The problem when you are both press and fan—as I wrote about last year—is that you’re caught between two sets of commitments. As press, it’s your job to take advantage of all the unique opportunities you’re given, such as attending press conferences and conducting private interviews. As a fan, you want to be on the convention floor, hanging out with your other fan friends, shopping for goods in the Dealer Hall, and going to fan panels where guests often yuk it up and let loose.
Anime Expo forced us to choose one or the other this year, because most of the press conferences were held on Day 1. In the end, Rome and I chose to be at the Westin Bonaventure hotel, with the press conferences, away from the fans 8 blocks away at the LA Convention Center.
I arrived early, thinking that the first two press conferences—LiSA and Yuki Kajiura—would be packed. But Rome and I discovered that the press room was, in fact, locked. It remained locked for most of the morning, in fact, because the previous tenant of the room had forgotten to turn in the only key that could open the door. Our press liaison was forced to arrange for semi-private, junket-style interviews with LiSA instead—which turned out to be a boon for us. We got some nearly exclusive time with this lovely rock singer who was cheerful and gracious despite the circumstances.
Perhaps the most surprising thing we learned about her was that she’s new to anime; she only started watching after she got the singing part for Yui in Angel Beats. However she’s already gotten advanced enough to be a fan of Haiyore! Nyaruko-san, even doing the “Uhn! Nyaa!” bit from the OP right on camera. For that, all is forgiven. :) She also mentioned more than once having been inspired by Avril Lavigne, and while that may erase some cool points in some people’s eyes (people sniggered during the fan panel, rather disrespectfully), the influence was actually quite clear in the concert—but without Lavigne’s fake dramatics.
We rushed from LiSA back to the now-open press conference room to cover the Kajiura/FictionJunction folks. I expected the room to be packed by this time, but much to my surprise, the room was only 1/3 full at best. It was still more than the nearly empty conferences from Day 0, but it could hardly be considered crowded. They’ve made a huge mistake in not doing junkets was the thought that kept running in my mind. If even Kajiura couldn’t draw more press, then something was amiss.
With all of FictionJunction along with Yuki Kajiura in the center, there were many people who had to answer questions. Most of our prepared questions were asked, either in advance or on the microphone. Kajiura, in response to my question about the Gothic affinities of a lot of her soundtracks and shows, didn’t see a Gothic connection in her music at all—partly because, I think, the translator left out my key example of such a show, Kara no Kyoukai. She noted though that it seemed that no one had ever asked her to write really happy music, which drew a laugh from the crowd. I also tried to get the FictionJunction girls to laugh when I asked them which piece of Kajiura music had made them cry, but somehow the question got turned into what piece of music in general moved them the most. That question might have been, as they say, a bit dodgy.
The best pictures we have of Kajiura and FictionJunction were in a photo shoot that followed the end of the conference. We thought we’d get more during the concert, but alas, that was not to be. (More on that later.) Our attempt to secure a private interview with them also ended in failure.
After a few hours, it was time for the afternoon conferences, with director Tatsuo Sato (Moretsu Pirates, Rinne no Lagrange, Nadesico). Tatsuo Sato was, on balance, my favorite person to talk to this whole convention. It helps that I’ve seen most of his output, and I made the translator’s life especially hard as I asked super anime nerd questions about his views of the industry post-Evangelion, whether Lagrange ahd Evangelion were deliberately similar, and whether he thinks meta-humor has been overdone since he did it in Nadesico. He was patient and he responded to them all in great detail, and given that it was basically just Anime Diet, the Nihon Review, and Anime Genesis at his conference, our questions became more like a back and forth conversation between press and guest—which continued in our private interview with him afterwards.
In the process we discovered many previously unknown tidbits about Sato’s deep involvement in Lagrange: Madoka’s jersey and hairstyle was his idea. Her personality was being deliberately contrasted with Evangelion’s Shinji. Rasmus Faber won a competition for the OP—and asked for Megumi Nakajima by name first to sing it. I also probed his thoughts behind Moretsu Space Pirates; he simply wanted to distill just one part of the novel about how a person decides to become a leader. These are my favorite kind of interviews, where directors speak in depth about their intentions and worldviews. It reminds me of the deep discussion we had with Kenji Kamiyama two years ago about Eden of the East.
The Fate/Zero conference and private interview afterwards was equally detailed, though given my relatively lack of expertise with all things Nasu and Fate/Zero it wasn’t as in-depth. Director Ei and the head honcho of ufotable did most of the talking, with voice actors Rikiya Koyama and bishie Nobuhiro Okamoto doing less. We found out that Kara no Kyoukai was the harder story to adapt, and that ufotable’s cafe was now 90% female in its customer base—thought they only gave vague answers as to why Fate/Zero would change the demographic so much. (I suspect it might be Okamoto’s involvement—he definitely got the fangirls wild in his panel.) As befitting an emotionally intense show like Fate/Zero it was a more or less serious, dignified affair. The only levity came when me, Rome, and the entire production team were all stuck in an elevator for several minutes. “This is how I’m going to die, with the Fate/Zero production team,” I joked. Fortunately, the door opened after a while, and the ufotable head later compared that elevator to the Holy Grail. Good times.
After that, it was time to relax, since I had no intention of covering anything else. I went to the Animetal USA concert for a few minutes just to check it out; it was professionally played metal renditions of old school anime songs I didn’t recognized. I left after half an hour, and decided to ditch the AMV contest; instead, I bummed around until Omo and cowboybibimbop invited me to join them at the Bushiroad panel, which was about Cardfight! Vanguard.
Expecting to see the Cardfight anime seiyuu they invited as guests, they didn’t show up, but we met up with a lot of other bloggers there. Afterwards, a bunch of us went to K-Town for some Korean BBQ, and talked shop and otherwise until nearly midnight.
I returned to a hotel room full of anibloggers playing Tanto Cuore on the bed I was going to sleep on. I patiently waited for them to clear out after 2 AM and went to bed. Sorry guys. I’m getting old, you see. :)
Next: Day 2, or, The Drama That Is Press