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by Jay Levy,
METROCON, which ran July 9-11 in Tampa, FL, showed explosive growth in its second year. Estimated attendance was over 2,400 con-goers and volunteers as compared to last year's figure of 1,650.

The ADV panel was very well attended and consisted of several voice actors, ADR Director Don Rush, and was conducted by ADR Director and DVD producer David Williams. While the major announcements were made previously at Anime Expo, there were some interesting tidbits.

What was talked about most following the panel was a non-announcement that piqued many interests. The discussion turned to how cornerstone shows (such as Evangelion) were generating enough revenue for ADV to go back and license classic shows, like Dunbine and Megazone 23.

An audience member asked if Rose of Versailles was under consideration. With a notable pause, and a glance back, David Williams continued to say many shows were under consideration, then said he can neither confirm nor deny negotiations, and followed that up by asking how many in the audience would like to see the show. Many in attendance believed from how the exchange was carried out that the show was either licensed and unannounced or close to being licensed, but it remains speculation. Williams did say that ADV plans to bring out more classic anime shows to the US market.

Williams said a “very large deal” involving soundtracks is looming in the near future. ADV Manga is expected to continue to grow, with over 250 books being published this year. ADV Toys has products based on Excel Saga, Noir, and Kaleido Star coming out. He also wanted to clarify that ADV does have season two of Gravion, as several boards and sites had reported otherwise.

Regarding the Evangelion live-action movie, Williams said the sparseness of news was because all information released on the project was agreed to be approved by all three parties involved: Gainax, WETA, and ADV. He did say the movie is moving ahead fine. They are currently working on script treatments and are down to a shortlist of directors. In a separate interview, Williams said that there has been no decision made yet as to whether the film will encompass the entire story of Evangelion or just the beginning.

While ADV is notoriously tight-lipped regarding sales figures and revenue, Williams did say that after expenses were figures in, ADV typically makes less than one dollar in profit per DVD sold. Williams said the main reason for doing what they do is not financial reward but a love of anime and the culture. Most revenue is used to make new acquisitions and expand what ADV is capable of accomplishing.

ADV then premiered the English language dub of their September release Aquarian Age with a live commentary by the voice actors. The dub was very solid with Chris Patton and Monica Rial taking on lead roles. The first DVD also features a behind-the-scenes segment that has interviews with voice actors talking about auditions, which was definitely a fun watch.

What turned out to be a highlight of the con was the first, as far as anyone could tell, anime-themed human chess match. The match placed Spike Speigel and Faye Valentine trying to bring in a highly bountied Lupin III. Each of the major pieces was a cosplayed anime character, while Spike's pawns were typical anime schoolgirls and Lupin's were the ever-loved anime catgirls.

Hundreds of con goers lined up for the event, and while over 600 made it into the ballroom, nearly as many were turned away as demand for seating overwhelmed everyone's expectations. Many convention staffers were unable to see the event as well. Front row VIP's for the event were many ADV voice actors (Monica Rial, Luci Christian, & Vic Mignogna), as well as ADR directors Don Rush and David Williams. The ADV staff appeared to fully enjoy themselves laughing and clapping along with the event.

Voice actor Greg Ayres actually participated in the event. He was set as a rook on Spike's side. Unfortunately, an errant ricochet bullet from Hellsing took him out before he was able to make a move. Yaoi and Gundam Wing fans were interested to see Duo leave the chessboard with Heero in his arms. Cowboy Bebop fans were saddened when Excel used Ein as emergency food supply.

Luci Christian, when asked which side she was rooting for, declared, “School girls, just because of Ran Kotobuki [of Super GALS!]. I want to see a platform heel kick.”

Attendees nearly unanimously declared the event “hilarious.” Both Monica Rial and Luci Christian suggested that next year they do the chess match in character.

The only other company present at Metrocon was AN Entertainment, who are located in Tampa. AN Entertainment's panel was hosted by John Oppliger. Nothing new was said at AN Entertainment's panel, which covered similar material as previous conventions, inclusing their AX panel held only one-week earlier. Several other companies, such as Bandai Entertainment, The Right Stuf International and Central Park Media made their pressence felt at the convention by sending publicity material or screener discs and supporting the Metrocon through advertisement or other means.

While the con featured the normal assortment of 24-hour video screening rooms, the most interesting was called the Video Jukebox. Con organizers had placed hundreds of anime episodes, music videos, and previews in a server that allowed con goers to use a touch screen interface to program the room on their own. Simply touch the screen to navigate through the lists and place your video in the queue. The room worked very well and was always packed.

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