Fourth of July weekend is a time for fun in the sun, unless you're one of the thousands of manga, anime, J-pop and gaming fans who will be descending upon the Los Angeles Convention Center for Anime Expo 2010. From Thursday, July 1 through Sunday, July 4, 2010, otaku, cosplayers, gamers and Lolita fashionistas from Southern California and points near and far will be making the LACC the place to be.
As always, the thanks to AX's star-studded line-up of guests from the worlds of anime, manga, gaming, J-Pop and J-Rock, including J-Pop sweethearts AKB8, BENI, and MELL, the world premiere of Black Lagoon: Roberta's Blood Trail, plus a visit from Black Lagoon creator Rei Hiroe, lots of top-notch anime directors, a whole bunch of voice actors from Japan and North America, and uber-otaku / blogger/dancing Stormtrooper Danny Choo.
And that TokyoPop Tour? It kicks off at AX, so look for the colorful bus with Van Von Hunter etc. plastered on the side parked on Pico for your crack at some choice schwag and snacks. Here's some of the this weekend's mostly manga-centric highlights:
THURSDAY, JULY 1, 2010
The festivities kick off bright and early at 9:00 am with a red-carpet reception for the guests of honor. Later in the afternoon, Bandai Entertainment and Digital Manga Publishing will reveal their hot new releases for the rest of 2010 and beyond. There's a Robotech marathon and panel, commemorating 25 years of this popular sci-fi series, and paying tribute to American anime pioneer Carl Macek. On a lighter note, there's even a "Hetalia World Summit" for fans of that vaguely historical comedy series that made WWII fun again(?!).
- 9:00 am - 11:00 am: Opening Ceremonies, Nokia Theater
The fun kicks off bright and early Thursday morning as Anime Expo gives fans a chance to see what's in store, and get a few opening words from the all-star group of anime directors, manga artists, actors, game creators and pop/rock stars from Japan and beyond. The hall opens at 8:30 for early-birds who want the best seats.
- 2:30 pm - 3:30 pm: Bandai Entertainment Industry Panel, LACC Petree Hall
See what Bandai Entertainment prez Ken Iyadomi and marketing guru Robert Napton will have up their sleeves when they showcase Bandai's coming attractions in anime and manga for the rest of 2010.
- 2:30 pm -4:30 pm: Hetalia World Summit, LACC Room 402
One of two Hetalia-themed fan-run panels geared to introduce newbies to the joys of this historically dubious but hilarious series that turns the various nations of WWII into very cute boys with quirky personalities.
- 4:00 pm - 6:00 pm: AKB8 in Concert, Main Events -Nokia Theater
See the ultra-perky sweethearts of Akihabara, AKB8 sing, dance and maybe do a few costume changes for an adoring crowd of J-pop fans.
- 4:00 pm - 6:00 pm: 25 Years of Robotech, LACC Room 411
Back in the day, Robotech was the hottest anime ever to hit American TV screens. It's 25 years later, and boy, have we come a long way...! Come pay tribute to this fan-favorite series that introduced a generation to the joys of Japanese animation.
- 5:00 pm - 6:00 pm: Digital Manga Publishing Industry Panel, LACC Room 502
See what DMP has in store for the rest of 2010 and beyond, including hot upcoming titles like Under Grand Hotel, Kizuna and The Finder Series, and new releases for their eManga online manga rental service. And maybe, just maybe they'll reveal a little more about their digital publishing project that they've been hinting at lately...
- 8:00 pm - 9:00 pm: Self-Publishing for the Online Manga-ka, LACC Room 515A
This introduction to the ins and outs of prepping your artwork for print, and self-publishing is geared for the aspiring manga artist who's ready to take their artwork from the computer screen to the printed page.
- 8:30 pm - 11:30 pm: Anime Music Videos Contest, Nokia Theater
While you're off having fun with your friends, somewhere out there is some fan toiling over their homemade anime music video. Why? So they can unveil their creation and rock the house as fans roar in approval, and maybe, just maybe, win a prize for their hours of effort. So this one's for you, oh tireless AMV creators - you deserve a little love. The hall opens at 7:30 for this hugely popular event, but if you don't make it in, fear not. It'lll replay again on Saturday at 1:00 pm, when the awards will be given out.
FRIDAY, JULY 2, 2010
Day Two of Anime Expo will feature several industry panels, including previews of the latest and greatest manga from TokyoPop, hot anime releases from Geneon / Universal, Right Stuf / Nozomi, FUNimation and Aniplex. Manga publisher EigoManga will be offering portfolio reviews and a how to draw manga workshop, and will be spotlighting their new Danity Kane comics series featuring pop star Dawn Richard. Feel like some freebies? The Anime News Network crew will be givin' out prizes galore at their panel. Also new 'n' cool: showings of Bleach: Ulquiorra vs. Ichigo - The Directors Cut and the world premiere of the third season of Black Lagoon. If you're feeling a little lonely on a Friday night, get a few dating tips at the Nerd Courting panel (provided you're over 18, because they will card you at the door).
- 9:00 am - 12:00 noon: Bleach: Ulquiorra vs. Ichigo - Directors Cut, followed by Bleach panel, LACC Concourse Hall
See an epic Bleach battle to end all battles featuring one of Ichigo's deadliest opponents, Ulquiorra Cifer, the Arrancar - and this time, the directors' cut leaves no blow or bankai on the cutting room floor. Immediately after the showing, stick around for a panel discussion 'bout all things Bleach featuring Masakazu Morita, the Japanese voice of Ichigo.
- 9:00 am - 11:00 am: Manga Inking and Papers, LACC Room 515A
The gang from Copic Markers will be showing off some spiffy tips and tricks for creating your own manga. From penciling and inking to tools of the trade, you'll get a quick intro to the art and craft of comics, and if you're lucky, you'll score a coupon to get one of their spiffy new LED light tables.
- 11:00 am - 12:00 noon: TOKYOPOP Industry Panel, LACC Room 515A
Now that they're set to bring you the Hetalia manga this September, what else do the gang at TOKYOPOP have planned for the rest of 2010 and beyond? Find out here, and maybe get more details on the America's Greatest Otaku contest.
- 2:00 pm -4:00 pm: EigoManga's How to Draw Manga Panel & Portfolio Reviews, LACC Room 402
EigoManga artists provide drawing demos, and editors offer portfolio reviews for aspiring comics creators.
- 3:00 pm - 4:00 pm: World Premiere: Black Lagoon Season Three , LACC Concourse Hall
Be one of the first to experience the high-octane thrills of the third season of Black Lagoon, which includes the epic battle between Roberta the maid / former mercenary versus anyone and everyone who gets in the way of her vengeance.
- 3:15 pm - 4:15 pm: Guest of Honor Spotlight: Danny Choo, LACC Petree Hall
Straight from Tokyo comes Japanese pop culture blogger, figure collector and all-around uber-otaku Danny Choo. His website Dannychoo.com offers lots of great photos and fascinating insight on the otaku lifestyle from a guy who's livin' it every day .
- 3:30 pm - 4:30 noon: Right Stuf & Nozomi Industry Panel, LACC Room 502
Right Stuf CEO Shawne Kleckner will be on hand to show off anime coming attractions from Right Stuf and Nozomi, including (hopefully) announcements of newly acquired series.
- 4:30 pm - 5:30 pm: Anime News Network, LACC Room 411
Meet the editors, reporters and reviewers of Anime News Network, ask them questions, and if you're really good, you might take home some free schwag too.
- 6:00 pm - 7:00 pm: FUNimation Industry Panel, LACC Petree Hall
Be the first to find out some of the new series planned for 2010 - 2011 release from FUNimation, and get sneak peeks at some tantalizing coming events.
- 7:30 pm - 9:00 pm: MELL in Concert, Main Events -Nokia Theater
Hear the trance/techno inspired song-stylings of MELL, including some of the songs she contributed to hit anime series like Black Lagoon, Sky Girls and Hayate the Combat Butler. See a clip of featuring two songs by MELL.
- 7:30 pm - 8:30 pm: EigoManga presents Dawn Richard and Danity Kane, LACC Room 515A
Pop star Dawn Richard pops by to showcase the new comics series based on her band Danity Kane, as produced by the creators at EigoManga.
- 8:30 pm - 9:30 pm: AniplexIndustry Panel, LACC Petree Hall
See what the folks at Aniplex are planning to bring to anime fans for the rest of 2010, and maybe get news about some exciting coming events.
- 9:00 pm - 12:00 am: "Nerd Courting," JW Marriott Platinum Ballroom
Let's face it - being a hardcore otaku doesn't exactly make it easy to hook up with that special someone who understands your passion for all things anime/manga/gaming. There's only so much fun you can have with dating SIM games and that giant hug pillow with Haruhi Suzumiya in bunny ears isn't going to send you cute text messages that put a silly grin on your face. So here's the down-low on dating, mating and breaking up from some folks who *must* know something that you don't. Bring your IDs kiddies, because they won't let you in unless you can prove that you're 18 or older.
SATURDAY, JULY 3, 2010
Saturday's the busiest day at AX, and sure enough, it's packed with activities, guest appearances, special events and concerts from morning 'til night, including the ever-popular Anime Expo Masquerade. Manga creator Rei Hiroe will be on hand to showcase the latest Black Lagoon anime. The folks at VIZ Media will be showcasing new anime and manga releases for 2010 and beyond. Anime News Network will be recording their ever-popular ANNCast podcast with questions from the audience. Two panels examine the future of OEL manga and Hollywood adaptations of manga/anime into movies. There's also the AX Idol competition, Last Comic Standing, "Indecent Otaku Comedy Hour," and something called "Giant Robot Rumble." So chug a few bottles of "5 Hour Energy" and get ready for a full day of fun.
- 10: am - 11:00 am: VIZ Media Anime and Manga Panel, Petree Hall
They brought you Naruto and Bleach, but are the VIZ Media crew content with these huge anime and manga hits? Not a bit! Check out their panel and see what's new and coming soon for Fall/Winter 2010 and beyond.
- 10:00 am - 11:00 am: Self Defense for the Otaku, LACC Room 411
Jonathan Tarbox of Arashi Productions offers time-honored techniques for explaining to the unenlightened how anime and manga "are legitimate forms of artistic and cultural expression."
- 12:00 noon - 2:30 pm: TokyoPop Presents Van Von Hunter: The Movie , LACC Concourse Hall
You've heard about it, now see it: TokyoPop CEO Stu Levy's otaku indie comedy, Van Von Hunter. You'll laugh, you'll smirk, you'll try to figure out all the cameo appearances, L.A. locations and otaku in-jokes featured in this flick. Curious? Check out the official Van Von Hunter trailer on their Facebook page.
- 12:15 pm - 2:15 pm: World Premiere: Black Lagoon Season Three and Black Lagoon Panel, LACC Petree Hall
Be one of the first to experience the high-octane thrills of the third season of Black Lagoon, which includes the epic battle between Roberta the maid / former mercenary versus anyone and everyone who gets in the way of her vengeance. Immediately following the screening, Black Lagoon manga creator Rei Hiroe and director Mitsutoshi Ogura will be on hand to answer your burning questions.
- 1:00 pm - 2:00 pm: The Indecent Otaku Comedy Hour, Nokia Plaza
Take a break from the confines of the LACC to check out the Indecent Otaku Comedy Hour at Nokia Plaza. Get your share of geeky giggles courtesy of the bloggers from Anime Genesis and How a Girl Figures. And just to make it worth your while, I hear they're giving out stuff too.
- 1:00 pm - 2:00 pm: The Future of OEL Manga and Creating Manga in Universities, LACC Room 411
I reported on the Original English Language Manga panel at last year's AX, and it was quite the lively discussion. Check out this year's edition and see if they have anything new to add to the topic.
- 2:00 pm - 3:00 pm: Manga and Anime Come to Hollywood, LACC Room 411
Dragon Ball. Astro Boy. Cowboy BeBop. Akira. What do all these anime / manga titles have in common? They've either been made into Hollywood feature films or are currently in development. We all saw what they did to Dragon Ball - but can fans hold on to hope that someday Hollywood will find that sweet spot between being true to the original story and finding mainstream success?
- 2:00 pm - 3:00 pm: The One Piece Podcast Panel, LACC Room 515A
Join the One Piece Podcast crew as they introduce the joys of Eiichiro Oda's ever-popular pirate saga to new fans, and challenge established fans with trivia questions for prizes.
- 4:00 pm - 7:00 pm: AX Idol, Nokia Plaza
So you think you're the next big J-pop idol or hot-shot voice actor? AX Idol gives a bunch of aspiring amateurs a chance to show their best stuff in front of a star-studded cast of industry experts. Who knows? Maybe a lucky winner or two will get an "in" into the industry!
- 5:00 pm - 6:00 pm: Anime Expo Guests of Honor Artists Panel, LACC Petree Hall
Join Rei Hiroe (Black Lagoon), Toshihiro Kawamoto (Cowboy BeBop), Satoru Nakamura (Eden of the East) as they take questions from the audience and talk about their work in the manga and anime biz.
- 5:30 pm - 6:30 pm: ANNCast Live!, LACC Room 502
Join the Anime News Network Crew as they attempt to record this week's episode of the ANNCast podcast straight from Anime Expo! Come for the one-of-a-kind perspectives on the anime biz, stick around for the snark, and stay 'til the end so you can ask your questions and maybe snag some schwag.
6:00 pm - 7:00 pm: Hetalia History! LACC Room 515A
What, one Hetalia panel wasn't enough for you? Here's another -- this time, they'll be explaining the real history behind the pretty boy characters in Axis Powers Hetalia Who knows? This might actually come in handy for school 'n' stuff.
- 8:00 pm - 12:00 midnight: Anime Expo Masquerade , Nokia Theater
Anime Expo is famous for attracting a lot of amazing cosplayers. Now you can see many of the very best strutting their stuff, and doing a few skits too at the AX Masquerade. The hall opens for seating at 6:00 pm, so be prepared to do a good deal of waiting before you are amused by the cavalcade of costumes.
- 9:00 pm - 10:30 am: "Giant Robot Rumble," JW Marriott Platinum Ballroom
So you couldn't make it into the Masquerade? Don't worry - you can still enjoy some good old fashioned (albeit very nerdy) entertainment. The gang from Harmony Gold ask the otaku version of "What if Superman got into a fight with The Hulk? Who would win?" question - except this time you replace Superman and the Hulk with Voltron and Optimus Prime. Yeah, you get the idea.
SUNDAY, JULY 4, 2010
It's the 234th birthday of the U.S.A. and here you are, celebrating Japanese pop culture in all its glory. Ain't it great being an American? Pop Japan Travel will be showcasing some of their upcoming journeys to Japan, EigoManga and Production I.G. will promoting some of their latest manga and anime releases, there's a few panels on podcasting and blogging, and there's even a panel asking "Do Anime Conventions Have a Future?" Here's the rest of the highlights of the day.
- 9:00 am -10:00 am: Anime Podcasting for Beginners, LACC Room 515A
The crew from Otaku no Podcast reveal their tips, tricks and tools they use to create professional-quality podcasts.
- 10:00 am - 11:00 am: Pop Japan Travel Panel, JW Marriott Platinum Ballroom
Meet the friendly folks from Pop Japan Travel and find out more about their special guided tours of the otaku motherland, Japan. Besides visiting all the hotspots you've heard of, like Harajuku and Akihabara, the PJT crew also take you where few other tours dare: like visits to anime studios, meet-ups with manga artists and fashion designers, and opportunities to sell your manga at a Tokyo comics show.
- 10:30 am -11:30 am: EigoManga Industry Panel, Petree Hall
The folks at EigoManga are promising to unveil new anime, manga and video game projects in the works.
10:30 am - 11:30 am: Do Anime Conventions Have a Future?, LACC Room 411
Robotech.com marketing guy Kevin McKeever asks this rhetorical question and promises to reveal a "surprising answer" to anyone who shows up for this panel.
- 11:00 am - 12:00 noon: Production I.G. Panel, JW Marriott Platinum Ballroom
See clips of what's coming soon from this top anime studio and ask them your burning questions about some of their popular and recent releases.
- 11:00 am -12:00 noon: Habits of Successful Anime Podcasting and Blogging, LACC Room 515A
Benu from Anime Genesis shares success (and failure) stories from his five years of blogging and podcasting.
- 12:00 noon -1:00 pm: Art Auction, LACC Petree Hall
Bid on original artwork and prints by creators and maybe even a piece or two from some of the special guests!
Also worth checking out in the Exhibit Hall: manga publishers Digital Manga Publishing, VIZ Media, NETComics, Manga University, Bandai Entertainment, Media Blasters and Manga Factory will have booths in the hall, so you can meet n' greet the folks who bring you great comics, and maybe pick up a few titles too. Artists like Camilla d'Errico, P.M.B.Q. Studios, and Spicy Brown will be there selling cool/cute/fun artwork, tees, toys and accessories. And yes, lots of anime, figures, toys and manga dealers too.
What? You want more? Get a taste of what's in store this year at Anime Expo by checking out my photo gallery from AX 2009. You can also get my up-to-the-minute updates as they happen via Twitter. See you there!
Image credits: © 1992-2010 Society for the Promotion of Japanese Animation (SPJA), BLACK LAGOON © Rei HIROE/Shogakukan Inc., © Ayano Yamane, © TOKYOPOP, © Danny Choo, © VIZ Media LLC, © Rei Hiroe / Shogakukan / Black Lagoon Project, © 2009 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp. Dragon Ball TM & © Bird Studio/Shueisha, Inc., © Hidekazu Himaruya / Gentosha, © Digital Manga Publishing