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Anime Expo 2007
Bandai Entertainment

by Egan Loo,

Panelists: Ken Iyadomi (President and CEO), Robert Napton (director of sales and marketing), Marita "Marti" Rivera (package development coordinator)

Before getting into their new licensing announcements, the Bandai Entertainment panelists opened their Anime Expo 2007 panel with a video clip from The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya and several surprise guests. Shigeru Saitō, Haruhi's music producer with Japan's Lantis, and Minori Chihara, the voice of Haruhi's Yuki Nagato, joined the panelists on stage to offer a few words for the fans and to answer some questions. Two members of the ASOS Brigade also appeared at the panel.

Rivera gave fans a sneak preview of the Haruhi Volume 3 Special Edition package; the special edition's highlight is a large hankerchief-sized cloth depicting the three main girls of SOS Brigade, somewhat scantily clad.

Saito produces and oversees all Haruhi music in Japan, and he thanked American fans for their support. Chihara said that this Anime Expo is her "first time ever outside Japan." She continued by saying that going to America for the live concert has been a great experience. "I wanted to say thank you, and I'm very happy to meet you all."

As previously announced, Haruhi volume 2 hits stores on July 3 with a bonus Bouken Desho Desho CD. Chihara (as her character Yuki Nagato) will have a standalone Character Song CD single that same day. When asked about additional CDs, Napton confirmed that the Character Song Volumes 4, 6, and 9 are coming later this year.

When asked about the difficulty of voicing the (in)famously taciturn Yuki, Chihara notes her dialogue varies dramatically from short one-liner to paragraph-long passages. There were times that she had to do retakes. Her big issue is Yuki's very small mouth. Voice actors and actresses have to watch the silent animation footage for their line cues, and it's hard for Uchihara see when Yuki's mouth opens and closes.

A fan noted that the 12 Haruhi CDs are the most that any anime company has tried to sell in America, and asked about Bandai Entertainment promotion plans. Napton said Bandai Entertainment are still debating what exactly they are going to do, but Anime Expo was one of the way they're promoting.

Another fan asked Chihara if it difficult to express Yuki's emotions, such as during a sad scene, since she can't change her voice much. Chihara noted that she has a lot of experience doing characters like Yuki. When she takes on a project, she researches the story overall and try to capture to the feeling of the character. When asked which Haruhi character she would have played instead of Yuki, Chihara said it was a difficult question, but it had to be Haruhi herself. She saw Aya Hirano playing Haruhi, and it seemed to release a lot of stress and energy for her.

For his closing message to the American Haruhi fans, Saito said that Chihara is not only a great voice actress, but a great singer. She is very popular in Japan, even among other aritsts. Saito is personally glad to produce her work and to see the great reviews and her popularity in Japan.

For her final words, Chihara thanked the American fans, She noted again that it was her first time in the United States, and she was glad for the honor to be at Anime Expo.

Bandai Entertainment then segued to its release date announcements and new licenses. It began by reviewing the recently announced licenses, including Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex: Solid State Society, due on DVD on July 3. The Limited Edition includes the movie's soundtrack CD. Other upcoming releases include My Otome. Its Special Edition box resembles previous My-HiME releases, except it has gems on one side, and all the characters on the other. The box also has artwork in the interior.

The first DVD volume of the Flag television series (from Toru Nozaki, the writer of Ghost Hunter Robin) arrives in North America on October 2. Rivera showed the special edition's box, which designed after a field camera bag, complete with "lens" that display the crucial photograph of the title flag of the story. Zegapain's first DVD volume also arrives on October 2nd. Other upcoming releases include Galaxy Angel X and the two-episode S special.

Finally, Bandai revealed its new announcements. It licensed the Gundam Seed Destiny Special Editions, both of Kadokawa Pictures' Silent Möbius films, AIKa, and AIKa R-16. (After the panel, Bandai Entertainment confirmed that CPM's AIKa license had expired, and that Bandai Entertaiment had picked up the license to both the original video series and the new R-16 prequel video series. All the newly announced licenses are tentatively set for 2008.

With the special guests appearances, only about ten minutes were left at the end of the panel for questions and answers on upcoming and possible releases. One fans asked about the possible release of the My Hime video games in North America, particularly since the game maker Circus itself was exhibiting at Anime Expo. Bandai Entertainment said there were no plans, but acknowledged the fan interest.

The remaining questions centered on Gundam: namely, localization of Turn A Gundam, the long-awaited Zeta Gundam movies, and the promotion of Gundam plastic models. Iyadomi noted that a committee has been formed to coordinate Gundam releases [in North America], and future releases are pending upon the committee's decisions. Other than that, Iyadomi could not comment further on Gundam sales.

This event report has not yet been verified by a company representative.

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