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AnimeNEXT 2014: The Panels

We came, we saw, we paneled.

Vicarious living: that’s why we take notes and post these panel reports … well that and to torment our editor-in-chief for the content that’s evidently severely lacking out California way. We want you, reader, to be able to experience at least some of what we were privileged to so that you can look for or avoid these panels or similar ones at the next con you attend! That said, we’d like to present the Ani-Gamers State of the Panel Address, in which we’re happy to declare the state of AnimeNEXT (2014) panels as strong. Director panels, culture panels, industry panels, analytical panels, and panels with the actual creators of the media we all gather to celebrate were all there and in the hands of some pretty competent fans. It hadn’t come to mind until reading the Reverse Thieves panel report, but there didn’t seem to be a single ask-a-character panel this year. Obviously this, along with an expansion into room in a neighboring hotel, meant room for more panels with actual content and learning and stuff! So read on about the sublime, the good, and the ugly, presented in chronological order, after the break.


Anime in Western Comics and Animation
“Maybe, just maybe,” I thought to myself, “this panel won’t prove how much the panelist doesn’t know.” Really, though, panels that feature titles similar to this one almost always end up being the NASCAR crash I actually came to enjoy. The fault usually lies, as it did here, in linking anime to a certain visual style. ANIME IS NOT A STYLE. Anime is simply Japanese animation targeting a Japanese audience. End of story. I know what the panelists were going for, that certain aesthetics that can be found in some anime, have shown up in some North American animation, but the panel needs to be more specific. Nail the influences. From whom did what aspects of the art seem to stem? Link creators’ dates of birth to what they grew up watching or find interviews where they talk about influences. Really, this panel was just one big generalization wrapped up in squee. There were a couple of other major faux pas as well. 1) For examples, the presenters depended on a non-existent Internet connection for YouTube videos. (NEVER RELY ON Wi-Fi!!!) Not only did this stall the presentation for a good 20 minutes, but the panelists went so far as to request Bridgewater Internet passwords and room numbers from the audience for access … and then entered them while connected to the display for the entire room to see. (By the way, thanks for the free Wi-Fi password.)  2) Examples were used as springboards for nostalgia, which lent nothing to an already behind-schedule panel. 3) While funny for a few minutes, running the entirety of the infamous Ghost Stories dub was a strain on already strained temperaments. [Ink]

Troubles of Translation: Translation and Localization 101
Translation’s a fascinating issue in general, and I love to attend lectures and read essays on the topic wherever possible no matter what it’s applied to. Here, issues specifically focused on Japanese to English translation with examples from games, anime, and manga. Rarely do I get to hear about a translator’s process, so listening to Kit discuss the optimal flow (from foreign to native) as well as other aspects were quite insightful. A panel like this could easily come come off as too dry, but Kit punctuated the factual with humorous examples and personal tales for a very laid-back feel. Regarding video games in particular, learning about character limitations and the studios’ attitudes towards translation/localization was very interesting, as was the application of the same terms to physical formatting (the flipping of manga for example). A couple examples went by a little too fast or without explanation, like everyone in the audience would get it, but given the amount of examples she presented at length, I really don’t think much was missed in those glossed-over moments. Kit also highlighted some famous translators, and maybe one day someone will be listing her among them. All hopes! [Ink]

Inferno Cop w/ Studio Trigger
Despite selling AnimeNEXT as a Kill la Kill-centric convention this year, the truth is that this was a stealth Inferno Cop con. Inferno Cop may never be properly recognized as one of the most important animations of our generation, though for one hour, a filled panel room reveled in the inside story behind TRIGGER’s finest production. In all seriousness, I don’t think I’d seen an industry guest panel that offered this much insight into their work before TRIGGER at AnimeNEXT. Screenwriter Hiromi Wakabayashi and designer Shigeto Koyama provided a very rare look into the early production materials of Inferno Cop while giving amusing commentary throughout.  Unfortunately, no photos were allowed, so it’s difficult to convey how Space Inferno Cop’s head burned inside his helmet or how a “No Bikes” policy had to be implemented as the design skewed dangerously close to a certain Marvel character with a flaming skull for a head. They weren’t afraid to admit how much they goof off during meetings and expressed a fondness for American action figures, namely the Marvel Legends toys and the Toybiz line. Presentations like this are something I hope become a trend with the international guests, many of whom fly hundreds of miles just to provide anemic and heavily-vetted Q&A’s. Creators should feel encouraged to show off and reveal some of the inner workings of their projects, and so I wish future guests might loosen up and not worry so much about speaking within the boundaries set up by the PR department. [David]

Vertical 2014
At this point, I attend Vertical panels less to hear about new offerings and more to hear Ed Chavez rant about the state of affairs in the international manga market. It’s been something of a privilege of mine to witness the growth over time since I got my start in the anime and manga journalism sphere via Vertical’s books. In previous years, it seemed like there were troubles in the waters: Chi was winding down to the alleged last volume, and titles like Sidonia and Gundam: The Origin were as yet untested. My greatest concern was what the identity of the company would become as an intentional shift away from Tezuka was underway. Today, after 5 Centimeters per Second goes into its millionth reprint, after Origin preorders smashed expectations and put gunpla kits in Barnes & Noble stores, it seems like things will be all right as far as the manga business goes. There was only one new title to announce, Dream Fossil, an anthology of early Satoshi Kon manga, and hopefully this title receives as luxurious a treatment as has been hinted. [David]

Destination Dog
Long line, but definitely worth the wait. Best panel of the day. [David]
I ate Python! I also ate duck smothered in roast pork! Yes, these were all in sausage form on a big ol’ greasy piece of french toast and brought to me via some of the cutest fake airline stewardesses you ever did see (thank you RU campus). [Ink]


Couples Anime
Presented by Kira & John, who met while John was looking for Black Jack in a store, this panel assumed the audience was filled with anime-loving couples (or at least one half thereof) or people in relationships wanting to introduce their significant others to one of their other significant loves: anime. They didn’t count on a bitter, resentful ol’ man like me bein’ there, but I quite enjoyed the panel, which had some surprising picks, all the same. Before launching into suggestions, Kira & John emphasized that suggesting anything to anyone else should first involve understanding why they like what they like in general across all mediums. Other pre-content pointers included taking time requirements (OVA, short series, long series) as well as subtitle compatibility into consideration. Recommendations were in line with TV genres. Like medical dramas such as House? Try Black Jack. Serial/cop dramas? Try a little Patlabor. Each genre (and there were many showcased), offered two specific title suggestions, which both got basic run-downs and short clips for a little taste testing. Overall, a lovely panel that stressed knowing someone and considering their tastes before spoon feeding them specific shows instead of shoving random selections from an entire medium down their throat. [Ink]

In hopes of stemming the flood of visitors to illegal scanlation sites posting manga that’s been legitimately licensed elsewhere, Reverse Thieves Alain and Kate pointed out the availability of free or affordable sites that are publishing manga titles legally. These included Comic Walker, Manga Box, Shonen Jump Online, and Crunchyroll Manga. After lightly explaining why it’s important to visit such sites, the presenters launched into a bevy of titles that they believed would hook people into reading legal digital manga. Each title was given the Reverse Thieves’ iconic S.W.A.T. treatment: roughly three minutes (sometimes a little more) discussing the plot and main allures. Plenty of visuals were provided by the panel’s outstanding slide designs, which overlapped and enlarged several noteworthy panels for each manga title as to illustrate its highlights. [Ink]

Fashion Show (galaxxxy)
For perhaps the very first time in Ani-Gamers history, someone on the team actually attended one of these anime con fashion shows! Yes, I know, it’s unbelievable! As far out of my element as I was, it was a surprisingly good time, even if the stage wasn’t exactly among the most glamourous of venues for a fashion show. Not to discredit Acryl agitt’s crowd-pleasing display, but I’ll admit I was only especially interested in galaxxxy’s offerings. To my surprise, galaxxxy’s show was half showcase and half concert, with models coming up to the stage as galaxxxy’s US ambassador Stephanie Yanez performed the opening songs to Creamy Mami and Dirty Pair. It was all above and beyond my expectations, and it might be the only time I ever get to see people wear some of the more wild articles of galaxxxy clothing — like the anime hair jacket and the Daicon IV swords skirt. Unfortunately, no one had the guts to strut out with the full-body print Inferno Cop tee that I was dying to get my hands on last year, but I’ll take what I can get. [David]

The Colorful World of Kenji Nakamura

Ayakashi, C – Control, Gatchaman Crowds,  Kuchu Buranko, Mononoke, tsuritama … these were all directed by Kenji Nakamura, and the presenting panelist lightly touched on the use of color throughout each in terms of characters, environments, and backgrounds. Where applicable, the panelist also attempted to delve slightly deeper into the implications of the specific palates and pointed out connecting visual themes between works. Aside from visual aspects, commentary was also offered on Nakamura’s tendencies to work with original material as well as attempt to do too much in too short a time. It is always a pleasure to see an underappreciated director get some much needed attention, but there was a lot of time left after the panel and I feel the main theme was not explored as deeply as it could have been. That is to say there’s room to grow. The room was pretty full, and I hope most people in there were just getting their first taste of Nakamura so that the demand for his works will only increase. [Ink]

Kill la Kill w/ Studio TRIGGER
If the Inferno Cop panel from the previous day was any indication, the Kill la Kill panel was guaranteed to be at least half as good. While TRIGGER’s most popular show ain’t no Inferno Cop, the crowd could barely stop to breathe between gasps of awe as the guests ran nonstop through countless early concept designs from the show’s pre-production phase. Right away, they floored everyone with a dozen scrapped designs of the show’s protagonist, Ryuko. Again, no pictures were allowed, and who knows the next time these images will be able to be seen by people again. Styles varied from a cartoony design evocative of Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt to a kamui transformation influenced by mecha. No one anticipated how wildly different these designs were from each other, and it was a great look at the results of a studio free to bounce ideas around before arriving at the final product. Characters developed and evolved alongside scripts that were written and continuously thrown out, even as the show was airing. Once we’d gotten to the insanely muscular Mako design and her drooling unicorn companion, it became obvious that one hour would not be enough time to dig through all the secrets stored on the guests’ laptop. At best, all we can hope for is to receive a book that collects all these sketches. Otherwise, this was the only time people will get to see female Gamagori and a blonde Satsuki. [David]

Poetry In Anime: The Power of Words in a Visual Medium
Obviously I cannot review my panel, and since almost everyone I know was at TRIGGER’s Kill la Kill panel (for damned good reason), they cannot either. So I just wanna say thank you to all those who attended. It was 5:30pm on a Saturday and you were probably hungry and could’ve gone anywhere else, but the room was FULL … and surprisingly stayed that way (until the very end). I joke and say it was the “hey, there’s A/C in here” panel, but many people came up after the presentation and were asking questions and suggesting series. I also have to commend the crowd for being so quiet and respectful. Not a single peep was heard during the entirety of my presentation except some laughs inspired by clip content. So thank you, and thanks to AnimeNEXT staff, who got me up and running lickety-split. It was a very enjoyable initial solo flight. [Ink]

Anime Poetry Slam
Another packed room for poetry! Since the hosts didn’t think they came with enough pieces for a slam and the mic wasn’t long enough to stretch beyond the table, this two-hour panel evolved into a geek-themed open mic. This encouraged more people to get involved anyway, and there was a lot of fun to be had. People laughed with each other, delivered heartfelt rants on appropriation, exposed their inner hurt from having lived the geek lifestyle (there was a lot more of this than I expected), and there were serenades from geek to geek. It was constant fun, and there were many people with a good deal of talent there. For their courage, participants were awarded drawings from the panelists as well as applause from all in attendance. I was asked if this should be a thing again, and my response was, “People came. People stayed. So why not?” [Ink]

Post Apocalypse Manga: Surviving the Wasteland
Manga trivia master Xan and two cohorts ran through a lengthy list of apocalypse-themed manga, both known and obscure, without losing their fine-tuned humorous bicker-banter. For those interested in broadening their horizons, the panelists offered a brief but very animated description of plot and other pertinent info for each property. For those wanting to revel in titles they loved appearing in the list in order to validate their own presence at the panel, there was cheering … oh man, there was so much cheering. Of course it’s probably safe to say that no matter why you came, the random Twinkie tosses made staying mandatory. [Ink]

Anime Figure Collecting 101
I tried to avoid going to the Bridgewater panels as best as I could, and this isn’t to say that the expansion of AnimeNEXT into a building two parking lots and a bridge away from the main con space was a bad idea, but the distance definitely made me think carefully before making the trip. I only made it to Anime Figure Collecting 101 in order to kill a large block of time before dinner, and while the content was some levels below my unnecessarily vast and useless knowledge of PVC anime girl statues, I was pleasantly surprised at how well the panel was run. It was standing room only by the time I arrived and the panelists kept an audience with rapt attention as they ran through the various types and brands of figures. Figure collecting has gotten more popular in recent years as they’ve gotten easier for international customers to purchase, yet not everyone is familiar with the basics, like the value of preordering and how to avoid bootlegs. With the cost of figures alone, it can be an intimidating hobby to break into, but the panelists showed just how accessible it has become. For anyone else considering running a figure collecting panel, I’d recommend covering trade events like Wonder Festival which are useful to follow to see figures revealed for the first time. [David]

Mamoun’s Falafel
My face hurt afterwards. [David]
There’s a strange, slow-building, slow-burning, napalm-like hot sauce there that does not leave your mouth for days afterwards. [Ink]


In all my years of attending cons, I’d never been to a single Touhou panel before AnimeNEXT. Either because of schedule conflicts or outright cancellations, something always kept me from going to one. I knew my wish to be amongst “my people” was severely misplaced, but this was something I had to cross from my bucket list before the shiptouhou wave sweeps America. The panelists were less confident than they ought to have been, though they’re right when they said most anything they could want to cover in their panel was already eloquently stated in a video they commissioned. I had the displeasure of sitting next to That Guy at the panel, a guy who sucked up all the air in the room to lob his own stupid commentary at anything said or shown. I had my fears going in, and to see these fears manifest themselves right next to me certainly didn’t do much to dispel my reservations of interacting with other Touhou fans. I at least stayed long enough to see a video the panelists made about last year’s Anime Weekend Atlanta, where ZUN was the guest of honor. While the fandom has a much-deserved reputation for being a collective of narrowly-minded weirdos who would casually ask you to kill yourself for having bad taste in Touhou waifus, this video showed the community at its best: guys and ladies alike in skirts and funny hats demonstrating their passion for this peculiar series of shooting games. [David]

Great Anime We’ll (Probably) Never Get
As “an ode to stuff we miss out on,” George Horvath presented some 17 titles not likely to ever see North American distribution. Before rolling a short exemplary clip, Horvath laid out a bit of the history of each title — complete with distributors as well as reasons why it would or wouldn’t sell in North America. Part commiseration and part ululation, this panel flew by thanks to choice clips and the presenter’s air. I’d have stayed for the whole thing but had to get to an interview. For those of you, like me, who either missed a piece or perhaps the entire thing, the full anime list for the panel can be found here. [Ink]

galaxxxy Panel
As a morning panel on Day 3 of the convention, it was no surprise that this was a far more low-key affair than anything I had attended yet. Jun Arai, founder of the galaxxxy clothing label, presented a very familiar story related to the rise and growth of the business. With a staff not much larger than a dozen or so people, including manufacturing, galaxxxy became what it is today through the efforts of a few people locking themselves in a room for days on end and just designing and designing and designing. While it’s not much help to aspiring designers that the path to success is paved with long hours and hard work, what really propels galaxxxy up is vision. I’d gone to their booth in the dealer’s hall three different times and every time I found something I had to walk away with. There are few places on this planet that can carefully leverage cutesy dinosaur shirts, watermelon skirts, and Creamy Mami crop tops on a single rack without having the whole operation implode on itself. Whether it’s vintage 80’s anime or beloved Sega game consoles, the designers at galaxxxy have a keen eye for cool stuff. Sure, American clothing labels churn out uninspired pop culture kitsch on a daily basis, but when galaxxxy slaps Daicon IV onto a jersey, that’s something special. [David]

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