Exposition: Anime Expo 2012, Day 0

The luxurious express bus seat on the way to downtown LA.

See the tweet digest for Day 0.

It’s strange that no matter how many years I’ve spent doing conventions as press, I never quite feel ready the night before Day 0, or even on Day 0 itself. Part of it is because there have always been last minute changes, complications, and obstacles in the way.

So I was worried as I boarded the bus from my home in Orange County to downtown Los Angeles: what if the bus ran into traffic? What if I missed my stop? What if the press conference schedule changed again, as it had three times in the last 48 hours? I had given up a once-in-many-years opportunity to see one of my favorite bands, Marillion, play in LA on Wednesday night, because I was too busy prepping for this day. Would I regret it?

Much to my surprise, I arrived at the time I told the staff I would. The press conference room was, in fact, strikingly empty. Only our crew, our old friend Benu from Anime Genesis, and Ben Gill, who we ran into last year, were there. Not many more press outlets, save for Omo and Kylaran from the Nihon Review, showed up for any of the press conferences we attended: Vegeta seiyuu Ryo Horikawa, Madhouse’s Team Chihayafuru (which included director Morio Asaka, who also did Card Captor Sakura), and the Muv Luv: Total Eclipse producer Kouki Yoshimune along with singers Minami Kuribayashi and Ayami. The sparse attendance, according to one of our friends, upset the Total Eclipse team, who were expecting more press and complained to the manager about it. I wouldn’t be surprised if the other guests probably felt the same way.

The grimace on Minami Kuribayashi’s face seems to tell the story.

We had been asked to submit our questions to the guests in advance. Fortunately, our fears that they were being used to give the guests time to concoct canned answers were put to rest; they simply wanted to collect the most common questions so there wouldn’t be duplicates. To my surprise, most of the questions we submitted for the panels were asked, leaving only a few that we held in reserve intentionally. Our goal was to get the guests to be candid and, if possible, to smile or laugh. That, I think, we did, especially when Rome—our Japanese translator and staff writer—asked Team Chihayafuru who they preferred, Chihaya or Kana. Kana won by a vote of 2-1, with the animation director specifically referring to her “assets.” That, my friends, is WIN.

Director Morio Asaka is a serious man who makes cute shows.

I also got director Morio to speak candidly about Card Captor Sakura being the first SaiMoe winner. In a word, he was shocked that a show for “little girls and their mothers” had picked up such a male fanbase. I dare say, in fact, he was probably slightly creeped out. That, my friends, is what one creator thinks about your moe culture. :) (Later, at the fan panel, he gave a more balanced answer in which he demurred that moe and quality are not mutually exclusive.)

Orange hair suits Vegeta voice actor Ryo Horikawa.

Ryo Horikawa, Vegeta’s voice actor, was equally baffled by how his “OVER 8000” (9000 in the mistranslated American dub) line had become so iconic. It was fun to hear about how playing manly violent characters helps him tap into his aggressive side, though, of course, he says he’s not like that at all most of the time. He reminds me of another veteran voice actor, Toshio Furukawa (Ataru in Urusei Yatsura, Piccolo in DBZ), who has fun playing roles that don’t resemble his real personality at all.

In a way, the question I posed to him and other seiyuu about which role resembles him the most isn’t really apt when you think about it. The job of an actor is to act, to be someone else in a convincing way. They don’t have to relate to a character to do a good job in a role, though sometimes it helps, especially with deeply emotional scenes.

Ayami, Minami Kuribayashi, and producer Kouki Yoshimune

The Total Eclipse conference with Yoshimune, Kuribayashi, and Ayami was strange. Yoshimune, the producer of the Muv Luv visual novels as well as soap operatic tear-jerker Kimi ga Nozumo Eien (KimiNozo/Rumbling Hearts), did 90% of the speaking. The singers, even with questions posed to them directly, gave very pre-scripted, short answers. When you think about it, given how upset they were with the lack of press attendance, and how uninvolved they actually were in the production of the anime (Ayami and Kuribayashi only sing insert and ED songs), it makes some sense.

I remember struggling to word a question to Yoshimune about whether he likes telling emotionally intense stories like KimiNozo and whether Total Eclipse would tread similar emotional territory. The translator had trouble with it, but eventually he gave me an answer of “yes,” which was confirmed after we saw Total Eclipse’s first two episodes several days later. I also embarrassed myself by calling Ayami “Ayumi”—she corrected me directly. *blushes* In my defense, Ayami was not listed in the program, so she was an unexpected guest. Unfortunately, I called her Ayumi in my tweet and it was retweeted several times…so anyone who’s reading this, I’m sorry, Ayumi Hamasaki did not appear at this press conference. My apologies!

We had several hours to kill after the press conferences ended and before the Red Carpet and Opening Ceremony started. There isn’t much to report on them; it’s guests walking down a carpet, stopping for pictures, and the Opening Ceremony was just an introduction to them on stage. We saw FictionJunction/Yuki Kajiura for the first time, and snapped plenty of pics, as well as the pose-a-riffic LiSA, who from the get-go had a natural stage presence that she would repeat in her concert later.

The evening of Day 0 was capped off by an enormous aniblogosphere dinner at Honda-ya in Little Tokyo, in which over 30 bloggers and Twitter friends got together for an evening of izakaya, polls about who’d we rather from Haganai, and much naming and shaming by picture and tweet. I was going to be staying in the Luxe Hotel with a number of them starting that evening, and it was a fine way to meet some old friends and many new ones. It was a demonstration that there are an awful lot of us out there who are into this thing called anime, and that all our electronic shenanigans didn’t preclude being friends in 3D as well.

Day 0 was in some ways the most fun and relaxed Day 0 I’ve had in years. Typically Day 0 was an exhausting day full of running around from one junket interview to another, and sometimes an occasion for drama. This year, though the lack of a junket would turn out to be a minus in many ways, it was a fun way to begin what would be, for me at least, one of the more intense conventions I’ve had in the past several years.

Tomorrow: Day 1, or, a Press Hotel in the Middle of Nowhere

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