While having a barbeque with friends and family around fireworks seems like the picture perfect fourth of July, down in Anaheim CA (aka where Disneyland in California is) was a completely different scene. Thousands of anime otaku made it their home for the extended weekend to check out Anime Expo 2005. People came from all over the world for this annual pilgrimage to collect Japanese toys, watch videos and check out some of the awesome programming at the event.
If you were there to pick up stuff there was plenty to buy at the marketplace in the center of the convention center. Shops carried libraries of manga, plenty of gashapon toys and the occasional signed cel. There were some cool video game related items like a Famicom controller that was a pencil set. There were plushies from a variety of games including creatures like the mandagoria from FFXI, Donkey Kong from well Donkey Kong and a rare Shadow the Hedgehog. Each of the major anime companies were showing off their new goods on the floor. Toykopop and Viz were showing off manga, Genon was screening Samurai Champloo, Bandai was showing off trailers of Scrapped Princess and Funmation was there with Full Metal Alchemist. Each of the booths were giving off a few items if you’d happen to be at the right place at the right time.
It’s impossible to walk through the marketplace or the entire convention without noticing people in full costume. Known as cosplayers, these die hard fans spend enormous amount of time making costumes to show dedication to their fandom. Dressing up like Inuyasha, Vash the Stampede from Trigun and Ed from Full Metal Alchemist were popular choices. A bunch of people dressed up as Naruto characters too. All the characters from TenTen to Ebisu were represented with a bunch of people posing as Naruto, Sakura and Itachi. Dressing up as a video game character was equally as popular. Plenty of people posed as Cloud from Final Fantasy 7 and Yuna from FFX. One group of people spent a lot of time making costumes to fit Sora’s Kingdom Hearts 2 look. On top of having two Sora’s with keyblades and all they had someone walking around with a command menu from the game. One daring person dressed up like the prince from Katamari Damacy and even a braver person was a L shaped Tetris piece. Walking around in both of those costumes must have been a challenge.
On Friday there was a screening for Full Metal Alchemist featuring episodes 27 and 28. If you haven’t been following the Cartoon Network broadcast just know that the series stopped at a cliffhanger at episode 26. This was the first time anyone in the US got a chance to check these out, which was a huge treat. To add to the surprise two of the directors for the English version and Vic Mignogna who plays the voice of Edward Elric was there too. If you can’t wait until the fall to see what happens next pick up a US copy of Full Metal Alchemist 2: Curse of the Crimson Elixir. A DVD is packaged with the game that contains the two episodes.
Saturday kicked off with a huge event from Geneon. They showed off trailers of new anime to look forward to in the near future. The list includes: Fate/Stay Night, Starship Operators, Kannaduki no Miko, Erementar Gerad, Shakugan no Shana, Ergo Proxy, and the Hellsing Ultimate OAV. The original creator of Hellsing, Kouta Hirano, was there to commerate the US launch of the OVA. When asked why he decided to make the Hellsing OVA he said he was drinking with another anime director who said more can be done with the series beyond the TV show. Hirano challenged the other director to write the story and the rest is history. The event ended with a hour long performance by Kotoko. In her US debut she performed a couple of anime themes like one from Starship Operators and songs from her latest CD. Seeing her was a treat, since her shows are all sold out in Japan.
One panel that I bet a lot of the readers are interested in is what went on with Studio Pierrot. Known for directing the hugely popular Naruto and Bleach series, Studio Pierrot has a strong line up. Guests in the panel included the director of the US adaptation of Naruto and one of the voice actors, Stephanie Shay. Some information was spilled about the US version like that it’s going to air on Cartoon Network in September of this year. We also know that the broadcast TV version is going to be edited. Blood is going to be limited and scenes like the execution scene in episode 11 is going to be editited out. Don’t worry about the sexy no jutsu it’s still going to be around on TV. For you fans out there that want the original version Viz will be releasing uncut DVDs. In response to fans asking about the quality of voice acting the director responded saying he worked closely with the Japanese cast to preserve the series. He even mentioned that some of the Japanese creators enjoyed the English cast more than the original Japanese cast.
In between all of the announcements, late night dance parties, mascrade balls and hours of anime movies there was gaming going on. At NIS America’s booth you could pick up a copy of Atelier Iris Eternal Mana with a bonus poster. You could also check out a screening of the US version of Makai Kingdom (known as Phantom Kingdom in Japan) and pick up a poster for the game. The RedOctane booth showed off the PS2 version of In the Groove, a DDR clone that has grown popular in the US. Square-Enix even made an appearance with Dragon Quest VIII in English for people to play. In the Funmation booth was another Square-Enix title, Full Metal Alchemist 2 that had a decent waiting time to play. Finally Bandai’s booth gave people a chance to check out the latest anime games like Zatch Bell and Inuyasha Feudal Combat. For those people that didn’t get to goto E3 there was a bunch of new stuff to check out.
The convention was even host to a console gaming room held in one on the hotels. The room had people playing games like Gran Turismo 4, Super Smash Brothers Melee and Halo 2. Fighting games were a popular genre in the room with Guilty Gear Isuka, Street Fighter Aniversary Collection and Naruto: Narutimett Hero 2 to check out. A lot of people were into Naruto 2, since it was a rare chance to play the game unless you have a Japanese PS2 of your own. Some really hardcore gamers even brought in their own equipment. The room was filled with people playing with their DSes, PSPs and even one group of people that brought a Gamecube and a monitor to show off Naruto: Gekitou Ninja Taisen 3. Competition among gamers was heavy too with tournaments going on simultaneously. Mario Tennis, Naruto 2 and Halo 2 all had separate tournaments with prizes ranging from t-shirts to DVDs for the sole survivor.
Anime Expo is a really unique event to check out if you’re into anime or even into gaming. If you’re around the Anahiem Convention Center next year drop by and check it out.
For more information on Anime Expo go to www.animeexpo.org.