Sakura-Con 2014

My first year to be an official registrant at the Seattle Sakura-Con, this is also the first convention I have attended with someone else by my side–while I do make a point to meet up with various blogger and Twitter friends at each convention, I have never traveled to and spent the majority of my time with one particular person. Thanks to KWoo for being my convention buddy!

As usual, I will be compiling all my thoughts and experiences into one massive blog post. Panel summaries will be arranged in order of attendance, with both questions and answers being paraphrased for conciseness. If you were present at any one of these panels and understood the questions or answers differently, please let me know. I’ve also placed the panels at the bottom due to their lengthiness.

Exhibit Hall / Artist Alley
We roamed the exhibit hall at least once for each of the three days, but spent most of our time in the artist alley. Over the years, I’ve found the artist alley to be much more forward on currently airing anime. It’s also fun to see the same artists repeatedly and look over what new works they’ve added to their portfolios.

From left to right and up, down, my purchases include: a Chimera Ant poster from Hunter x Hunter (2011) (source), a compilation shot, a Mushishi poster (source), a cat poster (source), a Last Exile DVD box set, a 12 Kingdoms DVD box set, a Tales of Symphonia Chronicles for PS3 (includes Tales of Symphonia and ToS: Dawn of the New World), a Hunter x Hunter (2011) mug, the full winner’s set from the noitaminA panel on 4/20, and a Last Exile key chain of Alvis.

         

I’m not used to pacing myself to someone else at conventions as I usually hustle through to the booths I know I have to hit, but it was refreshing to take my time for a change to really look at what everyone had to offer. The HxH merchandise, Last Exile key chain, and 12 Kingdoms DVDs were things that I totally missed the first couple of runs through the hall.

 

Cosplay
I really slacked this year on taking cosplay pictures. I chalk it up to a mixture of shyness, lack of inspiration to take a photo, and rain. I remember last year’s Sakura-Con being gorgeous, and tons of cosplayers ran around outside atop the convention center’s open grass areas. This year, they had limited sunshine with Seattle’s unpredictable rain. Some of my favorites that I saw but were unable to snag a picture of include Dandy and Meow of Space Dandy, Shizuka of HxH, Sakura of Cardcaptor Sakura, and Magi’s Judar. I did get to pose with a huge microbe from Moyashimon, who also patted my head, so I feel pretty happy🙂

Hiroshi Nagahama Q&A
This panel started with the Mushishi special, “Shadow Devouring the Sun,” silently playing in the background. This was also Nagahama’s eighth visit to Sakura-Con, and his speaking and demeanor showed his experience and charisma. The discussion included his sequel preparations and the upcoming American comic movies that he most looks forward to.

Will the remaining manga of Mushishi be animated?
Yes.

What occurred in the years between the Mushishi seasons?
After the first season of Mushishi aired there were plans for a sequel, but it took eight years of pushing for it to be realized. We had almost given up. While struggling through the push, we were approached by Aniplex who offered assistance with a sequel. Aniplex is affiliated with Sony and they often use Sony artists, so I negotiated for themes similar to the first season.

What is your favorite episode from the first Mushishi season?
Episode 20, “A Sea of Writings”–The episode where Tanyu appears. This has always been my favorite every time I’m asked. There’s also an episode in the second season, an incredibly sad story, that is beautiful visually, particularly with the falling snow.

Mushishi was more a story of man versus nature instead of good versus evil. How does that change how you draw the audience into the scene?
In our daily lives, we meet people, animals–those people we might be interested in. We don’t usually approach with a thought of good or bad. That type of approach is what we try to evoke in Mushishi–a desire to know more, a curiosity.

What difficulties did you have animating Aku no Hana, which was originally a live action?
The biggest challenge was that all thirteen episodes were rotoscoped. Using fundamental rotoscoping (like in older Disney films) instead of current technology was challenging.


What made you choose rotoscoping for AnH?
I tried to mimic the emotions evoked by the original work, so avoided the cute artwork in favor of a more ugly and realistic style.

In the last episode of AnH, there’s a flash forward to future events which is strange for a final episode.
The reason for that flash forward is for a declaration of intention. It was a promise to continue on animating the story to both viewers and creators. Both the story and technique are unique and difficult to push forward in the industry. Very soon, next month, the last chapter of AnH will be published. The anime version aired very close to this time. The last chapter was written with the anime in mind, and answered the declaration made in the anime with a “yes”.

You are accredited with design for Revolutionary Girl Utena. Also, what is your dream collaboration?
For Utena, I designed objects, the atmosphere of the school, the background, the cups, the car, the cowbell! I didn’t design the uniform, though.
My dream collaboration would be with Stan Lee. We have met and spoken regarding a collaboration, but have not yet done anything.


Are there any American styles you take inspiration from?
Yes; I study how movement is used. You can tell from how a character moves if they’re good or bad. Sometimes that isn’t possible in anime and I have to find other ways to display that. Anime sometimes takes cheaper routes, while American cartoons seem to avoid that. But that difference is gradually decreasing with American cartoons mimicking anime.

Do you like the direction American cartoons are going? Do you think that growing similarity is a bad thing?
It’s impossible to stop change; there will always be new experiences going on in the world. I don’t think it’s possible to say change is bad or can be avoided. Trying to not change, to stay stagnant, is not good.

In your career, how has your approach to work changed? When did you know that this was what you wanted to do?
The way I direct shows has changed. At first I felt I had to control everything and that I had to have a say in all creative changes and work. Going forward, now I think my job is to gather the best talents and allow them to use their talents to the fullest. I’ve never had a moment where I though that this is exactly how I want to do something; I always start from a blank page, from the beginning.

Since many of your works are adaptations, are there any you want to create that have no other mediums?
There are original stories I want to make and I’ve even made plans and pushed forward, but it’s difficult to do so. I would want to make a superhero animation.

Range Murata Q&A
This panel followed immediately after Nagahama, but due to completely misunderstanding the organizers, we exited when we could have stayed. We ended up walking back in and taking a seat much further back than before. We immediately noticed that the speakers were much quieter and the translator kept forgetting to start each reply by repeating the questions on the mic for everyone to hear. We ended up ditching after a short bit of struggling to hear, which is too bad given my adoration of his art on Last Exile.

What inspired your retro style, like scifi art?
I’m interested in old industrial things, like old cars and trains, and use those as a basis. Recently I’ve been studying old American typewriters, taking them apart and studying their shapes. I saw the Seattle Monorail and love its shape!

I mostly design characters myself, but do consult with the directors for minimal direction. I take into account how they’d look coughing or crying. I’m working on two anime right now that will probably air next year.

Magi Panel
I had quite a bit of fun in this panel due to the preparation and collaboration of both the Japanese and American staff. We were shown the opening trailer then listened to the English voice actors for Aladdin and Alibaba, Erica Mendez and Erik Scott Kimerer, warm up the audience. Japanese guests included director/screenwriter Koji Masunari, character designer Toshifumi Akai, and animator Kyoji Asano.

Both Erica and Erik were asked to display their voice skills, including both Aladdin’s normal and perverted voices and Alibaba’s pathetic complaints. This led smoothly into Aniplex’s announcement from Friday that the second season would be receiving an English dub. There will be open auditions held this year at Anime Expo for open voice actor positions.

Q&A
What color is your rukh?
Masunari: Pink, because I’m always in love!
Akai: Red, because my name means red and because I like it.
Asano: I respect gold and want metal djinns and vessels.

Who would you want to be in Magi?
Masunari: Aladdin. I’m a bit of a hikikomori, reading and stay in. I also like to travel the world.
Akai: Jamil. He passed away due to his greed, but I also want to rule a country and enjoy life as a rich guy.
Asano: Sinbad, because he’s very popular!

Do you happen to fancy pretty ladies?
Masunari: I love them! I love women obviously. I also really like Yamraiha in Magi.
Akai: Do you need to ask?! I like every character in Magi, but would choose Hakuei.
Asano: Morgiana, Hakuei, etc.!

Sinbad’s leaf or Ugo’s underwear?
Masunari: Ugo’s, he’s huge so the underwear should be huge enough to cover my whole body.
Akai: Aladdin’s belly wrap! (Is it enough to cover your lower body?) I would use it on my lower body instead.

Fan favorites characters in America from the Aniplex Facebook poll:
3. Ja’far 2. Sinbad 1. Morgiana and Alibaba (tie)

What’d you think about yesterday’s screening (ep 17) with the English VAs?
Masunari: It was my first time seeing the English subtitles, but I remembered the lines. I was pleasantly surprised how close it was to the original version.
Akai: I thought, man, I should’ve studied more in junior high. There are no Japanese subtitles!
Asano: I was also excited to see the English version and was surprised at the closeness of the VA work to the Japanese version.

How much did the original seiyuu work influence the English VA work?
Erik: I was familiar with the Japanese seiyuu from his previous work on Accel World, such as his cadences and mannerisms.
Erica: I love Magi and the Japanese seiyuu, and took cues from her emotions.

What is Akai’s favorite scene from the 2nd season?
The scene was shown on the big screen where Aladdin raising the three sand Ugos in the final battle to attack the shield on Magnostadt.

Final words on season two:
Masunari: The second is more powered up than the first,  though staff worked equally hard on both. I would be honored for you to watch both.
Akai: From my favorite scene, which shows how awesome and cool the second is, you can see that  Aladdin has come a long way from his breast-groping days. Please enjoy all the battle scenes of the djinn-equipped characters.
Asano: You’ll be introduced to many more new characters, so enjoy the cosplay of the costumes. I want to see more djinn-equipped cosplay!

When approaching something like the original literary work Arabian Nights, what attitude do you treat it with? Reverence? Fear?
I’m not trying to completely capture the essence older works; we did want to get the real sense of the environment and visited Turkey and other countries, though.

When doing the anime, how much did you deviate from or stick to the manga?
That’s a delicate question. We want to avoid adding too much to the original. We do have to go by the original work and parts that must be worked towards; in order to do that, we have to cut some sections. Those cut parts in the anime help with smoothness.

Which djinn equipment is your favorite and which would you personally want to have?
Masunari: I don’t think I have one!
Akai: Barbados, with the cool silver.

Why did you go with an anime-original ending with the first season? Is it because of pacing?
We wanted to end in a certain place but had extra space at the end of the required episodes. We needed to emphasize a strong emotional point at the end. If we had had a green light then for the second season, we may have had a different decision.

Which villain have you come to love to hate?
Masunari: Gyokuen
Akai: Isunan.
Asano: Gyokuen, also!

Raffle time!
Included in the raffle were a wallscroll with autographs, a jigsaw puzzle with 500 pieces, an illustrated signboard of Morgiana, a signboard of Masunori himself and a few copies of signed scripts.

Titan panel
This was probably the longest line that we ended up having to wait in for a panel, but even in comparison to Anime Expo, it wasn’t that bad. We only had to wait about 40 minutes, and there was plenty of space to stand or sit. Another perk was that there was a water cooler in the center of the room with plenty of cups, and a bathroom right around the corner.

Once we did get inside, the panel started with the screening of the first three episodes dubbed in English. This was a great opportunity for KWoo as it was his first exposure to the series. It was almost as fun just watching his reaction to the events of the beginning episodes as it was re-watching them myself with its decent English VA work.

Q&A
Yui, what is your favorite line?
“This world is cruel, but also beautiful. I’ve had a good life.”

What character would you like to play?
Naketake: Addie is cool
Asano: Eron’s mother because I want to know what it’s like to be eaten.
Kinoshita: Drill master Keith. Stress relieving to yell!
Yui: A titan, preferably a female Titan despite there not being many yet.

How do you feel about AoT?
Asano: I’ve never been involved in such a huge hit and am very happy. It’s had a real impact on the animation industry. I love it.

Yui, what were your initial thoughts voicing Mikasa?
The manga was popular and Mikasa was still popular. When I auditioned and received the role, I was both nervous and felt a sense of responsibility to the fans. I really tried to tap into the feeling I felt the first time reading the manga.

Why are the titans naked?
I am very sure their attitude and their clothes are indicative of why.

Mushishi panel
The panel started by showing episode 3 of Mushishi season 2 in Japanese with no subtitles which had just aired the day prior. The sections where commercials were slotted to be were black screens where Nagahama would talk about what was shown.
The singer for the opening theme is the same as the singer of the original season’s opening. The animation of what looks like flower petals is actually a high resolution shot of snow. All the mushi in Mushishi are hand drawn, like the “snow” that was falling in the lake.

Although it was a sad episode–the little sister died, and Toki lost appendages to the cold–Toki was able to accept her death and his situation. It’s a hard lesson that has a warmth to it.

Nagahama had been to America before, and noticed that Mushishi is completely different from the anime usually shown in America. But being here and seeing the fans, he thinks this show is something that can relate to anyone. There’s no barrier between the stories and the viewers.

Will the manga story where he travels underground be featured in season two?
Of course. Episode 10!

What did you personally enjoy about directing Mushishi?
That’s a difficult question. One of the most important things to do is to be aware of the experiences of people throughout the world. We are all enveloped by a storm of emotions and feelings.

Why do you have an English opening for both series?
Why we avoid Japanese songs and lyrics is because what you’re viewing will be colored by the songs. We chose English because viewers may or may not understand the lyrics, but they’ll understand the melody and feelings.

How’d it feel to work on this after such a long break?
It was nine years ago when we finished the first season. Lots in our minds have changed. We had to rewind ourselves to right before the end of the first to avoid conveying any sense of change between series.

He asked people who asked questions to raise their hands and come up to the front. They received stickers made of Japanese paper showing various mushi with facts about them on the backside.

Yui and Tetsuya Panel
What has been the biggest surprise so far about American fandom?
Yui: In Japan, there aren’t as many chances to mingle closely with fans. It’s been nice to do so here and to see all the scout cosplayers.

Tetsuya: It’s rare in Japan to see cosplayers walking around downtown, and it’s been surreal to see them, like the scouts, here waiting at intersections and eating in restaurants.

Have you ever wanted to use the 3D gear?
Yui: It’s cool in the manga, and even more so with its power in speed in the anime. I think it’d be fun to try.
Tetsuya: It works with a wire and a clip/hook that attaches to walls to pull you along. Unlike Spider-Man, it damages the building; I would feel bad for the building owners!

If you could go back in time and change one thing about AoT, what would it be?
Tetsuya: I had no idea how much support it would receive around the world. If I knew, i would’ve made it for 50 episodes from the beginning.
Yui: I had no idea I would come to the U.S. for it, and would’ve worked more on my English for the visit.

Mikasa is beautiful and deadly; what parts of her do you identify with the most?
Yui: She’s almost the hero of the story, and I identify with her heroic nature and her strong feelings and passion for Eren. I also admire her sense of responsibility.

Are there any memorable moments behind the screen you can share?
Yui: Both Inoue (Armin) and Kaji (Eren) are great people and I wish they could’ve been here at Sakura-Con.

Is there anything you want your viewers to question after watching the anime?
Yui: Thanks to this anime I’ve been able to travel around the world, showing how this is a global phenomenon. I think it’d be great to achieve world peace through anime!
Tetsuya: I want viewers to empathize with the experiences in Titan, but to also sit back and enjoy it.

Are there any scenes that stuck with you emotionally? What had the most emotional impact?
Yui: My favorite is when young Mikasa wraps her scarf around Eren and says, “Let’s go.” I don’t think she could’ve gone on living without that. The most difficult was the last scene where she has to steal Eren back from the final Titan. I had to give 200%, even if my voice were to crack.

Yui, at yesterday’s panel, you said you would want to be a titan. Why?
In this world, obviously titans would be horrible, but I think there’s something interesting about their unpredictability. There’s an appeal about them that just seems fun.

Yui, if there were an AoT theme park, what would you want to do?
If there were a park run by titans, it’d be cool for them to pick kids up to high heights, or let kids jump on their bellies.

Yui, what besides Starbucks (like shown on your blog) is you favorite part about Seattle?
We all went in the Space Needle. I also want us all to go to Starbucks No. 1!

Yui, do you find me attractive?
Yui: That’s quite a question!
Tetsuya: Yes.

Will you marry me?
Yui:  I’m sorry, Eren is the only one for me.

Tetsuya, what are your thoughts on working on the From the New World novel and adapting it to an anime?
The original novel gives you very little to work with on the world and environment. But happily this influenced AoT, and the director of FtNW also created the wings of freedom and storyboards for AoT.

If you had an opportunity to visit New Zealand for a con like Sakura-Con, would you take it?
Yui: Yes, if time and circumstances allowed. I hear there are lots of open plains and sheep!
Tetsuya: Anytime. Just call and I’d go at the drop of a hat.

Yui, how has seeing all the fan output for Mikasa influenced you?
I’m so happy seeing them express their love, with the scarves and pink cardigans. I tried to work out a little bit since she’s such a physically strong character.

Is there anything you would do to lighten the mood of the darker scenes in AoT?
Yui: The VAs for Jean and Reiner would tell ghost stories between scenes that were even scarier than the anime!

Who are you favorite characters?
Yui: Dr. Hange. She’s unpredictable; to defeat the titans, she almost has to befriend them and get to know them. That’s probably why I like the titans so much.
Tetsuya: I said John yesterday, but I also really like Levi. He’s small like me, and he’s strong, unlike me.

Yui, do you remember how many times you had to say “Eren” while recording?
Yui: An uncountable number of times! I also said “Armin” a number of times.
Tetsuya: The absolute minimum would be 75, with saying it once per episode, including retakes for all 25 episodes.

What’s your advice for those of us who will visit Japan?
Tetsuya: There’s a Nakano Broadway in Tokyo that has lots of merchandise.
Yui: I think everyone likes Akihabara. I recently went to the Gundam cafe right next to the train station.

There’s a theme in anime of psychologically damaged children controlling powerful beings. Is this fundamentally Japanese in some way?
Tetsuya: I think that’s more of a specific genre or stereotype. That idea of a crisis needing a savior has a dramatic appeal, and is universal.

What is your favorite mobile suit, and can you build the figures very well?
Yui: I like Akai 3 and think it’s a cute Gundam, the cutest in the universe! I also built the Build Strike Gundam and have it displayed in my home.

Yui, can you again sing the theme song? Maybe Kinoshita can help?
Kinoshita: I don’t remember the lyrics and can’t sing!

Yui sang a single phrase and prompted the audience to sing “Jaeger” after her:

Was there any unfunny scene that still made you laugh?
The mangaka creates these scenes where you aren’t sure if you should laugh or not, like where Sasha eats the potato and when Mikasa stuffs the bread in Eren’s mouth.

Noitamina panel
I arrived late to this panel since I had originally planned on skipping it, but ToastCrust convinced me to drop by. I walked in during trailers of various shows: Eden of the East, a cryptic one of the Psycho-Pass 2 series and movie, and other upcoming anime.

Additionally, in celebration of their upcoming 10th year, they will be airing a new cut of Psycho-Pass that will feature 11 full one-hour episodes with added content.



Will Psycho-Pass 2 be released in the U.S.?
Yes!

Is there an actual slant towards one-cours instead of two-cours, and if so, why?
Yes, I think people now have less tolerance for longer series. There’s also the decreased birth rate, so we feature less ecchi and more intellectual shows for an older audience.

Are there any culture sensitivities regarding airing Terror in Resonance?
It’s not really about the action, but about the motive and mystery. I don’t think it’s a concern and hope it won’t be.

Are there any plans for more female animation creators?
There are females, so yes, definitely.

Is there a possibility for a sequel to Kuragehime?
I personally hope so, but I doubt it will happen within the next two years.

At the end of this panel, they called out the raffle tickets that were handed out at the entrance. For the first time, I actually won! And I didn’t just win one of the lesser prizes, but the “Full Set” that included 2 nendoroids of Fractal characters Nessa and Phryne, a Mononoke handkerchief, a Mononoke fan, and a noitaminA illustration booklet. I gave ToastCrust Nessa for the panel invite, and Avvesione Phryne. Presents for everyone!

7 thoughts on “Sakura-Con 2014

  1. Sounds like you had a fun time😉 Were you taking notes at all the panels and that’s why you were able to list all the Q&As here? I don’t think I’d be able to do that, LOL😄

    Will you be able to come to Anime Expo this year? I plan to be there once again for the full 5 days.

    Like

    • Haha, yes, I was furiously typing notes on my phone during each panel so I could include them in my blog post. I’m horrid at remembering discussions without excessive notes.

      I won’t be going to AX this year; instead, I’m going to Japan for 2 weeks for my exchange sister’s wedding! I’ll be in Kyoto, which I think is a pretty good substitute :p I’ll look forward to your AX post afterward!

      Like

  2. As someone who didn’t go to Sakura Con (and who just doesn’t manage go to many cons in general), thanks so much for taking the time to do this write up! The panels look really interesting and give some great insight into the industry.

    Like

    • Thank you so much for your kind words! I’m happy you found the panel content interesting. I think attending the guest of honor panels is a must when going to cons to not only support their continuing participation with conventions and other trips to America, but to also better understand the process from their point of view.

      Like

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