One of the series that got a big push at Anime Expo was Gundam. There was plenty of 40th Anniversary Gundam stuff happening at the convention. The Bandai/Blue Fin booth had a whole section dedicated to Gundam history. This included a large RX-78-2 Gundam statue to pose with, a timeline of Gundam TV series with information about each, prototypes of new toys and model kits, and displays featuring new Gundam video games. In addition to that, they had a tutorial area to learn how to build Gunpla kits similar to the panel last year, but run far better. There were also new shirts and hats available, but many of them sold out. I really wanted to get a Zeon hat, but they went fast and I wasn’t in the mood to grab the Federation hat instead. Beyond the booth there were plenty of screenings for stories out of the current Gundam universe as well as panels discussing the history and future of the long running franchise.
One of the Bandai panels I did attend was their game panel. The vast majority of titles they showed off were anime related or stylized, which isn’t much of a surprise. One of the highlights for me was the announcement of a Gunpla Battle themed mobile game that is coming soon. While it is essentially a Build Fighters simulator it isn’t being marketed that way. Instead it is being sold based on the customization and variety of unlockable units. It will be interesting to see how the game comes out and even more interesting to find out if the pre-release campaign succeeds and they give away the Wing Gundam for free. Beyond that, they showed off a new One Piece game that got several people hyped especially when they gave away figures to the most hyped fans of the long running pirate series. While there weren’t any new announcements, it was nice to see some gameplay and discussion about some fun upcoming titles.
One of the best parts of Anime Expo is checking out the premiere of various new anime movies/series as well as the occasional dub premiere. This time we were lucky enough to catch the second two movies in the ‘gritty’ Lupin saga Goemon’s Bloodstain and Fujiko’s Lie. They were presented back to back both with their dub version on the big screen. Both movies were dark and built upon the events of Jigen’s Gravestone. It’s nice to have a darker tone version of Lupin as well as movies that give focus to each character and the challenges they face. While there was no announcement of the next movie the fans made it known that they were excited to see the next entry. After the screening several of the voice actors answered some questions and gave prizes for trivia. I was able to answer the question about the character’s weapons and I won a Fujiko’s Lie shirt that doesn’t fit me. If you ever wanted to see Lupin done in a Tarantino style then you really should check these movies out.
Our last panel of the convention was the Netflix anime panel. This was a very mixed experience. They showed off four new, original, titles that got a very lukewarm response from the audience. It is sad that the most memorable of the series only had concept art as it was very early in development. The first series was a Trigun rip-off based on an indie US comic. The second was a really interesting sounding series based on a Pilipino comic series that focused upon battling the various spirits and monsters of the Philippines. The third series was about steampunk cyborg boxing and was actually based on a manga and had a Japanese producer promoting the show. The final series was a Mexican remake of Afro Samurai done by Robert Rodríguezes’ cousin. They really tried to push that series by announcing a Hollywood stunt cast line up, but no one in the audience really seemed to care. When only one of the four original series is actually a true anime (made by and for the Japanese) it doesn’t fill the Anime Expo audience with that much hope for future projects. People came wanting to hear about new licenses or redubs like the recent release of Evangelion, but instead they got a long commercial for series that most people in the audience won’t likely watch. If Netflix wants to capture the anime audience then they’d be better off grabbing Gundam, Sailor Moon, Utena, Mazinger, Pretty Cure, and City Hunter to boost their line up of other classic and modern anime series. Anime fans want their anime to be authentic to Japanese style and culture, nuff said.