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Anime Expo 2003
Opening Ceremonies

by George Phillips,
Stephanie Fernandez opened the "little tribute to Japanese Animation" that is Anime Expo 2003. As host of AX 2003, Stephanie began by explaining the various aspects that make up Anime Expo, including thanking the Society for Promotion of Japanese Animation (SPJA), and naturally all the fans who make such an event possible.

Ceremonies began with the introduction of Akira Kamiya of the Nippon Engineering College, a school dedicated to training new animators and voice actors. Mr. Kamiya sadly announced that his students were unable to attend this year, but suggested that perhaps twice as many will be attending next year. With him, he brought some animation work done by his students. The short clip featured a man who awoke one morning, surprised to find that his upper body turned into a dinosaur!

Anime Expo then announced that City of Hope would once again be the benefactor of this year's Charity Auction. City of Hope provides treatment and research in the fight against cancer and other life-threatening diseases.

Following City of Hope, Yuki Kajiura, the composer of .hack//SIGN and Noir, gave a short preview of her upcoming concert later this afternoon. Taking a piece from the .hack//SIGN repertoire. The concert, to be held later today, will be her first concert in the US, and will kick off her North American debut CD, "Fiction".

With the special events out of the way, Stefanie introduced the first Guest of Honor, Mr. yoshitoshi ABe, Character Designer for Serial Experiments Lain, Texnolyze, Haibane Renmei and Niea_7.

Kazuki Akane came to show off his latest work, Heat Guy J. It's been three years since his last apperance at Anime Expo, and he was pleased to be back.

Kazuhiro Furuhashi has directed a number of series including You're Under Arrest OVA, Rurouni Kenshin and Samurai X. He brought his latest series, Getbackers, and hoped that fans would enjoy the series. This was Mr. Furuhashi's first trip abroad as well as the first time in front of so many fans.

Mitsuryu Hongo wrote and directed Outlaw Star, and also directed Shamanic Princess, Spirit of Wonder and Pilot Candidate. This is Mr. Hongo's first trip abroad.

Yuki Kajiura then reappeared and greeted all the fans to Anime Expo. As mentioned before, she is the composer of the Noir and .hack//SIGN soundtracks.

Yousuke Kuroda also greeted the AX attendees in English and welcomed them to the convention. Kuroda wrote for Geobreeders, Trigun and Please! Teacher as well as its sequel Please! Twins. He also worked on Tenchi Muyo, Battle Athletes, Excel Saga and Risky Safety. This is Mr. Kuroda's first appearance at a North American anime convention.

Mahiro Maeda's most well-known works include Blue Submarine #6 and Last Exile, but his most famous title is certainly The Second Renaissance, a of the Animatrix.

Atsuko Nakajima has worked in the anime industry for many years, and has done Character Design for Ranma 1/2, You're Under Arrest, and Haunted Junction. She has also provided the character designs for the series Get Backers. Much like several of the other guests, this is her first time to be in front of such a large group of people.

The mild-mannered Koushi Rikudo, meanwhile, is best known for his manga series (later adapted into anime) "Excel Saga". An active doujinshi artist as well, Koushi Rikudo has published several fan-comics including Holy Brownie and Arahabaki.

Goro Taniguchi did directoral work on Infinite Ryvius, s-CRY-ed, Gasaraki, Raijin O, and Gundam Wing. Taniguchi also mentioned that this is his first US convention appearance.

Misa Watanabe, a voice actress with extensive credits ranging from 1991s Minky Momo (as Mama), to Miaka's Mother in Fushigi Yuugi, and Tokiko Magami of X.

Kazuki Yao, is another veteran in the anime industry, lending his voice to thing as far back as Megazone 23 Part 2 and Gundam ZZ to Heroic Legend of Arislan. "I judge the temperature of LA to be very hot. However, I judge the excitement of the fans to be even hotter." he proclaimed.

Last but not least, Nobuteru Yuuki, director of Five Star Stories, Record of Lodoss War,Escaflowne and Heat Guy J greeted the crowd with a loud, "Hello American Otaku-tachi"

Atsuko Nakajima was selected from the Guests of Honor to fill in the eye of the daruma. Every year at Anime Expo, a guest is selected to fufill this traditional ritual of good luck. The right eye on the doll is filled in prior to the commencement of a special occasion. If the event goes well, the left eye is filled in too as thanks for the pleasant times.

With the eye of the daruma being filled in, Anime Expo officially opened, 30 minutes ahead of schedule.

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