Continuing the trend of hosting digital conventions due to the pandemic, Anime Expo held its first digital-only convention, Anime Expo Lite 2020 on July 3-4. The programs were streamed on two channels, Channel 1 was broadcasted on Youtube and Twitch, while Channel 2 was Twitch-exclusive.
Manga Planet and futekiya were part of this year’s Anime Expo Lite, which we will cover on Day 2 of our convention report.
The first panel of Anime Expo Lite was the Viz Media Panel with Urian Brown as the host. Celebrating the 20th year of the franchise Boruto/Naruto, there was a panel interview which was attended by Maile Flanagan (voice actor of Naruto), Amanda C. Miller (Boruto), and Kate Higgins (Sakura). They were asked several questions on their experiences of playing the iconic characters, and one of the highlights of this section was when they talked about parts of the roles they play that had seeped into their everyday lives. Amanda mentioned that Boruto’s overconfidence made her feel a bit more confident about her actions. Kate stated that playing a character for 16 years gave her insight into how both Sakura and her quirks have evolved. Maile jokingly mentioned that by voicing Naruto, she’s able to fly now and can run with her arms behind her back.
The next section of the panel was related to Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure: Golden Wind and had the voice actors Phillip Reich (Giorno) and Ray Chase (Bruno) fielding questions. When asked about what makes Jojo appealing, Phillip answered that the characters are so unique that they’re a joy to watch. Ray then added that part of the appeal was because the fight scenes were very different and that each episode was like a puzzle with people scrambling to guess how they were going to be solved.
The biggest announcement during the panel was that Junji Ito is coming to Comic Con, but the details are not yet final.
There was a message from the series writer of Hanyou no Yashahime, Katsuyuki Sumisawa. He mentioned that he is grateful for the fans’ support because the sequel was made possible due to the American fans’ clamor for more Inu Yasha. He hopes that fans would enjoy the sequel.
On Channel 2, Pony Canyon started with voice actors Subaru Kimura and Ibuki Kido, who introduced Pony Canyon’s anime site Canime Prime. Being a member not only allows you to buy various goods, but you also get perks like bonus shopping points, access to exclusive video contents, and advanced concert ticket reservation. Kimura also promotes both his and Kido’s show on Canime Prime titled, What We Won’t Get Into Trouble for Doing What We Want?!, or Sukioko for short. The audio part of the program will be available for free on Youtube, and the video part is exclusive for Canime Prime members. Various clips of the show were presented during the panel. There was also an announcement of the overseas Pony Canyon shop’s opening. Fans outside of Japan can now order goods that used to be exclusive to Japan. Various voice actors such as Uchida Maaya showed their support for the opening of the shop by recording short messages and promoting their goods. Uchida also promoted her first online concert Hello, Online Contact!, which was held last July 5.
Short previews of Canime Prime-exclusive shows were shown, with the various casts doing their best to address potential overseas viewers in English!
In between the industry panels, Anime Expo Lite showed clips that offer a glimpse into Japanese culture. Cultural contents ranging from cooking beef rice to doing Karate blocks were a refreshing respite from the industry panels.
The next panel, Cosplaying Together Apart, dealt with the topic of cosplaying during a pandemic. Featuring veteran professional cosplayers Yaya Han and Phil Mizuno, who cosplayed as Byleth and Claude from Fire Emblem: Three Houses, they delved into the struggles of cosplayers wanting to connect at a time when everybody is advised just to stay home. Phil mentioned that due to the COVID-19 situation in which cosplayers cannot go to cons, they are looking at different platforms to connect with their fans. Yaya emphasized finding a platform that you’re comfortable with and finding a pace where you can be consistent as you can.
The next panel veered toward an academic appreciation of Japanese pop culture. The panel, hosted by Professor Christopher Bolton, Maggie Wu, and Eron Rauch of Williams college, gave us a preview of their exhibit (Repro Japan), which is slated for 2021. It focuses on mass printing techniques for art and how that has influenced Japanese popular culture.
For fans of collecting figures, Good Smile Company, the company well-known for the production of Nendoroids, gave us a tour of their Akihabara headquarters. While the walls of figures were interesting to look at, the highlight of the tour was a visit to their “secret base” where they paint and do the sculpting for their figures.
Aniplex held a panel where they showed us a preview of their upcoming products. Previews of games like the Mobile RPG Magia Record, upcoming anime like The Misfit of Demon King Academy, and boxed sets of series like Nisekoi: False Love were shown during their panel. The highlight of the panel was the announcement of the limited edition BDs of the popular anime Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba.
Bushiroad announced several updates to the Card Game Weiss Schwarz, including the western exclusive Mob Psycho 100 deck. For fans staying at home, there is the Bushi Summer Fes, an online festival where you can view various content related to Cardfight!! Vanguard, Weiss Schwarz, Future Card Buddyfight, and D4DJ, is scheduled from July 1-31. They also announced that the 2nd Hatsune Miku Collaboration with BanG Dream! is coming on July 31.
Several key members of the game’s staff made an appearance during the much-anticipated The World Ends With You panel. Tomoko Hirano (producer), Tatsuya Kando, Gen Kobayashi (character designer), and Takeharu Ishimoto (music composer) gave us lots of juicy tidbits about the original game.
Hirano mentioned that the anime took so long because the game came out before the anime, which was very uncommon since, in cross-promotions, it is usually the anime that comes out first. Kando added that they originally wanted to put the animation in the game, but they were unable to do so due to several reasons. The memory limitations back then caused them to prioritize the battle music with the vocals over the animation. Ishimoto then mentioned that he pretty much went along with his tastes to create the music back then, but since the original BGM was created 14-15 years ago, he wanted to do something a bit different for the anime.
Hirano announced that the anime is scheduled to be released in 2021. Director Kazuya Ichikawa was invited to talk about the anime side of the production. When asked what he felt when he was asked to work on the anime, Ichikawa mentioned about wanting it to be something that would resonate with the fans, and that he wanted to create something that could be considered as his opus.
Neku Sakuraba’s seiyuu Kouki Uchiyama had a section where he talked about how he played Neku back then and his plans on taking on the character of Neku once again since he has changed through all the years. As an avid fan of the original, his curiosity was piqued, and he asked two questions to the game and anime’s staff members. He asked if the anime would closely follow the whole storyline of the game and how Shibuya will be depicted in the anime (if it will be 2007 or 2020), since the realistic depiction of Shibuya was an integral part of the charm of the game.
Ichikawa responded that he could not fully answer the former since it is one of the highlights of the anime and added that they had to adjust some parts deliberately for it to make sense in the anime time frame. He also confirmed that the anime will be depicting 2020 Shibuya but since there are some key buildings in Shibuya that remain unchanged, it is essentially a mix of the 2 Shibuyas. The flip phones have also been upgraded to smartphones to avoid the feeling like the anime is dated.
The next panel featured the judges of the audition for the role of the songstress in DEEMO THE MOVIE, which included acclaimed composer Yuki Kajiura, Yasunori Mori (music producer), and producers Toshihide Nishinaka and Mitsuyasu Yanagita from Pony Canyon. Mori stated that a significant factor in the decision to select the songstress was whether the artist was a good fit for the movie, and the other was the artist’s potential. Kajiura then added that since they were ultimately choosing an artist who will launch their career via DEEMO, it would be a disservice if the artist’s singing isn’t up to snuff.
They then showed clips of the six finalists and their rendition of the theme song, and Hinano Takamura won the audition. Takamura wowed with her performance of the movie’s songs and her visual appeal.
Warner Bros Japan’s panel “Stay Connected with Anime” featured musician Lotus Juice as the host to the several staff members of the Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon? (DanMachi) season 2 cast. Yoshitsugu Matsuoka (Bell Cranel), Inori Minase (Hestia), and producers Yuji Matsukura and Nobuhiro Osawa made an appearance.
The second section of the panel was dedicated to Shokugeki no Soma The Fifth Plate and had Yoshitsugu Matsuoka (Soma Yukihira) and Yoshitomo Yoshitani (Animation Director) as guests. The highlight of this section was the voice actors of Soma and Asahi (Jun Fukuyama) having a cook-off with a steak, well at stake, and Matsuoka won the cook-off.
The next section of the panel was Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure panel interview with Kensho Ono (Giorno Giovanna), Kazutaka Kasama of David Production, and Hiroyuki Omori of Warner Bros. Japan. One thing that stood out during the whole interview was Ono mentioning that he had to find ways to say the iconic “Muda, muda, muda” line faster, and he ended up discovering the most effective method for him was scrunching his face.
The next panel had staff from D’Art Shtajio talking about their experiences being part of the anime industry. Henry Thurlow (Director) and Arthell Isom (CEO). Arthell said he decided to move to Japan after being so inspired by Ghost in the Shell that he wanted to color backgrounds for the show and managed to work for Hiromasa Ogura, his idol. They discussed tips on how to get to Japan and work for anime studios and the importance of knowing the Japanese language and culture since anime is so nuanced.
The next panel is by Pixiv, which discussed how the language barrier is a greater influence than the regional divide thanks to the Internet. Pixiv aims to make art creation and sharing more enjoyable for both audiences in the east and west.
Another highlight of Day 1 was the Studio TRIGGER live drawing panel where Yoh Yoshinari (Director of Little Witch Academia and Brand New Animal) and Hiromiya Wakabayashi (Creative Producer of Promare) fielded questions from the viewers. Some of the interesting questions were, “if they could have an Avengers-esque team of animators who would be in it?” Yoshinari mentioned that he’s not sure if he can handle such a particular team. They also talked about their favorite Disney animation, Yoshinari likes Pinocchio and Fantasia, while Hiromi mentioned that he likes Mulan and Treasure Planet.
That’s our report for Day 1 of Anime Expo Lite! Stay tuned for the Day 2 report, where the Manga Planet team held our very first Anime Expo Panel.
Did you attend Day 1 of Anime Expo Lite? Which was your favorite panel? Tell us on our Twitter account!
About Manga Planet: Read manga, support artists
In 2012, Manga Planet started as a joint project between Dai Nippon Printing Co., Ltd. and FANTASISTA, INC. to research and explore the ways manga is read throughout the world. Aiming to bring new manga to fans from all over the world and support artists and the industry, Manga Planet pushes for affordability and access to manga through a subscription-based service.
Readers who subscribe to Manga Planet and pay a flat monthly fee of $6.99 will have access to our expanding library of English-language manga. By the end of 2020, subscribers will have unlimited access to at least 500 titles. To subscribe, please go to read.mangaplanet.com and create an account. More information is in our guide.