Convention Coverage: Otakon 2007

Guest Post

As mentioned in the July edition of Villain’s Exposition, Otakon’s premiere anime pickings were somewhat different than initially expected. While some of it was things we’d never seen before, the rest of the “premieres” would have been more accurately labeled “spotlights,” as they sought to draw attention to shows that the big four had already released.

That said, however much fun people had with the other shows at Otakon, it was the industry news – and the series/movies/OVAs that were part of it – that was on everybody’s mind.

Geneon’s “premiere” was a show titled Black Lagoon, which I’d somehow missed on the fansub side of things, but which is something like a cross between Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex and Yugo the Negotiator, with a healthy heaping of expletives added on top. It follows the exploits of a small unit of less-than-legal mercenaries in a city rife with organized crime. Dealings with the Russian Mafia, Hong Kong Triad, South American cartels and communist ideologues ensure that most episodes are filled with intense shootouts and a “damn the torpedoes” attitude. It turned out to be a really fun show, with plenty of action and a plot that was just light-hearted enough to remain accessible even for someone jumping in at a later point in the series.

While the first two discs are out, the Geneon premiere block ended up showing episodes from the yet-to-be-released third disc, which is due out in September. However, since Geneon didn’t announce any new licenses at Otakon, it would have been difficult to expect them to show something nobody had seen yet.

Funimation’s big-ticket preview was for their recently licensed show, Witchblade. Indeed, it was something of a theme for the entire convention, with one of the badges featuring artwork from it, and a release card (complete with art) included in the registration pack. Inspired by the American comic franchise of the same name, Witchblade the anime has some substantial rewrites, including changing the setting to (what else?) Japan, and a slightly altered back-story. Personally, I wasn’t a huge fan, though it’s obviously gunning for the fan-service viewers even more than the American versions, which is saying something.

Funimation also announced several new licenses at this year’s Otakon, including Baldr Force EXE Resolution, Sasami and the ever-popular (and gender-bending) Ouran Host Club, which has been a new slant on an old tactic (this time, it’s the girl who has to pretend to be a boy) of shoujo series that has been steadily gaining popularity in the last year or so.

ADV, for their part, spent most of their time highlighting the things they did license at Otakon, including one show for which they didn’t even have any video at the time of their panel. King of Bandit Jing in Seventh Heaven is a 3-episode OVA that follows the titular character of the similarly named series that was released by ADV a few years ago. They also announced the licensing of Venus Versus Virus and Moonlight Mile, both of which have had moderate success in gaining fans in the US.

ADV also spent a fair amount of time hyping relatively recent licenses and showing previews for them, including Pumpkin Scissors, Air and Devil May Cry (a show based on the incredibly popular video game franchise of the same name). Welcome to the NHK, Wallflower and Kyoshiro of the Eternal Sky all received some attention, too, as well as a full episode of Tokyo Majin, which puts a new, and somewhat improved, face on the “high school kids fight ancient, undead evil” genre.
Bandai deserved the lion’s share of the attention at Otakon, but it’s questionable whether it received it due to unfortunate timing. In my mind, Bandai had been slipping in recent years – relying on its Gundam licenses to remain viable at a time when they hadn’t picked up many of the better shows. All weekend, however, they showed that they were definitely still in the game.

To start off, they announced the release schedule for the rest of ’07, including a couple of new Galaxy Angel titles (providing the comic relief and fan service of their lineup), Zegapain (to add to Bandai’s already massive shounen/mecha lineup) and Flag (which tries to bring mecha into a seinen setting). They also announced a re-release of CLAMP School Detectives and Agent Aika, both likely to get some additional viewing by very different audiences.

On the other side of things, Bandai topped the charts with four new licenses announced in Baltimore. My-Otome Zwei is the sequel to My-Otome, which itself is an alternate retelling of My-HiME, famous for bringing a note of seriousness and morbidity to the magical girl genre. By far the most impressive grab they made this year, however, was to snatch up Code Geass: Lelouch of the Revolution, which has been one of the most popular animated programs in Japan and the US since it started coming out in 2006. By comparison, Ayakashi Ayashi and Toward the Terra, while decidedly big-name shows – by big-name companies and big-name designers – seem relatively minor, though certainly as big as some of the other companies’ releases.

The smaller-release companies came up with some news as well, but nothing quite as interesting as the big four.

Media Blasters did its part by announcing Kite: Liberator, which reimagines the original Kite in a new setting, and explained a number of questions about various other shows they had announced at Anime Expo in July. Manga Entertainment, saddled with an early-morning panel (by Otakon standards), talked about a few upcoming releases, including the continued work on Noein and the Karas OVA.

There were a slew of other shows and movies that got some play time at Otakon ’07, from unlicensed classics like Great Gorg to recent releases like Mushi-Shi, but they’re not really news, now are they?