Manga in Minutes: Anime Boston 2014 Con Report
Saturday started by attending “Cybertron Banzai”, a panel focused on the Japanese branches of the Transformers franchise. It was a really fun and enjoyable hour, spent going over the various Japanese incarnations of the Trasnformers franchise. The three major series, Headmasters, Super God Force and Victory were discussed and clips were aired from all three. The host even touched upon things like the HK dubs, which saw some bizarre name changes (Blasster became Billy) and the dirty secret of the Transformers franchise… Kiss Players. Kiss Players is a weird, lolicon/transformers hybrid where the Transformers got power ups by making out with underage girls. Ick!
The next few hours were primarily spent roaming the dealers room floor and grabbing lunch before the one manga panel of the convention. During this time I attempted to find some nice cosplay for some photos, but this year nothing was really grabbing my attention sadly. I know there were some absolutely fantastic outfits out there, I’ve seen them in others photos, but it always seemed to be a case of me not being in the right place at the right time sadly.
Eventually it was time for one of my most anticipated events of the weekend, the “Kodansha Comics Panel”! Anime Boston, despite being among the top ten conventions in the country, doesn’t get a whole lot of manga publishers so it’s always wonderful to have one swing by. I arrived about 30 minutes ahead of time and found people already lined up and waiting to get in, by the time the panel started the room was pretty close to full and people continued to slowly drift in throughout the hour. Hosted by Kodansha Comics editor Ben Applegate, the panel kicked off with a Japanese Attack on Titan promo video which got a great reaction from the crowd. This was quickly followed by the announcement that there was roughly 1,375,000 copies of Attack on Titan in print in the US! Apparently that’s nearly double what it was 5 months ago! Clearly the American manga reading public has Titan fever! Mr. Applegate then went on to plug the upcoming Attack on Titan spin off series, including the recently released Attack on Titan: Before the Fall, which will be a digital first release with volume 2 being available digitally in July with a print version following in August; Attack on Titan: Junior High, a 2-in-1 release with each volume containing 2 of the Japanese volumes, the second volume is due out in November; Attack on Titan: Colossal Edition is set to land at the end of May, and it’s pretty huge and will gather the first 5 volumes of Attack on Titan under a single cover! They apparently used the Walking Dead Compendiums as a model for what they wanted this to be like in terms of size, paper stock, and the like. If that wasn’t enough, the big reveal of the convention is that Attack on Titan: Colossal Edition will also contain, for the first time in any collection, 15 full color pages that weren’t included in the Japanese or English language volumes! The Titan news doesn’t stop there though, as later on this year we’ll be getting Attack on Titan: No Regrets, another spin off focusing on the history of Levi, one of the commanders of the Survey Corps. Like much of the other Attack on Titan announcements, it’ll be a digital first release in the May, with a physical release in June. Still even further off is Kodansha Comics release of the Attack on Titan Guidebook: Inside and Outside. It’ll be a collection of the two guidebooks released in Japan and will include background information, concept art, paper craft material and more! The entire volume will be clocking in at over 400 pages and is being released in a larger format than the Japanese edition, which means that the Titan paper craft portion will truly be.. titanic. Sadly though, this release has been pushed back to Sept.
Following the Attack on Titan portion, there was a run down of the some of their other titles, including the recently announced news of Hirmou Arakawa’s adaption of Arslan. They also slipped in the news that they’ve picked up Mushishi and are planning to give it a digital only re-release. From there it was onto some other recent releases such as My Little Monster, Say I Love You and, from Fairy Tail creator Hiro Mashima, the two volume Monster Soul. Ben Applegate didn’t stop there and had some small Clamp news, including plans to re-release both xxxHolic and Tsubasa in omnibus collections, and the release of xxxHolic Rei, due in April. Other titles slated for release this year included Seven Deadly Sins, and Ken Akamatsu’s UQ Holder, a Negima spin off series with volume. 2 due in July. Kodansha will also be speeding up the digital release of Fairy Tail which is already about 5 vols. ahead of the print release. Meanwhile we can also look forward to more Vinland Saga, their first hardcover release.
With the announcements and title list out of the way, it was onto the Q&A portion of the panel! Unsurprisingly there were many questions about Attack on Titan. One of the chief among them was whether or not Kodansha Comics was afraid they might be over saturating the market with all the Attack on Titan spin off’s? They’re not worried at the moment, and feel that they can use the off months between releases of the main series for the spin off titles. Applegate also mentioned that he doesn’t think that Attack on Titan has peaked in the US yet, something that’s kind of amazing to think about given the numbers he cited earlier. I can only assume that if Funimation gets the series on Toonami that Attack on Titan will explode. One audience member asked about how involved the original Japanese creators where with the US release process? It apparently varies from creator to creator. Naoki Takeuchi was very, very hands on in the Sailor Moon release process, while other creators aren’t at all. There’s also mention of how certain creators will have specific requests, such as Attack on Titan’s Isayama’s request regarding Hange and the gender pronouns attached to the character.
Another very interesting question came when someone from the audience asked about their target demographics and if there was one they’d like to reach out to more. This lead to the revelation Kodansha Comics is hoping to try and break into the adult reader market and how Vinland Saga is their first real experiment to crack into that demographic. If it does well, they have more plans to release similar material and have hopes that it’ll reach US comic readers. Continuing on this vein, another attendee later asked why seinen is such a tough sell? Applegate cited that the adult manga market isn’t really expanding, and the adults who read comics aren’t really interested in manga. It seems to be a case of hooking ‘em while they’re young then keeping when they’re old.
Clearly Saturday was Attack on Titan day, not only was the Kodansha Comics panel incredibly Titan heavy, but just a few hours later one of the biggest events of the con was held, namely the unveiling of the Attack on Titan English dub, and the unveiling of the Eren’s English voice actor! Justin Rojas of Funimation took to the stage and quickly introduced Bryce Papenbrook as Eren and then quickly dived into the dub. I stayed for the first two episodes and thought Funimation and company did a pretty good job with the series. It was actually my first time seeing the anime, though I’ve been reading the manga for a while now. Watching this with a crowd was a pretty fantastic experience. The audience was incredibly into the show, cheering and laughing throughout.
The surprise of the weekend came a little after the Attack on Titan premier via the “Japanese Pro Wrestling” panel. I honestly didn’t know what to expect from this, but what I most certainly didn’t expect was a nearly full room! The place was absolutely packed and the co-hosts did a fantastic job at introducing us to some of the current stars of the companies, explaining the differences between US pro-wrestling and Japanese pro-wrestling, and at explaining the sometimes tangled web of Japanese pro-wrestling history. It also hammered home something I had been experiencing a bit on and off all weekend, namely that watching thing in groups is so much more fun than watching things alone. The crowd was reacting and cheering and applauding throughout the clips and match highlights that were shown! The build up in one clips to a massive 8 man suplex spot got laughter, shouts of “no way!” and applause. It was really a fun experience and I hope they’re able to come back again!