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Anime Boston 2003
Saturday, April 19

by Mikhail Koulikov & Bamboo Dong,
As the registration lines snaked throughout the hotel, fire marshals capped the attendance at just over 4,000, limiting the number of new attendees to those who had preregistered. Attendees were exposed to new guests, such as Scott McNeil and more Gundam Wing actors. Fans were also greeted with Anime Boston's Japanese guest of honor, Hiroki Kanno. With credits such as character designs for RahXephon and Yuu Yuu Hakusho, he also worked on series like Escaflowne and Cowboy Bebop. Sponsored by ADV Films, he spoke about his work, as well as answer questions and sign autographs in his first North American convention appearance.

Industry Panels
Saturday's block of industry panels was kicked off by the representatives from Central Park Media, as they entertained guests for an hour with cheerful banter and an extended question and answer period, notably asking the audience about the types of features they would like to see on future DVDs. Audience suggestions included commentaries, commercials, and karaoke tracks, all of which were confirmed for certain series and releases. This was followed by a spirited session of anecdotes regarding Kunihiko Ikuhara, the beloved director of titles like Utena, who recently decided to make the United States his home.

Following right on the heels of Central Park was the Bandai Entertainment panel, hosted by Village Official Jerry Chu. Starting off with news regarding future titles to be featured on Cartoon Network, such as Kikaider and the second season of The Big O, He then listed the specs detailing a few of Bandai's future plans for DVD releases. To the excitement of many present, he mentioned a few items that would be featured in the upcoming .hack//SIGN discs and the s-CRY-ed release, including an official MOVIC version of the pendant worn by Mimoru in the series. After the announcements were pushed out of the way, Chu unveiled the panel's big surprise—Anime Music Videos made by him to showcase the release of s-CRY-ed and also the secret new title that was recently acquisitioned. Whatever positive feedback he was hoping to garner from the fans, he certainly got it, as the music video for Witch Hunter Robin flashed across the screen. To tease fans further, Chu hinted at another acquisition, but stifled any comments in regards to it. Apparently, it will be announced on the special edition release of Blue Submarine #6, giving fans another reason to purchase the series.

Not to be outdone, Matt Greenfield, David Williams, and Andy Kent from ADV Films heralded in another exciting panel, announcing a few live actions title releases, as well as some upcoming anime DVDs. The part of the panel that everyone in the room was anxiously awaiting for was the announcement of the new licenses that ADV had acquired. When they finally came, fans could not have been more pleased. ADV rapidly shot out title after title, including Final Fantasy: Unlimited, the Director's Cut of the last six episodes of Evangelion, Abenobashi Magical Shopping Street, and Azumanga Daioh, a title many fans were hoping would eventually get licensed, but were unsure of because of the volume of cultural in-jokes in the script. As an interesting side note, ADV dropped the comment that many other titles had also been licensed and that they would be announcing new releases at almost every convention, citing the addition of a new dub management team as a reason for this ambitious drive.

The day of panels was rounded out by Pioneer Entertainment and a representative from Production I.G The former whetted the audience's appetite with a few release dates, and then brought out their acquisitions list: Mahoromatic season two, and the highly anticipated Haibane Renmei, the latest creation from the Yoshitoshi ABe of Serial Experiments Lain and NieA_7 fame.

Filling in the last panel slot, Maki Terashima of Production I.G discussed current projects, including the second Ghost in the Shell movie (under the current working title “Innocence) and the Ghost in the Shell TV series, Stand Alone Complex, which is being co-produced with Bandai Entertainment. A trailer was also shown of a Manga Entertainment co-production called Dead Leaves, which is being directed by Hiroyuki Imaishi. As the energetic Terashima answered the audience's questioned, she also mentioned that they were currently working with Gainax on another title, as well as doing the animation for Quentin Terantino's new film Kill Bill.

For more on the individual panels, please see the detailed reports.

Anime Idol
Anime Boston also started off a string of competitions dubbed "Anime Idol". These competitions give fans the chance to become professional voice actors and actresses. The first regional competition to be held so far, the competition drew a large crowd of ambitious actors who read prepared material in the hopes of making it to the next level of competition. The prize? A professional anime voice acting contract.

At Saturday night's masquerade, easily one of the most beloved events of every anime convention, Anime Boston' weak structure finally peeked out in the first highly noticeable instance of the weekend. Given the fact that this was Anime Boston's first year, the state of the events can be excused, and the fact that they even pulled it off to the level that they did is very, very impressive. However, the faults must be noted, but without a doubt, next year's event should be a much bigger success. As for this year, by the time the masquerade started, the doors to the Main Events stage were closed due to the high volume of guests. Luckily, through foresight, the convention set up cameras to film the event so guests could watch the proceedings in the comfort of their hotel rooms. Unfortunately, this space capacity issue only preluded the downturn of the day. The event was incredibly behind schedule, making an already restless audience fall into a somewhat bad mood that was reflected in the rudeness of the some of the reactions to the actual masquerade itself.

When the anticipated event finally started, it was stalled by an off-key, albeit heart-felt, presentation by Tristen Citrine, one of the fan guests, and her troupe of Sakura Wars cosplayers. As the actual masquerade began, the level of disorganization was obvious. It seemed as though the contestants were not properly lined up behind the curtains, as the participants were often delayed and went out of order. There were times when certain groups had to go on stage multiple times because not every member of their skit was ready.

There were also problems with the way the contestants were organized, although this could be a personal preference. Generally, masquerades are conducted first (with each competitor being allowed to say a brief phrase in character), followed by a separate cosplay category. Anime Boston had it in such a way that the two categories were meshed into one, not only throwing off the pacing, but confusing some seasoned convention attendees as to the guidelines for the masquerade and cosplay. While some masqueraders strutted their stuff in a simplistic, traditional way, others gave long monologues, which also adversely affected the pacing. Perhaps the biggest thing to be corrected, however, was the cardinal sin that both groups of competitors were guilty of committing—using their skits or presentations as another chance for karaoke, a long ordeal that few appreciate.

Despite the apparent harshness of the criticisms made against the masquerade, it must be mentioned that considering it was Anime Boston's first year, the event was very commendable. They managed to keep the crowd reasonably entertained throughout all the technical difficulties, and a few of the costumes displayed were truly amazing. With this convention being many of the attendees' first con, it made a very favorable impression. It goes without saying that Anime Boston has a bright future to look ahead to. To compare their first masquerade to the standards set by other, more long-running conventions, is giving them a great deal of well deserved credit.

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