban-kai!" and we all shouted "Ban-kai!"
Then we all cheered, and Morita-san asked if he could take a big group picture and post it on his Twitter. ...Actually, the group picture might have been before the bankai shout; I'm not 100% sure of the order of events. But it was the fastest group picture we'd ever taken. There were a couple of girls sitting close to the front dressed as Kotetsu and Barnaby from Tiger & Bunny, and Barnaby gave him her jacket so he could wear it for the picture. When he put it on, he said, "Ikimasu yo, Oji-san!" in his Barnaby voice, and we cheered. He said the picture was going to be really small, so use the zoom feature to find yourself, and he gestured with his fingers, the mobile device zoom gesture. The picture's on his Twitter now--you might be able to find us! There was a girl in front of us holding up a Pikachu plush, so either that will tell you where we are, or it will cover us up completely. (We didn't zoom in because we looked at it on our PC.)
Then we hung back and watched a bunch of people go up to shake his hand and hand him gifts (one group brought a bunny just like the one the heroes gave Barnaby on his birthday!), and were sad that we were unable to find any evidence of a Meet the Guests Reception this year. But then they posted the autograph voucher winners...and Athena won! Woohoo! That's the next best thing to a Meet the Guests Reception, as far as getting up close to the guests, but of course it's not nearly as fun. But still!
That actually presented a bit of a quandary, because what with the being exhausted and the only one panel we were even vaguely interested in, and our knowledge that the ride we had lined up for Saturday had been suffering from some kind of a stomach bug for the past several days, we were thinking we might just stay home on Saturday and sleep. But now! we had an almost guaranteed autograph! So we worried in the back of our minds about what to do about that while we went shopping.
We had a few goals. Mostly, we promised our brother-in-law that we would buy him Mega Man stuff. We had also told him that the creator of Mega Man was going to be at Anime Expo, so now of course we had to get an autograph. We would have gone to his panel, but it was late on Saturday, and we had to leave early on Saturday because I promised I would play the piano for a baptism. ...Oh yeah, that was the other reason we had been thinking Saturday wouldn't really be worth attending Anime Expo. But anyway, we were looking for Mega Man stuff. We also figured we should stop by the Kodansha booth and say hi, and we had been by a couple of booths that had things we wanted. First, Kinokuniya had Kamigami no Asobi CDs, and most importantly, there was a booth selling ocarinas. (There were two actually, but we determined that we liked the first one better for some reason.)
First we bought the ocarina, and it came with two Legend of Zelda songbooks! And a protective carrying case! It was a little funny, because we went to the booth and asked the woman there which one sounds the best, and she was like, "Well, I like the ceramic ones the bet, and if you're not too stuck on the Legend of Zelda, these two are my favorites." We were a little stuck on the Legend of Zelda, so we got the best Ocarina of Time, according to her recommendation.
Next, we went in search of Mega Man. We found a pretty cool-looking figure at one of the booths, which also happened to be selling plushes of Shadows--you know, the most common Heartless in Kingdom Hearts. They were so cute, we just had to get one, so we killed two birds with one stone. We asked the guy at the booth where the best place on the figure would be to get an autograph, and he showed us a spot on the box. I asked about the possibility of signing the figure itself, and the guy pointed out that the figure would be less valuable if the box were opened, so get the box signed.
Well, then I thought it might be less fun to get a figure if you can't open it and play with it, so just in case, we decided to get a Mega Man book for our brother-in-law as well. Books can be signed and enjoyed. Fortunately, Kinokuniya knows its audience very well, so when we went to their booth, we found three different Mega Man art books. There was one that was gigantic! So we bought it! Ha! And we got three KamiAso CDs (the singles for the opening and closing anime themes, and the new Apollo/Hades CD).
Then we made our way to the Sailor Moon panel, but more on that in an entry that isn't already super long.
Today I'm thankful for having a super fun time at Masakazu Morita's panel, the shiny new toys we bought at the convention, finishing our first draft of Noragami 2, getting salted caramel turnovers at Bread Day yesterday, and oh my goodness Cheesy Bites Pizza is back today! We're totally going to order one!