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Press Q&A with animator and director Hiroshi Nagahama (J!-ENT Interviews and Articles)

November 9, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

In Japan, Hiroshi Nagahama is well-known for directing animated films such as “Mushishi”, “Detroit Metal City”, “The Flowers of Evil” and most recently for 2017, Nagahama directed “The Reflection”, which he co-created alongside with Stan Lee.

A hardcore comic book fan, Nagahama was a special guest at Sakura-Con in Seattle, Washington and J!-ENT’s Michelle Tymon participated in the press Q&A with animator/director Hiroshi Nagahama.


Press: I want to start off by asking about Flowers of Evil. You chose to do that in rotoscope, and I’m wondering how you managed to convince the producers and sponsors to let you do that.
Nagahama-san: Well… I was first approached with the idea of doing Flowers of Evil, by a producer named Nakanishi from King Records. He told me that they were looking to do an animated version. So rather than me trying to find someone to let me do it, it was actually a project that was offered to me. And at first, I actually declined. I read all of the manga, and it was extremely interesting, but I initially didn’t think this was something that the fans would enjoy in an animated format, so I declined at first. After that, he said that he would try a few other people, and that was that. But I think it was about a week later, and he said he really wanted to meet with me again. So we met again, and he told me that he had thought about it, but really wanted me to do it. He was kind enough to say that if they were going to make a animated version of this, that I was the only person he could think of to work on it. He then asked me what would it take for me to agree to work on this project. What would I need to make this happen. And so I told him that there was a way. He asked me what it was, and so I told him that it was rotoscope. I would film actual people in real life and incorporate that into the animation. If I was allowed to do that, this might be a weird way of saying it, but I thought I could translate everything the original work was trying to get across in animated form. And that’s how we moved forward with the project. So from the beginning, it was decided we were going to do rotoscope. Then I thought about everything I need to do to make this happen. Because we planned it from the beginning, we were very lucky and we never had an instance where we were in the middle of production and realized we were overbudget or anything like that.

J!-ENT: You had come to Seattle and Sakura-con previously, but has there been anything different on this occasion?
Nagahama-san: Well, I think this is one of the best things about Sakura-con… but it never changes. It’s almost astonishing. Nothing has really changed. The staff, the atmosphere of the convention, all of the fans that attend… From my first Sakura-con in 2002, the only things that have changed are the actual scale of the event and the number of attendees. Otherwise, I believe that the staff is able to achieve the kind of event that they are trying to achieve, and I believe the event is as polished as they are trying to make it.

Japan-A-Radio: From the last time you were at Sakura-con and this time, what has changed for you personally in the anime industry?
Nagahama-san: Let’s see… the biggest change is the fact that my project with Stan Lee is finally starting to take shape. When I was here last, this project was still in the planning stages and was something similar to say mist floating in the air. But now it’s finally starting to take a distinct shape and showing itself.

Press: Speaking of Stan Lee, I hear that you are a huge fan of American comics. What do you find so appealing about American comics and superheroes?
Nagahama-san: First, I was drawn to the art. I’ve mentioned this at Sakura-con a number of times before, but when I was a child, I wasn’t a very big fan of the SD art style that was used in Japanese animation. But all the kids around me seemed to love CoroCoro Comic, which serialized series like Doraemon. It was a kids’ comic magazine that all of the kids were reading. And then as you get older, you usually started reading Shonen Jump or Shonen Sunday. This path seemed like it was laid out for us by adults, and everyone just automatically read them. But something about that bothered me. Like the art in Doraemon… or say Ishinomori Shotaro-san’s drawings… I really liked the stories and thought that they were interesting, but I couldn’t help but wonder why the art had to look the way it did. I always couldn’t help but wonder about that. But of course there were more dramatic and serious anime and manga that had a more realistic art style, but it still wasn’t quite what I was looking for. And that’s when I discovered the Spider-man comics. They were translated into Japanese by a gentleman named Kosei Ono, who had also released translations of other American comics at the time as well. When I read that, I instantly thought that the art looked cool. They properly drew details like the nostrils and lips. They drew eyelashes, and even the tear ducts in the eyes. And even then, the female characters still looked cute and pretty and the men looked handsome and cool. As a child who loved drawing, this became my guiding principle. The art was the first thing to leave an impression on me, but eventually, so did the writing. I was a child who read manga in a rather strange way, but it seemed that my way of reading seemed to fit how American comics were drawn and written. With Japanese manga, you read in a structured, chronological format. So it’d go, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. And because of that, it’s expected that you buy volume one and start from there, or you wouldn’t be able to understand the story at all. But a lot of American comics continue for hundreds of issues, so most readers inevitably have to start with a random issue. They can’t always read from the part where Peter Parker gets bitten by the radioactive spider. There are some people who read from the part where Gwen Stacy is kidnapped, or some people whose first issue is when Doctor Octopus shows up. But when I was buying Japanese manga, I would always buy the ones with the cool-looking covers… ever since I was a child. And then if the story was actually interesting, I would start collecting from there and go back to volume one. And then I would actually understand the interactions and relationships between the characters and it was very interesting. I would wonder why two characters didn’t get along very well and then I’d find out they fought in volume one. That was all very interesting to me, and I thought that’s exactly how people read American comics. There’s a slightly difficult term in Japanese, “yotei chowa,” which means pre-established harmony. So things that have already been determined progress as they’re intended. You can predict what’s going to happen in the future. And for someone like me, who didn’t like doing everything that people expected, American comics were filled with unpredictability. So I just kept immersing myself into American comics. And the more I read, the more I found things that appealed to me, so I can endlessly talk about everything that interested me about American comics. And I’ll end this answer with the following statement, but there’s one other thing that I think is fascinating… I think it’s amazing and wonderful that a grandfather and grandchild can talk about and bond over the same character. It’s very rare for something like that to be able to happen in Japan. For example, there’s Sazae-san, and also Doraemon, and Chibi Maruko-chan. But all of these long-running Japanese manga series never have any dramatic changes happen. Sazae-san doesn’t get a divorce, Doraemon doesn’t stop functioning suddenly. There are dramatic things that happen in the series, but they’re usually resolved in an episode or two like Doraemon turning red. But nothing happens in the story that changes the course of the series forever. However, that happens in American comics and so the grandfather and grandchild can have conversations about it. The Angel from X-Men that the grandfather would probably know is the one with white angel wings. But the grandchild would probably go, “Wait, no. He has metallic wings and is called Archangel.” And then the grandfather can be shocked and ask his grandchild when Angel’s wings became metallic. I think it’s wonderful that a grandfather and grandchild can have conversations like this. It’s my hope that I’m able to make stories that are that compelling myself.

J!-ENT: This is going to be another question about American comics, but I was wondering if you’ve seen the Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist, Netflix series and what your thoughts on them that are.
Nagahama-san: Of course! I’ve seen all of them!
J!-ENT: Also, The Defenders is coming out soon so I was wondering about what you thought about that. And if there were any changes you could make to any of the series, what would it be?
Nagahama-san: My thoughts on these series… is that they are wonderful. I never thought I’d be able to experience something so wonderful while I was still alive. When Sam Raimi directed the Spider-man movie, I thought I could die happily. I was able to watch such a wonderful Spider-man movie while I was still alive. I was able to watch the real Spider-man on the big screen. But now, it’s just been one record-breaking experience after another for me. Like this series? Wait, Doctor Strange, too? I was like, there’s no way that people would watch a Guardians of the Galaxy movie with those ridiculous characters! It’s just been one pleasant surprise after another. And out of all of the heroes, Daredevil has always been one of my all-time favorite characters. Daredevil is very bloody. He has a lot of limits. He can’t fly, he can’t see, and has various other limitations. On top of that, he’s a lawyer. As someone has who has to deal with the law, his heart is also bound. He can’t do whatever he wants to all of the villains in court. I think it’s absolutely amazing that they were able to make an entertaining TV series about someone who is so limited and so human. It makes me very happy. In addition, the Guardians of the Galaxy that I knew was from a very long time ago where it was Yondu, the blue guy with the red mohawk, and some other weird characters that were not in the movie flying around the ends of Space, and it was extremely bizarre. The Guardians of the Galaxy now is completely different. In the comics, Yondu came from a different world. He happens upon this team of scoundrels and tells them that they can use the team name “Guardians of the Galaxy,” which was the name his old team had used. So it was a completely different team. And I was still reading that slightly lamer version of the comic a long time ago. So when I heard that it was going to be made into a movie, I was very amused and couldn’t fathom how they were going to do it. And when I saw the movie and Yondu, I realized he was on the old team, and was very excited about the whole thing. As for the Netflix series, I like all of them so far. Luke Cage, Jessica Jones and Iron Fist are all great. But if I had the choice, there’d just be one thing I’d like to change… I’d like for them to show Daredevil’s nose. In the Netflix version, his mask sort of makes him look like Batman. His nose is guarded, and I think it’s great that his face is being protected… But no matter how I look at it, he sort of looks like a version of Batman where a lot of things are just smaller. His horns are smaller, and the point on his nose is smaller. If his face was showing a little more, it’d be absolutely perfect. And that’s why I absolutely love the design they used for Daredevil in the Daredevil movie with Ben Affleck, where it was all leather. I thought that the design for his costume used in that movie respected the original design of his costume from the comics to the utmost level.

Japan-A-Radio: With the upcoming release of The Reflection, are there any details that you can reveal currently? What can the fans look forward to?
Studio Deen rep: I can touch upon the broadcast details. I’m from Studio Deen, which is producing that anime. The Reflection will start broadcast in July of 2017 on NHK in Japan on Saturday at 11 PM. I believe that Crunchyroll has already announced it at this event, but they will also be simulcasting this title this title in the US and North America. I’m not sure of the exact time it’ll be available in the US, but I believe it’ll probably be around two hours after it has aired in Japan.
Nagahama-san: The Reflection… What can the fans look forward to and expect? Let’s see… I’m not sure what I can say. It’s an original story that I created with Stan Lee. Even if some of the characters may look familiar or if the premise may be something you might’ve heard of before, I still believe that it will feel like something completely different. This is slightly difficult to explain but… This time, we’re only using part of the whole story. The world of The Reflection is very vast. Just like Stan created the Marvel Universe, Stan and I sort of created our own Stan Lee universe, where we created various heroes and villains within this universe. It’s also set up where we can have various stories from this universe. So I want fans to watch the series and know this isn’t the last time they’re going to be seeing something from this universe. After this story, another story with this villain might start next. They barely touched upon that one hero, but I wonder why they were like that? Why were they dressed like that? Those might all get answered in the future. Just as I mentioned earlier, this is very close to how American comics are read. With The Reflection, I want people to think it was like they happened to grab issue 112 of The Reflection when they’re watching it. And starting from that volume, there’s going to be once incident that starts and comes to a conclusion within twelve issues. So I’m hoping that I’ll be able to show the audience the continuing story, or a different part of the story later on. There’s one other thing that I think that the fans can look forward to, so I hope you’ll let me share that. There will be characters in this series that are pretty symbolic to this universe. The idol group 9nine, who sing the ending theme, will show up as superheroes in the show. I think it’ll be fun to see when they might actually show up in the series and what kind of costumes they’ll be wearing. They will actually be wearing costumes and fighting in the series. I was very careful about when and where to use them in the series. The concept behind their characters is the Japanese ideal for superheroes. They look like what Japanese people would think of when they think of what heroes look like. That’s what 9nine will look like in the show. As for the rest of the characters, they all look like they came out of American comics because I enjoy American comics so much. They were all designed with that in mind and while discussing how they should look with Stan. With 9nine, I didn’t really talk to Stan about them. Since they’re Japanese characters, he told me that I could do whatever I’d like with them, and let me bring up the concept behind them. So I think that they can give a special perspective within The Reflection. As for the art style of The Reflection, it’s made to look more like American comics.

Press: You have done a lot of work with the director Akitaro Daichi. What did you learn from him and does he mean to you?
Nagahama-san: Mr. Daichi was someone I had met after being in this business for a while. So instead of him teaching me various things, I’d say that he validified things for me. He would tell me that my way of doing things was fine. If I ever had any doubts about what I was doing, he was the person to tell me that I was fine with how I was doing things. He would give me courage. Also, rather than using words, he would physically show me. He’s always been very supportive of me and is very important to me because of how he’s helped me to develop. Just to add on one last thing, Mr. Daichi said something to me that I will never forget. He told me that there’s really nothing holding me back. If I feel like I should do something, then I should do it because I can do anything. He told me that I was the only person putting restrictions on myself, so if I free myself of them, I can do whatever I want… That there’s nothing that I’m not allowed to do. I think those words still affect me greatly.

Interpreter: There’s actually one question I’d like to ask really quickly if I may. So in American comics, they quite often retcon things that happen. What do you think about that? In Japanese comics, once something happens, it doesn’t really ever get retconned. In a way, this is a freedom that only exists in American comics.
Nagahama-san: That actually might be one of the reason that I don’t really like DC superheroes as much. That happened a lot to DC superheroes ever since I can remember. Superman couldn’t fly at first, and Krypton kept changing over and over. Because of all of the changes, I didn’t know what was true or not anymore in those comics. But in the Marvel Universe that Stan created, there wasn’t as much wavering. The settings for Spider-man haven’t changed much at all from the beginning. And recently, they finally did start changing some things and some characters did come back from the dead. But for decades, they actually stayed dead and there wasn’t much wavering overall. My favorite era of Marvel comics is the Silver Age, where when something happened, it didn’t get retconned. For example, the Green Goblin was dead for a long time before he was finally brought back. I actually liked that era when something happened, it didn’t get retconned. So when asked if I can relate to doing retcons, to be honest, I can’t. But these things really never happened with the characters that I really liked. I definitely have no plans on doing something like that in The Reflection. If I was going to do something like that though, I’d like to do something like Age of Apocalypse where the whole world gets flipped around. Age of Apocalypse was an absolutely amazing crossover. So unless it’s something that drastic, I don’t think I’ll ever do it.

Final thoughts: Final thoughts?
Nagahama-san: From me? I can’t help but feel like I might’ve talked a bit too much about the American comics that I love so much, but I’m very thankful that all of you were here to listen and that I’m in this situation where I can talk about all of this. I feel blessed that I was able to come back to Sakura-con again, and that I was able to walk through the streets of Seattle again. This is definitely a unique experience, and I feel very special to be a part of it. So when I get back to Japan, I know I have to go back to work on The Reflection. And when I think about that, there’s a part of me that can’t help but feel like I want to stay in Seattle a little longer.


 

 

J!-ENT’s Dennis A. Amith interviews Babyraids JAPAN (J!-ENT Interviews and Articles)

November 2, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

It was back in 2012, when Babyraids JAPAN made their debut through their agency LesPros Entertainment.

Babyraids JAPAN consists of Rikako Ooya, Erika Denya, Manatsu Hayashi, Nao Takami and Rio Watanabe.

The group made their debut with the single “Babyraids”, followed by “Baby Revolution” that year but would eventually break into the top 10 in 2013 with their singles “Koyomi no Ue de wa December”.

And while their single debuted at #6 on the Oricon Charts, having been around for two years, the group made a goal, perform at Budokan and if it doesn’t happen, they’ll end the group.

Fortunately for fans, Babyraids Japan would make their dreams come true before Christmas of 2014 by performing at Nippon Budokan.

The group would release a string of hits that would debut on the Oricon top 10 such as “Koi wa Panic”, “Bucchake Rock’n Hachake Roll/Baby Step”, “Tora-Tora Tiger” and “2 Years”.

In 2016, the group’s “Hashire, Hashire” would have their best debut at #3 on the Oricon Charts and since then, have released a total of 14 singles and two albums. Plus one mini-album and five video releases.

J!-ENT’s Dennis A. Amith had the opportunity to interview two of the five Babyraids JAPAN members, Nao and Rikako, a few days before their live performance in San Francisco.

Click here to read our J!-ENT Interview with Babyraids JAPAN


 

 

J!-ENT’s Dennis A. Amith interviews Band-Maid (J!-ENT Interviews and Articles)

October 26, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Back in 2013, an all-female rock band known as Band-Maid made their debut. What started with vocalist/guitarist Miku recruiting fellow guitarist Kanami, drummer Akane and bass player, Misa to the band, the band would eventually recruit lead vocalist Saiki and perform at the P Festival at Shibuya-AX.

Modeling their image similar to Maid cafe hostesses, the concept came up when guitarist Miku was working at Noodol Cafe in Akihabara. And the concept involves serving their masters (their male fans) and their princesses (female fans).

While Band-Maid has released one studio album, three mini-albums and three CD singles.

They made their first overseas appearance at Sakura-Con in Seattle and have since performed in Asia, Mexico, Hong Kong and throughout Europe. And for their second U.S. appearance, the band would perform in front of thousands of fans at Fort Mason Center in San Francisco for J-Pop Summit.

J!-ENT had the opportunity to interview Band-Maid days before their live performance in San Francisco.

Click here to download J!-ENT’s Dennis A. Amith’s interview with Band-Maid

 

J!-ENT’s Dennis A. Amith interviews Misaki Iwasa (Wasamin)

October 20, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

AKB48 has dominated the Japanese music charts for numerous years and while many may recognize the main core members of the group, there is one former AKB48 member who has shined thanks to her talent of singing enka songs.

Her name is Misaki Iwasa, known by her fans as “Wasamin” and was a 7th Generation AKB48 member who passed the audition for AKB48 back in 2008.   Iwasa was also a member of the side group Watarirouka Hashiritai 7 and while performing a lot of pop songs as a member of AKB48, she is known for her love of enka music and for performing enka music, especially exposing the music to a younger generation.

In 2011, she won first place in the AKB48 YuruYuru Karaoke competition by singing an Sayuri Ishikawa’s enka song “Tsugari Kaikyo – Fuyugeshiki”.  And her participation in the competition sealed the deal for AKB48 creator and producer Yasushi Akimoto, who gave the unranked AKB48 member her start to shine with a debut CD single titled “Mujin Eki” (which translates to “Empty Train Station” or “Ghost Train Station”).

While Wasamin has graduated from AKB48, she has released numerous singles, a photobook and has performed all over the world, most recently at J-Pop Summit 2017 in San Francisco, California.

J!-ENT’s Dennis A. Amith recently had the opportunity to interview Misaki Iwasa (Wasamin) before her performance at J-Pop Summit 2017.

Please click here to read the interview


 

 

Interview with Penelope Lagos, Author of “I Miss My Best Friend” (J!-ENT Interviews and Articles)

October 16, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Back in 2011, I had the opportunity to interview actress Penelope Lagos about a film that she starred in and also discuss her career as an actress and a model.

In 2017, I am interviewing Penelope once again, but not as an actress or model, but this time as a writer.

Penelope has written and published her first children’s book titled “I Miss My Best Friend”, featuring illustrations by Sophie Moracchini about her dog Cassius “The Legend”.

A dog purchased for Penelope and her twin brother Louie, the entire family raised Cassius since he was a puppy.  Taking him to Greece and to see Cassius become a champion swimmer.

He was no doubt more than just a pet, he was a family member.

And when Cassius passed away, dealing with the grief of losing a part of your family was a challenge for the Lagos family and for Penelope, she decided to write a book about Cassius to help children deal with the passing of their beloved pet.

“I Miss My Best Friend” has received a lot of positive reviews and I recently had a chance to interview Penelope Lagos about her new book and also about Cassius “The Legend”.


Penelope, I interviewed you as an actress and for this latest interview, I am interviewing you as an author of your first book, “I Miss My Best Friend”. What was the inspiration for writing this book?

PENELOPE: My own dog and best friend, Cassius. He was everything to me and when he passed away, I was absolutely devastated. I looked online and in stores searching for something, anything that would make me feel better, but I quickly realized there weren’t a lot of resources out there. I wasn’t ready to sign up for a pet loss group or even talk to anyone about my feelings, so I started writing them down. Within these notes, a story began to form and hence the fruition of “I Miss My Best Friend”.

Illustrator Sophie Moracchini did a wonderful job with the illustrations. How did the two of you come to collaborate on this book?

PENELOPE:  Sophie is such a talented and professional young woman to work with. I had taken a canine conditioning course and the instructor, Dr. Erica Boling, created various dog groups on Facebook for people to connect/network. I saw a beautiful drawing of a dog that Sophie had posted and I knew immediately I had to reach out to her. She lives in the UK, but technology has afforded me the opportunity to easily work with her throughout this entire process.

Were there any major challenges in writing “I Miss My Best Friend”?

PENELOPE:  Yes (laughing). What I have come to realize is that writing a book is not easy. If it were, everyone would be doing it. I think that condensing my story to fit the standard 32-page structure for a children’s book was difficult for me. I tend to be wordy, so it challenged me to keep my story simple, yet still include what I hope is a powerful message for children and adults alike.

Of course, the book was written to also help children understand the loss of a pet. Any tips that you have on what helped you overcome those difficulties of losing Cassius?

PENELOPE: I think each person copes differently with death, which is why I included the ten tips at the conclusion of the book. I personally found writing to be helpful while another may want to put a scrapbook together or talk to their friends and family about the loss. For me, the most important tip is to let yourself grieve. Don’t ever apologize for feeling sad. A pet provides unconditional love and is a member of the family, and the grief process often mimics that of losing a human.



“I Miss My Best Friend” revolves around the love and also the pain of losing your dog Cassius. Having to say goodbye to my dogs a little over a year ago, both brother and sister, who were very much part of our family was very difficult. And as the passing of time had made things better and we eventually ended up adopting a new dog a year later.   I’m curious, how often do you still think about Cassius and have you moved on by getting a new dog?

PENELOPE: I think about him every day. I grew up with cats and Cassius was the only dog I ever had. Unlike the book version, he lived to be almost 16 years old, so in essence he was with me almost half of my life. Shortly after his passing, so many people sent me photos of dogs that needed a home, others stopped by with one in hand. I wasn’t ready and I don’t know when or if I ever will be. I think it’s a personal decision and there are so many beautiful animals in need of good homes, so it’s nice to be able to open your heart again and adopt.

What is your favorite memory of Cassius?

PENELOPE: What I’ll always remember about Cassius is what an incredible swimmer he was. Being outside with him and playing in the pool were my happiest times. Even near the end, with his severe arthritis, we swam together. He even went to Greece not once but twice where he swam in the Aegean Sea. He was a very special boy who was known internationally!

PENELOPE: “I Miss My Best Friend” has received positive reviews online. I have to ask, can we expect to see more books written by you in the future?

I am beyond happy that people are responding positively to the book, and I’m hoping in some way I will be able to help people overcome their loss. I am also donating 10% of each book sale back to St. Hubert’s Animal Welfare Center who does extraordinary work in the mission to rescue animals. I already have an idea for the next book, so you won’t be hearing the last from me


“I Miss My Best Friend” is available on Amazon

 

Q&A with Kenichi Sonoda (J!-ENT Interviews and Articles)

August 18, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Q&A with Kenichi Sonoda (by Michelle Tymon, Dennis A. Amith and Photos by Rhiannan Smith)


When it comes to world renown artists and animators, one man who received international attention before anime would become part of international pop culture was Kenichi Sonoda.

Working for the anime studio Artmic back in the ’80s, Sonoda worked on an anime series called “Bubblegum Crisis” and his character designs for the anime series was a hit among sci-fi animation fans.

Sonoda would go on to work on the anime series “Gall Force”, the OVA’s “Bubblegum Crash”, “Otaku no Video”, “Riding Bean”, “Solty Rei” to name a few.  But he would go on to create his next hit, the manga series “Gunsmith Cats”.

While Sonoda may not have a long string of series listed in his oeuvre, because of “Bubblegum Crisis” and “Gunsmith Cats” and those two being one of the most popular early anime series to come to the United States, Sonoda has earned the respect of anime fans and is continually invited to the United States frequently to appear at anime conventions.

Kenichi Sonoda recently was a special guest at Sakura Con 2017 in Seattle, Washington and J!-ENT recently took part in a Q&A.

The following is a transcript of the Q&A featuring our questions and other questions from press with Kenichi Sonoda’s answers.


Interviewer: Is this your first time here?

Sonoda: Sakura-con is my first. This is my second time in Seattle. Last time, I was here for Emerald City Comic Con a few years back.

J!-ENT: Did you get to do any sightseeing yet, if not, where would you like to go?

Sonoda: Yes, I did. I got to go to Nintendo. I also got to go to Crab Pot for some seafood. The food there was very interesting. They basically dumped a bunch of steamed crabs, clams and other seafood in front of you and give you a hammer and a couple other tools. It was very entertaining.

Interviewer: It’s very messy. They give you handwipes and a bib and it’s kind of embarrassing.

Sonoda: I was prepared because I put the paper bib on and I had a roll of paper towels.

Interviewer: How do you feel about how anime and manga is received in the US? Is there anything noticeable about the American market.

Sonoda: About America accepting manga… I’ve always had this admiration toward the US, and I grew up watching American movies and dramas. So that’s why I had Gunsmith Cats and Riding Bean set in the US. I even set the stories in Chicago because I was influenced by The Blues Brothers. So I am very grateful that the American fans have been so accepting of my work.

As for the answer to the second question, Japanese fans are very quiet overall. American fans are very lively and will approach you to talk and enjoy cosplaying. I think they’re very positive and they’re much more energetic than the Japanese fans, and I think that’s great.

J!-ENT: This is a similar question, but you were one of the very first guests invited to an event in the US. What is the biggest difference between the American fandom then and now?

Sonoda: Fundamentally there aren’t many differences but they’ve gotten smarter with promoting the events, and with how they’re run, and I think that’s great.

Interviewer: Are there any manga and anime series that you’re reading or watching right now?

Sonoda: I like to enjoy reading manga and watching anime quite regularly. But let’s see… Out of the recent anime series that have aired, I really enjoyed “Kemono Friends”. I have a lot of friends who are in doujin circles and at least 75% of them are obsessed with “Kemono Friends”, and we’re talking about men in their 40s and 50s.

Interviewer: It’s a very cute series, and everyone likes cute stuff.

Sonoda: The hype peaked in last two episodes, episodes 11 and 12. I was surprised at what happened myself.

J!-ENT: How did you get into this industry?

Sonoda: Right around the time I was sixteen or so, I started doujin work. And doujin work back then isn’t like the doujin circles who do derivative fan works that we have now.

It was more like a manga school, where everyone was determined to become manga artists. And I was the chairman for this group and got other people to join. After I graduated high school, I continued working on manga in hopes of becoming a manga artist while I went to design school.

One day, I was contacted by someone who worked at Artmic in Tokyo, who had seen one of my doujins. I was told they had a project called Gall Force and asked me if I had any interest in being the character designer.

Gall Force at the time was a 3D photo novel that appeared in a magazine called Model Graphix. They took models of girls that I designed and models of mechas that Kakinuma had designed, took photos of them, and made a story out of it.

At that point, there was no talk about making it into an anime. But not even six months later, I was told that they were going to be making a theatrical anime version, so I realized I was going to have a lot more work to do. Also, at the same time, a company called GAINAX also asked me to help out with some character design work.

So, I thought that since I now have at least two projects in Tokyo, I could move out to Tokyo and make a living over there without having to worry too much. So that was when I moved to Tokyo from Osaka, and I believe I was about 21 at the time.

My first job with GAINAX lasted about a year, and I worked at Artmic as an actual employee and did design work. At Artmic, I was working on the Gall Force series and the Bubblegum Crisis series.

Later on, I was told that if I had come up with a proposal, that it would probably go through. So I came up with a proposal without a script or original story and I went right to just storyboarding and animating it. That project was actually the anime, Riding Bean.

Work wise, things were going pretty well at Artmic, but because I was just an office worker there, my earnings didn’t really grow.

Even if something I created was a hit, I didn’t own the copyright. That was when I figured I should probably go back to my original goal of becoming a manga artist. I went to Kodansha to talk to them about a project and managed to land a deal on a serialized series.

That’s when I became a true manga artist and I quit my job at Artmic. I think I was about 26 or 27 when I started my serial with Kodansha, and my first serialized series, Gunsmith Cats became a hit. Because of that, I was able to become a successful manga artist.

Interviewer: When I was younger, I would watch Gall Force and Bubblegum Crisis on television and they were my favorites. I loved both series, because I hadn’t seen anything like them before. It was actually hard to find anime and manga in the early 90s when I first started watching. But now, anime is so popular and I wonder if you had any thoughts on how anime has transitioned to mainstream.

Sonoda: I’m very happy about Japanese manga and anime being so popular in the US and the world, but I do believe that this is mostly because of the stories being good so if we don’t keep up working hard, the interest in the genre could die down. So I think I need to keep working hard.

J!-Ent: How do you feel about your works like Bubblegum Crisis and Gall Force being loved so much after so many years?

Sonoda: I’m very happy about it. But since Artmic sort of went downhill, so that was regrettable. This doesn’t just apply to Artmic, but with the anime industry, if a series does well, you aren’t guaranteed to be provided with a high budget for the next series. Actually, the opposite would happen. They would say that we were able to make a hit, so we should actually be able to make another one with an even lower budget. That wasn’t the case with all the Artmic series, but I feel like if they spent more on the works, I think they would have done much better and been more popular longer.

Interviewer: Lately, there’s been a movement to make revival series, meaning companies are taking something from my generation or even older and bringing it back. Would you be interested in doing a new series for Gall Force or Bubblegum Crisis?

Sonoda: Yes, I would be interested. But there have been talks about doing digital remasters of older series for Blu-ray releases lately. There will soon be a digital remaster version of Riding Bean for the US and I did audio commentary for that. I also designed new cover art for that release.

Interviewer: Do you know the release date for that?

Sonoda: I personally haven’t seen the release schedule, so please check out the AnimEigo website for release information. Also, recently there have been talks about doing another anime of Gunsmith Cats, but I’m not sure what will happen with that yet.

 J!-Ent: Do you have any advice on how to get into the anime industry?

Sonoda: Not really. The only thing that I can say for anyone interested in joining this industry is to draw a lot.

Interviewer: Speaking of drawing, I wanted to know if you have more fun drawing mecha or if you have more fun drawing pretty girls.

Sonoda: Actually, I like drawing the atmosphere of the world of the story more than either of those choices. I’ll draw anything that is needed for that. I’m very good at drawing both pretty girls and mechas so if that enhances the series and makes it popular, that’s great. Recently, there are a lot of series that use pretty girls and mechas… and serious-looking mechas at that, and do it quite normally. I’m getting a bit nervous that my personal weapons that I thought won’t be effective anymore. Thirty years ago, there weren’t very many series that were filled with pretty girls and mechas. So I was able to use my weapons of being able to draw pretty girls and mechas.

J!-ENT: What was the first anime or manga that you latched onto?

Sonoda: The first manga works that I got into are the works of Fujio Akatsuka, Osamu Tezuka and Fujiko Fujio. There weren’t as many anime back then, so I was basically watching everything that was available. I can’t remember if I was in kindergarten or elementary school, but I cried so hard watching the final episode of Tatsunoko Pro’s Hakushon Daimaoh. I’ve also always liked American cartoons. Wacky Races, Tom and Jerry, and there was some cartoon where a Frankenstein-looking character appeared, but I liked that, too. There was also the cartoon for King Kong, too. But what I was most obsessed with wasn’t actually manga or anime, but a couple sci-fi dramas. They were the British dramas Thunderbirds Are Go and UFO created by ITV. I think the reason I started drawing so much mecha was because of Thunderbirds Are Go.

Interviewer: Would you have any interested in drawing a Thunderbirds Are Go manga?

Sonoda: No, because they are treasured memories and I want to keep them as such.

Interviewer: Are there any current American properties that you’re interested in?

Sonoda: There aren’t many American dramas that are on basic cable in Japan right now. They’re all on BS and CS, so I haven’t seen very many, but I think 24 from a little while back was really good. Also, I was quite disappointed with the newer Knight Rider series.

J!-ENT: You had mentioned that you liked America, but are there any places in America that you haven’t visited yet that you would like to?

Sonoda: So far, I’ve been only been to Chicago, Seattle, and San Jose. So there are plenty of places that I haven’t been to that I’d like to visit. I’d actually also like to go to NASA once.

Interviewer: You mentioned that a lot of your work is influenced by America and also takes place in America, but is there a reason that America influences you so much?

Sonoda: I like gun action and car action, so I watched a lot of movies and dramas with that and was influenced by them. Also, if when I draw manga, if America isn’t the setting for the story, I don’t think I could draw very many scenes where people are shooting guns. Guns are accessible in America. If the stories were set in Japan, I can’t easily logically justify the use of guns.

Interviewer: Unfortunately, it’s more believable for there to be gun fights and car chases in America.

Sonoda: In any case, I really love Dirty Harry.

Interviewer: Yeah, Clint Eastwood is really great.

J!-ENT: What are your hobbies outside of drawing and work?

Sonoda: Watching movies, making plastic models, and going out to drink with my friends. There are times that my friends invite me out to the movies, even though I don’t usually go to the movie theater. However, when my friends actually invite me out to the movies, I’ll go see any kind of movie. The movies that I went to see last year include Shin Godzilla, Girls und Panzer, and Don’t Breathe. They’re all completely different genres.

Interviewer: What were your thoughts on the new Godzilla movie?

Sonoda: I actually enjoyed the dull, first half of the movie more. During the climax scene in the later half of the movie, I thought the presentation wasn’t that great. It’s the scene where the train runs into Godzilla and explodes… But if Godzilla was standing in the way where a train as headed, you’d think that the tracks and cables would have already been trampled on, and the train shouldn’t have been running. I think it would’ve worked better if they did something like Operation Yashima in Neon Genesis Evangelion, because there’s a locomotive pulling the train, rather than the train running electrically.

Interpreter: I’m sorry, I have a slightly personal question in regards to movies, but have you seen the movie, John Wick, where Keanu Reeves plays a retired assassin?

Sonoda: Sorry, I haven’t seen it yet.

Interpreter: Honestly, considering your interests, I think it’d be a perfect movie for you, so I wanted to know your thoughts on it.

Sonoda: I see. I’ll try to rent it in the near future then. Speaking of Keanu Reeves, I think I heard a rumor a while back that they were to make a live-action Cowboy Bebop movie with Keanu Reeves, but that just never came to be, right?

Interviewer: We’ve actually had a couple live action adaptation movies of anime that haven’t gone very well. The Netflix live action Death Note movie is coming out and it’s already pretty unpopular, Ghost in the Shell didn’t do well, and Akira actually just got greenlit to be remade. American audiences haven’t been responding to them very well, it seems. I don’t know if I’d want a live action Cowboy Bebop because I love the anime so much.

Sonoda: There was also the live-action Dragon Ball. Also, speaking of Akira, that’s set in Tokyo… So are they going to change the setting to New York?

Interviewer: I heard that they were thinking about setting it in New York.

Sonoda: Also speaking of Akira, did the fact that one of the signs from the movie ended up correctly predicting the future become a popular story? In Akira, they mention that the 2020 Olympics are going to take place in Tokyo. The beginning of the story is the fact that the Olympics are going to happen the next year. Akira takes place in the year 2019.

J!-ENT: Since we’re talking about live action adaptations… In Japan, I think there’s a desire to see anime being made into live action adaptations. Whereas in the US, I don’t think there’s as much of a desire to see them. For example, there was already a lot of criticism over them casting a Caucasian actress to play Motoko in the Ghost in the Shell movie before the movie even came out. So I think that the way these adaptations are viewed are quite different in Japan and the US. In the US, as we had mentioned earlier, series like Cowboy Bebop is very sacred in the hearts of a lot of viewers here and they don’t want to see it as a live action adaptation.

Sonoda: For me, I actually have no problem with the casting of Scarlett Johansson as Motoko in the live action Ghost in the Shell. However, I felt that it was rather awkward that Aramaki was being playing by Takeshi Kitano. He looks nothing like him and he doesn’t talk in the same sharp manner… I thought that was a much bigger problem that I was hoping they’d do something about. Chief Aramaki in Masamune Shirow’s original Ghost in the Shell was actually modeled after a character from the British police drama, The Professionals. Are you able to search on the internet right now? If you search for CI5, The Professionals… I forgot the name of the actor, but he’s the chief in that show. His hair is rather thin, but his face has a very sharp look to it. He’s a very cool looking character. If you can find any pictures from the series, you should be able to find a picture of two younger male agents and a slightly older gentleman who played their boss. I’m pretty sure that Masamune Shirow has mentioned this in other interviews before, but he really likes British police and military dramas and movies. He apparently really liked The Professionals and was highly influenced by it. Also, the same actor who plays the chief in The Professionals plays the lead in a movie called The Final Option. If I remember correctly, Masamune Shirow really liked that movie, as well.

Interviewer: One final question. The genre of anime seems to have changed greatly from the early 90s and 80s. Back then, you had Ghost in the Shell, Mobile Police Patlabor, and Akira, which are all rather serious works. Nowadays, the anime series that seem to be popular are about high schools, and the moe culture. I was wondering if you had any thoughts about these changes and if you noticed and trends and changes yourself.

Sonoda: I think there are still some rather serious and good series out there even now. It’s just that there are indeed a lot more moe genre series now as well. So I personally don’t think there’s anything to worry about. Even with the moe genre series or series that use pretty girls to try to catch the audience, a lot of them have a very solid story at their core and are made quite well. So basically they’re just sugarcoated with the pretty girls or moe, but beneath that surface, there is a great foundation. So if you look for them carefully, you should be able to find those more serious anime series that you were speaking of. For example, Kyoto Animation is known for using a lot of beautiful girls in their series, but they make very serious and excellent series.

Adding onto the last question, with the change of genre, the art style from the 80s and 90s and the art style now has changed. Do you think the art style will ever go back to the way it was in the 80s and 90s?

Sonoda: There are a lot more series that use a lot of CG now as well as computer-aided drawings. This aspect also makes it a lot easier to additional details into scenes. But what’s most important is the direction and the story. So I’m not sure if the key animation is indeed the most important aspect or not. Of course, there are works like the works by Makoto Shinkai where what you’re looking at is also very important. But then there are also series like Kemono Friends which I mentioned earlier. The visuals on that show are extremely cheap looking, but the actual story is extremely well made. It actually became rather popular on the internet. As long as the creators know exactly what they should be presenting, even if their budget is not very high, I don’t think they need to worry too much about what’s visually being presented.


Follow Kenichi Sonoda on Twitter

 

“Thunderbolt Fantasy” Q&A by Michelle Tymon (J!-ENT Interviews & Articles)

June 8, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

“Thunderbolt Fantasy” Q&A @ Sakura-Con 2017 (L-R: Yi-Tsun Hsaio, Koh Kitaoka, Liang-Hsun Huang, Takanori Aki, Gen Urobuchi, Chen-Ching Ting and Digitarou). Photo by Michelle Tymon


In Japan, “Thunderbolt Fantasy” has amazed viewers all over the world.

A 13-episode Japanese-Taiwanese glove puppetry television series created and written by Gen Urobuchi, the series is a collaboration between Nitroplus, Good Smile Company and Taiwanese Puppet production company, Pili International Multimedia.

The series aired in Japan back in July 2016 and with a series which aired in Taiwan, China and Japan, two manga adaptations have followed.  And a sequel is currently in production.

The series is set in the East and is a fantasy setting.  The story focuses on Dan Fei and her brother, guardians of a sword known as the Tian Xing Jian.  And they are being pursued by the evil Xuan Gui Zong clan who are seeking to obtain the sword for their master, Mie Tian Hai.

Recently, J!-ENT’s Michelle Tymon had the opportunity to take part in a media Q&A for “Thunderbolt Fantasy” at Sakura-Con 2017 in Seattle, Washington with Gen Urobuchi (writer and PC game maker from nitroplus and best known for “Fate/Zero”, “Magical Girl Madoka Magica”), Digitarou (President of nitroplus), Koh Kitaoka (producer of “Touken Ranbu”), Aki Takanori (Good Smile Company) and Pili International Multimedia – Liang-Hsun Huang (Head Puppeteer, 5th gen), Chen-Ching Ting a.k.a. “Uncle Cat” (Star Senior Puppeteer) and Yi-tsun Hsiao (Lead Puppeteer and Instructor).


How are you all enjoying Seattle and Sakura-con?
Urobuchi: This is actually my second time in Seattle. Four years ago when they first invited me here, it was also my first time in America. So up until then, my only impressions of America were through “Gotham City” and “Grand Theft Auto.” Because of that, I was so surprised at how beautiful and quiet Seattle was. The event and being in Seattle basically completely flipped my impression of America and being in Seattle again, I’ve been reminded of its beauty. It also may be one of the most memorable cities for me.
Pili: This is my first time coming to Seattle and America, as well as my first time attending an anime convention outside of Asia. I feel that the atmosphere is rather different. In Asia, I feel like the convention attendees seem like they’re more going to an exhibit. But here, it feels more like a carnival, where everyone is sharing the fun and love for anime.

I grew up in Japan, so I would see Japanese puppet show serials on NHK for like “Saiyuki,” so I was excited when I saw the promotional video for “Thunderbolt Fantasy.” Was the story of “Thunderbolt Fantasy” something that was on your mind prior to seeing Pili and what they can do, or was it created after you saw the puppets?
Urobuchi: This was a new story that I created, so that we could use the puppets.

Season 1 has an absolutely amazing voice cast. When I saw the pv, not only was I excited about the use of puppets, but Everyone who appeared were legendary status. If they can talk about it, can we expect another great lineup of voice cast members and can they mention any names yet?
Urobuchi: We haven’t even started the auditions yet for the voice cast for season 2. So currently, we really can’t say anything about it. We’re just getting started on all of that.
Good Smile: Actually, who would you like to see in it? Do you have anyone that you can recommend?
Urobuchi: The thing with “Thunderbolt Fantasy” is that unlike anime, all of the expressions of the characters are presented through movement, since their facial expressions don’t change. So for the voice cast, we also looked for voice actors who are known to be very expressive in their acting and filled with emotions.
J!-ENT: Actually, if I could recommend one person for the cast, I would recommend Akira Ishida.

In episode 0, I saw how much work went into making these beautiful puppets but I also saw them being thrown around and treated rather roughly for some of the action scenes. Was there any particular time that any of the puppets broke so badly that production had to stop?
Pili: For the puppets, we would make different ones for each of the characters. We would have one for the quiet and calmer scenes, where they would just be talking and moving around normally, and we would make one for the fighting scenes, as well. The reason being that inevitably in the fighting scenes, some of the puppets might get damaged. So usually, we would make three of them. We also did the same with the weapons. We had multiple ones made for all the puppets.

Now that you’re done with season 1 and you’re working on season 2, is there anything you learned during season 1 that you are doing different in season two?
Urobuchi: Well for season 2, we’re trying to see if we can get the puppets to do even more expressions. And other than that, we’d like to go even more all out with the action scenes in season 2.

Were any one of the characters harder to control than the others. I know that Lǐn Xuě Yā (Rinsetsua) was always smoking a pipe so that seemed to take more attention but…
Pili: The difficulty actually depended more on what motions the characters would be making, rather than one character being more difficult than another. It all depends on what kind of things they need to do, what kind of poses and what kind of movement. Normal actions just require one puppeteer using both hands, but some actions require two to three puppeteers to do the actions. Difficult motions would include like squatting down, or kneeling down to pick something up. In those cases, you need to move the knees, legs, feet, and everything else.

Just one final question, but is the TMR puppet going to make an appearance in the show?
Urobuchi: That is our intention, yes. We’re planning to make him a very important character.


For more information on “Thunderbolt Fantasy”, please click here.

Photos by Michelle Tymon

 

Silicon Valley Comic Con 2017 by Derek Orchard (J!-ENT Interviews and Articles)

May 6, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Silicon Valley Comic Con took place on April 21st through the 23rd 2017 at the San Jose Convention Ctr., San Jose, CA.  The convention is known to bring Pop Culture and Technology together.

Presented by Steve Wozniak and featuring top celebrities, comics, independent artists, cosplay, video games, consumer electronics, music and apps, Silicon Valley Comic Con is where entertainment and the electronic worlds intersect. welcoming more than 65,000 guests over the course of the three-day show.

This year’s theme of “The Future of Humanity: Where Will We Be in 2075?” featured a Space Village, NASA space exploration panels, robotics, virtual reality, a Kids S.T.E.A.M. Lab, celebrity appearances, leading comic book artists and authors, cosplay contests, a science fair, Geek Fashion Show, Rover.com and more.

Silicon Valley Comic Con, had a list of celebrities from the entertainment community Grant Gustin of “the flash”, John Cusack from “Being John Malkovich”, Marina Sirtis from “Star Trek: the next generation”, Billy Boyd who played Pippin from “Lord of the rings” trilogy, Buzz Aldrin, Apollo 11, space Astronaut. To mention a few.

Celebrities from science and tech such as Omar Abdelwahed, head of studio, Softbank robotics America. Heather Berlin cognitive Neuroscientist and professor of psychiatry at the Icahn school of medicine at Mount Sinai. Tracy Drain best known for Deputy chief engineer for Juno mission to Mars and more.

Celebrity artists that were at the show included Award winning Arthur Adams, Brent Anderson, Joyce Chin, Lela Dowling, Scott Shaw, some of the writers and authors they had were M Todd Gallowglas, Andy Weir and the Winner twins to mention a few.

 

William Shatner and Steve Wozniak sharing the stage to talk about Star Trek and the future of technology, Buzz Aldrin presenting about “Humanity’s Future in Space,” Steve Wozniak hosting a “Wonder Women Changing the face of STEM” panel with Simone Giertz and Sabrina Pasterski , the 30th anniversary cast reunion of “Star Trek: The Next Generation” hosted by William Shatner, a “Breaking Barriers” panel featuring actress Pam Grier and Slack senior engineer Erica Baker, the original human residents of “Sesame Street” and Mr McFeely from “Mr Rogers’ Neighborhood” reunited on-stage.

 

Silicon Valley Comic Con, is going to be a different kind to show that you’re used to going to they have a lot of stuff in information about things that are science fact and not science fiction so if you are really big fan of something like Star Wars or star trek or something to do with robotics.

You are going to find something here that will actually take you in the direction of learning more about that industry and that a lot of things that if her kids to physically interact on how to do things to encourage them to learn more about it. space exploration panels from NASA, Virgin Galactic and SETI, panels on robotics, virtual reality,  science.

Silicon Valley Comic Con also hosted a rally for the March for Science Silicon Valley that was attended by 10,000 people.

SETI hosted its first-ever Space Ball gala fundraiser, and ScreenUsed.com returned to host its 2nd Annual Movie Prop and Wardrobe Auction that beat 2016’s sales record of $707,000 including selling a Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope – Original Stormtrooper (Sandtrooper) Helmet for $228,000.

Other things that you could do while you were at the convention. The cartoon art museum exhibit, The game zone presented by South Bay Button Mashers. Silicon Valley Comic Con outdoor festival, life music, food trucks, exhibit art installations, evening movies screenings, Dogvacay’s dog cosplay contest and more.

So, really… there were a lot of things that you can do at Silicon Valley Comic Con.

So, when you’re done gathering autographs, getting photos from your favorite guest and celebrities, attending panels.

I wish they were little bit more center stage, but they were there. They had some of the vintage comics from back in the 40’s to today’s popular comics with all the different variant covers. You could find vintage movie posters, and a good amount of anime and stuff coming over from Japan.

There were different panels ranging from drawing, gaming, celebrity Q&A’s, comics, technology, space.

They had an impressive array of cosplay guest at the show. Valerie Perez, Keith Zen, Chrissy Lynn Kyle she was doing amazing makeup effects. Jacqueline Goehner is a contestant on SYFY’s Cosplay Melee.

I would have like to see more signage, at time it was difficult understanding where to go or where something was. it was hard to find out who was sitting where for the Authors and Artists, it would have been nice to have an listing of the table and booth numbers like they had for other exhibitors. it would have be a nice addition on the SVCC app

Steve Wozniak’s wildly successful pop culture and technology expo, took over downtown San Jose, transportation provided by Acura’s NSX supercar and more. SVCC 2.0 also saw massive physical expansions and layout changes, adding a free public outdoor festival, programming at City National Civic and hosting registration inside South Hall. Silicon Valley Comic Con will return to San Jose the weekend of April 6-8, 2018.

Photos by Derek Orchard

Visit the SILICON VALLEY COMIC CON 2017 Photos Gallery


 

 

FresCon 2017 by Derek Orchard (J!-ENT Interviews and Articles)

April 8, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

FresCon, Fresno State’s geek culture convention took place on April 1-2, 2017.

FresCon is a non-profit and educational event that showcases Fresno State and the surrounding community through the collective enjoyment of geek culture including movies, television series, books, comics, video games, board games, card games and cosplay.

Some of the main events include “Street Fighter V” and “Super Smash Brothers 4”. Also, featured was “Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild” for the Nintendo Switch.

The event featured panels on game designed by Geek Wise Academy and voice actress Erika Harlacher who did a Q&A plus a signing session on Saturday and on Sunday she did another panel about playing “Kingdom Hearts 2: Talking Games”.

FresCon also showcased modern anime such as “Fairy Tail”, “Mob Psycho 100” and some nostalgic anime such as “GTO”, “Gurren Lagann” and “Cowboy Bebop”.

Also, the event premiered the first episode of “Attack on Titan” season 2.

They also had panels dealing with cultural importance of genre fiction and storytelling which included Dr. Frederick Raswald for “Alien Lifeforms: Beyond the evidence”, “Philip Cable: How to Make and Market a Feature Film”, Lady Lindsay: “Character design what your concept?”, “Chris Zimmerman: The story of Labyrinth” and “Kyle Villarama: Batman and Psychology”.

 

On Sunday, after the cosplay contest, they had videogame cover band Super Soul Bros., a San Jose base Jazz band that covers music from videogames and cartoons.

FresCon for 2017 was a very enjoyable event! It is the type of event that if you’re not that into all aspects of a particular genre. And I personally feel that they have done a really good job of creating an environment for the true geeks and younger fans to come out to the event and enjoy.

Photos By Derek Orchard

Visit the FresCon 2017 Photos Gallery


 

 

Ani-Me Con 2017 by Derek Orchard (J!-ENT Interviews and Articles)

March 25, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Ani-Me Con 2017, March 18-19th @ the Big Fresno Fairgrounds in Fresno California.

For my latest convention report for 2017, I traveled to Fresno, California for this year’s Ani-Me Con.

Attendance was just over 7,000 for the weekend, making this year their biggest convention yet.

Some of the things you would have found at Ani-Me Con this year included the live action role playing of “Terras Wars”. As well as Ani-Me standards such as the collector card game tournaments, comedy acts, band performances, panels, dance crews and a rave on Saturday night. And also a cosplay contest that took place on both days plus a fashion show.

Special guests include voice talent Erik Kimerer, Sarah Annie Williams and Erika Harlacher and on Saturday there were panels on voice acting, experiences in the industry and autograph signings.

Band performances by “Coast in the clouds” and “Light of mine” and on Sunday a performance by the band “For the record”. Artist panel was by Hyperbooster studio who displayed his talents including drawing manga and also there was a comedy act by Vanna Vandal.

There were three different dance crews on Saturday which include “Empire Dance Crew”, “Royal T”, “Corps Dance Crew” with their hip-hop sailors scouts routine, which was a lot of fun to watch.

On Sunday we had singing and dancing performances by “Lovely Rushers”, who I think did a fantastic job, even though they were not the last act onstage on Sunday, they were a hard act to follow.

On Saturday and Sunday, Ani-Me hosted a cosplay contest. I am really impressed with the level cosplay that’s happening in the Central Valley. From beginner to advance, people are putting a lot of effort and a lot of thought into the costumes of their making. This year they had a fashion show on Sunday, featuring the designs of Miss Alphabet. Very colorful, very fun and the presentation was done very well, quite impressive.

Overall, Ani-Me has definitely grown compared to last year. I have lightly touched, on a lot of the different things that was available at Ani-Me Con.

I haven’t talked about what was on the main floor all the different items that were for sale at reasonably market prices. Like items from Japan, PVC figures, hoodies, games, card games and etc.

The convention had an artists alley with very talented artists. Cosplayers had tables where they had on display items from their different costumes. On display were props, where they could talk about how they made it and the process of what they went through and also giving tips to other people that are interested in making props and costumes.

It was a pleasure to return to Ani-ME Con this year. It will be interesting to see what they do with next year’s event.

Photos By Derek Orchard

Visit the Ani-Me Con 2017 Photos Gallery


 

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