Anime Boston, now based out of the Hines Convention center in the Prudential Center (a.k.a. The Pru) in the Back Bay area of Boston, is what all great conventions should aspire to be in most ways. It was decidedly different being a member of the press, rather than a regular attendee who would have been doing cosplay. Feature guests this year included, but were not limited to, voice actor Steven Blum, voice actor Richard Epcar, voice actor Vic Mignogna, voice actor Greg Ayers, voice actress Carrie savage, voice actress Mary Mc Glynn, voice actress Kari Wahlgren, Japanese character designer Shuzilow.HA and Japanese voice actress Sumi Shiamoto.
Friday was the comparatively easy day of the Con. TokyoPop held their industry panel where they discussed details of their upcoming releases and had one of the American comic artists they recently signed from their Rising Stars of Manga competition. Media Blasters hosted a panel where they discussed some of their upcoming projects including more Kite, more Eikken, the second season of Ahh! My Goddess TV, and some of their upcoming manga titles.
One of the many benefits of being press at a convention is being able to attend press exclusive panels with the guests. Vic Mignogna talked extensively on his prior acting experience and on what it is like for him to be an actor who specializes in vocal work. He stressed that very few people in the business of voice acting start out as voice actors. Most start their acting days doing local theater, working their way up the ladder and taking the voice acting roles as side projects to do more acting. Mr. Mignogna also talked about how his faith interacts with his work and the differences between voice acting for a television show and voice acting for a video game.
FUNimation held a panel presentation on one of their new initiatives, FUNigirls. Designed to target a female audience and to build up the female presence in anime fandom, they now have their own website at TokyoPop, complete with news letters, information on FUNimation shows aimed at a female audience, and other tidbits like wall paper and IM icons for download.
Saturday was the busiest day of the convention by far. Central Park Media held a panel, but they didn’t have much to say due to the massive reorganization of the company that had begun on short notice just before the convention. The poor guy on stage for CPM had just been told the day before that he needed to clean out his desk once he got back to New York.
ADV and FUNimation (FUNi) had very nice presentations for us. FUNi even gave out a limited number of Official Anime Boston Beck Backstage Passes to commemorate their licensing of the show. It was apparently a year-and-a-half long process to get the license for Beck due to the massive number of copyrights they had to obtain permission to use over here, but they did get everything in the show cleared–including all of the music. ADV also announced their licensing of Jinki: Extend, a giant robot show set sometime in the near future that featured Kaiju-esque bad guys. Both companies talked extensively about their plans for the future of anime in the US and promised more announcements between now and Anime Expo in July.
Between the industry panels and the guest interviews I went to some of the smaller fandom-oriented panels including the Dominic Deegan Q&A, the Chibi Project panel. The Chibi Project is a series of videos made by someone who was given a Chibi-Usa doll a few years ago and decided that the best thing to do with it was to see how he could destroy it. So far he has burned it, hit it with a hammer, frozen it in ice, burned it with rocket engines, hit it with a car and taken a Dremmel tool to it. The organizers of the project have also done other thing, such as making a real Burning Gundam with a Burning Gundam figure and some leftover rum and launch a sailor Mercury doll out of a potato gun.
I was able to sit in on press interviews with Shuzilow.HA, Richard Epcar and Steven Blum. Mr. HA talked about his upcoming project, Solty Rei, as well as his long history of being a character designer for both American and Japanese productions. He expressed a preference for the old days of hand drawn cell-based animation over the digital processes used today. Mr. Epcar talked extensively about his time as a soap opera actor before he got into voice acting as well as his time as a coordinator for DreamWorks productions and other production companies. He also went into detail on some of his upcoming projects including the new Robotech movie.
Steven Blum, making his first east coast convention appearance, talked about some of his prior convention experiences before he stopped attending them for a while as well as his more recent–and much more positive–experiences. He was very happy to meet all of the new anime fans at the convention. He did not actually start his acting career in a different filed. He was a delivery truck driver for a production company, and one of his friends within the company put together his own recording studio in a tree house. From there they proceeded with their vocal work. Mr. Blum wanted to thank all of the fans personally for the support they have shown to himself, the other voice actors, and the industry as a whole.
Sunday was a relatively light day. One of the panels I was planning to attend, the ADV Production panel, was canceled when the ADV folks failed to show up. I did attend the general voice actors panel and the State of the Industry Panel featuring ADV, FUNi, and Harmony Gold. The range of opinions was limited, but it was interesting to hear about what ADV and Funi see as the future of the industry. Both companies intend to use their digital channels as a place for more anime, not to take the place of putting anime on other networks like Cartoon Network. They also see more realignment and possible contraction coming to the industry as the entertainment market as a whole realigns with the onrush of the HD-DVD formats. The companies see market saturation in the store fronts as the biggest issue facing anime companies in the upcoming years.
Anime Boston 2006 was an extremely successful convention, having broken the nine thousand person attendance mark in its fourth year, and I look forward to attending again next year. I would encourage anyone who values a good convention to attend next year if they can.
Read Toon Zone’s additional coverage of Media Blasters, ADV, and ADV.