There’s a bunny and kitty on the wing of the plane!
This was the year we couldn’t have an Anime Expo in downtown Los Angeles. No lines. No overheating. No waiting for the shuttles. No rush to get from point A to point B. Hm…I like the sound of that! No reason to pay $25 per day for parking or $200 or so a night for a hotel room. Two days of me on the sofa, a Macbook, decent wifi connection, and YouTube and Twitch logins.
On July 3 – July 4, 2020, Anime Expo Lite, the virtual Anime Expo, went live online. This was launched in response to the pandemic’s stay at home orders. The Anime Expo as we know it was was shut down for 2020 due to force majeur (google it). An online event was created to keep the spirit of Anime Expo going.
Industry This and That from Japan
It wouldn’t be Anime Expo without announcements from our friends in Japan. I attended the Good Smile presentation. It was a prerecorded tour of the toy factory. We got to see work culture. Every level of Good Smile was used efficiently. We got to see the design process of figure making. We also learned that GSC likes to work hard and play hard. We also had a tour of GSC’s race cars, motorcycles, etc in their parking lot.
I also attended the Production IG panel. They were talking about what it’s like to work at home during the pandemic. One such employee, Sato-san, went on video in a huge mask while he was talking about work on making segments for Rick and Morty. We got to see some segments Production IG made for Rick and Morty. Future collaborations with Adult Swim were teased, but set aside for a San Diego Comic Con reveal. People asked about Uzumaki: The Animation, but even then, Production IG teased to wait for a SDCC reveal.
I also attended the Bushiroad panel. This was hosted by voice actress, Karin Kagami. Aimi and Yuka Nishio were the main guests of the panel. While both actresses have prominent roles in Bang Dream, the panel’s big announcement was the release of the global version of D4DJ, an idol rhythm game. Both Aimi and Yuka Nishio are also in D4DJ! Even Aimi was demoing gameplay. I’m very excited for D4DJ. The character designs have always looked amazing! No word from this panel if Chara Expo 2020 will go forward.
Industry This and That from United States
It wouldn’t be Anime Expo without announcements for US licensing and US re-releases. The Right Stuf panel announced Galaxy Angel AA, Gundam Build Fighters, and a release and remaster of Gundam Seed. We got to see clips from the new Gundam Seed dub. Our resident Gundam guru, J the Greek, approves.
I also went to see the Viz Media panel. We did see the logo for the next generation of Inuyasha series. The majority of the panel was Q&A with voice actors for Boruto (Maile Flanagan, Amanda C Miller, Kate Higgins) and Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure (Ray Chase, Phillip Reich).
I did tune in briefly to the Crunchyroll panel. They did preview some original animated works. The live streaming service had one title that did catch my eye, Onyx Equinox. It felt like a Cyber Six / Mysterious Cities of Gold mash up. Perhaps we will learn more what Crunchyroll has in store in their online event.
We Heart our Fandom!
One of our favorite things about attending industry events is time with the creative time behind the series we love. I attended the Lupin III Q&A from TMS Entertainment. This casual discussion had the director and producer talk about their favorite Lupin eras, Lupin movies, and excitement with the 50th anniversary of the first Lupin anime. My favorite part of the presentation was the creative team brainstorming how each Lupin gang member would be handling safer at home measures. I liked the answer for Fujiko – she would be isolated in a tropical island. They also announced for a limited time, the latest TV special, Goodbye Partner, will be streaming on Youtube (and it looks amazing so far!).
In addition to the Right Stuf panel, Bluefin Brands talked some gunpla. While a majority of the announcements were repeats of what hardcore gunpla builders already knew such as the master grade extreme version of unicorn and a few assorted RX-78-2’s, there was not much of note to highlight. The only thing to note was Bandai hosting a gunpla contest for USA and Canada. There was a lot more Gundam talk in the chat than in the actual presentation.
Finally, there was the The World Ends with Your presentation wherein we got to see a preview of the anime adaptation of the 2000s Nintendo DS game. I’m very excited about this anime. The preview we saw really captures the hustle and hype that is Shibuya. This is going to be a highlight of the 2021 anime season. I’m very thankful we got to take a sneak peak into this Square Enix property.
There’s a lot of aspiring voice actors out there who want to be in the next big dub. I always commend conventions for bringing in top tier voice actors to lend their wisdom to aspiring voice actors. I attended the directors panel wherein Tony Oliver moderated a discussion on what directors are looking for in who to cast. The directors roundtable also gave tips on inflection, what does it mean for a line to sound blue or orange, and how to interpret characters in the text.
I also attended a BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) Voice Acting roundtable. This was moderated by Stephanie Sheh. It was interesting hearing Filipinx, Latinx, and Black voice actors give their two cents on casting. They really emphasized that it would be appropriate to cast someone who has had a lived experience in a character that is written to have a lived experience in that culture. They shared stories in recording during situations where they had to either sound “more Asian” or “more Black” and were unsure what they meant. These actors also had to train themselves to sound stereotypical urban or in their native accent in order to get more work. What I found interesting was that a few of these actors had to change their stage name to sound more cast-able. Two actors had mentioned that they didn’t see last names that looked or sounded like theirs in voice actor credits. They felt that there was a need to change their name in order to be castable. This was one of the more insightful panels I’ve attended in voice acting; I’m hoping these discussions do continue so that the industry can create more equity and access to BIPOC talent.
While you could attend AX Lite in cosplay, it wasn’t necessary. There wasn’t a formal cosplay contest, but rather, a “mask-querade” wherein entries can enter a cosplay with a mask that matches their costume. I thought this was creative, but I would have loved to have seen a regular cosplay contest because Anime Expo always draws in top tier cosplayers in their showcase.
I briefly attended the “Cosplaying Together, Apart” panel that was hosted by Yaya Han. I liked the idea of having a panel of what the cosplay community is like in the pandemic. However, all cosplayers cannot relate to the experiences of one Yaya Han. Yaya went on how she couldn’t make money being pampered at conventions or have avenues to promote her book. I immediately tuned out because it started to become a fainting couch panel. Instead, I would have liked to have had a diverse roundtable of what cosplayers have been doing to keep the hobby going. This includes creating videos on TikTok, working on costumes for 2021, pass the brush assignments, reading children’s books in cosplay, etc. More importantly, validating the fact that it’s okay to feel sad that our cons and events are canceled for 2020…yet were still cosplaying…together, yet apart.
In between segments, Anime Expo Lite had cultural programming. This was my favorite part of AX Lite because I’ve been missing the cultural aspect of anime conventions. We live in an age where conventions call for more diversity. My response to that was alluding to the fact that anime cons at times do have cultural lessons. We got to see lessons about kimonos, martial arts, cooking, and flower arrangement. I liked the karate demonstration because the sensei was asking the audience to follow along at home. Other than tuning into anime programming, it was both refreshing and calming to learn about Japanese culture.
I only wished that the cooking segments had a copy of the recipe available. I would have loved to made the mushroom rice balls!
I attended the League of Legends presentation that focused on adapting anime tropes to in-game skins. I have zero knowledge about LoL other than its a moba with striking character designs. It’s pretty common for games in the 21st century to have downloadable outfits (or skins). The panelists went over the Star Guardians and Battle Academia skins. The panelists talked about anime from their childhood that inspired them in the making of these skins. Not only these were outfits a character can wear, they were also part of a storytelling device. There was artwork and promotional videos about these characters as well as picking as choosing what anime tropes work best of the LoL characters.
I attended a few live draws for background ambience. Basically, people in the chat were naming anime tropes for artists to do a live drawing of. This was a very relaxed channel wherein artists talked about anime as they were drawing.
Lis Ani Concert
This was the part of Anime Expo Lite I was excited about! Anime Expo always has an anisong concert. If you have the means to check out AX, attend any of their concerts – it’s always a blast! We saw live performances by Granrodeo, Yoko Takahashi, Kotoko, Yoshino Nanjo, and Maaya Uchida. Kotoko was a throwback for me because I remember when she did the opening for Onegai Teacher. She still has the vocals! Yoshino Nanjo had her acoustic band back her up. Though she is known for playing Eli Ayase in Love Live, she performed some of her solo work. The crowd was hyped when she sang the opening to Railgun. The highlight was definitely Yoko Takahashi who is best known her work with Evangelion. She opened with Refrain of the Soul and finished with Cruel Angel’s Thesis. Everyone in the chat was pretty hyped for Yoko. Even though we were enjoying this concert from home, you can still see the energy and hype in the chat.
Anime Expo Live is the first online convention I attended where I had 1) advanced notice, 2) several presentations I wanted to check out, and 3) experienced the first live convention to have cohesive live programming throughout the course of two days. Wonder Con, Zenkai Con, Anime Lockdown, etc attempted to do this, but focused on fan panels being uploaded and I heard about Anime Lockdown on the very last day. I appreciate Anime Expo Lite’s marketing efforts to keep us on our toes about the event. Programming was very valuable. I love it anytime an anime con has cultural tracks.
The format of Anime Expo Lite worked well with me. I liked going between Twitch, YouTube, and MS Teams. While there were Jojo and Bandori trolls in some chatrooms, it was cool that fellow attendees were scolding them telling that they were making their fandoms look bad. I liked connecting with people in the chatroom. I really miss meeting and talking to random people at cons that are within the same fandom. While the Bluefin panel gave us repeated information of what we knew, it still provided a space for Gundam fans to talk about our favorite series as the Bluefin dudes were also talking about their fav’s. We were even telling curious folks in the chat where to start.
AX Lite also went head to head with competing events such as Aniplex and Funimation’s online events. This weekend was very a la carte on what anime and programming you wanted to consume. Alas, I’m only one person who can only cover one event. I picked AX Live because I’ve been attending this con since 1999 (save for 2014). The team did a great job in having this online event go smooth, even when we were hit with a copyright strike in the first few minutes on YouTube , the show still went on.
AX has a love / hate relationship with anime fans. I am thankful that SPJA allowed the show to go on. I look forward to 2021 – by then, we will be back home at the Los Angeles Convention Center. Mask up, we’re in this together.