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LA Area Anime Activity Convention Cluster Recollection

July 9th, 2011, by zalas
Posted in Conventions , Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Anime Expo 2011, like previous years, did not disappoint, and we managed to attend interesting panels, visit interesting booths and talk to interesting people. While VOCALOID seemed to be a big component of this year’s Anime Expo, our coverage spans the MangaGamer entourage, JAST USA, Shira Oka, ZERO ZIGEN and Nitro+. For those of you who simply want the big headlines, JAST USA announced that they were looking into the Starry Sky series of otome games, and MangaGamer announced that they were in talks about Kimi ga Nozomu Eien.

MangaGamer – the Booth

Unlike last year, MangaGamer only had one booth this year and no mini-concerts. One side of the booth had hard-copy games for sale — Da Capo, Da Capo II, Guilty, Higurashi, Higurashi Kai and the all-ages version of Kira Kira. People who bought games received a free bag, T-shirt and “oppai” mouse pads while supplies lasted. The pads lasted for some time while the T-shirts and bags were gone by the last day. Alongside the games were also copies of Kira Kira-themed “Fxxkin’ Carta’ cards from last year. NEXTON’s section had posters and fabric of Koihime Musou for sale, as well as some music CDs. CIRCUS’s section had a display of their hard-copy games (although you were directed to the actual section selling the games when purchasing in order to consolidate the distribution of freebies) and were also selling posters, Comiket-exclusive fans, mini-artbooks and various stationary items including PSP decals. OVERDRIVE had posters for sale as well as sketches by Shinji Katakura (colored sketches were pricier than the black and white ones). Clochette’s section had hug pillows and iPad cases for sale, although the latter didn’t do so well. HOBi couldn’t attend this year, but there were some CDs for sale from them as well as the Japanese versions of Umineko and Higurashi, with instructions for the fan patch for the former. AKABEiSOFT2 and Debonosu Works didn’t arrive until the second day of the con and their section was primarily for their illustrators drawing sketches. Debonosu’s Kazue Yamamoto was drawing new sketches on the backside of a fully-colored illustration and selling them for disaster relief. She was also willing to do commissions of characters from her games as well for the same price. AKABEiSOFT2’s Alpha was also doing sketches, and lines for her wrapped around the booth and had to be cut off. Since the two illustrators were sitting next to each other, they had a fun time chatting during breaks. Lastly, for some reason, there were also K-ON! swimming trunks for sale at the MangaGamer booth.

During the con, the staff manning the booth had a variety of food for lunch, ranging from onigiri to sandwiches, although they did order pizza and chicken wings when they got tired of the former.

On the final day, we had a chance to catch up with Mimasu from AKABEiSOFT2 and asked him about what he thought of the convention. He thought that perhaps the booth could’ve been upgraded a bit to compete with some of the other booths around the exhibition floor. When asked about what he thought about expanding overseas, he replied that he thought there were no problems with that idea, but he wanted more passion and teamwork from the Japanese companies involved.

On the final day, the booth was also selling excess decorative banners they used last year, since they had one more booth back then. The banners went for $150 each, and many were sold, including two Da Capo ones (signed by tororo-danchou), a Koihime Musou one and a SHUFFLE! one.

MangaGamer – the Panel

There were actually two visual novel panels back-to-back that day in the same room. The Fakku panel preceded the MangaGamer panel and the con staff decided not to clear the room between panels because ID check would’ve pushed the MangaGamer panel past the closing time of the room they were using. It took a few minutes for everyone to file in and out. Unfortunately for the audience and the panelists, the air conditioning in the room wasn’t quite working up to capacity; the interpreter spent a lot of time fanning herself to drive off the heat.

The panel opens with the interpreter inviting OVERDRIVE’s bamboo onto the panel. He appeared from behind the projector screen wearing his Fushinsha (Suspicious Individual) parka, which was available for sale at various OVERDRIVE events in Japan. Much cheering was had of his entrance. After he sat down and managed to get his microphone turned out, he introduced himself as the producer of MangaGamer and “Japanese legendary h***j** master”. He also said that he had been attending Anime Expo for 10 years now and that many things have changed; he had never imagined being able to hold a panel in front of everyone 10 years ago but apparently things happen. Before proceeding with the rest of the panel, bamboo talked briefly about the disaster in Japan, comparing the aftermath to that of a war and of a hurricane, thanking people for their support and saying that all aspects of the industry are doing their best to help those people in need.

The panel then proceeded to ask the audience how many people knew what “bishoujo games” were and when there were way too many raised hands to count, the audience was asked about how many people didn’t know bishoujo games. The minority was quickly booed, although bamboo told everyone to not boo them and chase them away because they are a potential business opportunity. The OVERDRIVE president then proceeded to describe bishoujo games as games where “you get into romantic situations with girls”. He added that he worded it this way because there were women in the audience and he didn’t want to get sued for sexual harassment. According to him, MangaGamer was founded to bring these games over from Japan after having seen some interest in these games overseas, and it was a difficult venture. He stated that the language barrier made it difficult and acknowledged that they started out with rather poor translations. However, as a sidenote, he did bring up the anecdote of a student from Harvard and a student from Cambridge arguing over what is the best way to translate even a simple term like “sakura/cherry blossom”, although the Japanese have a hard time telling the difference between the two possible translations. He also alluded to a game from a different company where there were apparently twelve little sisters who all addressed their older brother by a different title. In closing, bamboo stated that in the end, they believe they’ve managed to reach a good common ground that makes everyone happy and that they are interested in working with localization staff “here’ (outside of Japan) since there’s not that many native English speakers in Japan.

Before going on to talking about MangaGamer’s lineup, bamboo discussed some personal issues. He mentioned that he wanted to learn English and wanted to find an English-speaking girl to date. He sings songs from anime in Japan, such as a song from Baka to Test to Shoukanjuu. However, anime singers apparently aren’t all that popular with the ladies. At his concerts, he gets around a thousand people, but only thirty or so are female. Furthermore, amongst those thirty, two of them are mothers. When asked by the interpreter about what he was trying to say, he responded that he would simply like to be popular and meet single, available women.

After this derailment, the panel proceeded to introduce upcoming games by playing videos of their titles — OVERDRIVE’s Go Go Nippon, Innocent Grey’s Kara no Shoujo, minori’s ef – a fairy tale of the two, BaseSon’s Harukoi Otome, OVERDRIVE’s DEARDROPS and Dengeki Stryker. Loud cheering accompanied minori’s video as well as the DEARDROPS and Dengeki Stryker videos.

Go Go Nippon was billed as a game made specifically for the overseas market by OVERDRIVE, and in this game, the protagonist visits Japan for a week through a homestay program with two sisters whose parents are conveniently not home. In this game, the protagonist travels through Japan with one of the sisters as an informal tour guide. The OVERDRIVE president said he was inspired by having visited countries all over the world and finding lots of otaku who haven’t had a chance to visit Japan yet. Through the game, the reader will learn about various things in Japan, such as their “washlets”, reminiscent of bidets, and how to ride the trains. There’s even a feature in the game that tallies the total amount of money spent in the game if the trip had been a real trip. Go Go Nippon is a bit behind schedule and can be out by the end of the month at the earliest. With the audience excited, bamboo kind of threw a damper on it by saying that the game was all-ages due to a business decision, although he did get some applause from that announcement. Apparently, there are also plans in the works to get the game out on iOS/Android. The price range is aimed at $10-$15 dollars for this title.

After Go Go Nippon, bamboo moved on to talk about Kara no Shoujo, with some cheering from the audience. The game from a publisher called Innocent Grey that recently joined MangaGamer and is already released. The game, according to bamboo, is a mystery game, unique to the bishoujo game genre, is very gory, has no “moe” at all, but “is very fun”.

The next title to be discussed was minori’s ef – a fairy tale of the two; bamboo said that his good friend, president Nobukazu of minori had a message for the audience: “Sorry it’s taking so long.” The game was introduced as having been released in 2006 and being a big hit in Japan; animated portions were directed by Makoto Shinkai and that the game had been made into an animated series. [Sentai Filmworks announced a license to the animated series earlier during the convention as well] The situation behind how the localization came to me was touched upon by bamboo, who said that the fan translators and the original publisher were fighting like crazy in the beginning, but somewhere along the way, they all become friends. Then, minori suggested using the fan translation for a localization and bamboo believed this is a new step for fan translators and publishers to coexist. He stressed that they would be able to bring out high quality titles if the fan translators cooperated with them instead of uploading without permission, as the latter makes it hard for MangaGamer to negotiate with the original publishers.

After ef, bamboo moved on to talk about BaseSon’s Harukoi Otome. At this point, tororo-danchou calmly walked on to the panel, introduced himself and said that at the rate the panel was progressing, they’d be here until morning. Responding to tororo-danchou’s appeals, bamboo hurried on with the description of this game, saying that it was a romance game that featured a light hearted first half and a more serious later half, and that “if you wanted to get it on with girls, play this game.”

Finally, bamboo managed to reach the OVERDRIVE titles DEARDROPS and Dengeki Stryker. He talked about the former as being about a rock and roll band which has a violinist, just like the American band Yellowcard. DEARDROPS is apparently 2.5 times as erotic as its predecessor, Kira Kira and is slated to have an English trial release by the end of July. After playing the opening movie, bamboo talked about the all-star cast in Dengeki Stryker, including vocalist Masaaki Endoh (from JAM project) for the opening theme, Megumi Ogata (famous for voicing Shinji Ikari from Evangelion) as a voice actor and Shinichi Watanabe (Nabeshin) for directing the opening animation. He noted that if they don’t sell enough copies, they are “going to go under.” At this point, he pointed over to Kouryuu, saying that he needs to finish translating the game.

With the descriptions for current and upcoming games finished, bamboo then moved on to talking about how they are in negotiations for a lot of titles and that they can say that they are currently working on getting âge’s Kimi ga Nozomu Eien. He also said that the reason they bring companies to Anime Expo is for them to get a feel for the market. One of the makers they brought this year, Clochette, was supposedly very excited after coming here.

At this point, bamboo talked about MangaGamer hard copy releases. With a quick poll of the audience, it appeared that a majority of people preferred hard copies while a significant minority did prefer download sales. He concluded the poll by saying that “true fans would buy both, right?” and then talked about how it would be nice if they had a system like Steam in Japan to distribute eroge.

Before open question and answer started, tororo-danchou talked about his company’s upcoming products, including Suika Niritsu and Da Capo III. When asked by bamboo about whether Da Capo III would see an English release, tororo-danchou replied “yeah” in a very deadpan voice.

One person in the audience asked about Shin Koihime Musou, the successor to Koihime Musou. The reply was that the head of NEXTON is at Anime Expo and that bamboo would like to talk to him about it. The game is also quite long and would require a lot of effort on the localization staff to release it. When asked about the Plus Communication versions of Da Capo and Da Capo II, the reply was that they may be released if the original versions sell more, since these versions have more characters and would require additional money to localize. Lastly, there was a question asking for more clarification on Kimi ga Nozomu Eien, to which bamboo replied that they are currently in talks with the president of âge and hope to have a pretty good announcement pretty soon, although the discussions were quite difficult.

The panel closed with the usual raffle, including two color sketches, one of each of the heroines in Go Go Nippon. During the raffle for those sketches, a quick poll of the audience was conducted on whether people preferred long hair or short hair (or mohawks). The long hair group won, and bamboo told the mohawk group to go back to Fallout 3. Lastly, running out of things to raffle, bamboo’s wristband was raffled off to a girl and someone also won the raffle box, signed by the panelists.

However, before everyone can leave, bamboo wanted to teach everyone about a new trend in Japan, called the “ahegao double peace”. Ahegao generally refers to the face someone makes when they are in ecstasy and have their eyes totally rolled up and tongue hanging out of their mouth. The double peace is someone making two peace signs, one with each hand. After demonstrating the move, bamboo got the audience to partake in this gesture and posted a picture of everyone to his more than 12,000 Twitter followers.

JAST USA

JAST USA as usual was at the J-List booth in the exhibition hall. They were selling fresh copies of their latest releases — Demonbane and Yukkuri Panic: Escalation. They also gave away a new color catalog with their upcoming releases.

For their panel, the first 400 or so attendees received a free Demonbane Complete Illustrations artbook, although later attendees were told to go to their booth to get a copy if they didn’t manage to get one. The panel was mainly conducted by Shingo, with Peter Payne on the side. Shingo started by talking about JAST USA’s 14 year history and presented a diagram of JAST USA’s current game brands — Nitro+ by JAST USA, JAST Densetsu, G-Collections and Peach Princess. Nitro+ by JAST USA will obviously be Nitro+’s games, like Demonbane. JAST Densetsu would be for a “new tier of high quality games”. Peach Princess is to be restructured to focus on more sex-heavy games and G-Collections is going to be retired as a brand name.

Shingo then went on to talk about their two recent releases — Demonbane and Yukkuri Panic: Escalation. Demonbane is from the company Nitro+, who had a hand in Steins;Gate and one of their writers wrote the scenario for Puella Magi Madoka Magica. After two years of work, Shingo said, the product finally went on sale in May of this year. The other product, Yukkuri Panic: Escalation is the first in a series of games that pairs a standard visual text adventure game with an “arcade”-style game where one maneuvers a “ship” around enemies to block off areas of an image to be revealed, very much like the Gal’s Panic series of games. The story takes place in Catholic all-girls school and has a totally female cast.

For products currently in the production pipeline, Shingo mentioned that Downhill Night Blaze, whose production is coming along but had been slowed due to the original publisher dissolving after the earthquake and tsunami in Japan earlier this year. Yumina the Ethereal has translation fully done and currently work is being done on the thousands of images that need to be translated for the RPG.

Finally, Shingo moved onto the new announcements in 2011 (which were announced either earlier in 2011 or made on a post on the official JAST USA website days before Anime Expo) — School Days HQ, The President is my Childhood Friend, Aselia the Eternal, as well as five titles from Nitro+, Seinarukana and Starless. School Days HQ is being produced in collaboration with Sekai Project, who had worked on the fan translation. Sekai Project’s Kanna was present at the panel as well. Aselia is being produced in collaboration with the fan translation group Dakkodango. The Nitro+ properties Song of Saya, Kikokugai, Hanachirasu, Star Mine Girl (Sumaga) and Outlaw Django, are all being produced in collaboration with TLWiki. For each of the games, Shingo showed an opening video and gave a brief overview of what the game was about, and for the Nitro+ games, all the games with Gen Urobuchi on the staff were indicated. Furthermore, JAST USA also announced that they were going to work on the sequel to Aselia, Seinarukana. Lastly, they announced that they picked up Starless, featuring the art of the artist from Bible Black and Discipline.

Before the panel ended, Shingo mentioned “one more thing” and posted a picture of the Starry Sky series of otome games, saying that they are currently looking into releasing these in English.

Nitro+

The president of Nitro+, digitarou, also attended Anime Expo after swinging by Japan Expo in Paris. He was at a panel along with Good Smile Company and Danny Choo. Apparently digitarou attended Anime Expo seven years ago and said that it’s much bigger now compared to the time when Anime Expo was at Long Beach. He mentioned that while there were a lot of cosplayers at Japan Expo, Anime Expo was definitely keeping up with latest anime trends and that there were a lot of Madoka cosplayers here. The Nitro+ president apparently started out making doujinshi for Macross, eventually got in to designing mecha under the tutelage of the mecha designer for the series. Before he created Nitro+, he’s also taken on jobs such as an editor for Newtype Magazine as well as game development at Namco and toy development at Bandai. He said he originally wanted to create animation and stories, but creating a PC visual novel was the cheapest way to get story out and still throw in some animation and music. So now, he’s very happy at seeing where Steins;Gate and Madoka have gone.

Nitro+’s first venture into localized games was with Phantom. At the time, getting a console game out required a lot of content approval, so they went with DVD games instead. He wasn’t sure how to go about selling games at the time, but he’s happy to be working with Peter Payne now and JAST USA to sell games such as Demonbane.

When asked about how Madoka came about, digitarou said that Iwakami from Aniplex also worked on previous shows like the Garden of Sinners, and digitarou wanted to make a magical girl show. The project took 2.5 years before completion. Nitro+ is generally known for making very niche products, so they were surprised at how well the show did. As for Steins;Gate, 5pb’s Chiyomaru wanted to collaborate with Nitro+ in making a game, and Chaos;HEAD was the first result of that collaboration. Apparently, digitarou did not know that the animated adaptation of Steins;Gate was legally available in English on Crunchyroll. He told the audience that the episodes get better and better towards the end. Steins;Gate had a XBox360 release, a PC release and is headed for the PSP. Apparently they’re working on a version for iOS as well and he wanted everyone to play the game.

Okashi Studios

American dating simulation company Okashi Studios also held a panel at Anime Expo, introducing their newly released video game, Shira Oka. The game is modeled off Tokimeki Memorial and Princess Maker, and has many possible endings. Furthermore, the order of clearing the game actually has an impact on the game, with past events in previous routes affecting present events. It was this that actually made testing the game very difficult, as everything kind of intertwined with each other. The game is available on Impulse, GamersGate and the Mac App Store. The Mac version of the game is an Intel build, but people without Snow Leopard can get a Mac version through GamersGate. For the summer, the company is running a promotion where the game can be bought for $19.99 instead of $24.99. They also said that they’ve recently teamed up with Juno Baby and that they are looking into releasing hard copies somehow. At the end of the panel, the company panelists asked Masashirow from ZERO ZIGEN to come on to the panel to talk about his doujin game from Japan, which has a trilingual Japanese-English-Spanish version that he is selling at Anime Expo this year.

ZERO ZIGEN

ZERO ZIGEN is a doujin game circle from Japan which created a visual novel about voice actors attending voice acting school called Koenchu. At the panel, Masashirow showed off the opening movie of the game and discussed the game briefly. The trilingual version featured text in three languages and audio in two languages, and it was available for purchase in the Artist Alley at a booth ZERO ZIGEN shared with Sayuri Studios.

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  1. Amoirsp Says:
    July 9th, 2011 at 6:23 pm

    “Sekai Project’s Kanna was present at the panel as well.” If I recall correctly, Kanna was not available in AX 2010. Would have been a nice chance encounter.

    And yeah, Alpha, high in demand. Did she expect such a turnout? Based on my conversation with her, she originally wasn’t even planning on doing shikishi on Sunday, but with the 24 person turnout (all for Alpha too), she went ahead and did it.

    I’m glad Clochette was excited to be there, and I’m quite amused at the reason why their artists weren’t with them. However, I am a little surprised that I didn’t see much Kamipani or Suzunone Seven. Actually not really due to the release times, rather I was more surprised I saw neither Oshiki Hitoshi nor Shintaro.

    I was hoping I would be able to see some CIRCUS artists that previously did not attend, but most seem to be on multiple projects or whatnot. Not an issue, I simply didn’t end up not buying shikishi and my budget got consumed by food anyways.

    I do like the digitarou and Mimasu information, as that is definitely nice to hear.

  2. Shii Says:
    July 10th, 2011 at 4:24 am

    The smaller groups are pretty interesting to me.

    - ZERO ZIGEN has very intelligent marketing for a doujin team, and great English. I like the CD and dual-language doujinshi they’ve packaged with their production. English-speaking fans should be all over them. Too bad I can’t play their game on my platform.

    - Okashi Studios is bewildering to me… as a native American company, they have a totally different perspective on eroge, so why are they trying to recreate the traditional harem game set at a Japanese high school? Maybe I’ll have to play the game to see what unique spin they’ve put on it, but there’s so much room for innovation here.

    Among independent OEL publishers there’s also Hanako Games and the Katawa Shoujo team.

  3. loder Says:
    July 13th, 2011 at 2:23 am

    Did Clochette actually have a reason for their artists’ absence? I must’ve missed something.

  4. Amoirsp Says:
    August 2nd, 2011 at 3:36 pm

    loder, Kouryuu told me the reason, and it made sense after he told me.

    And it’s not a negative issue or anything.

    Let’s just say they draw really well on computer art programs.

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