Anime North 2004
Industry Panels

by Christopher Macdonald,
There wasn't a lot of industry presence at Anime North, only Anime Crash, Antarctic Press, Ironcat and Tofu Records were present, and Ironcat only in the dealers' room.

Anime Crash

The Anime Crash Group started as Anime Crash, an anime retail outlet, and have since expanded to DVDs. They started with Martial Arts, branched out to independent Asian action films and are now expanding into animation with two titles, Korean series Ki Fighter Taerang and Geisters - Fraction of the Earth. In the Geisters volume 1 package, Anime Crash is looking to include a number of different premium items, without pushing the retail price "sky high." In the first volume they will be including a Geister's lapel pin, and with volumes 2 through 6 they will be including small collectible figures (small enough to fit in the DVD boxes). Volume six will also come with a Geister wallet that will interact with the base of the figurines. When the wallet comes into contact with the figurine it will speak in the voice of the character represented by the figurine (there's a sound chip in the wallet). They are also working on a premium with unnamed publishers where the Geister Wallet may activate special Geisters prizes included in the magazine.

All this is achieved by the use of Anime Crash's "T-Ink" that they first showed us at Anime Boston. T-Ink, or "Talking Ink" is a patented product that Anime Crash has produced and is licensing to numerous companies, starting in the Asian market. Demoing the T-Ink concept, Anime Crash had two products on display. The first was a production Hello Kitty coloring board produced by Bandai (Japan). When children touch certain parts of the page, the speaker in the base says something in Hello Kitty's voice. The other demo was an over sized mock-up of a talking manga, that would make various sounds depending on what part of the manga was touched. The display had a speaker behind it, but in actual manga publications it would be possible to include a small battery and speaker in the spine of the manga. As the actual circuit is embedded on the page through a standard printing process (using a printing press—it will not work with home market printers), it is possible for any printer to include this technology on any page of a publication, including removable pages as in the case of the Hello Kitty coloring toy.

Anime Crash also hinted at an upcoming announcement but did not specify what it was. In the following week they announced the license for Shiden at the 2004 Licensing Show in New York.

Anime Crash is licensing all rights related to their series in a push to be able to make consumer products available to fans at roughly the same time that the DVD hits the market.

Ben Dunn/Antarctic Press

Antarctic Press (AP) is the company behind all the American-made manga-style comics that you've been seeing on comic book store shelves for years (As opposed to the dozens of companies now putting out manga style comics because they're what's hot). AP titles include Ninja High School (NHS), Neotopia, Gold Digger, Twillight X and Warrior Nun Areala as well as the popular “How to Draw Manga” series.

A copy of Gold Digger – Time Raft episode two was shown at the start of the panel. Gold Digger – Time Raft was entirely animated by Fred Perry, the creator of Gold Digger. Perry is currently working on episode 3 of Time Raft at a rate of approximately 1-minute of animation per week.

AP is trying to open a market for smaller titles (such as Gold Digger) to be animated. Dunn explained that it was AP's goal to give small creators the opportunity to do their own stuff. In regards to animation, AP is more of a distributor than an actual producer. They are also thinking of getting into low budget live action – not necessarily films based on their existing properties. Dunn explained that they were looking for titles that “Show off the abilities of the writer to portray a story without lots of special effects.”

Meanwhile, Rod Espinoza's Courageous Princess has been optioned for a movie adaptation by Dark Horse.

Much like other comic and particularly manga publishers, AP has also been moving towards paperbacks. They expect to continue to produce more paperbacks because they sell quite well. AP paperbacks are carried by the book market (chain bookstores like Barnes & Noble). They do however expect to continue putting out traditional leaflet comics because they are a low risk way to test out the market.

AP and Ninja High School will both be celebrating their 20th Anniversaries soon. AP was founded in 1985 and they are planning “something big” for 2005. NHS will celebrate its 20th anniversary in 2007.

Dunn will be returning to NHS with issue 127 (he stopped working on the series in late 2002, after issue 100, for personal reasons). He expects to take the cast from Quagmire USA and transpose them into NHS. He jokingly said that he hopes to publish 301 issues of NHS (because Dave Sim created 300 issues of Cerebus). In addition to Quagmire, Dunn is also currently working on Heaven Sent, which he described as his big focus at the moment. While Quagmire will end when the characters are moved to NHS, he plans to continue working on Heaven Sent. The first story arc of Heaven Sent is planned to be 20 issues long, once the story arc is complete he will re-assess the series.

Tofu Records

The Tofu Records panel was essentially a panel dedicated to introducing the company and its products to the attendees of Anime North. Tofu Records was established last July (2003) as the first JPop/JRock company in North America. Their focus is not on the anime market, but rather all fans of JPop/JRock, including anime music fans. The company saw how North American fans of Japanese music were paying "ridiculous" amount of money for import CDs ($35 and up) and felt that they could offer these fans with some better value for their money.

One thing they stressed several times throughout the panel was that they want feedback and suggestions and they invited people to go to their website, at, to leave said feedback.

They also stressed that if fans want to see more JPop and JRock in North America, they should send requests to local music stores and radio stations, "They don't know JPop, but if people ask they will look into it."

Tofu Records has a low priced Japanese Hip Hop/R&B sampler called Neo Soul. The $6.98 CD has 13 tracks by artists such as Sowelu, Crystal Kay, Michico and others.

The rest of Tofu's line includes another Anthology CD (JPop CD with songs by T.M.Revolution, Nami Tamaki, Zone, Siam Shade), T.M.Revolution- Seventh Heaven, T.M.Revolution - coordinate, Nami Tamaki - Greeting, X(Japan) - Best DVD/CD Set, two T.M.Revolution DVDs and numerous company merchandise items such as T-Shirts and CD-cases. Regarding merchandise, they again stressed the feedback point, saying that if there's anything you want that they don't already carry, just let them know.

At the end of June, Tofu will be releasing two Arc en Ciel CDs, Clicked Singles Best 13 and Smile.

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