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Otakon 09: The Cure for Ignorance Is Curiosity

Masao Maruyama, Noboru Ishiguro, and Yukio Kikukawa, who received very little attention at their autograph session

One thing that immediately struck me when I was scheduling interviews for Otakon 2009 was the sheer number of high-profile creators who were invited as guests. Despite the J-rockers and voice actors, there were a surprising number of Japanese guests whose work behind-the-scenes has been incredibly significant to the history of the anime medium.

Perhaps the three most notable of these people were director Noboru Ishiguro (Space Battleship Yamato, Macross, Megazone 23) and producers Masao Maruyama (founder of studio Madhouse) and Yukio Kikukawa (Legend of the Galactic Heroes). What is unfathomable is that, despite these guests being phenomenally important people in anime fandom, they were simply not recognized for their achievements by the typically young, typically uninformed masses present at Otakon.

On Friday, I walked into the autograph room for Masao Maruyama, which should have been filled or at least halfway filled in the last fifteen minutes before the end of the signing session for the prolific producer and planner of such shows as Death Note, The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, Perfect Blue, Trigun, and much, much more. But in addition to Maruyama, Noboru Ishiguro AND Yukio Kikukawa were also in the room. The director of Macross was there! A huge line wound out into the hallway for Kanon Wakeshima (a musician who performed ONE anime theme), but do you want to guess how many people were in the room for autographs from the three creators when I walked in? Zero. Nobody. No line, no people, nothing.

But maybe that was a problem of announcements, right? Maybe the kids just didn’t know that Ishiguro would be there. Well, at the opening ceremonies, the convention showed off its new opening animation, created by studio Madhouse. Near the end, it showed a string of sci-fi references, starting with Gundam, and ending with the Starship Enterprise. Cheers all around for every robot and spaceship that showed up. But the moment that the final ship appeared, the clapping instantly stopped. Wanna take a guess which ship it was?

Bingo. It was Space Battleship Yamato, the iconic refurbished WWII battleship used in the famous, fandom-shifting 1979 TV anime of the same name. And surprise surprise, it was directed by none other than Noboru Ishiguro.

But let’s not get too pessimistic here. I did have one positive experience with the “new fandom” reaction to some of the old guests, in the form of a teenager who had seen “Noboru Ishiguro” on his schedule somewhere. He came up to me and asked, to my surprise, “Who’s ‘Noburo Ishigura?'” Incorrect pronunciation aside, I was more than happy to briefly explain Ishiguro’s prolific career to him.

Yes, the kid didn’t know who Ishiguro was, but that’s not the crime being committed by most convention-goers. The real problem is that nobody is doing what that kid was doing: Nobody is ASKING who Noboru Ishiguro is! If all of these young convention-goers simply looked at their Pocket Guide or asked a con staffer or panel attendee who the obscure guests were, they would find that there are very interesting people at conventions who get next to no attention from fans.

If you’re a new fan looking to head out to one of your first conventions, remember that it’s perfectly understandable to not know who a guest is, but not asking about them is absolutely inexcusable.

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