The last day of Otakon started early for me. I recorded two episodes of Manga Out Loud before heading over to the convention.
Anime Studies: A New Decade
The recordings took a little longer than anticipated, so I walked into the “Anime Studies: A New Decade” panel half an hour late. The panel was moderated by Mikhail Koulikov, who is one of the moderators of the Anime and Manga Research Circle mailing list. His panelists were Carl, who is doing manga research in Holland; Lila, an independent researcher working on a book about shoujo; and Daniel, another independent manga researcher.
There was a lot of good advice for people looking to write about anime and manga for academia: don’t duplicate existing research, really know your discipline, have an extensive knowledge of anime and manga, admit what you do and don’t know, etc. Anime and manga studies are only about 30 years old, so there is still a lot of open area to explore. The panel drew a good crowd who were very engaged. Makes me hopeful for the future of anime and manga studies.
Japanese Directors and Producers
Next, I attended the “Japanese Directors and Producers” panel. On the panel was Noburo Ishiguro, Kazuya Murata, and Makoto Shinkai. Ishiguro is a 48-year veteran of the anime industry. Murata has been in the anime industry for about 20 years, while Shinkai has been working in anime for 10 years.
Ishiguro admitted that he doesn’t work as much as he used to. He is still trying to get use to digital animation. He also felt that the sensibilities of anime have changed, and he feels out of place among younger animators. During the questions, Ishiguro revealed that he went to film school and learned how to direct there. Also, he is a fan of animation from all over the world, citing shows from countries like the Czech Republic and China. It was impossible not to be impressed with his knowledge and thoughtfulness.
Murata said he was sitting with two of his favorite directors. He talked about the challenges of directing Fullmetal Alchemist: The Sacred Star of Milos. The main obstacle was creating a story where the characters experience real emotional growth but that doesn’t break continuity with the existing storyline. He also showed how much a student of film he was during the question period, discussing different techniques for non-verbally communicating a character’s emotional state.
Shinkai said he was nervous sitting next to such great directors. He was asked what it was like going from working alone (Voices of a Distant Star) to being part of an animation team. He said he didn’t feel lonely with a full staff working for him. Also, a group of people working on a film lets you have a greater pool of ideas to draw from. He broke the heart of one questioner when he admitted he wasn’t a mecha fan and the robots used in Voices of a Distant Star were simply a design challenge he wanted to tackle. I was impressed with how thoughtful his answers were to all the questions.
The panel ran over, and I had to leave. Which was really unfortunate since the last question asked was what advice Murata and Shinkai could give to Ishiguro about working with digital animation. You can read their responses at the Anime News Network write-up of the panel.
Viz Celebrates 25 Years
My last panel of the day was Viz Media’s panel. I arrived at the panel only to discover that previous panel had been given permission to run half an hour longer. Viz was still given its full hour; it would just start once the current panel ended.
Amy Mar from Viz’s marketing group was the spokesperson. She started out talking about Viz’s 25-year anniversary and the special website set up to celebrate this milestone. She then went on to discuss various other Viz initiatives like their iPhone app for manga and the new Vizmanga.com website. There were no new licenses announced. The biggest announcement for me was the first volume of Oishinbo being available digitally.
This year, Otakon set a new attendance record, with an unofficial total of 31,348. It’s not hard to see why people keep flocking to Otakon. For me, it’s a chance to hang out with fellow reviewers and bloggers. I enjoy going to the panels to learn new things about Japanese culture and to discover new anime and manga series. There is always at least one Japanese guest I’m excited to see each year. Finally, regardless of what people say, Baltimore is a nice city with some great sights of its own. I’m already looking forward to next year.