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Anime Expo 2012, Day 1: Let’s do the time warp again

Anime Expo 2012 Day 1Before we start, I’d like to apologize for any factual errors as well as grammatical errors/typos. It’s been a long day and I’m way too tired to do anything but a cursory look-over of this post.

Day 1 got off to a promising start – I actually managed to get out of bed before half the day was over! (A miracle where conventions and I are concerned) Also, amazingly enough, the shuttle service has actually seemed to improve a little. They finally retired those ancient decrepit school buses and have a fleet of decent looking tour bus style buses. Reasonably comfortable, if a bit hard to get on and off (very steep stairs, and lots of ’em). We arrived at the LACC right around noon time, and headed toward the Press & Industry registration area — and a Line of Lesser Doom. It was fairly short as AX lines go, but it moved at a snail’s pace. At least it wasn’t as bad as what I’d heard it was yesterday (so our arriving late and not being able to do badge pickup yesterday may have turned out to be a blessing in disguise). A bit more efficiency in the line would be a good thing; for example, why not pre-print everybody’s badges? You know who’s registered, so why not print their badge and have it ready for them when they check in? Paper isn’t that expensive…

This year’s AX is a bit weird because we’re sharing the downtown LA area with, of all things, the X Games. As @jlist was concerned about the intersection of jocks and anime fans. To which my response was, “Couldn’t be any worse than those religious nut jobs.” But that meant that the areas surrounding the LACC were CROWDED. Lots of streets blocked off, and various bleachers and tents and other X-Games facilities set up in the grounds around the Staples Center. Which all made it very difficult to get around. And also, whether because of the X-Games or some other event (still not sure which), AX did not get the use of the Nokia Theater this year. Bummer! No stadium seating. Which is gonna be a pain for masquerade – we’ll have the old “tall people blocking your view” problem again. So expect a lot of heads occupying the bottom third of our Masq video. (BTW extra special thanks go to my intrepid cohost @msgeek93 for coming through with a loaner tripod when BAKA me left his at home. (D’oh!)

Speaking of food, we’re fortunate in that, in addition to the average (if pricy) LACC food venues, as well as the excellent (if pricy) LA Live restaurants, we’ve been graced with that wonder of wonders, the food truck. I hear Kogi was in attendance, and there were probably others too. Definitely need to check that out tomorrow.

And now we interrupt this blog post for a quick public service announcement. People, when you’re walking down a crowded convention hallway, DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT STOP IN THE MIDDLE OF THE HALLWAY TO TAKE SOMEONE’S PICTURE. OR ANSWER YOUR CELL PHONE. OR TALK TO YOUR FRIEND. OR DO ANY OF A HUNDRED OTHER THINGS. BECAUSE THAT REALLY PISSES OFF THE PEOPLE THAT ARE ACTUALLY TRYING TO WALK AND GET SOMEWHERE. NOT TO MENTION THAT IT CREATES A LEGITIMIATE SAFETY HAZARD. PLEASE, AT THE VERY VERY LEAST, MOVE OFF TO THE SIDE OF THE CORRIDOR. OR DUCK INTO A NEARBY DOORWAY OR SIDE CORRIDOR OR SIMILAR. DON’T BE AN ASSHAT. And with that, we now return you to your regularly scheduled blog post.

Seriously, AX could definitely use some traffic direction. They do this in some of the busier areas, with roped off areas and con personnel directing traffic. More please? Also, something else that would help a lot is designated photo areas. It works brilliantly at Japanese anime cons, so why not here too? Anime Los Angeles even goes the extra mile by setting up a room dedicated for use for cosplay photography, complete with a full-on studio lighting setup, backdrops and everything. And in the dealer’s room, where stopping for photos is especially perilous, why not dedicate an end cap booth on each other row to a photo taking area? (Sadly I cannot take credit for this frankly brilliant idea; I read it somewhere on the FanimeCon forums.)

Anyway, back to anime stuffs. Our first port of call (after badge GET) was the FUNimation “Sneak Peek” event. Which turned out to be somewhat of a disappointment, as with a title such as “sneak peek” you’d expect them to show some juicy stuff; but alas, it was mostly a rehashing of stuff they’ve announced recently. (Although it was pointed out to me on Twitter that the REAL good stuff will come at their industry panel. Looking forward to it!) Still, it was cool to see their litany of latest licenses (how’s that for alliteration?). Including quite a few license rescues from the ashes of Geneon, including Ergo Proxy, Texhnolyze and Ai Yori Aoshi. Other titles announced include Dragon Age, Mass Effect: Paragon Lost, Asobi ni Ikuyo (aka Cat Planet Cuties), Shi Ki, Tales of Vesperia, Panty and Stocking with Garterbelt, and SHANA. But, I have to admit that I made a tactical error and jumped to conclusions. When entering the room I couldn’t help but notice that they were playing the transformation theme song from 2011’s surprise hit Mawaru Penguindrum. Only to have the announced licenses show a distinct lack of Penguindrum goodness. (Although, again, who knows what they’ll be announcing at their industry panel?)

Unfortnately we missed the Viz Media “special anime project announcement” due to needing to have flinch. this turned out to be their unveiling of Neon Alley, a new 24-hour streaming anime service coming this fall to a game console near you. Looks like they want to get in on that streaming anime action. However, unlike Crunchyroll, Neon Alley will feature 100% dubbed content. Great, another form of that age old debate. Oh well, more choice is always a good thing.

We did however catch the Aniplex panel. Their first announcement was a new web series. From the brief glimpse we got it feels kind of like another Culture Japan/Otaku-verse Zero style show, where your intrepid host(s) take you on a tour of various otaku-worthy hot spots in Japan. Then they moved on to anime announcements, including Blue Exorcist (entire series out on 4 volumes of 6-7 episodes each, subbed); Madoka Magica (in both limited and regular editions, DVD and Blu-ray; 3 volumes of 4 episodes each); Fate/zero (now on blu-ray! Season 1 is out, 7 disks, 5 Blu-ray episode disks and 2 extras, plus translation book, special box art, yada yada; and Season 2 due out on 9/19 with Right Stuf accepting preorders starting now); Ore no Imouto (coming 7/10 in a full DVD box set); Baccano! (Blu-ray release 7/31, complete set with both Japanese and English audio + subs. Preorders at Right Stuf starting Monday 7/2); Kara no Kyoukai, aka Garden of Sinners (DVD complete set – but the question is: will it cost over $9,000 like the last one?); Bakemonogatari (complete Blu-ray set coming this fall); and MIKUNOPOLIS! which they have apparently licensed from Sega. No release date though (“coming soon”). DVD for sure, Blu-ray maybe (they haven’t decided). And btw, no Blu-ray release of Garden of Sinners – looks like they don’t have that license. Boo hiss. Also they will be streaming Blue Exorcist on Neon Alley, which means – yes – there’s a dub! Coming this September. At Q&A we found out that there are no plans at the moment for a Magical Lyrical Nanoha release, and that although they’d love to have a Fate/zero dub, it isn’t in the cards at this time.

Finally, we ended the day at the Right Stuf/Nozomi panel, where they announced a change in focus on their various brands, including the creation of a new brand. The Nozomi imprint is going to become a sort of “collector’s edition” imprint (think anime equivalent of the Criterion Collection). And for their “other” releases, they’ve created a new brand, Lucky Penny. They’ve also created a new label focusing on Japanese live action films, which unfortunately I didn’t catch the name of. Their first title on this imprint is Tazza, which looks like a kind of Japanese Oceans Eleven type film.

Right Stuf also announced an interesting new venture – on-demand manga printing. The idea here is to let customers create on-demand print copies of manga volumes that have gone out of print. It looks like they’ll be snagging a lot of Tokyopop’s library. (And before you ask, yes they plan on keeping the same book spines; so if you’re completing a Tokyopop release, you’ll get a Tokyopop spine, so it’ll look all nice and neat on your manga shelf.) They also announced an interesting program of limited edition merchandising, starting with some rather nice Angel Beats! lithographs – hand numbered and signed, printed on high quality paper, etc. More to come.

And finally they ended with a bevy of releases, including Revolutionary Girl Utena (quite a popular title); Dirty Pair, both TV and OVA, and including series that have been out of print; value pack re-releases of Gakuen Alice, Gasaraki and Boogiepop Phantom, as well as Rental Magica and Maria-sama ga Miteru (aka Maria Watches Over Us). And finally the welcome news that Martian Successor Nadesico will be re-released in a limited edition complete set. (Unfortnately including the movie) And the box set includes the Gekigangar 3 OVA!!! (sub only sadly). They also announced some releases on the new Lucky Penny label, including Ristorante Paradisio (complete series “sometime this fall”), Hyakko (to the great delight of both myself and @hisuiRT, sometime in “spring 2013”), and Aoi Hana (aka Sweet Blue Flowers, “early to mid 2013”).

More details on the above can be found in the liveblog (which you should really be tuning into anyway; we’ll be doing more over the course of the weekend).

So a general theme during today’s announcements was the rescuing of old licenses, which is a good thing in my book.

Last bit of business (after a rather nice dinner with friends) was the AMV contest. Amazingly enough, it only started about 15 minutes late. And equally as amazing (if not more so) is that it actually ran off without a hitch or a glitch! Truly a miracle. (Although now I see people grousing on Twitter that they kind of miss the glitches where the MC’s had to entertain the crowds with their vamping. Oy gevalt!) Anyway, unlike at Fanime, the categories were fairly well balanced. Five categories (Drama, Comedy, Action, “Random/Fun” (for videos that otherwise defy categorization), and “AMTV Pro”) with six to eight entrants apiece. The presentation was very high on production values, including nice animated intros, pointers as to where you should be looking on your voting card, recaps, etc. And the ballots were very nicely printed on heavy card stock, with the actual voting portion perforated so that you could detach it from the part that lists all the names of the videos, meaning that there was no need to hurriedly scribble down the videos’ names (and inevitably forget some or get them wrong while doing so). Yay!


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