Otakuthon at Home 2020 was a two-day virtual event hosted by Otakuthon. It was a bilingual convention, with several panels being hosted entirely in French. The virtual event had three sections: Main Events, Live Events, and Panels. Manga Planet report on Day 1 of Otakuthon at Home!
The first few panels on the Panels section were in French. The first one was a panel on how to draw chibis, which was followed by a panel with Hirokatsu Kihara of Studio Ghibli, who talked about the production of their much-acclaimed work My Neighbor Totoro. For those who are interested in going beyond the pop aspect of Japanese content, the next panel was a video conference with Osamu Izawa, the Consul-General of Japan in Montreal, where he discussed Quebec-Japan relations. Rakugo fans had a great time at the next panel, Rakugo: Amabie, which was a riveting example of translating the Japanese form of storytelling into French.
The next section, The Art of Japanese Calligraphy, featured a calligraphy demonstration by Shoho Teramoto, master of Japanese Calligraphy. Each of her movements was elegant, starting from the grinding of the inkstone to the masterful strokes of her brush on paper, as she wrote a Haiku of the revered poet, Basho.
Next in line was the Japanime Games Industry Panel, where they talked about their present and upcoming games. They even held a demonstration for one of their games, the Fate Stay Night tabletop game, The Dominate Grail War.
The next panel was a treat for those who are interested in video games, as Hiroshi Matsuyama, the CEO of CyberConnect2 (the company behind the famous .hack// series) talked candidly about the state of the game industry in Japan and gave viewers a glimpse into the whole video game production process. He briefly spoke about the company, their branches (Fukuoka, Tokyo, and Montreal) and how they do not make mobages and instead specialize in creating games for consoles.
They mostly made original video games during the PS1 era, had their most popular series of video games, the .hack// series on the PS2, and started making a variety of video games based on anime like Naruto and Jojo’s Bizarre Adventures. On the topic of games released, 2007 was the peak where 983 new games were released. After that, there was a steep decline, and only 411 new games were released until 2019, due to the market shifting thanks to the release of mobile devices, which made gaming more convenient for people on the go and resulted in console gaming becoming less popular. Also, due to the ever-growing complexity of making games for modern consoles, the average game production time is three years. Matsuyama also cited statistics on how often the Japanese bought games. On average, gaming fans purchase 8.8 games a year, while children buy an average of 3.6 games per year. The sad reality is that, in video game production, only the top 20% of the games released manage to break even given all the costs in production.
Matsuyama also talked about the state of anime and manga in Japan, where the numbers are just as bleak, where only the top 10% anime garners positive earnings and mangakas usually publish in the red zone. Matsuyama also hosted a Q&A session, where we could see him answer questions about their different franchises. One of the highlights of this session was Matsuyama talking about localization strategies. He mentioned that dealing with localization is one of CC2’s strengths. Since one of the Naruto games was released in 18 languages, he also hoped that their original works, including Fuga: Memories of Steel will also be localized in as many languages as possible.
The next panel was Ubisoft Montreal’s panel, where they talked about their games and the various changes implemented in their previous games based on player feedback. For example, in their game Rainbow Six Siege, they made sure to pay attention to the feedback so that they can balance game depth with a not-too-steep learning curve for gamers.
The next panel was RightStuf Industry Panel, where they showed their various products released and to be released on Blu-Ray. The highlight of the panel was the announcement of the Mobile Suit Gundam Narrative and the complete Mobile Suit Gundam Seed boxed set.
Next up was the Manga Planet Industry Panel. The panel was divided into three sections. The first part was about Manga Planet as a manga subscription service; currently, Manga Planet has 57 titles in its library. Manga Planet works with both Japanese and overseas publishers, such as LA-based publisher SOZO Comics.
The second part of the panel was an interview with Yoshiki Tanaka, the author of prominent works such as Legend of the Galactic Heroes, The Heroic Legend of Arslan, and Sohryuden: Legend of the Dragon Kings. He is an avid fan of Jules Verne’s works and Chinese history. One of his works, Prince of Lan Ling, is available on Manga Planet.
On the topic of what motivated Tanaka-sensei to write about the Prince of Lan Ling, he mentioned that he learned about the Prince from an encyclopedia entry when he was still in university over forty years ago. Sensei didn’t know much about him back then, but some of the things he learned were that the Prince wore a mask and was very brave until his dramatic demise. In his quest to discover more about the man, he went looking for novels but found none, so he decided to write one on his own. Tanaka-sensei also talked about his writing process. He recounted that since there was very little information on the Lan Ling, he tried to base what he wrote on characters who lived in the same era as the Prince and took inspiration from there and recreated the landscape of the Prince’s time. Tanaka-sensei mentioned that he doesn’t use digital resources, but he believes that it’s a handy way of introducing people to various novels.
The final section of the Manga Planet panel was a Q&A section, where several fans from all over the globe sent in their questions ahead of time. The first question was about the Persian influence found in the Arslan Senki series and whether or not he had any specific inspirations in writing the series. Tanaka-sensei admitted that he knew nothing about Persia before he started writing Arslan Senki. The whole thing came to him suddenly one day when he was discussing with the publishers, so after that, they had to gather up as much information on Persia as they could. The story itself was already established in his head, and he needed to integrate the Persian culture, history, and people to that story. He then thought that it would be great if people read the series and learned a lot about Persia, so in between every fight scene, he would insert details about Persian culture, such as the food that characters eat and the bathhouses that they visit.
On the topic of whether his knowledge of other countries is based on travel, he mentioned that he has been to several countries like the UK and Germany because there are things that you couldn’t learn just by reading about it. For example, there’s a particular brick unique to a specific period in Germany, and he had to go and see for himself so he could immerse in the feeling of being able to touch it in Germany.
In terms of character creation, Tanaka-sensei follows a comprehensive process; first, he creates the world, and then he thinks the types of roles that would be integral in helping the story take place. He then makes a framework of how a character would act, and then from there, the character’s personality is developed with an added twist to make it more interesting.
There were several questions regarding Legend of Galactic Heroes (LOGH), the first of which was whether or not the idea of several heroes being fatherless or adopted but still grew up to be great leaders was intentional. Tanaka-sensei answered that since the setting is during wartime, it is unfortunately natural to have some characters being orphaned due to the deaths caused by battle. One thing that he was intrigued by is the fact that people can consider each other as parent and child even though they aren’t related by blood. On the topic of people being desensitized to death in huge numbers, he mentioned that he wanted to show his audience that the casualties of war are not just mere numbers; they have families and people who cared for them and suffered from their loss. He stated that he was very interested in how people survive in those trying times, as embroiled as they are in death and strife caused by wartime. He tried to depict war as an authentic thing, and the numbers are real lives that were lost. Tanaka-sensei also discussed how Yang Wen Li and Fan Hyulick’s similarities were not planned, and that they simply became the characters that they are because of the story’s need for characters that will stand against the giant powers. He also started to plan the characters with their flaws in mind because that’s what gives them their uniqueness, and he didn’t want it to sound like the character comes from a textbook on how to become an ideal human. It is also interesting to note that Wen-Li’s and Hyulick’s obsession with tea and omelets, respectively, came to be because he was at a cafe. Despite Yang Wen-li’s dislike of coffee, Tanaka-sensei mentioned that he loves coffee.
Given that LOGH is a very political work and that 30 years had passed, one of the questions asked was if Tanaka-sensei had had times where he disagreed with what he wrote when he was younger. He mentioned that there were indeed times when he disagreed, but also stated that when he re-reads his works, he realizes that the work was indeed a reflection of how young he was at that time.
Tanaka-sensei left a message for the viewers expressing his regret that he could not meet them personally this year. Regardless of the situation, he asked the viewers to read a lot. He also acknowledged that these are tough times and asked everybody to cooperate and do their best to fight against the pandemic. He expressed his gratitude to his fans for reading and supported his works.
If you missed our Industry Panel at Otakuthon at Home, you can now watch it below or on our YouTube channel!
The futekiya Industry panel, where Emma (Editor-in-Chief) and Gladys (Producer) introduced the features of the subscription service solely for Boys’ Love (BL) manga, was held later in the night. The highlight of the panel was the announcement of the license acquisition of 24 BL titles from publisher Home-sha. Emma and Gladys confirmed through the Q&A that the manga on their site is not region-locked. Regarding the expiration of content, Emma stated that the contracts for the content hosted are automatically renewed as long as futekiya still has a good relationship with the company that holds the rights. On the topic of selling physical copies of the manga, they have acknowledged that there is quite a demand for it, but given the region-free nature of the service, publishing physical copies for the global market will be quite a challenge. They also talked about futekiya’s upcoming features: Friend Referrals, Gift Options, and a Profile Feature for the users.
In the Live Events section, Crunchyroll revealed their animation and game lineups and answered the fan’s questions AMA-style!
There were panels where the viewers could participate. Both panels were in French, and people had to identify what Pokémon was being shown in the shadows, and after that was a quiz to identify which anime song was being played.
J-Novel Club hosted a panel where they introduced their company and gave us insights on some of their releases. They also mentioned revamping their website and mobile application.
Renowned lightstick maker Lumica hosted a panel where they showed several videos of crowds using their products.
For the main events’ section, of course, no event would be complete without a maid cafe! The @Home Cafe maids entertained their audience with their antics as they gave us a teaser of their Akihabara maid service!
Rica Matsumoto, the voice actress of Satoshi in Pokémon and one of the founders of the anisong group, JAM Project, hosted a Q&A session where she quipped that she was not afraid to answer anything as she had nothing to hide. The highlight of the Q&A was when she talked about her first audition for the role of Choromatsu in Osomatsu-kun, where she rewrote the anime’s final punchline because she thought it wasn’t hilarious.
Laurence Manning, musician extraordinaire, wowed the audience with her eargasmic renditions of songs from video games such as The Legend of Zelda and Final Fantasy.
Shu Takada, six-time yo-yo World Champion, showed us his impressive yo-yo routine during his panel.
A group of Montreal-based musicians performed a solid playlist of video game music hits during the Video Game Orchestra section and got the audience pumped up! Their repertoire included a cover of NieR Automata’s “Weight of the World” and an English cover of Okami’s “Reset” – the orchestra showed their music chops!
Otakuthon also brought over voice actress Sora Tokui. Some of her best-known roles include Nico from the Love Live! franchise and Popuko from Pop Team Epic. The most notable thing about her panel was when asked to compare herself to the rather vulgar Popuko; she mentioned that she, too, has times where she can be rough in terms of her manner of speaking and that both Popuko and her can have rather sharp tongues. Popuko and her also have a common trait of being quite careless!
WASUTA or The World Standard, a 5-unit idol group that boasts of its members studying languages like English, Chinese, and Spanish, held a mini-concert at the event and answered the fans’ burning questions during the Q&A held after their performance.
Cosplayers strutted their stuff and showed off their gear while staying at home in this year’s Otakuthon Masquerade.
Vocaloid IA showed us how to hold an audience captive with her dashing looks and dazzling voice in IA’s Party A Go-Go – Super Edition!
Day One of Otakuthon at Home ended with a bang as The PinkPopo led a virtual rave party where you can dance the night away while at Home! Otakuthon at Home was an impressive first attempt by Otakuthon at a digital-only event. Watch out for our report on Day 2 in the coming weeks!
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.